Sunday, August 14, 2016

East New York Ensemble de Music - 1974 - At the Helm

East New York Ensemble de Music
At the Helm 

01. Mevlana (based on Turkish religious melody) 12:01
02. Ti-Ti (Ameen Nuraldeen) 7:17
03. Sun Flower (Freddie Hubbard) 13:30
04. Bent-el-Jerusalem (Ameen Nuraldeen) 5:20

Bilal Abdurahman – Soprano Sax, Korean Reed
Ameen Nuraldeen – Vibraphone

guests :

Qasim Ubaindullah – Drums
James Smith – Bass
Jay Rose – Turkish Drum
Bobby Harvey – Conga Drums
Rahkiah Abdurahman – African Twin-Gong

The East New York Ensemble was a group with a broad range of musical and cultural ideas. “We are particularly concerned musically with modulating from one groovy layer of polyrhythmic textures and colors to another,” writes member Bilal Abdurahman in the liner notes accompanying the album. Listeners will encounter music from an eclectic mix of cultures, including an improvisation based on a Turkish religious melody and the composition “Sunflower,” which features an ancient reed instrument given to Abdurahman by a villager in Pusan, Korea. At the Helm, The East New York Ensemble’s only album, showcases a variety of musicians demonstrating a variety of multicultural influences.

Multi-reed player Bilal Abdurrahman was best known for his musical partnership with the trailblazing bassist/oudist (and sideman for Monk and Randy Weston) Abdul Ahmed Malik from the late '50s into the mid-'60s. Their music—which predated better-publicized fusions of ethnic musics and jazz by half a decade—was documented on five LPs for Riverside, RCA, and New Jazz ( East Meets West , Jazz Sahara , The Music of Ahmed Abdul Malik , Eastern Moods , Sounds of Africa ). Several of these have been reissued and are currently on my "must get" list. Unlike those LPs, I never knew this one existed! Released on the not-for-profit Folkways label in 1974, At The Helm is the only surviving document of Abdurahman's own Black Magical Music.

The puckish humor evident in the band's name doesn't so much come across in the music (a la Breuker, Carla Bley, et al.) as it does in their kitchen sink approach to musical eclecticism. The Ensemble is actually a collaboration between Abdurahman and vibraharpist and composer Ameen Nuraldeen. Nuraldeen's compositions deftly mix the somewhat loopy, exotica-derived sounds one might find on Sun Ra's early recordings with an authoritative, groove-oriented, early-'70s Afro-modal jazz sensibility. Prominently odd amongst the more subtly odd moments on At The Helm is the cover of Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower"—a minor hit of sorts amongst '70s jazz fans which daringly opens with an extended improvisation on a bizarre-sounding non-tempered Korean reed instrument (possibly a senap—but I am just guessing). This is not done merely for exotic effect; Abdurahman plays the untamed, unnamed instrument with the same soul and passion he displays on his main axe.

Why he wasn't better known, I will never know—his technique, sound and intonation are distinctive and superb throughout. Nuraldeen is a forceful, percussive player who revels in the vibraphone's bright bell-like tones while eschewing the clanky, clangy sounds that many players of this ilk fall prey to.

The supporting players—all even more obscure than the leaders—provide an organic propulsive rhythmic base throughout. Another pleasant surprise is is the very crisp sound quality—unusual for Folkways recordings.

At The Helm presents us with a convincing fusion of jazz, African, Asian, and Middle Eastern ethnic musics in which the immediacy and power of jazz is never diluted by the ethnic influences, and vice versa.

Roy Brooks And The Artistic Truth - 1973 - Ethnic Expressions

Roy Brooks And The Artistic Truth 
Ethnic Expressions

01. M'Jumbe 15:57
02. The Last Prophet 8:03
03. The Smart Set 5:47
04. Eboness 5:30
05. Eboness (Kwanza) 12:53

Alto Saxophone, Flute – Sonny Fortune
Baritone Saxophone, Clarinet – Hamiet Bluiett
Bass – Reggie Workman
Drums, Percussion  – Roy Brooks
Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] – Hilton Ruiz
Percussion [African] – Lawrence Williams, Richard Landrum
Piano [Acoustic] – Joseph Bonner
Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Bass Clarinet – John Stubblefield
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Cecil Bridgewater
Trumpet, Horn [E Flat] – Olu Dara
Vocals – Eddie Jefferson

Recorded at: Small's Paradise, Harlem, N.Y.C. Nov. 22, 1973.

Ethnic Expressions by Roy Brooks & the Artistic Truth is one of two recordings drum master Roy Brooks cut for the tiny Afrocentric New York imprint Im-Hotep. Released in 1973, it has been one of the most sought-after "Holy Grail" recordings on the collector's market, with copies selling at auction for over $1,200. The reason is not merely its rarity, but the stellar quality of its music and the focus of its vision reinventing the unity of African-American self-determination through music. Recording at Small's Paradise in Harlem on the tenth anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, this large collective of musicians created a positive, musically sophisticated, emotionally powerful performance that epitomized 1970s jazz as it incorporated the free, progressive, and spiritual jazz elements of the 1960s in a setting that also included soul and blues expression. The personnel includes Brooks on drums and percussion; Olu Dara and Cecil Bridgewater on trumpets and flügelhorn; Hamiet Bluiett, Sonny Fortune, and John Stubblefield on saxophones, flute, and bass clarinets; pianists Joe Bonner (acoustic) and Hilton Ruiz (Rhodes); bassist Reggie Workman; and Richard Landrum and Lawrence Williams on African percussion. Vocalist Eddie Jefferson also appears on the "The Smart Set" and "Eboness," at his most expressive and soulful. The album's five tracks include two longer pieces in "M'Jumbe" (whose arrangement reflects the time Brooks spent with Charles Mingus a year earlier) and the closing "Eboness (Kwanza)," as well as three middle-length pieces
The 16-minute "M'Jumbe" begins in a free call and response between trumpet, percussion, and bowed bass, gradually adding more instruments until its groove emerges at two minutes and its melody unfolds near the three-minute mark. Even as the horn sections quote the theme, improvisation moves in and out, funky themes are introduced with another melodic statement, and brief moments of free playing slip through before formal solos are taken. The tune is always circular due to its impeccably preeminent rhythmic elements. "The Last Prophet" showcases the band's groove side with stellar piano work from Bonner and a horn section in full swagger. The interplay between Workman and Brooks is magical. Jefferson's hip R&B roots are brought into play on the finger-popping "The Smart Set" and his blues authority on "Eboness," with some deep soul work from Workman and Ruiz as well as a fine flute solo from Fortune. On "Eboness (Kwanza)," the vocalist referred to as "Black Rose" is Dee Dee Bridgewater. This is a bona fide jazz classic; its importance as an example of the best that jazz had to offer in the 1970s cannot be overstated. [Ethnic Expressions slipped out of print in 1975, and remained out of print until Japan's P-Vine made it available for a limited time on CD in 2009. In 2010, however, Great Britain's Jazzman was able to license and reissue it on both CD and LP, making it widely available and affordable worldwide.]

Easily one of the most coveted and sought-after of all jazz LPs is the elusive Holy Grail that is Roy Brooks’ Ethnic Expressions. It’s not just rarity that makes a record of this nature so desirable, nor is it the compelling music within… sometimes, like a Van Gogh or a Picasso, it’s the personality of the artist himself that’s inexorably entwined with the record itself that lends a fascinating, mesmeric and mythical quality that simply can’t be contrived.

