Monday, December 21, 2015

Phoenix - 1975 - Cantafabule


01. Invocatie (10:13)
02. Norocul Inorogului (3:19)
03. Scara Scarabeului (2:20)
04. Definul, Dulce Dulful Nostru (5:49)
05. Uciderea Balaurului (4:35)
06. Stima Casei (2:21)
07. Pasarea Calandrinon (5:50)
08. Filip Si Cerbul (4:30)
09. Vasiliscul Si Aspida (3:55)
10. Sirena (3:45)
11. Pasarea Roc..k And Roll (5:32)
12. Canticlu A Cucuveaualiei (7:07)
13. Zoomahia (6:04)
14. Phoenix (3:44)

- Nicolae Covaci / lead guitar, vocals, acoustic guitar, double six, blockflote
- Iosif Kappl / bass, vocals, violin, blockflote
- Mircea Baniciu / vocals, guitar
- Ovidiu Lipan / drums, bongos, tympani, gong, chimes, tambourine
- Gunter Reininger / piano, electric piano, synthesizer, celesta, electronic organ

 The true name of this album is Cantafabule, as is written on the cover of the remastered album and not Cantofabule, as on the orginal cover which was wrongly spelled by those who printed the cover. (If you ever lived in a Communist country, like I did, this will not even surprise you)

How can you not like this band ? They are so charming and unique in my opinion. I always think of SBB from Poland when I think of PHOENIX because neither had the freedom to do what they wanted to because of their communist governments. This Romanian band started out in the sixties as a Rock & Roll band but because of government interference they were forced to intigrate traditional Folk music into their sound, and ironically it was for the better. While they are listed under Folk, your going to hear more Rock from this amazing band. Like SBB these guys can flat out play. Great vocals and bass playing especially, but the drumming, keyboards and guitar are exceptional too.

The original double album was a concept based on some traditional Romanian themes based on adaptation of poets Seban Foarta and Andrei Ujica and inspired on a Dimitri Bolintineanu book  called Istoria Ieroglifa (speaking of a "bestiaire" of fantastic mythical creatures), this almost 70 min-long piece is indeed one of the best thing to come from the old Dacian province. If I speak of Dacia (relating it to the Roman Empire times instead of Valachia or Moldavia-Bessarabia), it is because the general feel relates a bit to Italian prog (this is greatly due to the similarity of both languages), but the Timisoara (in Transylvania where the revolt started) group developed a very ambitious project that mixed some medieval folk with hard rock fronted by a fuzzed-out guitar.

The two-parts lengthy opening track Invocatie gives out right away the main dimension of their music, a fairly hard prog dominated by a fuzz-guitar, where all musicians hold their own. Surprising how modern for the day they sounded apparently having a moog synth. During this track, the group moves to different moods and passages including a "folk" one and there is a harpsichord thrown in there too and the track is a very captivating intro. Moving from the Harpsichord/flute piece Unicorn (sung in Old French) to the mediocre beat-rock of the sacred beetle (Scarabeului), the albums moves quickly to another highlight about dolphins (Delfinul), where the group shows the extent of their considerable talent in this folky ballad. Going through the dragon (semi-hard rocking), the snake (with a terrible sounding violin), a special kind of bird (Calandrinon) that's supposed to accompany you into the underworld (another highlight in my book with superb bass work), the moose and the mongoose, the siren and a few other mythical creatures, the group continues tirelessly (even if you do, partly due to the length and the repetition of tracks that hammer on the same nail and the Romanian singing) until another pure psych-beat-RnR (track 11, a bit of a filler really) breaks the cycle of prog/folk tracks alternating.

The album gets back on track with the splendid Cintic-Lu (hawk) track which definitely seals the fate of the concept as excellent (just short of brilliant), followed by another fabulous Zoomahia (starting with the same electronic sounds that you found on the start of the album, but much longer and sounding like Gong) and the album closing on their fetish Phoenix, rising from the ashes.

Overall this album holds very few flaws (given its communist era background), few fillers and a bunch of superb if in-habitual prog folk tracks, which makes this album a masterpiece of its own. Clearly this album should get the honours from a full remastering and mini-Lp treatment, as it stands in the top 10 of the ex-soviet block.

