Monday 30 June 2014

Budgie - Squawk (1972)

The second album from this Welsh band.

Budgie got themselves a very good name for their bluesy hard rock. I quite liked their debut album too, reviewed back in October 2012. I will review the remaining albums during the rest of this year, starting with this one.

This album is a bit of a strange head-case. The first half of it is a bit of a matter of standard hard blues rock. A lot of pretty clever riffs, but pretty empty on interesting melody lines. You get the usual power trio lineup here. Bass, drums and guitars. It is like a raw version of Led Zeppelin. Not particular interesting.

The penultimate song Young Is A World are much more in the psychedelic prog vein. It also has a lot of pop music attributes. The final song Stranded is also a much more developed bluesy rocking song with multi-layered riffs. Two good songs which elevates this album to a new level. Well, up 0.5 points in my estimations. That makes this a decent to good album and a step backwards from their good debut album.

2.5 points

Sunday 29 June 2014

Koenjihyakkei - Angherr Shisspa (2005)

The fourth and so far final album from this Japanese band.

Koenjihyakkei has been described as Magma on caffeine. They were that on their first two albums. That and deeply impressive. Their use of twin female vocals, male vocals and jazz instruments creates a heck of a sound. One heck of a big sound. Their first album Hundred Sights Of Koenji is still one of my favourite zeuhl albums. It was zeuhl on caffeine, straight in my face and I could hardly breathe. Great stuff.

Angherr Shisspa is a bit of a different album. Most of their bombastic speed and aural onslaught on the listener has gone and been replaced by some more subtle Magma like zeuhl. There is still enough of the old Koenjihyakkei to really interest me. But they have changed a bit. The female opera vocals is still here and so is some dissonance too. The madness remains. Great madness, btw. Insanity at it's best.

There is no really great songs here throughout these fifty minutes. That said, the sound is great and the band still delivers one heck of an assault on the senses. This is not easy listening by any sense and it is still a bit more left field than even Magma was at their best. Check out this very good album.

3.5 points  

Finisterre - La Meccanica Naturale (2004)

The fifth album from this Fabio Zuffanti fronted Italian band.

Their previous albums had all (?) been instrumental symphonic prog albums. Not so with this album, though. The band did hire in Stefano Marelli to do the vocals here. Very good Italian vocals, indeed.

The music has also moved a tad from pure symphonic prog to a more commercial viable prog rock sound. A pretty cool and breezy prog rock sound with acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, mellotron, bass, drums, flugelhorn and piano.

The music here is very pastoral and softly spoken. The big bombastic melodies has gone. Maybe transferred to Hostsonaten for all I know. There is still enough stuff here on this album to make it a tad interesting. Not much, but still enough.

The end result is a good one hour long album which does not speak in big letters and floats a bit under the surface. I am not entirely won over by this album as I feel it has no great songs. I do value this band though. I hope Fabio Zuffanti gives this band another chance.

3 points

Supay - El Viaje (2007)

The second album from this Peru based band. Please note this is the album and not the EP with the same name and artwork I am reviewing here. Confusing, yes.

The band is following up their 2004 debut album Confusion with another slab of folk rock. That is; Peruvian folk music combined with some fusion and hard rocking guitars. Take what I would call pan flutes and add guitars, percussions, bass, keyboards and drums. That is when you get sound like this. This album is wholly instrumental too.

The band is mostly not mixing folk music with rock and fusion. The album starts off with some folk music, infused into a fusion landscape. Then we get some rock too and fusion. But never really mixed. The electric guitars and Hammond organs is dominating the fusion and rock material. Those and the bass. The pan flutes is dominating the folk elements.

For a couple of songs, the elements gets fused together. Those are the best minutes of this forty-three minutes long album. I would prefer more of the same, please. So much that I am looking into purchasing their new, 2013 album Senales.

This is by all means a good album which will satisfy the folk rock fans. I really like this band. A band which would had graced the festivals in Europe and USA if given the chance. I hope.......

3 points  

Saturday 28 June 2014

Brainticket - Cottonwoodhill (1971)

The debut album from this Swiss krautrock band. This is also my first meeting with this band as I bought some of their albums through Ebay some years ago.

Krautrock means a lot of different genres. In this case, it means a spaced out psychedelic spaced out trip into madness. Some has called this album heavy drugs on tape/CD/vinyl. Well, I have never tried drugs so I don't know. If this is the case, this album serves as a warning against taking drugs.