Ethnic Expressions was recorded live in NYC in 1973, and exhibits a powerful message of black consciousness and spiritual freedom. This is post-Coltrane progressive jazz of the highest order! With a cry to his African roots, Brooks’ music combines modal, rhythmic and Afro-centric jazz with politics, spirituality and a positive vibes. The result is deep, esoteric spiritual jazz that any fan into real deal vibrant jazz will require as essential listening.

Roy Brooks And The Artistic Truth - 1973 - Black Survival: The Sahel Concert At Town Hall

Roy Brooks And The Artistic Truth 
Black Survival: The Sahel Concert At Town Hall

01. Black Survival
02. Black Survival - Here And Now
03. Sahel
04. Black Survival Crisis
05. Crisis (Continued)
06. Dialogue
07. Relief
08. Black Survival - Prologue

Bass – Reggie Workman
Congas – Lawrence Williams
Drums – Roy Brooks
Oboe – John Stubberfield
Piano – Joe Bonner
Saxophone – Sonny Fortune
Trumpet – Cecil Bridgewater
Vocals – Dee Dee Bridgewater, JorDora Marshall

Roy Brooks and the Artistic Truth’s Black Survival album is a true holy-grail for deep and spritual jazz collectors around the world.

Black Survival is reissued here, digitally remastered and cased in bespoke original artwork exact reproduction on hardboard Jap-style box case CD and a very limited (1000 worldwide) heavyweight US-made heavy board gatefold vinyl edition.

This album was originally independently released to raise funds to combat the ongoing drought in the Sahel region of Africa (an area covering parts of Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Chad, Darfur, Sudan and Ethiopia).

In his long and distinguished career, the legendary Detroit-born drummer Brooks played with everyone from Yusef Lateef, Pharoah Sanders, Max Roach, Charles Mingus. From 1959-64 he was in the Horace Silver Quintet performing on classic Blue Note albums such as Song For My Father.

During his lifetime Brooks released precious few solo albums. His debut, ‘Beat’, was released in 1963 on Motown’s then new off-shoot jazz label Jazz Workshop. His connection with his hometown label dated back to his time working with The Four Tops

In 1972, Brooks formed the Artistic Truth. ‘Black Survival’, the Sahel Concert at the Town Hall was originally released on the small independent Im-Hotep Records in Harlem in 1974 (which also released Brook’s earlier Ethnic Expressions).

After many years on the New York jazz scene, Brooks returned to Detroit in 1975, where he continued to perform with the Artistic Truth as well as forming the collective Musicians United to Save Indigenous Culture (MUSIC) along with Strata founder Kenny Cox and members of the Tribe collective, Wendell Harrison and Harold McKinney.

Roy Brooks - 1970 - The Free Slave

Roy Brooks 
The Free Slave

01. The Free Slave 12:18
02. Understanding 10:57
03. Will Pan's Walk 9:07
04. Five For Max 13:40

George Coleman: tenor-sax
Woody Shaw: trumpet
Hugh Lawson: piano
Cecil McBee: bass
Roy Brooks: drums

Recorded live at The Left Bank Jazz Society, April 26th 1970

Roy Brooks towered alongside the premier percussionists of the hard bop generation, honing his explosively rhythmic style across now-classic dates led by Horace Silver, Yusef Lateef, and Sonny Stitt. A co-founder of Max Roach's pioneering Afro-jazz vehicle M'Boom, he also headlined several acclaimed LPs including the classic The Free Slave before a losing battle with bipolar illness brought his career to a tragic halt. Born in Detroit on March 9, 1938, Brooks began drumming as a child. A varsity basketball sensation, he received an athletic scholarship from the Detroit Institute of Technology but dropped out after three semesters to join reed master Lateef on tour. In 1959, Brooks' friend Louis Hayes recommended him to Silver, and the drummer's taut, fiery approach proved a perfect fit for such legendary dates as "Song for My Father," "Doodlin'," and "Señor Blues." While with Silver, Brooks also cut his first headlining date, 1963's Beat. After Silver shuffled his lineup in 1964, Brooks emerged as a fixture of the New York City jazz scene, reuniting with Lateef as well as playing in support of Stitt, Lee Morgan, Charles Mingus, Dexter Gordon, and Milt Jackson. In 1970 Brooks assembled then-unknowns including bassist Cecil McBee and trumpeter Woody Shaw for The Free Slave, widely considered his masterpiece. That same year he joined M'Boom and in 1972 formed his own group, the Artistic Truth.
By this time Brooks' performances exhibited a flair for theatrics. He regularly played a musical saw, and even invented an apparatus with tubes that vacuumed air in and out of a drum to vary its pitch. But erratic behavior and occasional on-stage meltdowns earned him a reputation as a troubled if supremely gifted player, and on several occasions he checked into mental health facilities. With opportunities diminishing in New York, Brooks returned home to Detroit in 1975, only to find compatible musicians scarce and gigs even rarer. After much diagnosis and treatment, he finally found relief in lithium, and in the early '80s resurfaced with a new Artistic Truth lineup and appeared regularly at the Detroit nightclub Baker's Keyboard Lounge. With fellow Motor City jazz icons Kenny Cox, Harold McKinney, and Wendell Harrison, Brooks also co-founded M.U.S.I.C. (Musicians United to Save Indigenous Culture), a group in support of aspiring young talent from Detroit's ravaged inner city. Most notably, he also helmed the Aboriginal Percussion Choir, a group spun out of Roach's M'Boom sensibility. But Detroit's ever-shrinking jazz scene proved insufficient to keep Brooks afloat financially, and by the early '90s he rarely took his medication, resulting in several outbursts at high-profile gigs. Finally, in 1994 he spent three weeks in the Detroit Psychiatric Institute. After several felonious assault charges, he was sentenced to prison in 2000, entering a nursing home upon his release four years later. Brooks died in Detroit on November 15, 2005.

Originally released on the Muse label, this album is of vital importance not only because it is one of Brooks' few dates as leader, but also because it introduced much of the jazz world to trumpeter Woody Shaw, tenor saxophonist George Coleman, pianist Hugh Lawson, and bassist Cecil McBee. Recorded at the Left Bank Jazz Society in Baltimore, MD, Brooks and company reflect the music of the day, from straight post-bop and soul-jazz to ultra-modern sounds and unique percussion musings. There are four lengthy selections -- three written by Brooks, one by McBee. The set starts with the title track, which features soaring horn lines and a steady feel-good boogaloo fueled by ostinato piano and bass. Coleman's smooth tenor and Shaw's pungent trumpet contrast each other to good effect on this number. "Understanding" features a head where lead trumpet meets harmonious tenor. Shaw's trumpet solo intensifies Brooks' lovelight beat, and the piece ends in ticktock mode with counterpointed horns and delirious gong ringing. "Will Pan's Walk" has the seeds of a classic, with McBee's heavy ostinato contrasting Lawson's delicate shadings. On the finale, "Five for Max," Brooks cops many of Max Roach's signature trappings and adds a few of his own, including using a breath-a-tone device that allows him to heighten or lower the pitch of his drums by exhaling or inhaling through a pair of plastic tubes. Brooks can drive 'em completely wild -- and does on this exciting piece of modal modern jazz. Of course, Coleman, Shaw, Lawson, and McBee are nothing less than world-class. This is a band for the ages.

