Saturday, March 30, 2019

Pegasus - 1982 - Nuevos Encuentros

Nuevos Encuentros

01. Conga Con Ganas
02. Cosmopolis
03. L'Enanito Trist
04. Gritos Y Susurros
05. Ball De Gegants
06. Tema Del Müll
07. Arístides Y El Gato
08. El Turista

Bass – Rafael Escoté
Drums – Santi Arisa
Guitar – Max Sunyer
Keyboards – Kitflus
Piano – Kitflus

Pegasus was THE Fusion supergroup of Spain with a high-octane line-up, which comprised of former Iceberg bandmates Max Sunyer (guitar) and Josep Mas "Kitflus" (keyboards), ex-Fusioon and Tribu drummer Santi Arisa and bassist Rafael Escote from the legendary Gòtic.The band was found in Barcelona around 1981/82 and even established its own eponymous label to promote the discs.First in the row was ''Nuevos encuentros'', recorded in three different session at the Audiofilm Studios in Madrid and released in 1982.

This is a typical 80's Latin-colored Jazz Fusion album and not exactly what you'd expect from such a smoky line-up filled with talented and virtuosic players.Pegasus had taken a different path in this album compared to the members' past, it's more of an atmospheric Latin Fusion album with emotional plays than fiery interplays and a bit of a letdown for what these guys were known for in the past.Don't get me wrong, but the last thing to hear from such a line-up was some stabdard 80's, completely formulaic jazzy tunes blended with Latin touches and quite frequently based on pedestrian synth sounds.Where the hell re the edgy electric pianos and organ parts?The 80's have affected Sunyer & co., but this is not bad music, it's just a bit slick, recalling all these breezy and tropical period German groups.Sunyer's guitar work though is pretty excellent with plenty of light but still flawless guitar soloing and I like more the piano parts of Kitflus compared to the tasteless synthesizers.Overall the album offers a rather soft approach on Latin Fusion with laid-back tunes and careful solos, without delivering any sort of proggy vibes.''Gritos y susurros'' stands out here for Sunyer's impressive guitar executions, although the discreet funky elements are not very welcome, while ''Ball de gegants''suffers from some period keyboards, but offers some great breaks and gears throughout.
Slick Latin-spiced Fusion from a veteran Prog line-up, where the commercial tendencies and radio-friendly plays overpowered the technique, proggy themes or virtuosity elements.For fans of the style.

Max Sunyer - 1978 - Babel

Max Sunyer

01. Autopista 10:30
02. D'Una Manera Silenciosa (In A Silent Way 9:50
03. Reflexions ( A Sobre D'Una Cançó Anónima) 5:47
04. Les Maquinaries De L'Alegria 5:45
05. Jo Crec (Partes I y II) 9:00

Bass – Carles Benavent
Drum – Santi Arisa
Electric Guitar – Max Suñé
Electric Piano – Alvaro Is
Electric Piano, Synthesizer – Josep Mas "Kitflus"
Percussion – Manoli
Percussion, Rhythm Guitar – Tito Duarte

Excellent Jazz Rock from Iceberg Founder Max Sunyer

Trust me when I include Max Sunyer's name along with the likes of Al DiMeola, Jorge Strunz, & John McLaughlin. Here is a fusion guitarist from Spain, one the held that instruments position in the little known fusion band from Spain called Iceberg. Sunyer's solo cd Babel, really reminds me of the multi-national fusion ensemble Caldera, in that there are strong leanings towards a latin feel, using percussions, flutes, saxes, acoustical and electric guitars, synths as well as the type of chordal progressions that represent the very substance of this cultural music phenomina, and Sunyers' romantic, expressive style of playing, seems to evoke the very passion of his soul. He also tears into a similar frenetic pizzicato technique used by Al DiMeola and Jorge Strunz. The fact that Sunyer is an accomplished musician in no way deters from what his true admiration of fusion music is, and that is building themes from melody, and a solid musical backdrop with which the soloists are able to release their utmost passionate expressions via their instruments.
This is most certainly a cd that is well worth tracking down if the artists mentioned are in the style of music you like, and I should mention the Iceberg cds are also excellent fusion, also present on this cd is Iceberg's fine keyboardist Josep Mas, who, like Sunyer, is able to play in the styles of the greats, Corea, Zawinul, Del Barrio, etc.
This is vintage fusion, from 1978, and from an artist that was sadly overlooked in his day, but as many readers, prog/fusion heads already know, rediscovery of these retro gems of music are seldom disappointing, and those that long for the heyday of fusion's onset will really find this music very gratifying.