The first two songs, released as a single back in 1971 too, is both funky and symphonic krautrock with a lot of folk rock, jazz and fusion. Two very good songs. Very good eight minutes with great flutes, guitars and Hammond organs over one rhythm structure. The final part of this thirty-four minutes long album is the Brainticket suite which is basically one repeated hypnotic rhythm done by bass and keyboard with some insane female talking on the top of it. Not particular amusing at all.

So, the suite is pretty poor and the first two songs are very good. The end result is a very decent album and not a converted fan in the form of this reviewer and krautrock fan. I hope their other albums is better than this one.

2.5 points

Load. The - Load Have Mercy (1977)

The second and final album from this US band.

This band is one of the many obscure and forgotten US bands in the symphonic prog genre. They started out after the symphonic prog genre had come to an abrupt end in the onslaught of overblown albums, tours and the resulting punk movement. The Load were as socially accepted in 1977 as black death and cholera.

Nevertheless, the band followed up their debut album with this album and more of the same sort. That is a big dosage of ELP with some fusion and AOR thrown in. The keyboardist and pianist Sterling Smith is backed up by a bassist and drummer here. That is all you need. Well, and some guitars. But there is none here. Officially, that is. But there is a lot of guitars here though.

The music is not particular good or interesting. It is nodding along quite nicely for an hour and I am almost nodding off during the listening sessions. It is not too bad. It is just a bit on the dull side. No good songs and nothing really good here. It is a decent album and nobody has lost out on something good here. It is an obscure album for a good reason.

2 points

Friday 27 June 2014

Fuchsia - Fuchsia II (2013)

The second album from this English band.

Some says this is their third album though. But Tony Durant, the only remaining band member from the 1971 self titled debut album does not regard their 2005 album as a full worthy studio album. Tony Durant is right. So, we have forty-two years between the debut album and the follow up album.

Those who got the debut album and/or has read my review of it from earlier in June 2014, remember that this band is a typical English folk rock band. Even a folk music band. They have not changed their style forty-two years later either. You get Tony's vocals helped by violins, guitars, cello, accordion, bass and drums. Very folksy, very conservative folk rock.

Tony got a good voice and he is carrying the songs perfectly. They are all based around his vocals with cellos and the other instruments backing them up. The cello arrangements are very good. Ditto for the guitars and violin arrangements. The songs are pretty elegant themselves, these forty minutes divided on nine songs.

The five minutes long Crossing The Big C is the best song here with a driving good melody. That melody is as the other melodies mid-paced and dynamic. That is why I like this album. It is elegant. The lack of a great song or three is almost forgiven here. But it cannot be forgotten. What we have here is a good album which will appeal to the folk rock fans out there. Don't pass up on this album.

3 points

Junius - Days of the Fallen Sun (2014)

The fourth EP from this US post/math rock band.

Math rock is not exactly my cup of tea and I was not particular pleased when I ended up with this EP in a lucky draw. Nobody else wanted it and nobody wanted a review to be published in the newspaper. Which is a bit of a shame, really.

I am not sure what math rock really means. I guess this is a clever-college-kids type of music. Cold, calculating music with no soul. Just like death metal was like in the Scott Burns era. That type of music is exactly just what this thirty-two minutes long EP is not.

What we get here is a mix of epic metal, post rock and stadium rock aka Muse. Take cascades of guitars, keyboards and vocals. Then add drums and bass to this mix too. The music ebbs and flows a lot. It mostly flows with cascades of big sounds and soundscapes. It reminds me a lot about Gazpacho and Neurosis at times. The music is very commercial though, without really having any great songs.

I gather this EP is an oddity EP. Which makes me wonder how good this band really are. This is a very good EP which I really recommend.

3.5 points

Praxis - La Eternidad de lo Efimero (1987)

The one and only sign of life from this Mexican band.

Mexico has had a rather big progressive rock scene from the 1970s until most recent. Obscure bands who released obscure albums. Albums impossible to find in commercial sale. I had to lift this one from Youtube together with some other similar obscure albums from similar obscure bands. I hope I am forgiven as this album is used for review purposes.

Praxis brand of music is clearly progressive rock. They have taken one big slice of Yes, added a lot from the likes of Gentle Giant, King Crimson and fusion rock. The finishing touch has been made by some local folk music influences. Latin-American folk music influences, that is.

The music on this album is wholly instrumental, performed by keyboards, guitars, bass and drums. It is pretty obvious that this is a 1980s album as the sound has this 1980s sound. The guitar sound is not good at all. The keyboards sound is more to my liking.