Rhinoceros - 1970 - Better Times Are Coming

Better Times Are Coming

01. Better Times
02. Old Age
03. Sweet Nice n' High
04. Just Me
05. Happiness
06. Somewher
07. It's A Groovy World
08. Insanity
09. Lady Of Fortune
10. Let's Party
11. Rain Child

John FIinley - Lead Vocal
Michael Fonfara - Organ
Danny Weis - Lead, Rhythm Guitars
Duke Edwards - Drums, Vocal
Larry Leishmann - Rhythm, Lead Guitars
Peter Hodgson - Bass

Despite the excellence of Satin Chickens, several key Rhinoceros members jumped ship following a tour to support the album. Co-lead guitarist Doug Hastings was the first to bail, followed in quick succession by pianist/singer/songwriter Alan Gerber and drummer Billy Mundi. According to Gerber - who had written some of the band's finest material (some of it unreleased, such as "A Fine Day (For Loving You)," "A Sin To Take Life" and "Horace The Rhino"), "The original concept of the group was to do something different and really creative. And it was different, but it ended up being a funky R&B/ rock band... it started out to be something much different, much more experimental; and that's really the reason I left.

I wanted to do something experimental...! was writing all of these songs, and the guys loved 'em, but some of them didn't even get recorded...they didn't fit into the 'Heavy, Horny Beast...'" The remaining original Rhinoceri (lead vocalist John Finley, guitarist Danny Weis, bassist Peter Hodgson and organist Michael Fonfara) were now augmented by two former John & Lee and The Checkmates alumni, guitarist Larry Leishman and drummer/vocalist Duke Edwards. Finley, Hodgson and Fonfara had been members of that Canadian band, and a more accurate name for the new Rhinoceros group would have been "John & Lee and The Checkmates &Weis".

Also gone was producer David Anderle, and in his chair was Guy Draper, who, oddly enough, ended up writing almost half of the Better Times material. Duke Edwards nearly dominates the album with his gritty soul growl, which is strongly reminiscent of Lester Chambers. The album in fact does sound like a different band, which it really was. There are a few fleeting flashes of the real Rhino, such as the melancholic and intense Weis/Finley collaboration, "Somewhere", which was apparently a leftover from the band's 1968 debut.

The song's gentle, spacey verses are juxtaposed by some startling, near-orchestral crescendos and water sound effects. The title cut may be the album's finest moment, combining a Chambers Brothers feel along with the instantly recognizable vocal harmony of Finley, Weis' funk guitar and Fonfara's wailing Hammond. New members Leishman and Edwards came up with some fine material, such as the moody, anti-war album closer, "Rain Child," and "Old Age," which features a blistering guitar passage that could easily be called "fusion." "That's Larry Leishman," comments Danny Weis. "It was a flurry or cluster of notes and phrases, and very bluesy.

I thought he was a very fine guitar player, and he had a real nice feel. Doug (Hastings) had his own style, and was very unorthodox, but it worked, but Larry was really funky. I liked playing with him very much." Organist Michael Fonfara also shines brightly throughout the album, particularly on the instrumental "Insanity" and a sing-along party breakdown aptly titled "Let's Party." Better Times would be the end of the road for the group. "My guess would be that there was some contractual obligation to do that record," Weis speculates. "By the time Better Times happened, the enthusiasm was less than up there, and we were kind of forced to do certain things that we wouldn't normally do as a band." Despite this, the record, as you will hear, does indeed have some brilliant - albeit fleeting - moments. 35 years later, the band's legacy is remarkable.

"I think it's amazing," comments Alan Gerber today. "Wherever I go, all over Canada, the United States and Europe, people know and respect Rhinoceros. I'm very surprised, because the amount of records that the group sold was not that great; maybe 200,000 total, but people know and respect the band all over the world." "It reiterates the fact that over the years I thought we had a pretty strong underground following," concludes Weis. "A lot of people knew about us that I didn't think knew about us, though we didn't sell a lot of records...still, we had quite a following.

I'm pleasantly finding that a lot of people still remember us to this day. I listen to the stuff now, and I still like a lot of it. It was a good band; it wasn't necessarily a perfectly 'tight' band; but that band always had a lot of heart, and that remained a constant throughout with most of the players. I would love to be able to have that kind of feeling again with a group.

Rhinoceros - 1969 - Satin Chickens

Satin Chickens

01. Satin Doll
02. Monkee Man
03. Find My Hand
04. Top Of The Ladder
05. Sugar Foot Rag
06. Don't Cme Crying
07. Chicken
08. It's The Same Thing
09. In A Little Room
10. Funk Butt
11. Back Door

John FIinley – Vocals
Alan Gerber – Vocals.Piano
Danny Weis – Guitar, Piano
Doug Hastings – guitar
Michael Fonfara – Organ, Piano
Peter Hodgson – Bass
Billy Mundi – Drums, Percussion

January 1969. Rhinoceros, an assembly of talented musicians brought together by Elektra producer Paul Rothchild as a "Project Supergroup", had released their self-titled debut album which, despite warm critical response, only peaked at #115 on the Billboard charts. However, the band was gaining a reputation as one of the finest live acts of the day, coming across as a "heavier" version of The Band, crossed with a Booker T & The MG's/Three Dog Night/Springfield vibe.

At a residency at The Scene nightclub in New York City, the cracks in the "supergroup's foundation were beginning to show. Bassist Jerry Penrod left the band in dramatic fashion, to be briefly replaced by 17-year old Stevie Weis, Danny's brother, who was soon replaced by Finley's cousin Peter Hodgson, who had been earmarked for the nascent group but was passed over before sessions commenced for the debut album. The group then fired their original record producer Paul Rothchild, who had helped put together and nurture the band during their first year.

Rhinoceros was on a slippery slope; but with their brilliance still intact... In early 1969, the band returned from New York to Elektra's LA. studio. The result was, in many ways, the final 'real' Rhinoceros album, Satin Chickens. Despite the excellent finished product, lead singer John Finley revealed the album was quite different from the original concept as devised by Rothchild. "It was going to be an album of singles," says Finley.

While the actual track listing was never finalized, Finley says that it would most likely have included original material like Alan Gerber's "It's The Same Thing," but in a radically different form. "'It's The Same Thing' would have been recorded at a faster tempo, so it would have been more like soul music," says Finley. "Paul was going for singles. He was also going to get outside originals, real R&B, soul songs and then two or three covers in addition to the internally generated material.

Do original arrangements on covers. But the band fired him before he could tell us." Apparently frustrated by Rothchild's evidently autocratic authority in the studio, the band chose Elektra A&R head David Anderle as producer. Anderle had a strong rapport with the band, as he, along with Rothchild and Frazier Mohawk (Barry Friedmanl, had helped assemble Rhinoceros in mid-late 1967. "Paul had his own concept of how to do things," says Alan Gerber today, "and obviously it was very successful for him. I had no problem working with Paul, aside from the fact that with Paul, he had the final word, and you had to go with what the end result was..." Like its predecessor, Satin Chickens was cut, for the most part, live in the studio.

Anderle had recently completed Judy Collins' majestic Who Knows Where The Time Goes in similar fashion at the same studio, with marvellous results. Despite personnel problems and the change in producer, Satin is, in this writer's opinion, nearly as potent a statement as their debut. A long season of touring had paid great dividends, and this is clearly illustrated in the band's near-telepathic communication. In the best possible way, several of the songs sound as though they were written and recorded spontaneously in the studio. Indeed, according to Alan Gerber, "Some of the funky grooves were created - or at least enhanced - in the studio, and some of the songs may have been finished in the studio." This is readily evident in the Finley/Weis collaborations, "Monkee Man" and "Top Of The Ladder."

