Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A-Ω - 1976 - A Life

A Life

01. Alpha (6:11)
02. Easygoing Childhood (1:09)
03. The Crazy City (5:38)
04. The First Day At School (4:35)
05. The Tiny Difference (4:04)
06. King Michael (2:47)
07. One Thousand Arms (4:44)
08. The Woman (9:41)
09. I'm In Love With Life (3:12)
10. Happy Time (3:32)
11. The Breakdown (1:55)
12. And He Doesn't Know What The Preacher Says (3:44)
13. Awakening (3:33)
14. The Rich Man, Yet So Poor (3:56)
15. Temptation (2:18)
16. Guilt (3:34)
17. My Friend Death (0:50)
18. Omega (6:36)

Fredy Baumann - Vocals (Michael)
Fritz Beerstecher - Vocals
Priska Weidmann - Vocals (Corin)
Erica Laederach - Vocals
Pierre Laederach - Piano
J.C. Laederach - Flute, Vocals (Father)
Peter Ohno - Guitar, Vocals (Daniel)
Werner Homberger - Guitar
Jürg Gallo - Bass
Renaud Suter - Drums
Rene Liniger - Drums

A very interesting story around this Swiss ensemble, which inspired Cat Stevens, read on.Alpha to Omega originated from a choir of students near Zurich called Les Amis.Part of the collective, tired of this choir-type approach, decided to start working on a project of their own, these were Fredy Baumann, Fritz Beerstecher, Priska Weidmann and Erica Laederach on vocals, Pierre Laederach on piano, J.C. Laederach on flute/vocals, Peter Ohno on guitar/vocals, Werner Homberger on guitar, Jurg Gallo on bass and Renaud Suter-Rene Liniger on drums.Their work was a concept Rock Opera, a slow work in progress, which lasted for about five years.So members came and go and by the time of its release only Fredy Baumann had been left as a member.The album ''A life'' was a double vinyl, pressed in a limited number of copies, which got some airplay in a local station with fans wondering why it came out in such a limited number.

The story refers to a man, Michael, who, through the journey of life, realizes that birth and death are the only true facts in the life of a human, his shiny days come to an end, when his wife and childern die in an accident and he eventually faces depression.Musically the album is all over the place, it contains hints from Pop, Psychedelic Rock, Singer/Songwriter and Progressive Rock stylings, featuring some decent vocal parts as well as some good instrumental themes.Next to the typical bass/guitar/drums set-up we can find plenty of piano and flute parts as well as some sporadic sax lines for a deeper and more emphatic sound.Singing lines range from storytelling to even Gospel-like deliveries with female and male voices, propably the later being the most dull moments on this album, otherwise the music is quite good, depending on the piece and part of the story the listener will pass through romantic, happy, pesimistic and dramatic moods.Most of the album contains strong psychedelic touches with electric and acoustic passages changing places, steady and solid drumming and some back-up piano themes, but the depth of the instrumental parts is bigger.Some symphonic overtones in the flute-led parts, some nice bluesy soloing, elements of Orchestral Pop in certain moments as well as some diverse early PINK FLOYD touches in the process, when the band was exploring the fields of Psychedelic Music, Avant-Garde and Pop at the same time.Great emotional material in some extended instrumental cuts, featuring lovely guitar solos and the elegant sound of flute and piano, only to be interrupted by the choirs and the lead singing parts.

Despite its rarity, here comes the most interesting part of the story.The music of Alpha to Omega came to the attention of Cat Stevens' agent, who tried to buy the rights of the album, but the band never accepted the offer.Eventually this album was released in England in 1979 on United Artists as a Various Artists disc, including Cat Stevens, Elton John, Arthur Brown, David Essex and others, titled ''Alpha Omega: A musical revelation'', with the lyrics being slightly changed.

Alpha Omega: A musical revelation
Black Rills Records reissued the album in 1997 with a different cover, so old Rock fans would taste the efforts of this talented combo.Psych/Prog with elements of Rock Opera, pretty fascinating, with interesting melodies and a good concept behind, definitely recommended to say the least.

