Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Eela Craig - 1988 - Hit Or Miss

Eela Craig
Hit Or Miss

01. Safer Sex (3:40)
02. 2004 (4:48)
03. Million Tears (3:42)
04. Angel (4:58)
05. Hit or Miss (4:15)
06. Lord's Prayer (3:31)
07. Japanese World (4:05)
08. Lonely Days'n Night (3:50)
09. You're gonna Leave Me (4:07)
10. Passion (4:08)
11. Rien ne va Plus (2:03)
12. Vater Unser (4:15)

- Orthofer Wil / vocals, sax, drums
- Schnauer Hubert / flute, keyboard, vibraphone
- Hueber Frank / drums

Eela Craig was already history for a few years by the time Hit or Miss came out. It simply turns out that two former Eela Craig members, Wil Orthofer and Hubert Schauer decided to run off with the name and recorded this allegedly forgettable pop album in the late 1980s. Since I hadn't heard it, I am willing to believe it's your typical digital synth/drum machine pop album you expect from a 1988 recording. This really isn't an Eela Craig album, especially since Hubert Bognermayr and Harald Zuschrader had nothing to do with this.

Eela Craig - 1980 - Virgin Oiland

Eela Craig 
Virgin Oiland

01. The first minute (0:40)
02. Beecher's brook (6:40)
03. How it started (3:50)
04. Carry on (3:50)
05. Birds on a feather (4:14)
06. Still... (4:00)
07. Pig city (3:35)
08. Lions covering the beaches (3:20)
09. Love to hate you, baby (4:26)
10. We shall overcome (0:10)
11. All you need is love (0:10)
12. The seven minutes (5:05)

- Gerhard Englisch / bass, synthesizer
- Alois Janetschko / live mixing
- Will Orthofer / drums, vocals
- Fritz Riedelberger / guitar, piano, vocals
- Hubert Schnauer / keyboards, flute, guitar
- Harald Zuschrader / keyboards, flute , guitar
Borg Choir conducted by Professor Wolfgang Mayerhofer.

This was Eela Craig's followup to Missa Universalis, in which Hubert Bognermayr and drummer Frank Hueber had left the group. Frank Hueber apparently had some sort of ear infection. Strangely vocalist Wil Orthofer took over the drum stool, which I didn't know he was fully capable of drums until I heard this album. I knew he played some sax on their 1971 self-entitled debut, but other than that he stuck strictly to vocal duties on Hats of Glass and Missa Universalis (he was not on One Niter).
To me, I found Virgin Oiland a confusing album. At least the overly-religious lyrics of Missa Universalis has thankfully been dumped, in favor of a concept album of a metaphorical horse racetrack as a symbol of life from birth to death, but the preferred racer was "hate", meaning even through you live and die, too many people prefer to to be hateful, greedy, and selfish. Or at least that's how I perceive the concept. Perhaps I'm looking a bit too much into it. Don't know. Regardless the band was really confused whether they should stick to the progressive rock they did so well in the late '70s or go a more commercial direction. "Beecher's Brook" definitely shows the band wanting to go back to the funky styles of One Niter, similar funky jam with clavinet, but as the album goes on, you could tell it's one half the band wanting to follow their own direction, and the other record company pressure (this was 1980, after all, and finding true prog rock albums were a bit skimpy, even Steve Hackett's Defector had a couple of pop songs on it). "How It Started" and the cheesy ballad "Carry On" definitely shows a more commercial leaning, the latter being in that late '70s soft-rock vein. "Love to Hate You Baby" is a misguided venture into disco, with vocoderized vocals, and small snippets of "We Shall Overcome" and "All You Need is Love" with a DJ voice telling everyone was the 1960s what everyone was told it was supposed to be (this was 1980, and the 1960s nostalgia of the 1980s didn't really take off until around the mid 1980s, I should know, as I witnessed that '60s nostalgia of the '80s which lasted from about 1983 or '84 until about 1990). "Still..." and "Lions Covering the Beaches" aren't too bad, reminding me of the more calm moments of Missa Universalis, thankfully without the religious lyrics.

Really, Virgin Oiland is an album I don't recommend as a starter for anything not familiar with Eela Craig. I'd suggest One Niter and Hats of Glass. Go for their self-entitled 1971 debut for a more jazzy/psychedelic side of the band, and approach Missa Universalis with caution (as the religious lyrics are difficult for me to take in). Virgin Oiland has its moments, and has some good material as well as some questionable material. So this one too approach with caution.