Built on funky guitar riffs by Weis, the tunes begin slowly, as if the players are feeling their way through the groove...but soon enough, there is a collective authority that becomes blue-eyed hard rock/soul at its highest. Finley's gospelinspired wailing, Gerber and Fonfara's superlative keyboard work, the rock-solid rhythm section – particularly Billy Mundi's drumming - and Weis and Hastings' staglike guitar dueling all coalesce into powerful, spontaneous and commanding performances that are brimming with conviction.

Pianist Alan Gerber, who - along with some of the other band members - occasionally felt that some of his best material was either not cut or left in the can, shines on brightly with his Procol Harum-esque masterpiece, "Find My Hand." Alan remembers a couple of particularly appreciative fans. "I remember I sang that at The Scene in New York," he recalls, "and Steve Winwood and Odetta were sitting right in front of me - literally eight feet away; it was a very small club. I was really into it, really singin' it.. .and after we finished, they got up and hugged me. That was such a great feeling."

The song's soulful, melancholy lyric, agile construction along with its stately, rolling power is startling, and buttressed by Michael Fonfara's commanding Hammond playing, it easily remains one of the groups' finest moments. "Michael and I really hit it off," says Gerber. "We came from different musical schools, but we very quickly came together and locked into something wonderful. He complemented and added extraordinary things to my songs." However, despite such weighty material, the album is home to some whimsical moments, such as the instrumental "Sugerfoot Rag," which finds Weis and Hastings pickin' and grinnin' at blinding speed.

The instrumental was another in a line of signature tunes for the band, such as Fonfara's "Funk Butt" and Weis and Fonfara's "Booker T & The MG's-on-speed" instrumental "Apricot Brandy" from the debut, which nearly made the Top 40. Satin Chickens was recorded amidst mutinous changes in management, production and internal friction within the band. It would, in fact, be the last to be cut by anything closely resembling the band's original line-up. Things were about to change radically again, as you will soon see.

However, despite (or perhaps because of) this chaos, the resulting album showcases a handful of LA.'s brightest musicians playing at the peak of their abilities with an undeniable sense of intuition, authority and above all, soul. Along with their debut, this just may be one of the great lost masterpieces of late 60s rock & roll.

Rhinoceros - 1968 - Rhinoceros


01. When You Say You're Sorry
02. Same Old Way
03. Apricot Brandy
04. That Time Of The Year
05. You’re My Girl (I Don’t Want To Discuss It)
06. I Need Love
07. I've Been There
08. Belbuekus
09. Along Comes Tomorrow
10. I Will Serendade You

Alan Gerber - Keyboards, Vocals,
ichael Fanfara - Organ, Keyboards
John Finley - Vocals
Douglas Hastings - Guitar
Billy Mundi - Drums, Percussion
Jerry Penrod - Bass
Danny Weis - Guitar, Piano, Keyboards

It's September 1967 in Los Angeles. The optimism of the psychedelic music revolution was the unifying force in the world. The Monterey International Pop Festival had happened; The Beatles, Sergeant Pepper was not only a musical event but a sociological and cultural one as well. Despite the Vietnam War, the world was for one shining moment on the same page. Elektra Records (formerly a boutique folk music label) had successfully brought electric rock & roll to its roster, first with the Butterfield Blues Band, and then in quick succession, LA. Heroes Love and, of course, The Doors (the last two were re a dying for release Forever Changes and Strange Days, two seminal albums of the era).

The late Paul Rothchild produced all of these acts. He seemed to have the Midas touch, and despite some fumbles with bands, such as Clear Light, he obviously h|d his finger on the pulse of the music and the movement. Skipping back six months to early 1967 Frazier Mohawk (formerly known as Barry Friedman) approached Rothchild with a concept to collect some of the finest musicians in Los Angeles who weren't encumbered by bands into one group destined to blow the music world away. He even had a name for the band: Supergroup. Friedman/Mohawk already had impeccable credibility in helping assemble bands, particularly Buffalo Springfield, whom he nurtured in early 1966 before being aced but of the official management position by the nefarious team of Greene & Stone.

The overall concept is not that different from another band that would surface a year later from the U.K.: Led Zeppelin. The first assemblage of musicians at Rothchild & Friedman's Laurel Canyon home that September included guitarist Doug Hastings (formerly of Seatl’s “Daily Flash”, and also a temporary replacement for the errant Neil Young in the Springfield earlier that summer) and Chicago born and bred singer/ songwriter/ pianist Alan Gerber, both of whom made the final cut. Also in attendance were guitarist Danny Kortchmar former Kingsmen and Gentle soul bassist Kenny Magness among others.

During a brief hiatus in November, Rothchild took a trip to New York and recruited bassist Peter Hodgson and lead singer John Finley from the legendary Canadian R&B band, Jon & Lee and the Cliekmates. Rothchild had seen The Checkmates on one f his Elektra scouting trips back in late 1965. Rothchild returned to Los Angeles to continue assembling the band, followed in quick succession by Finley and Hodgson. Another addition during this period was former Iron Butterfly guitarist Danny Weis, who had just been recommended by his friend David Crosby to possibly join Al Kooper's Blood, Sweat & Tears, an offer he declined. Around the same time that Weis joined, the project saw the addition of yet another former Jon & Lee and the Checkmates member, classically trained keyboard player Michael Fontara. In late 1967, Weis introduced bassist Jerry Penrod, who at this point replaced Hodgson.

During late 1967, while the Canadians in the band scrambled to obtain work visas, the band as it were got a wonderful shakedown gig, backing singer/songwriter David Ackles for his exquisite Elektra debut album. The final addition to the band during this period was drummer Billy Mundi, who had previously played with Frank Zappa & the Mothers Of Invention, Skip & Flip, and Tim Buckley. In a strange twist of fate, Mundi had also been a fill-in drummer during Buffalo Springfield's spring 1966 salad days, while he was playing with Mastin & Brewer, two other Freidman alumni. After a brief break in late '67/early '68, the Canadians in the band finally secured proper work visas, and wert quickly assembled in a Los Angeles studio, where according to Hastings, the septet finally "sounded like a real band. We were (also) paid to rehearse and record an unheard of arrangement for the time. We wouldn't have to make a dime, much less a profit, until after the first album release! Some sources suggest that Elektra invested as much as $80,000 in the band, a considerable sum of money for the time.

Finley commented on the pre-fab concept in an interview with Larry LeBlanc in the Canadian magazine Egg in late 1969. Elektra "didn't call us Supergroup! They called us project Supergroup, their concept of all their favorite musicians." Elektra "had this multi-thousand dollar campaign to make us instant mini-rock stars' you just go through a change, but by living together and jamming together the hype goes away." I Throughout early 1968, the band wrote and honed their songs and newfound chemistry at The Las Palmas Theater in Hollywood. By summer, they were ushered into Elektra Records, brand new state of the art studio on La Cienega Boulevard to work with engineer John Heaney (and Rothchild as a producer), and proceeded to lay down enough material for their debut album over a period of eight days.