Alpha Ralpha - 1977 - Alpha Ralpha

Alpha Ralpha
Alpha Ralpha

01. Synergie (0:00)
02. Nova (3:58)
03. Syrtis Major (9:38)
04. Genese (11:56)
05. Rez (19:56)
06. Gothic (23:32)
07. Magellan (24:07)
08. Lagune Ouest (31:24)
09. Hymn (35:02)

Claude Alvarez-Pereyre - 6 & 12 string guitars, classical & electric guitars, acoustic & electric violin, organ, marimba, vibraphone
Michel Mareska - electric guitar
Charlie Charriras - bass
Jean Alain Gardet - acoustic & electric pianos, organ, synthesizers
Emmanuel Lacordaire - drums, percussion, vibraphone, marimba

Claude Samard - pedal steel guitar on (2), electric guitar on (4)
François Bréant - Arp Odyssey on (2,5,7), acoustic piano on (7) (Cruciferius, Nemo, Ergo Sum)
Jean de Antony - electric guitar on (5,7), acoustic guitar on (7)
Jean-Jacques Goldman - voice on (7), harmony vocals (Thai Phong)
Georges Granier - harmony vocals
Khan Mai - harmony vocals
Tai Sinh - harmony vocals

Recorded at Studio IP between May & September 1976.

ALPHA RALPHA were a short-lived band with Michel Mareska on electric guitar, Claude Alvarez-Peryre on electric and acoustic guitars, Jean Alain Gardet on keyboards, Charlie Charriras on bass and Emmanuel Lacordaire on percussion. On their only album, four more musicians appeared: Francois Breant on piano and synth, Jean de Anthony and Claude Samard on guitars, and Jean-Jaques Goldman on vocals.

Alvarez-Peryre, a co-founder of the group was a member of MALICORNE, while Gardet and Goldman were the members of TAI PHONG.

The band released only one album, the self-titled LP released for Warner in Canada and France in 1977. Their music could be described as a mixture of jazz rock and French symphonic, where guitars are keyboards are carrying the melodies for the most part, with occasional usage of vibraphone and marimba, and vocal harmonies.

Most super obscure prog rock bands are on tiny labels or even private releases that are extremely hard to find and cost a bunch of money, and you only hope some label took up to the plate and had it reissued, like Cathedral's Stained Glass Stories (which was reissued). The French band Alpha Ralpha is very obscure, I don't even bother bringing it up because no one's heard of it, and yet they recorded for Warner Bros. Original LPs aren't too terribly expensive, but might be a bit hard to find outside of France and Canada (it was also released in Canada). I remembered some websites believing this group was Canadian, from Quebec, but they're not, only because the person running that website owned the Canadian pressing. They're indeed French, unfortunately never been reissued on any format.
Although recorded from May to September 1976, it didn't appear until 1977 (this album could have easily appeared in November 1976, but didn't, probably record company politics). This is some rather original, but perhaps not the most mindblowing prog you're going hear all year. The group consisted of bassist Charlie Charriras, guitarist Claude Alvarez-Pereyre, guitarist Michel Mareska, keyboardist Jean Alain Gardet, and drummer Emmanuel Lacordaire. I have a feeling this group was discovered by Tai Phong, not only being on the same label, but the fact that Jean-Jacques Goldman and the two Vietnamese brothers Tai and Kahn guest on this album providing some wordless voices. Also some member of Malicorne guests as well as François Bréant, of the obscure and wonderful group Cruciferius, who later recorded two albums in 1978 and 1979 on EGG that aren't impossible to get a hold of. I really can't compare this to any group in particular. "Synergy" features some nice spacy string synths and nice guitar work. "Nova" features some more nice guitar and Mini Moog work, although there's a short passage with a country influence (complete with steel guitar) I think was a bit of a mistake. "Syris Major" seems to be just a short spacy bit that leads to the nice "Genese". I especially like the use of marimba on it. "Magellan" bears more than a passing resemblance to something I've heard off François Bréant's Sons Optique, which I guess is no surprise given he appears on that song providing his keyboard work, and I can easily tell it's him as he has a style totally different from Jean Alain Gardet.