The opening track Al Filo Del Abismo is a very good majestic symphonic prog track. I really like that track. The rest of the album continues in a more less defined eclectic prog. There are some mediocre material here. But my overall impression is that this is a good album, well worth checking out.

3 points

Eloy - Time To Turn (1982)

The tenth album from this German band.

Time To Turn was released at the time when every prog rock and krautrock band tried to become more commercially accessible. Prog rock was more or less dead already. Light hearted pop and AOR was the only show in town. This was indeed the dark ages of the mankind.

To a large degree, Eloy has always had some pretty strong Pink Floyd influences. On this album, the band tried to emulate their more commercial accessible material and really went for it. The songs are pretty short and very melodic. They still retains the good old Eloy qualities and there is a lot to enjoy for the Eloy fans here. Their concept and mood sound like for example on Dawn has gone on this album though.

Time To Turn is a relative easy accessible album where Eloy has turned of most of their space machine and gone a bit commercial. They sound a lot like Pink Floyd at their most commercial. There is no really great songs here though. Nevertheless, Time To Turn is ticking over nicely throughout the forty-two minutes it lasts. I like a lot of this album.

3 points

Thursday 26 June 2014

Hisko Detria - Static Raw Power Kraut (2012)

The debut album from this Finnish band.

As the album title alludes to, we are again taking a trip down the kraut & space rock alley. The band is claiming their music is hypnotic grooves based space rock. Which is true. For a change, a band is right.

The lineup is keyboards, vocals, guitars, bass and drums. This fifty minutes long album contains four songs. One of them is a cover of the blues standars On The Road Again. An extended cover, given a solid krautrock treatment. That includes some dubious vocals. Their two vocalists was not born to sing, let me put it that way. I have heard cows doing better vocals than this. Their three own creations is much more hypnotic grooves based, taking the listener to outer space and back. The sound is as dirty as it should be.

This type of music is simple, but also very effective. There is no great music on this album and there are far better albums in this genre than this one. This album is still a good album, well worth checking out for those into this genre. A weak good rating is awarded.

3 points

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Quarto Sensorial - A+B (2012)

The debut album from this Brazilian band.

The band name kind of gives this game away. We are talking a bit left field music here. To be more precise as the speakers has been blowing out this music for the last listening sessions; a mix of jazz, funk and post rock.

Maybe A+B is showing the way of the jazz genre. There is a lot of the MoonJune record label sound over this album. Funky, instrumental jazz with a lot of post rock influences with some avant-garde influences. The music is performed with bass, drums and guitars only. This is a power trio, in other words.

All three instruments are driving the music forward here. There are both some dynamic jazz pieces here and some very pastoral, melancholic pieces here. The latter ones has this lush post rock sound and is the reason why I am thinking "post rock" when a lot of the music is blaring through the sound-speakers.

The result is a pretty melodic and dynamic album which is not too heavy and not too light. It is also a good album which I would recommend to anyone into this genre. It is a bit too light on substance for my liking though. But still...... It is a good album.

3 points

Ea - Ea (2012)

I believe this is the debut album from this US based funeral doom band.

Funeral doom is a bit of a special type of doom metal. I would claim that the Tristesse demo album from Norway's very own band Funeral started the whole scene. My own record label released their second album Tragedies which I still regard as a masterpiece.

Then again, funeral doom is perhaps a genre based on funeral marches. I really like funeral marches, I grudgingly have to admit. This album is as most other funeral doom albums a funeral dirge with some light and shades inbetween all the darkness and sorrows here. Ea has taken a lot from My Dying Bride. This album has taken their music into a more funeral dirge direction.

The music here is guitars based with some keyboards, drums and bass added onto it. Some growling vocals is also on this album which is mostly instrumental. The music reminds me a lot about the Finnish band Thermgothon from the 1990s too.

The result is a fifty minutes long funeral dirge which is surprisingly beautiful at places. A dirge is by it's nature not full of variations and details. That is the downfall with this album and the funeral doom genre. Everything here is so slow, so slow. This is still a very decent album and a must have for the funeral doom fans. I can only take this music in small dosages as I only can take death and black metal in small dosages. But check this one out.

2.5 points

Blue Öyster Cult - Agents of Fortune (1976)

The fourth album from this US band.

It is probably also their commercial break through album if my memories serves me right. That mostly helped by the minor hit Don't Fear The Reaper. A great song, btw.