Listening to the album today, it's difficult to believe that the group was able to deliver such astounding results in such a sort time. Despite the way the group was put together, there is an incredible amount of chemistry in the grooves. In a way, the powerful combination of soul roots and hard rock moxie make the band sound like they had been together for years, rather than months. A pair of the most obvious cuts that show this off are versions of a pair of songs that appeared on a Little Richard album; "You're My Girl", which would later be covered by Rod Stewart, and Larry Williams' "I Need Love." Both were brought to the group by Billy Mundi. Cut live in the studio (as all of the tracks were), there is a solidarity to the performances and precision in Hastings' and Weis' guitars, Mundi's heavy (and well-recorded) drumming - a year before John Bonham defined the art - and especially the blinding white funk of lead singer John Finley.

The band also established themselves to be excellent writers as well, as proved by the albums, striking hard rock/soul opener, "When You Say You're Sorry," written by Alan Gerber, and "I Will Serenade You," a soulful, plaintive ballad by Finley. This song would later be covered by Three Dog Night, who was gathering their resources at this same period, with slightly more successful commercial results. According to John Finley, "It was Paul Rothchild's plan from the onset to record the band live without overdubs." Danny Weis discussed this concept with John Mars in Blitz magazine in 1980: "At the time, all the big groups like Cream and the Jim! Hendrix Experience were doing overdubs on all their things with something like nine guitars floating back and forth across the speakers on each track.

I was the first in Rhinoceros to want to try for a live sound with all the advantages of the studio. Michael Fontara thought it was a good idea too, and later all the other guys thought it was good bet. The way we knew our stuff then, it just made sense to play like that." It indeed did make sense, and the proof is here in the grooves. The combination of the band's overall sound, combined with the miraculous sonic rapture of the new studio, delivered by John Haeny's impeccable engineering, brought forward a new, more sophisticated sonic picture to the listener. Musically, the album is a radical departure from the psychedelic excess of the period, while still retaining a sparkling period charm that is inescapable.

In the end, this album has aged better than many of its more legendary contemporaries. What went wrong? Well is in itself is a book on its own, and the curious reader is well advised to check out the excellent website ( for the complete, heartbreaking story. Much has lien made of the term Supergroup. By 1969, between groups such as CSN&Y, Blind Faith, Blood, Sweat & Tears (and a few others that we needn't mention) were washing over the rock music scene like a tidal wave. Some of them were organically formed, and some were record industry by product. Rhinoceros was, to a large extent, part of the later category. But that doesn't mean that the group didn't have real talent, and they certainly deserve a rightful place far and away above the standard rock & roll cult following. Following the release of the album and a long season of touring, the group split into two factions: Finley and Gerber wanted to remain in Los Angeles to continue working with Paul Rothchild.

The remaining Rhinoceri wanted to move to New York, and away from Rothchild's apparently autocratic control for their follow-up album, Satin Chickens. At a crucial band meeting, Gerber decided to side with the rest of the band, and they relocated and changed producers. In the spirit of keeping the band together, Finley reluctantly hung in and joined them in the New York. The resulting two Rhinoceros albums, Satin Chickens and Better Times Coming had some fine moments, but lacked the cohesion of the debut. The real magic is on the album you are now hopefully enjoying.
by Matthew Greenwald

Hinze Schwab Weber Kovacev - 1978 - Wide and Blue

Hinze Schwab Weber Kovacev 
Wide and Blue

01. Danielle 5:50
02. Fatima 7:05
03. Wide And Blue 6:25
04. Tales From Nowhere 10:30
05. Thanks For Being Being 5:05
06. Do It Nice For Me 5:35

Bass – Eberhard Weber
Drums, Percussion – Lala Kovacev
Flute, Flute [Alto] – Chris Hinze
Guitar – Sigi Schwab

Recorded February 1976 at Studio Barbarossa Munich

Is it possible to get tired of virtuoso flautist Chris Hinze? Not for me... here is an outing from 1976 featuring the amazing guitarist Sigi we have seen before, Eberhard Weber performing his customary ECM-style electric bass smooth melodiousness, and Lala Kovacev on percussion. Oddly enough most of the compositions are from Mladen Gunesha, with only the 5th track (sampled here below) by Hinze. The former is not a name familiar to me though I note he has a german wikipedia entry, he is clearly a european composer and arranger from former yugoslavia.

Don Shinn - 1969 - Departures

Don Shinn 

01. Space-Wards
02. Bossa-Wards
03. H. VIII-Wards
04. Departure IV

Don Shinn; orgain
Stan Tracey; piano, celeste, vibraphone, xylophone, marimba, glockenspiel
Barry Morgan; Latin-American percussion and drums
Trevor Tomkins; Drums

Don Shinn (born Donald Shinn, 15 December 1945, Southampton, Hampshire) is an English keyboard player, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and vocalist. He is known primarily as an organist and pianist, and also plays vibraphone. In the early-mid 1960's he recorded and performed with British Beat groups The MeddyEVILS, The Echoes (backing Dusty Springfield), and The Soul Agents (featuring Rod Stewart). In 1967 he formed his own band The Shinn, which also featured future Uriah Heep bassist Paul Newton, future drummer for The Nice Brian "Blinky" Davison, and vocalist Eddie Lamb. In 1969 he released two instrumental albums, ‘Departures', and ‘Temples With Prophets' (aka 'Don Shinn Takes A Trip'). He was a member of the English band Dada (featuring Elkie Brooks) and appears on their eponymous album released in 1970. He has also worked with Kiki Dee, James Taylor, Engelbert Humperdinck, Stan Tracey, Persian vocalist Parvaneh Farid,Iguana, and Renaissance. He is cited as a pioneer within the Progressive Rock movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and has been acknowledged by British keyboardist/composer Keith Emerson as a major influence Uriah Heep bassist Paul Newton has also credited Shinn as a mentor and teacher.

Lard Free - 1997 - Unnamed

Lard Free 

01. La chevauchée des vaches qui rient
02. Cochonailles
03. Tobrouck 120 Kms
04. Noisy Son Sec
05. Choconailles
06. Petit tripou du matin
07. À chacun son boulez

- Gilbert Artman / drums
- Robert Wood / vibraphone
- François Mativet / guitar
- Philippe Bolliet / tenor saxophone, clarinette
- Dominique Triloff / organ
- Jean-Jacques Miette / bass, double bass

 Do not get fooled by the date of release of this album! Actually this is a posthumous release proposing material recorded before their debut album and never released before this! And as usual with Lard Free, like every album of theirs is very different from the others but still very much in the spirits of Lard Free, this is full of surprises!
These tracks were recorded in 71 and 72 and are quite a departure from that debut album! We are for a good deal in some pre-RIO (this style of music had yet to appear) but not in free-jazz or contemporary classical music! This is clearly written/composed music. The opening track litterallly slaps you sonically so hard that you find yourself swaying your head from side to side as it suffers those slaps. All of those tracks are accessible with the possible exception of the last (which the title hints at modern french composer Pierre Boulez) and for me the highlight of this album is Tripou Du Matin that announces the first album to be! Please note that the Cochonailles and the Choconailles are effectively linked humorously but also sonically but at opposite ends.

Much recommended for RIO fans whom may be in for a surprise, as this pre-dates the earliest of Henry Cow by two years!