Don't let the Tai Phong connection scare you off, if Tai Phong isn't to your liking, as this is largely instrumental progressive rock, with only the occasional wordless voices (from the Tai Phong guys). Although you can only get it as a used LP (and one that won't break your bank account, thankfully), it's a nice album to have in your collection.

Agora - 1976 - Live In Montreux

Live In Montreux

01. Penetrazione (5:21)
02. Serra S. Querico (8:33)
03. Serra S. Querico II (6:40)
04. Acqua Celeste (6:00)
05. L'orto di Ovidio (5:24)

Roberto Bacchiocchi - electric piano, vocals
Renato Gasparini - guitar
Ovidio Urbani - soprano saxophone, cymbal, vocals
Paolo Colafrancesco - bass, vocals
Mauro Mencaroni - drums, vocals

Recorded live at Mountain Record Studio, Montreaux Jazz Festival on July 7, 1975.

When a band releases an album called Live in Montreux, there's an implication that the band has had a long and prosperous career leading up to the occasion. Jethro Tull and Yes both released their own Live in Montreux albums in 2003, over forty years since either had first taken to the stage. Deep Purple notably released three live recordings from the Montreux jazz festival, and even then, the earliest was in 1986, after they had already etched their name in the rock music canon for eternity. The Italian progressive fusioneers Agora on the other hand had no such legacy of success when they were invited to play the Swiss festival. In fact, they didn't even have an album, much less a following to attest to their greatness. From what I can tell, their invitation to the Swiss festival was largely a matter of impressing the right sets of ears. Thus, their debut Live in Montreux was conceived, and from the half our performance captured, it's easy to see why they would be getting people excited. While I prefer the meticulous design and darker atmosphere of their in-studio follow-up 2 to this, Agora's so-called debut is a strong fusion record, with plenty of chemistry apparent in the way they play together. The only disappointment here is that Agora would dissipate before they ever capitalized on their strength as a band.

Agora's style usually finds itself somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between jazz and rock; whether someone wants to call them 'jazz fusion' or 'jazz rock' is up for debate, although their tendency towards rock beats has me leaning towards the latter. Although Agora has a guitarist, Renato Gasparini's playing tends to take a back seat outside of his McLaughlin-esque solos. While I would have expected for a band this close-sounding to the Mahavishnu Orchestra to thrust the guitars into the spotlight, there's a clear emphasis on the saxophone of Ovidio Urbani, although listening to the brilliant way he sneaks melody into their group explorations, I don't think I'd prefer them any other way. There is a thick layer of Rhodes piano often plying just beneath the saxophone; although Roberto Bacchiocchi never takes the forefront, his textures demand a lot of attention and give the music a dreamlike atmosphere I haven't often heard in jazz. Even moreso than 2, Live in Montreux showcases the proggy third axis of their sound, along with the jazz and rock elements. "Serra S. Quirico" has moments that seem to draw on the playful twang of Yes. Closer still are Agora's light vocal offerings with the harmonies typical of their compatriots in the Italian progressive rock scene; Premiata Forneria Marconi comes first to mind. It's not surprising given the band was just getting started at this point, but it should be noted that the quality of recording on Live in Montreux isn't the greatest. All of the instruments are audible and clear enough, but the production doesn't capture the sense of immediacy and immersion I'd look for in a live album. Still, considering it's the only potential weakness I can discern from their performance, I'd say Agora are doing just fine.

Part of the reason I'll go to lengths to check out little-known 'gems' or generally overlooked music is that I'm confident that I'll come across bands that will leap out at me, artists I wouldn't otherwise find due to a friend's recommendation. It's been a long time since a jazz fusion band leapt out at me like Agora does, and that's why the brevity of their career feels like such a disappointment. Even without the context of its improved in-studio successor, Live in Montreux suggests plenty of potential and creativity. The last few minutes of this record are about as smooth as jazz fusion gets; I'm really left to wonder how far they might have gone if Agora had stuck together longer. However, the 'unreleased materials' compilation Ichinen came out only recently, and apparently offers some insight into the band's current sound and incarnation. Perhaps that means there's hope we might hear something new and fresh from Agora before too long.