The band has never really been as heavy and hard rocking as their reputation has made them as. Blue Oyster Cult is most of all an art rock band with intelligently crafted songs with some implemented hard rock. Their sound is the American west coast rock sound.

On this album, they have stripped down their sound and music to fit a much more commercial sound. I call this album a dumbed down version of Blue Oyster Cult. Besides of the above mentioned song, only E.T.I is passing muster. The rest of the album are pretty poor, to be honest. It is pretty poor pop-rock with the typical American sound.

This is a pretty decent album though.

2 points

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Rocky's Filj - Storie Di Uomini E Non (1973)

Another Italian band who released one album and then disappeared again without a trace.

The Italian prog rock scene in the 1970s were as strong and diverse at it is today. Some bands back then still had one foot in the 1960s blues, beat and soul scene. Others again had moved onto a much more prog rock sound in the vein of ELP and Genesis.

Rocky's Filj were soundly rooted in the soul, beat and blues scene from the 1960s. Add a lot of Italian pop and some Italian symphonic prog too. Then you get this thirty-six minutes long album.
There is a lot of woodwinds on this album and most of the music is in the jazz and soul category. There are also a lot of guitars, bass and drums here. Some keyboards and some really great Italian vocals fills in the rest.

The end result is a bit of a complex albums with a lot of facets and colours. It does not really have any great tracks though and that is a problem with this album. It is a good album though and well worth checking out.

3 points

Bram Stoker - Heavy Rock Spectacular (1972)

The first of two albums from this one man project from England. The second album was released some months ago and I am also intend to review that quite soon.

Bram Stoker is T. Bronsdon. That is a man, I gather from the rather OK vocals. He plays all the instruments here, I gather. Most of that is keyboards. Keyboards anno 1972 and they have the same sound as ELP and The Nice. Keith Emerson in other words.

Bram Stoker most of all reminds me about the first two Beggars Opera albums. We get some great keyboards and guitars here with some rumblings bass and drums in the background. There is a lot of instrumental adaptations of classical music pieces here. Fingal's Cave is one of them.

The mix of hard rocking proper songs and classical music pieces here is very good. The problem I find with this album is that T Brondson has just walked down the well trodden path with this album. ELP, Beggars Opera, The Nice, Trace and many others has also done this before. Not to mention the many Eastern European bands. This is still a good album though, well worth checking out. It is not a masterpiece, though.

3 points

Monday 23 June 2014

Camel - Rajaz (1999)

The thirteenth album from Camel.

Camel has released some albums who has fallen well short of the standards set on the first two albums. Those standards is the reasons why so many people love Camel. Their dabbling with pop music was painful.

Their previous album Harbour Of Tears was a great album. It was also my first review of a Camel album, done five years ago. I had hoped that Rajaz was following in the same path. To a large extent, it does that.

Andy Latimer does a lot of long, melodic solos on this album. He also does the vocals here. Ton Scherpenzeel from Kayak does the keyboards and he does them great. The drums has a bit of a plastic feel, the 1990s sound. The bass is OK. But everything here is about Andy Latimer's guitars and vocals.

Rajaz is a bit of a return to the old days and the origin of this band. That is, without the really good songs. Rajaz has a great pastoral feel, but no real great songs to back it up with. The result is a good, but slightly dull album. It would satisfy all Camel fans, though.

3 points

Tentacle - The Angel Of Death (1990)

The debut and so far only album from this German band.

This album was sold to me as a krautrock album. Which indeed it is too. Although recorded and released in 1990 (??), this music here sounds like proto-krautrock. Take a big chunk of soul and blues. Then add some wild distorted space rock guitars and some psychedelic rock. That is what you get here.

The sound is good on this forty minutes long album. The vocals is the very typical hard rock vocals from the early 1970s. David Coverdale springs to mind. A bit screamy and a bit forced. Very powerful, though. The music is pretty hard rocking throughout with some hard working and smoking guitar solos.

The music itself is pretty good. It is not the most exciting album I have heard. But as a proto-krautrock album, this is one of the better ones I have heard. If the band is still around and if there is any life in the band members, I am pretty sure they will protest against me labeling them as proto-krautrock. But I hear what I hear.

There is no real great or even good songs on this album. It is a very decent album though, well worth checking out. This album is a bit difficult to find though.

2.5 points

Sunday 22 June 2014

Halloween - Laz (1989)

The second album from this French band who released four albums. I am not sure if they are still around.