Lard Free - 1977 - Third

Lard Free 

01. Spirale Malax (17:12)
02. Synthetic seasons (17:23)
--1. Part 1 (3:25)
--2. Part 2 (5:15)
--3. Part 3 (3:24)
--4. Part 4 (5:19)

- Gilbert Artman / piano, drums, vibes
- Yves Lanes / synthesizers
- Xavier Bauilleret / guitar
- Jean Pierre Thiraut / clarinet

Once again , Lard Free presents another very different facet compared with the preceding ones and sadly this was to be their last one. But this album is clearly in the continuity of their previous Midnight album, taking the Krautrock presented there a step further almost to reach Tangerine Dream.
If I mention Tangerine Dream, I am speaking of a cross between the Zeit/Atem era and the Phaedra/Rubycon era. But the main difference would be that there are a lot more instruments ouside of KB , least of all is that searing Frippian guitar work that the successor of Pinhas (it was him in the Midnight album) , Baullieret would go unnoticed (you could swear it was Pinhas in here too) if it was not for his credits! As always the Fripp/Eno influences in Lard Free albums is overbearing!

Side 1 is a side-long track Spirale Malax (so imposing it gave its name to the album , but the album was originally entitled III) that is so remiscent of Tan Dream mixed with influences of minimalist Terry Riley (Thanks Philippe) that you will check again to see if you have the right disc in the deck! Slowly evolving music but definitely more eventful than T D. The other track on side 2 is divided in three sections according to the Spalax CD and four in the information above (this is often a problem with Spalax label products, the track listings on the booklet do not agree with the music on the discs). Anyway Synthetic Season is another awesome track!

Lard Free - 1975 - I'm Around About Midnight

Lard Free
I'm Around About Midnight

01. Violez l'espace de son réfrigérant
02. In a Desert - Alambic
03. Does East Bakestan Belong to Itself
04. Tatkooz a roulette
05. Pale Violence Under a Réverbère
06. Even Silence Comes When Trains Come
07. Prologue improbable
08. Glauquerie

- Gilbert Artman / piano, drums, saxophone
- Richard Pinhas / guitar, synthesizers
- Alain Audat & Antoine Duvernot / saxophone

 Lard Free's second album is very different of the debut and really adventurous mood! With this sophomore album, the feel is definitely towards German influences although the Fripp/Eno ones are still very present.
One cannot help to think of minimalism German master Faust when listening to the Alambic track with their repetitive synths and Tangerine Dream phasers in the background leading you with no definite boundary into the Bakestan track where an Oldfield-like piano and flute take over. Still with no clear track ending we are now lead by a sonar noise (much like Floyd in Echoes) into Taktooz and haunting ambiances lead you in Pale Violence with its booming bass. the CD finishes off with an eastren-sounding piano-led track.

Again with Spalax label record , there seems to be confusion around as the last two tracks mentioned (Glauquerie and Prologue Improbable) above are absent one the copy I own! But I suspect here that the Archives are wrong on this one! I think those tracks might be from a Heldon album!

Lard Free - 1973 - Gilbert Artman's Lard Free

Lard Free 
Gilbert Artman's Lard Free

01. Warindbaril (3:52)
02. 12 ou 13 juillet que je sais d'elle (8:54)
03. Honfleur écarlate (4:53)
04. Acide framboise (6:43)
05. Livarot respiration (7:45)
06. Culturez-vous vous-mêmes (4:21)

- Gilbert Artman / piano, drums
- Hervé Eyhani / bass
- Francois Mativet / guitar
- Philippe Bolliet / saxophone

LARD FREE was a bit the project of Gilbert Hartman much the same way that HELDON was Richard Pinhas's project. Both groups hold many common points namely highly experimental but yet accessible music that can be likened to Krautrock, a good understanding of minimalist music such as TERRY RILEY, constant personnel changes and the same musical influences namely CAN, ENO and Robert FRIPP. Both Pinhas and Hartman collaborated on each other's albums.

LARD FREE's eponymous debut album is full of great spacey rock with searing guitars, superb drumming and great sax and bass playing. The follow-up "I'm Around Midnight" veered more towards electronics spacey layers sounding even more like they would come from the other the Rhine River. The last album called III but also known as "Spirale Malax" is yet even more Krautrock sounding and can be likened to some of the best TANGERINE DREAM albums of that era. Recently Spalax Records released a fourth album called "Unnamed" that was recorded well prior to the debut album around 71 & 72. It shows the band in yet another totally different mood this time close to RIO. Some real explicit moments and the music slaps you musically around a few times before you understand what is happening to you.

Lard Free's debut is stunning , full of energy and deeply enjoyable. If you can picture Sabbath's Geezer Butler (first two albums) playing with King Fripp, Brian Eno and maybe a less virtuoso Bruford making an album , you might have an idea of what this album sounds like! Sometimes the Eno/Fripp influences are overpowering the rest of the influences but this is relatively minor. Those long instumental tracks rolling around a superb bass and repetitive drumming is simply fascinating, may sound to some as jams but not quite as this is more to do with minimalism (Terry Riley style).

Hartman's group is along with Heldon one of main bands that drew heavily on Krautrock to the point that they are often categorized as such although both bands/projects are French. So if you are into Krautrock , you know what you have to do!

Etron Fou Leloublan - 1985 - Face Aux Éléments Déchaînés

Etron Fou Leloublan 
Face Aux Éléments Déchaînés

01. Lavés à la machine (4:19)
02. Tous le poussent (3:39)
03. Hors de son monde (4:00)
04. Paris 65 (4:04)
05. Sous les draps (3:52)
06. Comment choisir son infirmière (3:14)
07. Gifle Hubert (4:45)
08. Blanc (4:13)
09. Binet d'eau froide (0:18)
10. Plus rien ne nous retient dans ce pays (3:43)
11. Mon petit chorus (4:12)

- Ferdinand Richard / bass, vocal
- Jo Thirion / organ, vocal
- Guigou Chenevier / drum, sax, vocal
- Fred Frith / violin on "Paris 65" & "Blanc"

This band is such a blast to listen to with their sense of humour and absolutely amazing instrumental work. I especially am impressed with the bass playing, it's just outstanding but all three are incredible musicians. Some humerous pictures of the band in the liner notes especially the guys who are making these faces at the camera.This was their last studio album and second in a row with Fred Frith producing, he also adds some violin.
"Lavees A La Machine" opens with bass as the sax makes some noise. Male and female vocals before 1 1/2 minutes. Keyboards after 2 minutes when the vocals stop. Percussion and male spoken words follow. "Tous Le Poussent" has this beat with male vocals and organ. Sax after 2 minutes. "Hors De Son Monde" has this beat of piano, bass and drums while the sax plays over top. A change before 2 minutes as the keyboards, bass and drums become the focus. "Paris 65" has these theatrical male vocals and a catchy rhythm. I like when the vocals stop and the organ, bass and drums lead. "Sous Les Draps" opens with these cool drum patterns as the organ and female spoken words help out. Bass joins in when the vocals stop. She's back before 2 1/2 minutes. It's surprisingly spacey late.

"Comment Choisir Son Infirmiere" is catchy with male vocals, love the bass. "Gifle Hubert" is pretty much spoken male words with an excellent melody of bass, drums and keyboards.The vocals start yelling at one point. Check out the bass after 3 1/2 minutes ! "Blanc" has some guest violin from Frith while drums,vocals and organ open.The organ starts to pulsate as the bass throbs. It's heavier before 3 1/2 minutes as she really sings. "Binet D'eau Froide" is a very short instrumental. "Plus Rien Ne Nous Retient Dans Ce Pays" has some great in your face bass as the vocals join in. It settles back after 1 1/2 minutes but kicks back in quickly. "Mon Petit Chorus" has this catchy beat with female vocals. Deep male vocals take over.The organ is excellent after 3 minutes.