Phoenix - 1974 - Mugur De Fluier

Mugur De Fluier

01. Lasa, lasa Nr. 1 (1:28)
02. Pavel Chinezu, leat 1479 (6:12)
03. Strunga (7:23)
04. Andrii Popa (3:11)
05. Lasa, lasa Nr. 2 (0:35)
06. Mica Tiganiada (3:22)
07. Lasa, lasa Nr. 3 (0:58)
08. Ochii negri, ochi de tigan (3:24)
09. Muzica si muzichia (2:10)
10. Mugur de fluier (3:55)
11. Lasa, lasa Nr. 4 (0:41)
12. Anule, hanule (5:15)
13. Lasa, lasa Nr. 5 (0:37)
14. Dansul codrilor (6:21)

- Nicolae Covaci / guitar, double six, vocals, percussion
- Iosif Kappl / bass, vocals, violin, blockflote, percussion, chimes
- Mircea Baniciu / vocals, guitar, percussion
- Costin Petrescu / drums, cymbalom, percussion
- Valeriu Sepi / percussion
- Gunter Reininger / percussion, celesta, chimes

Mugur de Fluier" could be translated as "Sprout of Fluier", being Fluier the Romanian six hole pipe, and the name of this PHOENIX album couldn't be more precise, being that the unique melodies created with this exotic instrument by Nicolae Covaci clear expressions of Romanian Ethnic music.
"Mugur de Fluier" is the second release of this amazing Romanian band and even when we can appreciate they still maintain a certain attachment to 60's Psyche, the sound is much more oriented towards folkloric musical expressions of their country, a path they will follow through their extended career, being that after 37 years they are still active.

The album starts with "Lasa, Lasa Nº 1" a short percussion and bass based song that will be a constant along the album as introduction and interlude between the central tracks, with the peculiarity of being played faster in each version so starts relatively slow in Nº 1 and ends incredibly fast in the Nº 5 version.

The second song is "Pavel Chinezu, Leat 1479", an interesting Proto Prog track based mostly in the ability of Covaci's guitar an Kappl's bass, some certain resemblance to GRAND FUNK RAILROAD, but the unique vocals makes it different to every previous to PHOENIX Rock band.

"Strunga" begins with a sweet Romanian flute sound (most surely blockflotte) with all the ethnic flavor of Transylvanian music that leads rapidly to a beautiful acoustic passage in which the vocals make the difference, sadly can't understand Romanian but sounds great and the arrangements are very interesting.

"Andrii Popa" starts with a delightful acoustic introduction supported by the always nice vocals, the song flows fluidly from start to end, again with a strong bass work, as the album advances the band gets closer to an authentic ethnic sound and morph from a psyche album with folk elements to a Prog Folk release.

After "Lasa Lasa Nº 2" already commented we move to the exquisite and nostalgic "Mica Tiganiada" played with the Romanian 12 string guitar called "Double Six", even when the song gets faster as the minutes pass that sad atmosphere proper of most Folk expressions continues covering the listener, but a sudden change occurs, an aggressive violin makes the difference and turns "Mica Tiganiada" into extraordinary song.

"Lasa Lasa Nº 3" works as an interlude for the clearly Romanian Folk oriented sound of "Ochii Negri, Ochi de Tigan" (Black Eyes, Gypsy Eyes), a very sweet and fascinating song, as in the previous track the nostalgia is more than evident, wish I could understand the lyrics.

"Muzica si Muzichia" is another wonderful folk track, this time with more complex arrangements than in the previous songs, being that the blend of occidental and Romanian instruments is done with a very good taste despite the complexity. "Mugiur de Fluier" follows in the vein of the previous tracks but the use of the fluier gives a different sound, something between a Medieval Troubadour and Ian Anderson with a modern transverse flute, if we add "Anule Hanule" it makes the perfect trilogy so by this point I can't be more delighted.

But the band leaves the best for the end, "Dansul Codrilor" is the perfect blend of Folk, Rock and Prog, easier to listen than to be described, so I won't try to do it.

Highly and enthusiasctically recommended !