Eela Craig - 1978 - Missa Universalis

Eela Craig
Missa Universalis

01. Kyrie (11:50)
02. Gloria (5:57)
03. Credo Part 1 (4:14)
04. Credo Part 2 (3:33)
05. Sanctus (8:27)
06. Agnus Dei (5:20)
07. Amen (2:00)

- Hubert Bognermayr / keyboards, electronics, vocals (1-5)
- Gerhard Englisch / bass, keyboards
- Frank Hueber / drums
- Alois Janetschko / live mixing
- Wil Orthofer / lead & back vocals
- Fritz Riedelberger / lead guitar, lead vocals (5), backnig vocals
- Hubert Schnauer / keyboards, flute.
- Harald Zuschrader / keyboards, electronics, guitar

Now here's something you don't hear too much in the world of prog rock: a Christian prog rock album. But EELA CRAIG did such an album in 1978. "Missa Universalis", their fourth album takes a Roman Catholic Mass to a prog rock context. Luckily they didn't have to water down their prog rock sound to have a religious theme. At this point, they were playing a rather lush style of prog rock heavy on the string synths, not unlike what ELOY was doing at the same time, only more polished, and surprisingly (given EELA CRAIG were Austrians), no ridiculously accented vocals like you do Frank Bornemann. For this concept, the members of the band decided to sing in four languages, Latin, French, German, and English, quite a lot for the band to do, put they pulled it off. Without a doubt, the opening cut, "Kyrie" is by far the highlight. The droning string synths and a voice that repeats "Kyrie Eleison" over and over really trips me out. "Credo (Part 1)" is a pretty nice ballad while "Credo (Part 2)" tends to be a bit more on the funky side. "Sanctus" borrowed from Anton Bruckner, and at the end goes for a funky jam reminescent of "One Niter". The closing song, "Amen" reminds me a little of VANGELIS circa "Heaven & Hell".

Eela Craig - 1978 - Hats of Glass

Eela Craig
Hats of Glass

01. A spaceman came travelling (4:49)
02. Hats of glass (10:25)
03. Chances are (5:26)
04. Heaven sales (2:53)
05. Holstenwall Fair (8:10)
06. Caught on the air (3:52)
07. Remove another hat of glass and you could easily find assorted kinds of Cheese (3:30)

- Hubert Bognermayr / keyboards, vocals
- Gerhard Englisch / bass
- Frank Hueber / drums
- Alois Janetschko / live mixing
- Will Orthofer / lead & back vocals
- Fritz Riedelberger / guitars, piano, lead vocals
- Hubert Schnauer / keyboards, flute
- Harald Zuschrader / keyboards, flute, guitar

Not entirely too surprising that "Hats of Glass" is not as good as "One Niter", but then this is the late '70s where quality prog rock albums were starting to become more few and far between. But hey, this is still a fine album.
Released at the beginning of 1978 (recorded August to November 1977), there was one minor change in the EELA CRAIG lineup. And that was the return of vocalist Wil Orthofer, apparently because the band he was in between his absence with EELA CRAIG, called ICE PLANET (a blues outfit that never recorded, that also featured two other ex-EELA CRAIG members, Heinz Gerstmair and Horst Waber) broke up due to the deaths from two non-EELA CRAIG members from two separate automobile accidents.

Now let's get with the music. The funk has more or less disappeared, going for a more conventional late '70s symphonic prog rock sound. The album opens up with an unlikely song: a cover of Chris de BURGH's "A Spaceman Came Travelling" (yes, the same guy who gave us that awful '80s hit "Lady in Red", but his career goes back to the mid 1970s). This version, of course, is given the prog rock treatment, with vocoder, spacy synthesizers, and great vocal harmonies. The next song is the title track, starts off with flute, before going in to PINK FLOYD-like guitars. After some bizarre electronic noodling, it kicks in to "Grover's Mill" (mentioned on the Symphonic Rock CD, but not the original LP, but it's there on the LP), which is basically a re-recording of their 1974 single "Stories", with changed lyrics, less Mellotron, and more string synths (and guitarist Fritz Riedelberger still handling the vocals). "Chances Are" points to their following album, except without the religious themes. "Heaven Sales" is a short number that sounds very '70s, with lyrics that seem to criticize religious groups who state that you won't go to heaven if you don't give them your money (sounds a whole lot like those greedy televangelists you find right here in AMERICA). The album's high point, without a doubt is "Holstenwall Fair". I especially love that synth solo, before the music kicks in to an intense jam that's reminiscent of "One Niter". Then there's the ballad "Caught on the Air" (which you can only find on LP, not the Symphonic Rock CD). I never was too fond of this song, just a rather sappy ballad that the band could've used for a better piece. The final song is a reworking of their 1974 single "Cheese" (flip side of "Stories"), this time, the vocals are taken out, complete with a nice Moog solo in the middle. I'm in a minority here, but I wasn't too fond of the vocals of the original "Cheese", so this reworking had that plus of being all instrumental.