Their debut album Part One was quite a good album in the French symphonic prog tradition. The follow up, this album, is also very much in that tradition. That is, with English vocals this time. They have also branched out into a more cinematic, theatrical landscape too. The music is performed with a lot of synths, guitars, drums, vocals and bass. A violin appears on a sporadic basis.

The music is bewildering to say at least. It feels unhinged with only a few clearly defined themes and melodies. It is like a blind man has made a pizza from a box of ingredients he has not been told what is containing. I have a much more positive view on blind men (great people !) than this album.

This whole fifty minutes long album is one unhinged, scattered album where the ideas and melodies does not make much sense. There are some good to decent melodies and themes scattered around. That is all I like about this album.

This is a decent album and the one album to avoid from this band, I have heard.

2 points

Saturday 21 June 2014

Supay - Confusión (2004)

The debut album from this Peru based band.

The west coast of South America has got some pretty good folk rock bands now. I spotted an advert for a two days long folk rock festival in Chile this summer and the list of bands were impressive. Supay is one of the big names on that festival and I wanted to check their albums out. Hence this review.

Supay, which means god of death and a demon in the old Inca religion and tradition, does a mix of traditional folk music and pretty heavy rocking rock'n'roll. The album starts out with pan flutes and the South American folk music. Then we get some thunderclaps with heavy rock before the album settles into a more psychedelic South American folk music with pan flutes, jazz and heavy guitars, bass and drums.

Several people I know has commented that this album is a meeting between two cultures. The Western rock culture from the early 1970s and the timeless Inca culture from South America. I think this is an excellent comment on this album. The guitarist goes on several long guitar solos. The pan flutes drags us back to Peru again. This makes it more a meeting than a clash because those two cultures goes well together on this forty minutes long album.

The result is a very good album from a band I think is pretty much unknown here in Europe. Which is unfair as this is a very good album I am sure more people will like. Check out this band.

3.5 points

Ianva - Italia: Ultimo Atto (2009)

The second album from this Italian band and in total their fourth offering.

Ianva has not changed their 1920s sound at all from their first offering in 2005 to this album. You get a mix of chamber music and theatrical music here. You get a mix of Jacques Brel and Edit Piaf with choirs, woodwinds, bass, percussions and guitars. The list of musicians here is a very long one. Twenty plus musicians.

The music here is pretty bombastic, almost zeuhl like at times. It also has this spaghetti western feel with a very violent theme running through this album. I got a spaghetti western DVD box and know the feeling this album is conveying. The violent mood on this album is almost scary.

I may get a bit too used to this very unusual band. But I am starting to get a bit complacent and a bit too used to their sound and music. I also feel the band is threading water on this album. There is no great songs and no X factor here at all. This is a good album but nothing more. It is still worth checking out. In particular if spaghetti westerns is your cup of tea.

3 points

Neon Leaves - Cinéma Vérité (2013)

The debut album from this British band. Or north-east of England, to be precise. That means the area from York up to Berwick, then.

We are deep into the neo-prog genre again. The lineup is the normal vocals, keyboards, guitars, drums and bass.

The sound of this album reminds me a lot about the German neo-prog sound and I had to take a double-take on their place of origin. The music is deceptive soft and melodic. It is also melancholic to a large degree. The intensity level is pretty high though. Yes, it is both melodic and soft, but with a high degree of intensity. Passionate is probably the right word. The keyboards and guitars is pretty intense at times.

The keyboards sound is pretty nice. Ditto for the vocals and the guitars. A flute would had been nice too. But I guess that would had taken them into Genesis copycat territory. There is a great deal of Genesis aka Foxtrot here already.

I very much like what I hear on this fifty minutes long album. It does not really have any great songs though and the material are lacking a bit in both quality and personality. Nevertheless, this is a very promising band with a promising good debut album they should be happy with.

3 points

Friday 20 June 2014

Entity - Il Falso Centro (2014)

Another debut album from the very much alive progressive rock scene in Italy.

I don't think there is any doubts whatsoever that the Italian progressive rock scene is the most impressive scene anno 2010 - 2015. I have heard some albums which has sent me to the seventh heaven. It has been so many of them that I am regarded as a permanent danger to the overflying airplanes.

Entity sounds like an English/American/whatever band and does not really have this Italian twang to it. No Ballo, Castello or Delle. Just Entity and I am not particular impressed by the choice of name.

That is almost the only thing that does not impresses me here. The music is classic Italian progressive rock with great Italian vocals, great use of keyboards, guitars, bass and drums. The keyboards sound is the classic Italian keyboards sound. Ditto for the guitars and the rest of the instruments.