Phoenix - 1972 - Cei Ce Ne-Au Dat Nume

Cei Ce Ne-Au Dat Nume

01. Preludiu - A oilor (4:25)
02. Primavara - Introducere (1:03)
03. Primavara -Paparuga (2:35)
04. Vara (4:22)
05. Toamna (4:31)
06. Iarna - Introducere (1:15)
07. Iarna - Jocul Caprelor (1:35)
08. Nunta (4:19)
09. Negru Voda - Balada (14:56)
10. Pseudo - Morgana (6:47)

- Nicolae Covaci / Guitar, fluier, double-six, percussion, vocals
- Mircea Baniciu / Vocals, acustic guitar, percussion
- Iosif Kappl / Bass, vocals, violin, blockflote, percussion
- Costin Petrescu / Drums
- Valeriu Sepi / Percussion

The year is 1972, Prog had already grown in Europe and USA, but in Eastern Europe the Soviet satellite governments had a certain dislike for Rock which was seen as a tool the North American Capitalists used to corrupt the mind of the young proletarians, so they were some years behind the UK and most of the Western hemisphere, but in some countries a few musicians and bands managed to keep updated with the new currents and even went further, like PHOENIX from Romania, who blended Heavy Psyche with some of the rich ethnic elements of their country.

One can trace Phoenix's foundations all the way to the early 60's when they had a local hit, recorded 2 EPs a few radio sessions and scored a movie soundtrack (Canary And blizzard). By the time of their first full album's release (the present in 72), Phoenix had a heavy-psych rock sound, derived from local folk sounds, and the material was selections of a rock opera (those who have a name), the group was a sort of heavy folk rock group, because they'd no choice they were also asked to change their names, because of a religious connotation), a move dictated by the Ceaucescu dictature, but they kept a bit of that garage sound.

To quote the liner notes: "They began by doing covers of BEATLES songs, but soon had to change their style since the Romanian communist regime disliked any form of western culture.The regime suggested that all rock oriented bands look for inspiration within the Romanian culture.These restrictions made the band's leader Nicolae Covaci search within the Romanian folklore, which gave them a unique sound".This was the first LP to be recorded in Romania by a Romanian band. The music here is very much Progressive Rock with an ethnic flavour. My first listen didn't go too well, but subsequent spins have really changed my mind completely about this gem. I think what bothered me initially was the Romanian vocals, particularly on track four which is still my least favourite. This has since grown on me to the point where I think these guys are incredible.

The album seems to be divided in two parts, the first being 18-minutes Ciclul Anotimpurilor, looking to be the first side of the album. It starts with the Preludia movement, first with a lone fuzzy guitar (much like a bagpipes lament), then on a crescendo of a single note, underlined by guitar arpeggios and some oboe in the very background that eventually disappears into a beautiful short electric guitar solo. The Primavara movement is a much more upbeat thing, with its second part Paparuga turning frankly folk, but the bass is outstanding. Further on down the album, after a wordy Vara (with a bass solo) and blues-charging Toamna (with another superb electric guitar solo) and Iarna (made from two short weird pieces).

Whether the Nunta part of the record was its flipside (it is probably likely) but it's made only of three songs, the first being the eponymous rocker. Then follows a very rocky 15-mins Negru Voda with plenty of rock guitars, but tends to be more of jam in the long run, even if the violin periodically brings the track to its start. The closing Pseudo Morgana is probably the album's best track, despite its repetitive nature, it shows how superb drummer Petrescu and percussionist Sepi were working well together, while the guitars complete each other in heavenly duets.

One of the versions of this album has a truckload of bonus tracks, coming mostly from previous years (60's) including some covers and garage bands, all of them coming from a Remember Phoenix compilation. While these tracks are interesting (well some anyway), they don't really add much to the album per se, and some might even prove soooooo teeny-bopper that its presence on this good folk prog album is a bit of a mistake. Otherwise, this debut album is almost as worthy as Cantofabule (their third), but a little bluesier, although we shall retain their unique blend of folk and outright rock.

I took less than one minute to decide that I love it.