Overall, an excellent album.

Waify late 70s Prog by one of the more well known Austrian bands of the era.  The production is very light weight (man those fucking drums), but I tend to like synth-heavy/light-weight Prog from the late 70s, since many of these bands were attempting to straddle the line between dense composition and radio accessEela Craig - 1978 - Hats of Glassibility.  "Space Pop", might be a more appropriate genre descriptor, as they lay it on thick with 3 keyboarists (damn!) but the overall delivery is pretty gentle and unimposing.  Aside from a few parts, it doesn't really "rock" even though I think they are trying in a few parts, but that effete production just softens up any edge this might have had.  This album is a good once in a while reminder of both the good's and bad's of late 70s Prog Rock.  But once again, I do like ensconcing myself in the warm, shimmery keyboard tones and the super-soft, comforting vocal lines; the "innocence" I get from albums like these is a nice contrast to muh daily diet of Slamz...   The album art is also very eye catching, I had to get the vinyl of this, specifically cause of the neato art work!

Eela Craig - 1976 - One Niter

Eela Craig 
One Niter

01. Circles: (13:59)
    a) The mighty (5:41)
    b) The nude (2:00)
    c) The curse (5:05)
    d) The blessed (1:13)
02. Loner's rhyme (9:23)
03. Oneniter medley: (11:03)
    a) Benedictus (1:54)
    b) Fuge (0:47)
    c) U.A.T (3:17)
    d) Morning (1:47)
    e) One Niter (3:18)
04. Venezuela (3:30)
05. Way Down (7:16)

- Hubert Bognermayr / keyboards, vocals
- Raoul Burnet / congas (2-4)
- Gerhard Englisch / bass, percussion
- Frank Hueber / drums, percussion
- Alois Janetschko / live mixing
- Fritz Riedelberger / guitars, piano, vocals
- Hubert Schnauer / keyboards, flute
- Harald Zuschrader / keyboards, flute, guitar

It took EELA CRAIG five years between full blown LPs. They did release a single in 1974 ("Stories"/"Cheese") that totally turned away from the bluesy/jazzy psych and prog of their debut, and was to define their symphonic prog sound of the late '70s (specifically "Hats of Glass" as both were re-recorded for that album). By 1976, they were finally recording for Vertigo Records in Germany, giving them exposure outside of Austria. The band now started going hog-wild on all sorts of equipment. The original LP shows the band members with all their gear on the back cover (an analog keyboard lover's dream come true). There's vocalist/keyboardist Hubert Bognermayr (hard to miss him since he was partially bald, although he was always like that, and he was still in his 20s when "One Niter" came out) with a Hammond organ, two VCS-3 synthesizers, a Wurlitzer electric piano, and a couple keyboards I can't recognize (looks like I see an RMI electric piano, but can't be sure). Bassist Gerhard Englisch is standing next to an amplifier, and two bass guitars are standing by it (including a Rickenbacker). Frank Hueber is seen playing his drum set. Vocalist and guitarist Fritz Riedelberger is seen holding a Gibson "The Les Paul", keyboardist/flautist Hubert Schnauer is seen standing next to a vibraphone, and a custom made Mellotron 400 courtesy of EMI, with a black top, and Harald Zuschrader is seen playing his Mini Moog, and although hard to see, I think it's a Hohner D-6 clavinet (as plent is used throughout the album). This photo is taken in some place in the countryside (I wouldn't mind living), with some overgrown vegetation, and some small valley down below. Love the picture of giant sculpture of a telephone, makes me wonder where that is, and if it's still there?
Well, not only was the band going hog-wild on their equipment, it also shows they now had three guys handling keyboard duty as well as the usual other prog rock gear. They were going for a more funky-brand of prog rock, often dominated by the clavinet. "Circles" is a four movement suite that starts off with some really loud and startling Mellotron brass, before things quiet down with some synthesizer and very pleasant flute. Then they go in to a killer jam dominated by clavinet and Moog. Then they go in to a gentle ballad. This is where the vocals first appear, courtesy of guitarist Fritz Riedelberger. Then they go back to the Mellotron and pick up speed. "Loner's Rhyme" is the track Hubert Bognermayer handles the vocal duties. The band goes in to an extended solo, including some great Moog solos and funky clavinet, as well as Hammond organ. "One Niter Medley" is a five movement suite, starts off with synthesizer and Mellotron, before you hear a short song from Bach with an experiment in phasing. After that the band goes in to funky jam, before mellowing out with string synths. "Venezuela" is a nice acoustic song with Fritz Riedelberger handling vocals. "Way Down" starts off with some really nice flute and some droning keyboard in the background. Once again they go in to a funky jam before mellowing out and the vocals kick in.