The music is bold with a big sound and soundscape. There is not really anything small here. Good references are Banco. As simple as that. The music is big and bold. But it is not heavy at all.

The end result is a superb album which is only lacking a killer track. All the songs here on this one hour long album is really great, bordering to excellent. This is one of the best albums I have heard this year.

4.5 points

Hostsonaten - Springtides (2004)

A stop-gap compilation album from this Italian band.

Hostsonaten has got a very good reputation and rightly so. Their brand of Scandinavian symphonic prog and melancholy has hit a lot of right notes. They are among my favourite albums when it comes to outputs from Italy. And it should not surprise anyone that Fabio Zuffanti is the main man in this band.

This seventy minutes long album has a mix of the very good and the so & so decent stuff. The ambient acoustic guitars tracks here are pretty dull. The more symphonic prog stuff here is very good. There is a lot of stuff here which is not top rate and where Fabio is playing around with ideas. Some of them are great. Some of them are not so great.

This is not an album anyone who want to find out more about Hostsonaten should try out. It is an album you get when you have purchased the rest of the Hostsonaten disco. It is a good album in it's own right and I am a happy owner of it.

3 points

Decamps. Christian - Troisieme Etoile A Gauche (1997)

The fifth solo album from this legend in French rock.

Christian Decamps is most known for being the founding father of Ange. He is also the founding father of Gens De La Lune which has just released a new album.

This Christian Decamps album is a bit of a surprise though. It would not have disgraced the Ange name if it has been released under that name. For me, this is an Ange name in all but the name. You get a lot of theatrical music here with the roots firmly in English symphonic prog and French folk music from the cafeterias in Paris. Edit Piaf is alive here too in spirit. This is an Ange album.

The only slight difference between this album and an Ange album is that this album is much more songs and vocals focused than an Ange album. This is a Christian Decamps album and it proves beyond any doubts why he is easily one of the best composers and vocalists the prog rock scene has ever seen.

My only gripe with this album is the lack of a truly great song. Besides of that, this is a very good album which offers excellent value for money, clocking in at over seventy minutes.

3.5 points

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Shadowhawk. P.J - Land Of Dreams (2010)

The debut album from the US drummer PJ Shadowhawk.

PJ Shadowhawk has played with UK's Quasar and with Gabriel Bondage in his long career in music. Now, he has finally taken the step up and gone fully solo with this album and a new album this year. Both has been dragged through my cat-flap. My cats likes good, colourful covers.

All instruments is done by PJ Shadowhawk with the exceptions by guitars where Evan Raymond has helped him out. The sound is good and the music is well played. The vocals is a bit dubious, though.

The music here is a mix of synth dominated long melodies/suites, some psychedelic melodies and a couple of AOR sounding proper songs. There are a couple of very good songs here in the AOR vein. The psychedelic stuff is also good. The suites is not that good. I am most of all happy with the diversity of this album and the work put in here. There is no doubts Mr. Shadowhawk knows his trade and I am really looking forward to give his new album the full listening sessions treatment.

This album suffers a bit from the debut album finding my way syndrome. It is still a good album, well worth checking out.

3 points

Fairport Convention - Babbacombe Lee (1971)

The seventh album from this English folk rock band. A cultural institution in it's own right and as much legends as any other legends.

Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny had long departed by now. The band were reduced to a four piece. David Swarbrick is the main man on this album as he also found the story about the man John Babbacombe Lee in an attick. This album is a concept album about his life and his untimely death in the hands of a hangman.

This story is being delivered by vocals, vocal harmonies, violins, guitars, viola, bass and drums. The story is being told through these forty minutes with folk rock. Some folk music with a heavy slant of rock. There are a couple of oddities along the road. The hymn like spaced out Dream Song is one of them. The rest is songs based folk rock.

Fairport Convention is in an class of their own when it comes to folk rock in my opinion. Although this album does not give us the same classy instrumental pieces as the albums with Richard Thompson, this album is a good album in it's own right. The lyrics is also very strong and they makes this a good listening experience. This is another good album from this band, this cultural institution.

3 points

Happy The Man - Death's Crown (1999)

The fifth album from this US band.

Happy The Man is a bit of an oddity. They are not quite symphonic and not quite avant-garde either. Not on this album. Death's Crown was recorded in their rehearsal studio and contains the thirty-eight minutes long title track and two other shorter pieces.