Phoenix - 1969 - Floarea stîncilor

Floarea stîncilor


01. Totusi sunt ca voi (2:13)
02. Floarea stîncilor (3:06)
03. Nebunul cu ochii închisi (3:04)
04. Ar vrea un eschimos (2:24)

- Moni Bordeianu / vocals
- Nicolae Covaci / lead guitar & vocals
- Kamocsa Bela / bass & vocals
- Günther Reininger / piano & vocals
- Pilu Stefanovici / drums & vocals

Releases information
Electrecord România
Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, released in 1969

Phoenix was launched in the cosmopolitan city of Timisoara in 1962 by a pair of schoolboys: Nicu Covaci and Béla Kamocsa, under the name of Sfintii (The Saints). In their first years, together with Florin "Moni" Bordeianu (born 1948), they performed in school contests and at local clubs, covering Western music hits from The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Who, etc., and they quickly became very popular amongst the youth. In 1965 the Communist authorities demanded that the band stop performing under the name The Saints, because of the religious innuendo that the name carried. Forced to comply, the band took the name Phoenix. Nicu Covaci also changed the composition of the band, around 1963, by adding Claudiu Rotaru, Ioan "Pilu" Stefanovici (born 1946) and Günther "Spitzly" Reininger (born 1950) to the lineup.

In 1965 they had their first big concert in Bucharest. Their performance brought a collaboration with Cornel Chiriac to record some of their songs. The first songs they recorded were "Stiu ca ma iubesti si tu" ("I Know You Love Me Too"), "Dunare, Dunare" ("Danube, Danube") and "Bun e vinul ghiurghiuliu" ("Good is the Red Wine"). The same year also marked the beginning of their collaboration with Victor Suvagau , who went on to write many of their most famous songs, such as "Vremuri" ("Old Times"), "Si totusi ca voi sunt" ("And Yet I Am Like You"), "Nebunul cu ochii închisi" ("The Fool with Eyes Closed"), "Floarea stîncilor" ("Mountain Flower") and "Canarul" ("Canary").

In December 1967 Phoenix had their first major series of concerts in many western cities, capped off by two huge concerts in Timi?oara. After winning a few prizes in national students' contests, held at Iasi the following year, in 1968 they recorded their first EP, Vremuri, containing two original songs, Vremuri and Canarul, and two covers (Lady Madonna - The Beatles and Friday on My Mind - The Easybeats). A second EP would follow one year later, named Floarea stîncilor (The Flower of the Rocks), with all four songs being original compositions. Both albums sport a sound reminiscent of the beat style popular in those days.

They then started working on a rock theater play "Omul 36/80" (The Man 36/80) which won several prizes for originality.

In 1969 Ioan "Pilu" Stefanovici was replaced by Dorel "Baba" Vintila Zaharia (born 1943). For the next year the band became more and more popular, frequently visiting Bucharest and being invited onto talk shows about music.

In 1970, Moni Bordeianu emigrated to the United States, and, for a brief period of time the band suspended its activity, also due to total censorship that followed a protesting speech held by Bordeianu in his last concert. 1970 meant the blues period of the band. The formula used was Nicu Covaci - guitar, Günther "Spitzly" Reininger - piano and voice, Zoltán Kovács - bass guitar and Liviu Butoi - oboe and flute. Phoenix was born again the next year, with Covaci, Josef Kappl, Mircea Baniciu, Costin Petrescu (replaced in 1974 by Ovidiu Lipan, nicknamed "Tandarica") and Valeriu Sepi.

But the Communist officials were not very comfortable with the Western-style music that they were singing, and kept creating them problems. So Phoenix abandoned beat turned to Romanian folklore, pagan rituals, mystic animals and old traditions. In this same year, Phoenix started a collaboration with the Institute of Ethnography and Folklore and the Folklore section of Timi?oara University on an ambitious project, a rock poem that combined traditional wooden instruments with modern sounds. During this project the band also started collaborating with Valeriu Sepi (born 1947), who eventually joined the band. The first outcome would be the 1972 LP Cei ce ne-au dat nume (Those Who Gave Us a Name) - the second LP to be recorded in Romania by a Romanian band. Two years later, Mugur de fluier (Flute Bud) followed. Both albums underwent severe censorship

In 1973 Phoenix represented Romania at the "Golden Harp" festival in Bratislava (Slovakia), and then at the "Disc festival" in Sopot (Poland). Also, they wanted to record a new rock-opera, named "Mesterul Manole", but the communist officials censored it all, by "losing" the unique book with costume sketches and lyrics given to them for official approval. The result was only an EP with an extract from the opera, Mesterul Manole, uvertura (Mesterul Manole, uverture) and two older songs, Mama, Mama (Mother, Mother) and Te întreb pe tine, soare... (I'm asking you, sun...).