You need to get the original LP or the CD reissue from Si-Wan in Korea, because the Symphonic Rock CD is missing "Venezuela" (because they also crammed "Hats of Glass" on that disc, with that album's "Caught on the Air" ommited as well, due to lack of space).

 "One Niter" is widely regarded as their best album and stands up IMHO as one tremendous pieces of symphonic progressive rock. This album was actually their second release and followed a 5 year delay after the release of their classic debut album. This album is essentially made up of two side-long conceptual tracks ("Circles" and "One Niter Medley"). The music of EELA CRAIG is very much keyboard centric featuring a wide host of keyboards with lots of mellotron. EELA CRAIG play serene yet majestic and hauntingly beautiful themes with lots of Mellotron, flute, symphonic string synths and killer guitar work. The vocals are also well done and float along with the music in a very similar vein to that of CAMEL. On "One Niter", EELA CRAIG also blend in some slight funk-like themes into the symphonic fog and gives the listener something quite original to listen to.

Eela Craig - 1971 - Eela Craig

Eela Craig
Eela Craig

01. New born Child (7:45)
02. Selfmade Trip (10:29)
03. A New Way (7:04)
04. Indra Elegy (11:43)
05. Irminsul (2:10)
06. Yggdrasil (3:40)
07. Stories (4:39)
08. Cheese (4:38)

- Horst Waber / drums
- Harald Zuschrader / organ, flute, guitar, sax
- Hubert Bognermayer / keyboards
- Gerhard English / bass
- Heinz Gerstenmair / guitar, organ, vocals
- Will Orthofer / vocals, sax

Hailing from Austria's second city, Linz, this sextet 's debut album came at a time (71) when not much was happening on the progressive front. As a matter of fact until 75 and their next album and Kyrie Eylison's debut, there was only Paternoster who put out a heavy hard-prog the following year of this release. The six-man line-up had the two guitarist also twiddling the keys, and one of them blowing wind inside all sorts of hollow instruments, while the leader also blew horns.
While their later albums will be in the symphonic-type prog, this debut album is much more experimental somehow close to the Krautrock scene with moments of proto-psych-prog, as their opening track two-part New Born Child (with its primal screams) and jazz-rock (still NBC), but they were sometimes patchy or sloppy (ie: the NBC's abrupt end of one riff into the final riff break is very clumsy). The self-explanatory Selfmade Trip is an incredible 10-min+ voyage into heavy psychedelic-spacey expansion-minded trip, which will simply ravish early 70's experimental progheads. Not completely flawless, this track is pure prog. The second side is also made up of two lengthy tracks with the aptly-titled heavily flute-induced A New Way where they share their absolute enthusiasm with us. But the other lengthy (almost 12-min), Indra Elegy, is a keyboard fest mixed with dramatic saturated guitars, heavenly flutes, constant drumming fury, abrupt (but this time well-designed) tempo changes, good bass lines,

The bonus tracks on this album are essential to the band's history and help explain what these guys did for four years between albums. However, they do not sound anything alike their first record and can become annoying if you do not appreciate the experimental nature of them. Funny thing is that no-one would expect such experimental music to be issued on isolated 45 RPM singles, but we now know that the early 70's allowed for all kinds of surprises. By the time of the first bonus tracks (72) the group was down to a quartet and had a different drummer, the others forming a blues rock group that will never record. This "single" was a commissioned work where they participated in a project depicting "Dimenssions between pop and classical" including an orchestra. The two tracks were slightly reworked, but remained highluy experimental between trafficked drums, electronics space noises for the first track and the next one being a sort of easy instrumental prog improv. As their "single" came out (74), only the bassist and keyboardist remained from the original sextet, but they were back to a quintet. Heavy mellotrons greet you rioght from the beginning and you are definitely closer to their second One Nighter album with the heavy symphonic sounds: both Stories and Cheese are excellent tracks although I find the latter's singing extremely well-titled Cheeeeesy!!!

Certainly one those legendary albums that merits its reputation, but not the the extreme prices for the vinyl, and the bonus tracks are a little out of context. Definitely worth looking for the Garden Of Delight Cd release.