The sound quality is pretty horrendous to be honest. If given a solid sound, this album would had been a great album. Their mix of Yes like symphonic pieces, the weirdness of Gentle Giant and the eclectic prog bits of King Crimson is a great listen. That if it had been recorded in a studio.

From what I can hear on this album, the title track is both symphonic and eclectic. It is very good too. The best track here is the nine minutes long New York Dream's Suite. The closing track Merlin Of The High Places is also a very good album.

I have to remove half a point or more from this album because of the sound. This makes it only a good album, I am afraid. It could had been so much better.

3 points

Tuesday 17 June 2014

New Trolls - L.I.V.E.N.T. (1976)

The first live album from this Italian band.

New Trolls is a bit of a confusing band. They have been all over the place in their musical outputs. From Italian pop to hard rock and classical music like symphonies. And that was up to the release of this 1976 album. I have reviewed some New Trolls albums and I am still not sure what this band was all about. I am not sure if I even like them.

This album pretty much describe this band up to 1976. A bewildering mix of blues, beat, hard rock, Italian pop and classical symphony like music. There is even some space rock here. All of this crammed into forty minutes.

The sound is not particular good and ditto for the music. There is some great live albums around. This is not one of them. It is a decent live album and that is all I can say about it.

2 points

Load. The - Praise The Load (1976)

The debut album from this US band.

USA had a rather great symphonic prog scene in the 1970s. Most of the scene went under the radar and left some hidden gems in the attics. Most of the hidden gems there was released many decades later though.

USA also have their own take on whatever we Europeans is throwing at them. ELP toured USA and some kids made their own US versions of what ELP did. The Load is one of those. Take a large slice of Keith Emerson's keyboards and music. Then you add a lot of US humour and vaudeville pop music. Add some college and high school culture too and you get this album. Well, I hope they were not serious when they asked us to Praise The Load. Or they may have been barking mad.

The result is this album. A pretty playful album with a lot of Johan Sebastian Bach like classical music played on both piano, keyboards and Hammond organs. Add drums, bass and guitars too this album. And then some vocals. The end result is pretty much circus-comes-to-town like. And yes, there are some circus music here. The Wilhelm Tell overture and Brandenburger # 3 is all here. And ditto for a song with some very flimsy, silly lyrics.

The end result is a cheesy album to say at least. The keyboardist Sterling Smith is doing a great job on some material which is neither innovative or particular great. I have kind of gotten an overdose on this type of music now, with ELP and all their spawn offs. This is a very decent to good album though which I believe may get ELP fans to listen up.

2.5 points

Gandalf's Fist - The Wizard's Study II (2012)

The sixth EP/single from this Cumbrian, English band.

This twenty minutes long EP showcases the Iron Maiden and the Pink Floyd side of the band. Both bands has heavy influenced the five songs on this EP. Add some folk rock to the mix too and you get this EP.

The music goes in both directions. Some really epic heavy metal riffs and melodies followed by some very psychedelic spacey rock. The vocals is spacey too as per usual from this band. The guitars, keyboards, drums and bass produce a potent twenty minutes of good, potent prog.

This is really not my style, the music this band produce. Nevertheless, this free EP is well worth checking out.

3 points


Monday 16 June 2014

Area - Tic & Tac (1980)

Their sixth album and the first album without Demetrio Stratos who sadly passed away in 1978.

This Italian band rightly got a legend status after their first four albums. Innovative, great albums. They were also built around the mad vocals and ideas of Demetrio Stratos. With him gone, what we are left with is jazz. As simple as that.

The jazz here is performed with bass, sax, trumpet, drums, guitars and keyboards. The sound is not particular good and this album is not sparkling at all. It feels a bit dead and buried. It feels like the remaining band members of Area is a bit lost after Demetrio Stratos sad passing. He passed away after a fight with cancer.

The bland jazz on Tic & Tac is not how I want to remember this band. The album is pretty dismal in it's dullness. A couple of half decent numbers means not a blank one pointer.

1.5 point

Guapo - Elixirs (2008)

The seventh album from this English band.

Avant-Garde is what has made this band a household name in the small, but very lively avant-garde scene. Guapo is a duo, David Smith and Daniel O'Sullivan with hired musicians. Their musical expressions has varied a lot within the avant-garde genre.

On Elixirs, they have gone down the funeral avant-garde doom path. Everything here is dark and desolate. It is like observing an ashen covered landscape in motion. There are a lot of the sinister sound of Present and Univers Zero in their music too. The music is that dark.