On Monday, 19 November 1973, Phoenix held a memorable concert in Bucharest, presenting their new hits "Andrii Popa", "Pavel Cneazul", "Mica Tiganiada" and "Strunga" which composed the new disc "Mugur de fluier". The new songs were still influenced by folklore yet had a new style. This style was the result of the collaboration with new songwriters Andrei Ujica and Serban Foarta. Based on those new songs Nicu Covaci created a new show "Introducere la un concert despre muzica veche la români" ("Introduction to a concert about old Romanian music") in which he introduced violins, flutes, archaic percussion and other traditional instruments. The show was never finished due to a new collaboration with "Cenaclul Flacara". This period is considered the peak for Phoenix. Their sound was considered original and powerful and full stadiums were common for their concerts.

Every winter the members of the band would retreat to Mount Semenic and plan their upcoming songs. That winter the show "Zoosophia", a title that would later change to "Cantafabule", was created. The show began by "calling" all mythic animals and continued by dedicating a song to each of them, finishing with the Phoenix, the band's symbol. The year 1975 brought a newcomer to the band, Ovidiu Lipan "Tandarica" (born 1953). The "Cantafabule" show was first presented in Timisoara in February 1975. The disc was recorded in a very short time and was published the same year with a misspelling in the title: "Cantofabule." What followed were two years of almost continuous concerts but also the creation of the soundtrack for the movie "Nemuritorii".

By this time, the popularity of Phoenix had grown huge; people loved their songs not only for what they were, but also because they contained thinly-veiled allusions to the Communist regime. The band members, especially Nicu Covaci, found themselves increasingly harassed by the Securitate. Covaci married a Dutch woman and left the country in 1976. He returned in 1977, bringing in relief aid for those struck by the powerful earthquake on March 4. After two grandiose concerts in Constanta and Tulcea, Covaci surprisingly left the country again, this time with all the band members (except Baniciu) hidden inside their Marshall speakers - a huge undertaking, since in Communist Romania it was extremely difficult to obtain approval to travel abroad, and illegal border crossing was punished with imprisonment.

After arriving in Germany, Phoenix disbanded. Kappl and a few others (Erlend Krauser, Ovidiu Lipan) formed a new band, Madhouse and released a not very successful album named From The East. In 1981, Covaci co-opted Neumann and Lipan and English bassist Tom Buggie, under the name Transsylvania Phoenix (since a band named Phoenix already existed) and released an LP named Transsylvania, containing two old Phoenix songs translated into English to target the Western audience and five new ones. Covaci together with Kappl also released two EPs and one maxi single as Transsylvania-Phoenix.

Sfinx - 1978 - Zalmoxe


01. Ursitoarele (Fortune Tellers) (5:30)
02. Blana de urs (Bear's Fur) (4:00)
03. Mierea (The Honey) (4:28)
04. Pestera (The Cave) (4:10)
05. Epifania (Epiphany) (4:11)
06. Furtuna cu trup de balour (Dragon Shaped Storm) (4:53)
07. Cãlãtorul prin nori (Cloud Traveller) (6:26)
08. Kogaion (5:28)
09. Epilog (Epilogue) (3:00)

CD Bonus tracks:
10. Din nou acasã (Home Again) (4:37)
11. Scufita Rosie (Little Red Riding Hood) (3:01)
12. Fetele albine (Bee-Girls) (2:51)
13. Zmeul (The Kite) (2:43)

- Dan Andrei Aldea / guitar, keyboards, vocals
- Corneliu Bibi Ionescu / bass
- Nicolae Enache / keyboards
- Mihai Cernea / drums

 ... And out of the ashes of Phoenix come this amazing band from Romania who recorded a gem of an album with "Zalmoxe". SFINX's "Zalmoxe" is a concept album based on the historical figure "Zalmoxe", who was a divine religious leader under the rule of the king Burebista. "Zalmoxe" is symphonic prog lovers buffet. Musically this band were deep and tight and I just love the vintage 70's keyboard sound they created. All songs are well thought thru and performed in a spacey soft manner. Musically this album remonds me at times of a few bands including BARCLAY JAMES & HARVEST (Mierea), Canada's FM, NEKTAR and even OMEGA.