Iceberg - 1979 - Arc-en-ciel


01. El caminant nocturn (8:21)
02. Càntics de la carn (11:18)
03. Riu d'agost (7:41)
04. Embrujo (6:14)
05. Crisàlide (6:30)

- Joaquín "Max" Sunyer / electric & acoustic guitars
- José "Kitflus" Mas / piano, electric piano, synthesizer
- Primitivo Sancho / bass
- Jordi Colomer / drums

 Here's another unjustly overlooked band that never received the wider attention it deserved, a victim of geographic isolation (despite their English name, the group hailed from northeast Spain), or maybe the fierce competition between likeminded musicians for a loyal but dwindling fan base in the late 1970s.
ICEBERG played instrumental Fusion in the spirit of early MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, but Jazz Rock is too mild a term for the type of music on tap here. This is Fusion more akin to Edward Teller's Cold War fantasies: a Latin-flavored thermonuclear warhead able to detonate a musical fireball bigger than the one that vaporized Bikini Atoll in 1946. All right, so that's a tacky analogy, but you get the point: these guys had serious chops.

The quartet was led by guitarist Max Suñé, playing with a passion and skill equal to any guitar hero of his time. He could solo with the pinpoint precision and white-lightning speed of Al DiMeola (always the yardstick used to measure any Fusion axe-man in the 1970s), but favored a raw, emotional guitar tone more reminiscent of "Birds of Fire" era John McLaughlin. Match this with the virtuoso mini-moog runs of Josep Mas and the results could turn even the most unlikely time signature into a thrilling, and often surprisingly graceful, adventure.

Listen to the guitar and keyboards trading solo spots during "El Caminant Nocturn", a song almost guaranteed to blow your socks off and dry-clean them in mid-flight. Or the 11-minute "Càntics de la Carn", another album highlight, beginning with a furious percussion workout under which Primitivo Sanchez (the name makes him sound like a Catalan punk rocker) lays down a speedy flamenco bass line for Suñé and Mas to race across in perfect stop/start unison.

The homegrown Spanish influence surfaces even more strongly on the remaining tracks, adding the warmer textures of acoustic guitar and piano but sounding no less dynamic than the earlier all-electric salvos. My only complaint is with the unresolved fade-out at the tail of the curtain closer "Crisàlide" (and in the middle of another monster Suñé solo too!). But in retrospect it's probably fitting that the band's last studio album should end this way, giving the impression that they never really stopped playing.that maybe someday, on another album, they might simply flip a switch and continue the same track right where it left off here.

 Arc-En-Ciel was the last album from the great spanish fusion band Iceberg before its two main members guitarist Max Sunyer and keyboardist "Kitflus" would form the catalan fusion supergroup Pegasus together with ex-Gotic bassist Rafael Escote and ex-Fusioon drummer Santi Arisa (with some solo albums in between, the first Pegasus album was released in 1982).
The musicianship is top-notch as ever, and any fusion lover not knowing their previous albums might easily rate this album with 4 or even 5 stars, it's only by comparison to their previous works such as Coses Nostres and Sentiments that I limit my rating of this album to the 3 ? 3.5 stars level.

The formula is still the same, a fantastic rhythm section (Jordi Colomer was really a hell of a drummer and Primi Sancho a great bassist) on which Max and Kitflus develop their melodies and solos, the keyboards taking the more musical side (not forgetting solos either) and Max's guitar taking care of the hardest soloing in the footsteps of McLaughlin or Di Meola. However the general tone is softer, more polished than in their previous albums, and there is a shift towards a more latin sound.

The opener "El Caminant Nocturn" (The Night Walker) is the best track, with Kitflus trademark Rhodes piano, very good melodies and a killer guitar solo by Max followed by a no less impressive synth solo by Kitflus. 5 stars for this song.

"Cantics De La Carn" (The Singing Of The Flesh) is based on a samba-like rhythm, a style I don't fancy much so even if the development is clearly proggy being the longest track clocking at 11:18, and the musicianship outstanding, it drags a bit too much for me. Just a matter of taste, if you can enjoy a prog-samba it can be an excellent track.

"Riu D'Agost" (August River) has a beautiful piano and acoustic guitar intro, then all the instruments come in and develop into a great latin jazz track with piano reminding of Michael Camilo and very good acoustic guitar, and impressive alternating solos of keys and guitar, really great stuff, just a bit too latin for my taste.

"Embrujo" (Enchant) is again latin featuring nice piano parts, a killer guitar solo and a good keys solo too.