Etron Fou Leloublan - 1984 - Les Sillons de la Terre

Etron Fou Leloublan 
Les Sillons de la Terre

01. Phare plafond (4:14)
02. Les vitres (4:47)
03. Les Alsaciennes (1:59)
04. Nouveau (4:14)
05. L'enfance de Guigou (6:08)
06. Emoi (4:08)
07. C'est pas bien (4:00)
08. Et qu'cet air-là (2:54)
09. Lavabo (5:09)
10. Le jeu, l'alcool et les femmes (3:45)

- Bruno Mellier / Alto, Tenor, Baryton saxes
- Ferdinand Richard / bass, vocal
- Jo Thirion / organ, vocal
- Guigou Chenevier / drum, tenor sax, vocal

EFL studio album number 4 saw the arrival of saxophonist number 4 into the camp - on this occasion Bruno Meillier joined the core trio of Ferdinand Richard, Guigou Chenevier and Jo Thirion. As on their previous outing shorter pieces were the the order of the day, although this time there was a greater emphasis on instrumentals and the vocals were generally more low key.
The album opens with a classic piece of EFL lunacy in Phare Plafond, which features a splendid vocal by Jo Thirion. From here on the album combines the familiar EFL elements - Beefheart rhythms, free jazz stylings, surreal lyrics - with some new developments. Guigou Chenevier plays more sax this time around, usually duetting with Meillier, and in places the drums are completely absent. EFL always had admirably democratic working practices; they were never merely Richard and Chenevier plus hired hands, and this meant that each new member of the ever shifting line up added something of their own. On this album as always all 4 participants make significant contributions to the writing, arrangements and performances, and the result is as joyful a noise as ever with a more obvious jazz element than Les Poumons Gonfles. Jo Thirion's contributions on both keyboards and vocals are more assured, with the organ occasionally muscling past the sax to dominate the arrangements. Chenevier and Richard are as tight and unpredictable as ever, while Bruno Millier may be the most accomplished saxophonist they worked with. There isn't a weak track on the album, but the standout is the 6 minute L'enfance de Guigou, which is the most ambitious piece on the album and also one of EFL's best.

One of the twin peaks of EFL's career, Les Sillons de la Terre is perhaps a slightly darker piece of work than their previous release but their offbeat sense of humour remained intact and the playing was even tighter than ever. Like Les Poumons.. this will appeal to fans of SMM, The Muffins, early Soft Machine and Aksak Maboul.
Etron Fou Leloublan 
Les Poumons Gonflés

01. Nicolas (4:07)
02. Mimi (2:59)
03. Exposition Universelle (1:43)
04. Nicole (5:41)
05. La Musique (3:03)
06. Christine (6:41)
07. Those Distant Waters (3:17)
08. Upsalla (2:06)
09. Io Prefero (4:30)
10. Pas'l'sou (3:14)

- Guigou Chenevier / drums, tenor sax, vocals
- Bernard Mathieu / soprano & tenor saxophones, backing vocals
- Ferdinand Richard / bass guitar, vocals
- Jo Thirion / Farfisa organ, piano, trumpet, backing vocals
- Fred Frith / violin, guitar (6,10)

In which les 3 fous became 4 with the arrival of keyboard player Jo Thirion, and for the first and only time they had the same sax player for 2 consecutive albums. In addition to the expanded line up, EFL's fourth full length release saw the emphasis shift to relatively short, focused songs and in many ways saw them realise the abundant potential that they displayed on their early albums.

The fundamentals of EFL remained in place, despite the changes. Guigou Chenevier and Ferdinand Richard continued to play their Beefheart style rhythms and declaim their bizarre, surreal lyrics and narratives, which saxophonist Bernard Mathieu roamed around in the spirit of free jazz players everywhere. Jo Thirion added something of a new wave sensibility with her Farfisa playing, alternating between skeletal chords and spidery right hand runs which played off against the sax or vocal melodies. Whether the additional instrument was necessary is debatable, as EFL had always been good at getting the most from their minimal resources, but as a quartet their manic energy was channeled without being compromised. The second half of the album contains two outstanding tracks; Chrisitine revisits a piece from their previous live album and features Guigou Chenevier joining Bernard Mathieu in a tenor sax duet for the song's lengthy coda, while Those Distant Waters features their first English lyrics, delivered a la Inspector Clouseau and as surreal as ever. The sound is further complemented by occasional piano, trumpet and backing vocals by Jo Thirion, and producer Fred Frith adds violin and guitar to a couple of tracks (EFL played on Fred Frith's Speechless album at around the same time).

EFL's early output was sometimes frustrating, with raw inspiration jostling with indulgent noodling, or surreal routines that may have worked well on stage but didn't stand up to repeated listening on a studio release. Les Poumons Gonfles captures the best elements of their early work and manages to inject some discipline into the proceedings without spoiling the fun. This album will appeal to anybody who enjoys the lighter RIO of Sammla Mammas Manna and Fred Frith's Gravity and Speechless albums, or the jazz tinged absurdities of The Muffins and early Soft Machine. Highly recommended.

Etron Fou Leloublan - 1979 - En Public Aux Etats Unis d'Amerique

Etron Fou Leloublan 
En Public Aux Etats Unis d'Amerique

01. Introduction (0:22)
02. Christine (7:56)
03. Ida Trop Tard (6:56)
04. Rose (3:58)
05. Un Apres-midi Au Zoo (3:02)
06. Atarte (rappel) (0:45)
07. Le Fleuve Et Le Manteau (8:27)
08. Et Puis (6:31)
09. Binet D'Eau Chaude (impro) (3:57)
10. La Java Des Bombes Atomiques (2:43)
11. Blanc (4:55)

- Bernard Mathieu / saxes
- Guigou Chenevier / drums
- Ferdinand Richard / bass

Recorded live at Squat club, Trnity college, Hartford, Conn., USA, Nov 79

Album number three from les trois fous introduces saxophonist number three, as Bernard Mathieu joins ace rhythm section Ferdinand Richard and Guigou Chenevier for an American tour. This recording is EFL at their most raw and skeletal, with no studio embellishments, and the sound quality is distinctly low-fi, but the album is also full of manic energy and excellent musicianship.
For some bands a live album is a kind of stopgap between studio releases, but EFL presented almost entirely new material along with their new line up. Only one track from their first two albums is featured, Le Fleuve Et Le Manteau, and Christine was the only track would emerge on their next album. There's also an indication of the move to shorter pieces that would characterise their next few releases, and although the surreal narratives still run through the songs they're less prominent, perhaps as a concession to their mostly English speaking audience on these dates. There are no great surprises in store, however, and the wild Beefheart inspired rhythms and free jazz excursions are still in place. There are some highly effective moments throughout the album; the second half of Christine sees Chenevier leaving the drum kit to play tenor sax alongside Mathieu, while Rose slows the pace down with a surprisingly straightforward vocal and minimal percussion. An Afternoon At The Zoo is a percussion only workout that is full of odd twists and turns, and Atarte is a brief snippet of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata rearranged for sax, bass and drums. The CD reissue has two later tracks, one a 1985 studio reinterpretation of a Boris Vian song and a live recording from 1986, both featuring keyboard player Jo Thirion and the first also featuring Fred Frith.

This album demonstrates just how much EFL could do with their stripped down line up, and in particular it showcases the phenomenal rhythm section of Richard and Chenevier. The quantity of material unavailable elsewhere and the sheer energy of these performances make this a real treat for an established fan, but the sound quality and the occasionally grating vocals may be heavy going for a newcomer.