This album turned out to be everything I read it would be and more – what an outstanding piece of seventies prog! Romanians may be familiar with Sfinx, but for guys like me on the other side of the world this is a band and a record that is a delight to discover even more than thirty years after its release.
I suppose the band may rate a ‘progressive folk’ label based on the lyrical theme of this album, or perhaps thanks to a few lighter and somewhat pastoral tunes on the record such as “Mierea” or the ambient and heavily synthesized “Cãlãtorul prin nori”; not sure. In reality though this could easily be considered a symphonic rock band with their extensive use of keyboards, tight electric guitar riffs and regular rock-opera, swelling arrangements reminiscent of the American art rock band Styx circa the same timeframe (listen to “Kogaion” and tell me you don’t hear “Mr. Roboto”, or a viber similar to “Fooling Yourself” on “Blana De Urs”).

These are not ripoffs or tributes though, but rather a quartet of dedicated musicians half a world away from the rock arenas of North America, discovering their own sound and apparently in spirited competition with countrymen Phoenix for the hearts and minds of adventurous music lovers in Communist-era Romania. This was originally supposed to be released in 1975 and was also supposed to be a double album, but thanks to government bureaucracy and censorship was reduced to just forty-two minutes (plus a few bonus tracks on the reissue).

Not that I’m complaining; the music that made it to release is top-notch as the band relates the life story of Greek cult figure Zalmoxis as told in the lyrics of Romanian poet Adrian Hoaja. I’m sure the storyline enhances the appeal of the album for native speakers, but I’m quite impressed simply by the quality of the music without even knowing more than just the theme of the songs themselves. Like I said, if you were into seventies arena art-rock bands like Styx, the Nice or even ELO you should find this album appealing. At times it’s heavier and more proggy than those bands though, who tend to be known as more commercial (and rightfully so). Sfinx take their craft a bit more seriously I think, as evidenced in the wickedly heavy instrumental (guitar/keyboards) dirge “Kogaion” or the spacey “Calatorul Prin Nori” (the traveler through clouds). That latter one has a few issues with the production quality, which in general is good on the album but uneven in just a few spots.

I really wonder what the other disc’s worth of music that was cut from this record sounded like. One can imagine a true rock opera with deep forays into synthesizer and guitar riffs stretching out over well over an hour; perhaps someday the suppressed tapes will be reunited with this music and a proper reissue can be made.

Highly recommended album.

Sfinx - 1975 - Lume Alba

Lume Alba

01. Rasarit / Calatorul ?i Copacul (Sunrise / The Traveler and the Tree) (4:20)
02. Secolul vitezei (Speed Century) (3:20)
03. Sinteze (Synthesis) (6:55)
04. Magelan (Magellan) (2:50)
05. Lume alba (White World) (2:30)
06. Hora de baie?i (Boy's Dance) (4:35)
07. Norul (The Clould) (4:35)
08. Muntele (The Mountain) (6:55)
09. Om bun (Kind Man) (3:05)

- Dan Andrei Aldea / guitar, vocals
- Corneliu Bibi Ionescu / bass guitar
- Mihai Cernea / drums, vocals
- Dan Badulescu / guitar, vocals

SFINX was founded in Bucharest in 1963 by Octav Zemlicka (lead guitar & vocals), Corneliu Bibi Ionescu (bass guitar) and Cristian Valica (drums), while they were still in high school; their main activity was playing gigs in various studentfests or summer seaside opportunities. Because of school attending problems various lineups can be counted in their early years, a habit that became constant; only one founding member was in the band when it broke into two new ones in 1994. The history of SFINX takes note of at least 16 bandmembers names.