ACI - 1982 - Tiefenrausch


01. Reise (5:09)
02. Tiefenrausch (4:49)
03. Deutsche Welle (5:09)
04. Sonnenstrahl (4:58)
05. Drachenflug (5:33)
06. Impuls (5:17)
07. Umlaufbahn (4:40)
08. Ellipse (4:24)

- Peter Schneider / Minimoog synth
- Armin Biermann / Polymood synth
- H. Van Aaken / Lyrics
- Dieter Petereit / Bass
- Armin Biermann / Piano
- Udo Dahmen / Drums

 Pseudonym of a keyboardist, who was said to be either Michael Gerlach, future keyboardist of Eloy or an unknown H. Van Aaken, the man who wrote most of the album ''Tiefenrausch'', released in 1982 on Harvest.Whoever he was, his album features some great guests like Rufus Zuphall's and Kraan's drummer Udo Dahmen and bassist Dieter Petereit, who previously played with New Triumvirat.Other contrbutors were Armin Biermann and Peter Schneider on Moog synth and Peter Broicher on guitar.''Tiefenrausch'' was recorded in two different sessions at Tonstudio Langendreer and at EMI Studio II.

Very much a product of its time, ''Tiefenrausch'' is an album full of rhythmic electronics and synthetic beats, which sometimes obtains some of the cosmic touch of early Kraut-Electronic bands, but most of the time runs through the emerging synthesizer music of the 80's.An obscure mix of spacey keyboards, New Wave atmospheres, Electronic Music and Synth Pop with questionable results, containing spacious soundscapes, some VANGELIS' symphonic flashes, lots of accesible electronic tunes and, most of all, a JEAN-MICHEL JARRE-like tendency towards hypnotic and atmospheric synthetic music.Despite the presence of a bunch of contributors, this is all about synths and drums,

 The album starts with the happy Reise. The second track, Tiefenrausch, is a prog disco. So we have the dancing Deutsche Welle, one of their best moves, with robotic vocals and a catchy bassline. Sonnestrahl is the last song from the A side. It's a thriller song and it closes the side in a very adventurous prog way.

The B side starts with the futuristic Drachenflug, a mood for an abduction and exploration into a new dimension. Impuls is a very trippy' ambiental song. It's disco time again, and the robotic voice (so cool) strikes back in Umlaufbahn. The bassline make the music catchy once more. And the last song of the night, Ellipse, seems to be a theme for an oldschool sci-fi cheesy movie, and I like it.

They reach the prog essence of make the listener trip and develop a plot line just listening to the song. I will never underestimate the disco music tag (in a prog way) again.

Jan Akkerman - 1990 - The Noise Of Art

Jan Akkerman 
The Noise Of Art

01. Trojan Horse
02. You can't keep a bad man up
03. Bonnaville
04. Shame on you
05. Having fun
06. Prima Donna
07. Prelude: friends always
08. Akkerman's sombrero
09. My pleasure
10. Quiet storm

- Jan Akkerman / Guitars and Synths
- Livingston Brown / Bass
- Derek Holt / Bass
- Clive Mayuyu / Drums
- Brendon Day / Drums

A visitor, requested this one, and since it's probably the last good Jan Akkerman album released, and I had it at hand, here it is!
Back in '89 Jan was asked as a stand-in for the Night of the Guitar festival. He became the best and the organizer gave him chance to made this record. With only a bass player and a drummer he made an album with a lot of different styles. It was one of his most accessible records, so it brought him back in the Dutch album charts. ( the last time was the '85 Focus album, which was the first since Live at Montreux.) For me the album contains some strong tracks like Shame on You and Prima Donna. Seems to me Akkerman goes Satriani if you here the music of Bonnaville. For experienced prog listeners there's reason enough to call some songs elevator-music; but for a bigger audience it's easier to step in the world of Akkerman.