"Crisalide" starts atmospheric with piano and acoustic guitar, after 1 min all the instruments come in and it sounds more like their older albums, electric guitar on Rhodes, then some funky feel and a killer guitar solo which sounds like Santana mixed with McLaughlin. If this was not enough we still get a great Rhodes solo, but this is a bit the problem, it's like there's too little melody, just great solos.

In summary 2 thoughts: 1. this album is undoubtedly good and has terrific solos but fewer and weaker melodies than their previous albums. 2. There is a clear shift to a more latin style, this is a purely personal taste matter but personally I prefer the previous more standard fusion style.

Iceberg - 1978 - Iceberg En Directe

Iceberg En Directe

01. Oh! Un ánec simfónic Ones (17:40)
02. Cançó per qualsevol orquestra (7:30)
03. Históries (10:54)

- Jordi Colomer / drums
- Josep "Kitflus" Mas / electric piano, synthesizers
- Primitivo Sancho / bass
- Joaquim "Max" Suñe / electric guitar

Recorded live in January and February 1978.
Mixed at Studio Audiofilm de Madrid during February 11, 12 & 13, 1978.

 I must admit it seems strange to me to release a live album that is only 35 minutes long, but apparently they only wanted to release the live songs that weren't on any of their studio albums. So we get three long tracks.This was recorded live in Madrid and released in 1978. It doesn't measure up to the studio albums "Coses Nostres" or "Sentiments" but there's enough here to warrrant a low 4 star rating in my opinion.The guitar and keyboards are the focus as usual with this band and they certainly do not disappoint on this one.The album cover appeals to me as well.
"Oh ! Un Anec Simfonic Ones" is the almost 18 minute opener.The home crowd can be heard cheering wildly as the album starts. It then turns quiet as the guitar comes in followed by bass, drums then synths.This actually reminds me of BRAND X here. A calm after 2 1/2 minutes as the piano leads.You can hear the crowd cheering in the background.The sound builds and this does sound pretty amazing. Love the guitar. Another calm with synths before 7 1/2 minutes as the crowd noise becomes evident once again. It builds and we get some ripping guitar 8 1/2 minutes in then it's like the song ends but then they start up again with a different melody before 10 1/2 minutes.This is more laid back.It settles more 12 minutes in then the guitar starts to light it up 13 1/2 minutes in. It settles back again 15 1/2 minutes in.Great tune !

"Canco Per Qualsevol Orquestra" has a bit of a funky rhythm to it. Piano before 2 minutes then the guitar leads. Piano is back as they take turns leading.

"Histories" is the almost 11 minute closer.This actually reminds me most of what I like about this band. Cheering to start then atmosphere with piano to for about a minute, then the guitar and drums kick in hard. Great sound here. Synths to the fore at 4 minutes.The guitar is back after 5 1/2 minutes and he proceeds to rip it up. A calm after 8 minutes with atmosphere then it kicks back in again. It ends before 10 minutes but then they return for a short piece that seems to end abruptly.

Just simply some killer playing on this one and it's cool to hear these new tracks as well.

Iceberg - 1977 - Sentiments


01. Sentiments (1:50)
02. Andalusia, Andalusia (5:37)
03. A Sevilla (5:13)
04. Ball De Les Fulles (5:30)
05. Magic (6:23)
06. Joguines (3:00)
07. Alegries Del Mediterrani (9:17)

- Joaquín "Max" Sunyer / electric & acoustic guitars
- José "Kitflus" Mas / piano, electric piano, synthesizer, clarinet
- Primitivo Sancho / bass
- Jordi Colomer / drums

After the superb Coses Nostres, how can one follow up and still appear as on top of their game? Iceberg found the easy (but not so obvious) answer, to make another superb album, and believe me they did. The album actually veers a bit more jazzy in the fusion sense sometimes approaching the over-demonstrative Return To Forever or even a bit Weather Report and still the better Santana (Caravanserai) and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Some moments are so powerful that I cannot help but thinking of Journey's superb jazz-rock debut album with the incredible Ainsley Dunbar on drums.

Right from the opening title track, you know this album will strike all the rights chords if you like the above-mentioned bands, and the Spanish feel is present but nothing obtrusive (hardly any flamenco hints, but more of Rodrigo (Aranjuez) feel. Again Sunyer and Mas take the stage by storm, but the rhythm section is really on top of its game. The only small gripe I might have is that the synths sounds are a bit more "modern", but at least on this album they have been correctly reproduced during the CD transcript. To separate one track and raise it above the rest is simply impossible to this reviewer, because the album is incredibly even, with maybe Magic a bit under par. However, if I must name just one track, listen to the closer Alegries Del Mediterraneo.