The major event for Sfinx was the Dan Andrei ALDEA's joining in 1967, at the time only a violin and guitar student at the music highshool, later to become singer and leader of the now recognised second-best ever Romanian rock group and to gain personal fame of musical genius. The band had a first large live audience succes in 1971 with the "Sir de cocori" song, which led them into writing the music for a film that was to be a masterpiece of Romanian cinematography, and consequently into long-term theatrical projects. In the end they managed to release the song as a single ("Sir de cocori / Languir me fais", 1972), then to release an EP ("Sfinx", 1974). Their first major hit was the "Lume Alba" ("White World") full album from 1975; it shows various progressive rock aspects from the likes of NEKTAR, ELP and FUZZY DUCK, with some hard guitar riffs. Their masterpiece was to be the 1978 released "Zalmoxe", a concept album based on the archaic mythology of the Dacians. It's a true progresive rock feast, with great keyboard parts, all in the mood of GENESIS or MICHAEL NYMAN but with a great original touch. The album consists of studio recorded excerpts from the original live prog-opera "Zalmoxe" set up by ALDEA; the regime never allowed the band to release the whole show as it was suspected to be politically subvsersive. For the same reason, ALDEA's 1979 solo single was withdrawn from the stores, which led to his leaving into political exile in Germany after the band released two last singles in 1980 in the classic line-up . He never accepted the opportunity to reunite with Sfinx, even after the fall of Comunism. The band didn't give up and released a last full album in 1984, "Albumul albastru" ("The Blue Album"), more related to standard pop-rock then to progressive. The band still exists, but without any relevant public activity for over two decades now.

Excellent start for a band from Romania! My father bought the vinyl when I was a little kid. It was my first contact with a progressive band ever! Dan Andrei Aldea, also called The orchestra-man, the frontman and the main composer really introduced the concept of progressive music in the band. We've got a splendid intro called Rasarit (translated Sunrise), than the album begins with the track Calatorul si copacul which is a little modest, but what follows is really and truerly progressive. Secolul Vitezei (Speed Century) and the excellent instrumental track Sinteze (Synthesis): remarkable is here the Moog sounds who are very clear and the drum section. Corneliu Bibi-Ionescu plays on Bib-synthesiser, designed by himself. Lume Alba (White World) is an excellent instrumental-electronic track very similar to anything from T.Dream. Muntele (The Mountain) is another great track, showing a band who really put the steps forward. There is speed in rhythms, harmony, great lyrics.... The album ends with Om bun (Kind Man), showing another face of the band. The flute and the voice of Aldea show a balladesque tone similar to some Camel compositions. Recommended for any progressive music lover!

Progresiv TM - 1977 - Puterea muzicii

Progresiv TM 
Puterea Muzicii

01. Oameni si fapte
02. Legamînt
03. Optiune pentru pace
04. Puterea muzicii
05. Sete de padure
06. Pas candid catre realitate
07. Gînd curat

Harry Coradini - vocals
Liviu Tudan - bass, piano, vocals
Ladislau Herdina - guitar, vocals
Florin Ochescu - guitar
Ion Cristian - percussion, vocals

Second album of the band from 1977 - Puterea muzicii (The power of the music), released at our famous and only label from the '70's occupied with music bussines Electrecord (still very much alive these days), didn't manage to get any big response from progressive movement from my country. Same story about how communist broke any hope to make progressive music in Romania and that way they disbanded in 1978, living two album, historical btw in these parts but vaguely know outside the border. Again an excellent example of good, smooth and above usual this album is but little diffrent then the first. This time the band wanted and succeded to add a light atmosphere on the pieces, the orchestrations and the string arrangements are more towards the lighter side of prog, but keeping a good doze complexity in the repertoir. Even the album is very well played and again some very thoughtfull lyrics like on Legamint, the album falls to be more exciting then the first, maybe because the prog music was in decline in some parts of the world in late '70's a thing that was all the time in my country, but has some splendid and unforgetable moments of prog made in Romania. The skillfull musicians shows once again how great they were, the vocal harmonies are again top notch, the flute this time is left aside, no ore catchy moments who remind me of Delirium or Jethro Tull, this time the band sound more like Styx or Uriah Heep same period. Progressive elements comes from rhythmic and structural complexities, as well calmer moments where a piano may interlude with the guitars and giving a great atmosphere as a whole. So, another 4 stars, more like 3.5 but rounded up to 4 because of some pieces who I found tem essential in any seriuos progressive rock collection: Legamint, Oameni si fapte or Pas candid catre realitate. One of the best bands from Romania for sure with great contribution to progressive movement from these lands.