Etron Fou Leloublan - 1978 - Les Trois Fous Perdégagnent (Au Pays Des...)

Etron Fou Leloublan
Les Trois Fous Perdégagnent (Au Pays Des...)

01. Face à l'extravagante montée des ascenceurs, nous resterons fidèles à notre calme détermination (
02. Le fleuve et le manteau
03. Percutant reportage au pays des fées
04. a) Recherche pour un journal, des lunettes, une pipe et un bérêt
    b) 13h 58, ou les petites aventures du médecin chef
    c) je veux danser avec toi (Artman Inspiration)
05. le désastreux voyage de piteux Python
06. P.O.I. (Pourissement des organes intérieurs)
07. Nave de bilande

- Francis Grand / Alto & Tenor saxes, melodica, flute, harmonica, cithare, vocal
- Guigou "Samba Scout" Chenevier / drum, boxes, yoyos, sifflet, trucs, machines, vocal
- Ferdinand Richard / bass, vocal

EFL's sophomore album is a much more assured piece of work than their debut. Founder member Chris Chanet had departed, to be replaced by Francis Grand on saxes, flute, harmonica and melodica. This line up lasted for a busy 18 months starting in September 1976, and the album was recorded in November 1977, with the revised line up augmented with guest guitarist Verto. All of this made for a significant progression from the raw energy of Batelages; the surreal lyrics and Beefheart inspired rhythms remained, but overall there was a greater sense of focus and clarity in evidence.

The album opens with the sounds of street, barking dogs and assorted car and motorbike engines, leading into a 6 minute instrumental that is a classic piece of 70s RIO, with guitarist Verto and Francis Grand chasing each other over a complex rhythm that demonstrates just how powerful the interplay between Ferdiand Richard and Guigou Chenevier had become. The remainder of the first half is equally strong, with the occasional vocals shared between Richard and Chenevier. These songs are full of the twists and turns and stops and starts that are associated with RIO, and if the vocals aren't that powerful they mostly avoid the wilful eccentricity of the debut album. The second half of the album is dominated by La Desastreux Voyage du Piteux Python, a sudden throwback to the style of Batelages complete with surreal lyrics declaimed by a manic Guigou Chenevier and some extremely non virtuoso harmonica. This was probably extremely effective in concert, but the novelty wears off pretty quickly once you've heard it more than a couple of times, and at 10 minutes it more than outstays its welcome. The two shorter pieces which bring the album to a close are much stronger, with Henry Cow, Beefheart and early Zappa influences well to the forefront.

Les 3 Fous is a crucial piece in 70s RIO jigsaw; like Sammla Mammas Manna's Maltid it sees the musicians working towards a fully fledged RIO style, and doing so mostly with good humour and a lot of charm. It can't be called a masterpiece, but if you skip the 10 minutes of La Desasterux Voyage du Piteux Python you're left with half an hour's worth of extremely high quality RIO madness. Cautiously recommended.

Etron Fou Leloublan - 1977 - Batelages

Etron Fou Leloublan 

01. L'amulette et le petit Rabbin (18:07)
02. Sololo Brigida (3:18)
03. Yvett'Blouse (0:26)
04. Madame Richard - Larika (9:23)
05. Histoire de Graine (11:20)

- Ferdinand Richard / cordes, vocals
- Chris Chanet (alias Eulalie Ruynat) / cuivres, vocals
- Guigou "Samba Scout" Chenevier / percussions, choir

ETRON FOU LELOUBLAN are one of the more important offshoots of the RIO movement. This French quartet originated in the mid-70's with bassist-vocalist Ferdinand Richard, saxophonist Chris Charnet, drummer Guigou Chenevier and vocalist Eulalie Ruynat. Over the course of five albums, no less than four sax players had gone through EFL's revolving doors. In 1985, Richard, Chenevier and female vocalist Jo Thirion who played keyboards and brass on a previous album, decided to go on as a three-piece set and recorded what was to be the band's final album.

All of EFL's albums are so off-the-wall their music is almost impossible to describe: pulsating staccato snaps of drum, bass, sax, keyboards, with vocals vicariously woven into odd, complex musical structures - all this performed with amazing precision. Recorded on a shoestring budget, their first two albums suffer from a poor production; however, the raw energy and irreverent humour of their third, the live "En public aux États-Unis d'Amérique" (79), truly shine and highly compensate for such a flaw. The relatively more accessible "Les Poumons Gonflés" (82) and "Les Sillons de la Terre" (84) are a bit more structured, featuring less free-form improvisations. But it is with "Face aux Éléments Déchaînés" (1985) that the band truly reaches their high point: a minimalistic, coolly conceived and sparsely orchestrated album, yet bubbling with high energy and emotion. For the band's entire studio repertoire, you need not look any further than the 1991 three-disk compilation album "43 Songs".

Most highly recommended to fans of HENRY COW, AKSAK MABOUL and SAMLA MAMMAS MANNA or for the adventurous listener seeking a real challenge.

Probably one of the best debuts in the history of music

 Etron Fou Leloublan were the most eccentric of the decidedly odd bands in the original RIO movement. For some years they functioned as a trio with rhythm section Ferdinand Richard (bass, guitar, voice) and Guigou Chenevier (drums, sax, voice) and a rotating cast of saxophonists/lead vocalists. In their early years the frontman was Chris 'Eulalie Ruynaut' Chanet, a talented comedian as well as a musician. This was the line up that started their career opening for Magma and recorded Batelages, their debut album, generally considered to be their least accessible.
It opens innocuously enough, Ferdinand Richard playing some fairly tasteful fingerpicked guitar while Guigou strokes the cymbals - then the drums strike up a Beefheart style beat, Richard strums a frantic proto punk rhythm and Eulalie starts declaiming the lengthy narrative that winds its way through the opening 18 minute epic L'Amulette et le Petit Rabin. After about 5 minutes Richard switches to bass, Chanet starts blowing some very free tenor sax and the ensuing instrumental passage sounds like it was recorded with the three musicians were in seperate rooms, quite possibly on seperate continents. In fact, it all works rather well - Richard and Chenevier formed an unorthodox but highly skilled rhythm section which doubtless inspired Ruins, with Chanet's freeform voice and sax meandering over the top of it all. The piece switches between vocal and instrumental interludes and will either enchant or infuriate. The second half of the album is more instrumental but equally bizarre - it starts with a drums/percussion piece, followed by 22 seconds of Yvett' Blouse. Madame Richard/Larika opened side 2 of the vinyl original and is a lengthy piece which is probably the most recognisably RIO style piece on the album, with the sax played through effects pedals at some points. Histoire de Graine closes the proceedings, with vocals by Richard and very much in the style of the opening track.

Batealges is a very raw piece of work, but the talent of the three performers is obvious and there are some excellent passages of free jazz/rock lunacy if you're prepared to persevere with it. Captain Beefheart is the most obvious reference point, although if you can imagine Henry Cow getting very drunk and jamming with a stand up comedian that will also give you some idea of what to expect. Understanding French isn't necessary, and may even be an advantage as the vocals become just another instrument. Following this album Chanet left, later to join Urban Sax, and EFL would acquire a new frontman for the next stage in their career. As uneven as it is there's plenty of inspiration in evidence, and lovers of the truly surreal and bizarre will enjoy it. If you're not already a fan either of the band or RIO in general, start with one of their later albums; otherwise jump right in, but don't say that you weren't warned!