A smoking album, just as excellent as the previous Coses Nostres but better rated because of no avoidable sound flaws. Among my top 40 jazz-rock albums,

 Another incredible example of Jazz / Fusion from this Spanish band. Their previous album "Coses Nostres" along with this album are really must-haves for Fusion fans out there. They're one of those bands where each member is outstanding on his instrument and isn't afraid to show it.
"Sentiments" opens rather quietly as sounds come and go seemingly in the background. It's building though until the guitar comes to the fore after a minute. "Andalusia; Andalusia" opens with electric piano followed by some scorching guitar. Chunky bass and pounding drums follow. The keys and bass sound great 2 1/2 minutes then the guitar comes in. He's lighting it up a minute later. "A Sevilla" opens with piano and the sound eventually gets fuller. The guitar stars to solo before 2 minutes then the synths take the lead. Back and forth between the guitar and synths the rest of the way. You need to check out the keyboard / drum intro on "Ball De Les Fulles". Fat bass and guitar follow. It settles after 2 minutes, electric piano comes in. Themes are repeated.

"Magic" opens with the sounds of dogs carrying on. They don't sound like real dogs though (haha). A funky beat takes over and it stays funky throughout. Synths and guitar come and go. "Joguines" calms down quickly with acoustic guitar before a minute. Piano, bass and drums help out as well. "Alegries Del Mediterrani" is my favourite track. It reminds me of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA especially the atmospheric sections. Drums to open then it settles with that atmosphere. Deep bass, drums and electric piano are outstanding here. The tempo picks up after 3 minutes then the guitar joins in. Piano replaces the guitar 4 minutes in as the bass and drums impress big time. The guitar and piano continue to trade off. It settles again 6 1/2 minutes in. Amazing ! More guitar after 7 minutes as drums pound. This is really incredible.

I highly recommend this album from ICEBERG and the previous one as well.

Iceberg - 1976 - Coses Nostres

Coses Nostres

01. Preludi I record (2:14)
02. Nova (musica de la Llum) (8:56)
03. L'acustica (referencia d'un canvi interior) (9:10)
04. La d'en Kitflus (6:49)
05. La flamenca electrica (5:56)
06. A Valencia (8:45)
07. 11/8 (Manifest de la follia) (6:54)

- Joaquín "Max" Sunyer / electric & acoustic guitars
- José "Kitflus" Mas / piano, electric piano, synthesizer
- Primitivo Sancho / bass
- Jordi Colomer / drums

Under this Mafiosi title comes one of the better jazz rock fusion albums from Spain (at least among the few I know), the second one from this mid to late-70's Catalan band. Gone is their frontman sax and singer Angel Riba and they are down to your standard prog quartet, but this hardly seem to stop them, quite the opposite, becoming entirely instrumental.

For the most part this album seems to be lost between Maha's Inner Mounting Flame and Santana's Caravanserai with some KB coming more from Weather Report and RTF or even Jan Hammer, but this is more due to the instruments chosen than the actual playing, although some guitars are a cross of De Lucia and Di Miola on one side and McLaughlin on the other. I think this sets you with a good idea of the sound of the album, if you want more get the album, you.....proghead! ;-)

The first side is really awesome in musical execution with some particularly astounding moments where you'd swear Nova (as well as its prelude) should be on Inner Mounting Flame or on Cobham's Spectrum, simply because the playing and writing are of the same quality. Acustica, as its names suggest, is much calmer and tamer (but valid only for the guitar since there are synths halfway through) although the incredibly high quality is maintained and the subtle flamenco and Catalan influences appear towards the very end. The remark that my colleague reviewer makes about the sound quality is unfortunately correct, although the first side of the record is relatively spared.

Kitflus brings us back to the Mahavishnu world and the second track and only congas are missing to take us into the Sahara Caravans of Santana. Flamenca Electrica is an aptly named track but is only taking the usual formula and adding some Andalusian feeling to it. Unfortunately, this is where the bad vinyl transfer to Cd gets irritating about the synth layers (and it gets worse in the following tracks). I assume this last comment because I cannot possibly conceived this was recorded so on the master tape and therefore think that they worked from vinyl. The last track is... you guessed it in 11/8 (which does not mean it was recorded on August 11, you wisearses).

Since this record only exist in CD form under this version, I knock off almost one star because of the inexcusable sound problems, which unfortunately does ruin the enjoyment of an otherwise superb record. Sounds a bit severe? Check it out for yourselves if you do not believe me!!! As soon as I find the vinyl or a re-issue, I will jump on it.