Progresiv TM - 1976 - Dreptul De A Visa

Progresiv TM
Dreptul De A Visa

01. Omul e valul (6:06)
02. Nimeni nu e singur (3:45)
03. Ruşinea soarelui (3:26)
04. Clepsidra (4:32)
05. Odatǎ doar vei rǎsǎri (3:29)
06. Va cǎdea o stea (4:21)
07. Dreptul de a visa - Poetul devenirii noastre (10:54)

Harry Coradini - vocals
Ladislau Herdina - guitar, vocals
Ilie Stepan - bass
Gheorghe Torz - flute
Mihály Farkas - piano
Hely Moszbrucker - drums

One of the foremost Romanian bands of the Seventies, PROGRESIV TM were formed in Timiºoara in 1972 with the name of Classic XX. The following year, after changing their name, they debuted in their home town, performing to great acclaim.

Originally, PROGRESIV TM were a six-piece, whose bassist, Ilie Stepan, was also a founding member of PRO MUSICA. Their first album, "Dreptul de-a visa", was released in 1973. It features skilfully composed hard rock tunes with plenty of soaring melody and a strong emphasis on vocal harmonies, enhanced by flute interludes somewhat reminiscent of Italian band DELIRIUM.

Four years later, after some changes in their line-up, PROGRESIV TM released their second album, "Puterea muzicii", which showed their sound had developed into a more elaborate direction. The presence of the piano and, occasionally, of strings, combined with the band's trademark ear for melody, as well as definitely better production values, make this album one of the best examples of Eastern European prog. Unfortunately, the group disbanded soon afterwards.

 I can clearly remember watching a TV show on BBC admiring arts and crafts made by POW's during the Napoleonic wars, thinking of the hardships they must have encountered in their captivity. Whilst pondering on their misfortunes I also was in awe, considering what splendid pieces of art created. Bear in mind, being a prisoner means, by definition, to be deprived of things, both spiritual and material.
The same feelings emerge whenever I listen to prog from the Eastern European countries during the cold war. How hard mustn't it have been? To express oneself artistically in any oppressive state is hard no matter where you live. Living in Romania under Ceausescu was not all fun and games, if you get my drift. Thus listening to Progresiv TM I find myself just as much in awe as I did back in the Edinurgh dungeons.

But wait, there are two separate stories here. The first time I listened to Progresiv TM I dug "Omul valul" but thought that the rest was, well... Uninteresting really. That was a couple of years ago. My feelings towards the album now is very much the opposite.

I would like to start off by saying something about the music, what it sounds like. It mostly resembles a Tullified Sabbath with an Eastern European flavor. Think Sabbath with Ian Anderson, backed up by the romanian band Phoenix and you are not far off.

The songs are all, bar one, hard rock with a progressive edge. Heavy prog could be an apt description. When reading on the internet I find that some think parts of the album being poppy but I disagree. The second track "Nimeni nu e singur" is the softest track on the album but it is more in the vein of 1970's hard rock ballad-y sort of thing. Very nice too, I might add.

The whole album is infused with vibrant lust for music. The enthusiasm and liveliness expressed on here is both admirable and entracning. I can't help smiling as the album grooves along.

There are many things to point out, when it comes to the material. "Omul valul", for instance, starts off with a sort of jazzy intro before it steams it's way into a powerful riff and glorious energy. The song builds up and ends with great soloing and high-pitched energy. "Rusinea soarelui" is equally heavy and holds also a great jazzy section in the middle that makes this track into something really enticing. The most epic track on the album is the title track which last for over 10 minutes. It is one of those tracks that feel like a couple of minutes, not ten. Structured and cohesive it is a beautiful way of ending a really amazing album.

I can't stop listening to this album. The musicianship, energy, grooves, ideas, love of music and general atmosphere of the album is really on par with a lot of contemporary albums. Being that the lyrics are all in romanian, I can't understand a word they are singing. (Some remarks have been made that the lyrics are all a bit censored but what else could you expect? I dare say that Ceausescu would not have approved of anything remotely resembling criticism.) All in all, this is an album worthy of more attention and recognition. It is wonderful. Really it is.