This excellent Spanish four piece band delivers outstanding, very melodic instrumental music in the realm of the jazzrock along some fusion. You will be carried away by the seven dynamic compositions with lots of interesting musical ideas: fiery guitar, swinging bass, subtle Fender Rhodes electric piano and sensational Minimoog flights in Preludi I Record, a strong Andalusian undertone, captivating shifting moods and spectacular wah-wah guitar and dazzling Minimoog runs in Nova, John McLaughlin inspired acoustic guitar and swinging jazzy piano in L'Acustica, flashy synthesizer flights, fiery electric guitar in the songs and an amazing rhythm-section in the songs La D'En Kitflus and 11-8 and an exciting pitchbend- driven Minimoog solo in the mellow A Valencia. My highlight is the song La Flamenca Electrica (Prog Andaluz!): first soaring keyboards and strong clavinet runs, then a swinging rhythm with strong Andalusian undertones featuring spectacular work on guitar and keyboards. If you like jazzrock, this band should be yours!

Iceberg - 1975 - Tutankhamon


01. Tebas (1:16)
02. Prologo (3:08)
03. Sacerdotes de Amon (2:53)
04. Amarna (2:56)
05. Lying on the sand (5:27)
06. Amenofis IV (3:05)
07. Himno al sol (4:35)
08. La muerte (4:19)
09. Close to God (4:08)
10. Too young to be a Pharaoh (3:35)
11. Tebas (reprise) (1:49)

Recorded at Estudios Kirios, Madrid, on May 1975.

- Ángel Riba / vocals, saxophone
- Joaquín "Max" Sunyer / electric guitar
- José "Kitflus" Mas / electric piano, organ, synthesizers, Mellotron
- Primitivo Sancho / bass
- Jordi Colomer / drums

I really recommend this album to those who search for that feeling of really authentic prog rock which can only (or mostly) be found in the 70's. This is the debut album by this spanish band and their most symphonic-rock one, with emphasis on "rock". After Tutankhamon they would loose singer Angel Riba and their music became instrumental and more fusion oriented (still great btw).
Rock came late in Spain due to the dictatorship of general Franco, and therefore this album although dating from '75 sounds in many ways as earlier records from the UK (american rock was not much influential in Spain at that time). As with many 70's records what is lovely here is the sense of authenticity. It was still too early to talk about influences, genres, clones and things like that, as we excessively do today. The guys simply did what felt right to them at the time, and there and then this happened to be simply wonderful music.

The core of Iceberg were keyboardist Josep "Kitflus" Mas and guitarist Max Sunye, both coming from a jazz environment, but the times were prone for symphonic rock and they embraced the genre eagerly, resulting in a delighful album which blens symphonic, jazz- fusion, still a few atmospheric psychedelic traces and pure 70's rock. This is not symphonic similar to the big ones Genesis, Yes, ELP, Floyd etc.This is authentically personal music, not trying to copy anybody. No long suites, no excessive focus on virtuosity, no bombastic feeling, just simply great music.

It's a concept album about the famous pharaoh although it does not tell a specific storyline but just assorted themes around his figure. It's sung half in spanish half in english and unfortunately the voice is not the strong point, but the composition and instrumental work more than compensate for it.

The starter "Tebas" is a great short instrumental overture, reminds me somehow of the wonderful debut album of Ted Rundgren's Utopia. "Prologo" has a delightful 5/4 jazzy time signature and much wah-wah guitar, very 70's. "Sacerdotes de Amon" starts with a hard guitar riff but soon shifts to more atmospheric moods. "Amarna" is an instrumental delight of that sort you think that it could only be made in the 70's. "Lying on the sand" is a great slow-mid tempo song again mixing rock with jazzy elements. "Amenofis IV" is instrumental, again a beautiful sample of what the unadelturated mood of the times could produce. "Himno al Sol" has a great 7/4 ? 3/4 rhythm. "La muerte" contains a drum solo as was the fashion in those times, although not too long and not by any means the best in the song, the short fragments where all the instruments play are awesome. "Close to God" is a more pop song, very melodic with great Rhodes piano and wah-wah guitar. If only all pop songs were like this. "Too young to be a pharaoh" is hard-rock-prog at its best, and the reprise of the opening "Tebas" puts the symphonic cherry on the cake.

Again, this is not Genesis, Yes, ELP or PFM. This is more jazz-rock-oriented prog, the voice is not great and the production is improvable by today's standards, but this is really wonderful authentic music very worth knowing about for a prog fan.