The music is performed with keyboards, violin, viola, bass, percussions and some vocals. The vocals is there just to add cynicism to the sound.

The end result is an hour with some pretty good music. Well, good music. I am pretty comfortable with this music. Then again, this is not an album sparkling in greatness. It is still an album well worth checking out.

3 points

Fuchsia - Fuchsia (1971)

The debut album from this English band who has just released a new album, some 40 years after their debut album.

Listed as a folk rock band in most places, I became intrigued and sourced this album to start with. The very nice album cover did not scare me off either. An album cover which has some connections with the music, to say at least.

The basis here is folk rock. But not quite so... The use of cello and other strings brings me to compare this band with Electric Light Orchestra too. It is a very relevant comparison, indeed. Fuchsia's music also takes a lot from psychedelic rock too. Folk rock is perhaps not the right label after all.

The male vocals also reminds me about Caravan and some of the music has taken some subtle influences from The Who. More than subtle influences, in fact. The vocals, guitars, bass and drums are supported by the likes of cello, violins and piano. Cello is very much everywhere in the songs.

The songs themselves are good throughout. In the eight minutes long A Tiny Book, they got a great song too. The overall quality is very good and I am looking forward to give their new album some good listening sessions.

3.5 points

Gardenia - El Libro De Los Soles (2013)

The third album from this Argentine band.

I have followed their development through their debut album and one very long EP. The band has developed nicely, thank you. Their music is what I would call eclectic prog with a lot of heavy prog, folk rock, funk, a bit jazz and some symphonic prog in their sound. That was on their debut album and the band has developed on from there.

They have not really dropped any of those elements over, though. They still uses a lot of guitars, bass, drums, synths and Spanish vocals. The band sounds incredible tight in every department. The guitar harmonies are great here. Even the vocals really comes to live here. The debut album had a missing ingredient though. That has been added here. The element is post-rock. They have loosened up their music a bit and added a lot of air and space with their post-rock influences. The result is a noticeable improvement. The band members now get a lot of space to deliver their contributions in. The bass, drums and guitars excels in this space.

The end result is a great album and one I really enjoys. It does not really have any great songs. But the details in this album is really great throughout. It is like a flower garden in that respect. And yes; this is a very flowery lush album. Check it out if you can.

4 points

Sunday 15 June 2014

McChurch Soundroom - Delusion (1971)

The one and only album from this Swiss band.

.... Although the name sounds like if this five piece band was from Scotland. The music though is old style krautrock with bluesy, English vocals. The flutes reminds me a lot about Jethro Tull. Very good flutes, btw. Ditto for the vocals. They are supported by bass, guitars, drums and some very tasty Hammond organs.

The music is pretty heavy throughout. A bit Deep Purple is detectable. Ditto for blues and psychedelic rock. The sound is not particular bad on this forty minutes long album.

Sandro Chiesa's flutes is the dominant instrument when it comes to solo and the melody grinder. Very good flutes it is, too. The songs are also good and this makes it a very enjoyable album despite of it's flaws. The sound is very much the 1970s. There is no great songs here. Besides of that, this is a good, solid album.

3 points

Metamorfosis - Papallones I Elefants (1982)

The only album so far from this Spanish band. A band not to be confused with other bands with the same name. A pretty much overcrowded scene.

This band is actually from the Catalan region of Spain and they were very much following in the footsteps of other Catalan and Spanish bands who combined jazz, symphonic prog and Spanish/Catalan folk music. That up and including flamenco.

Take Return To Forever, insert Keith Emerson as a keyboard player next to Chick Corea and add a subtle slice of flamenco and folk music. That is what you get on this one hour long album. The music is instrumental throughout and is performed with guitars, keyboards, piano, percusion, drums and bass.

The bass is pretty much in the jazz direction with a distinct thumping melodic sound. A very good sound. The music is not particular intense. It is more laid back and strays into symphonic prog on a regular basis. There is no real great melodies here. But the music will really please any fusion fans. In particular those into Return To Forever and piano based jazz. This is a very good album which I will keep stored in my living room for frequent airplay.

3.5 points

Chris - Days Of Summer Gone (2013)

The fourth album from Christiaan Bruin from Holland.

I reviewed his two first albums some time ago in ProgArchives and noted that he was one of the biggest new hopes in the European prog scene. I somewhat missed out on his third album, I believe. I cannot remember I have reviewed it.

Chris has always operated somewhere between symphonic prog and neo-prog. On this album, he is far more in the symphonic prog camp. Add some folk rock too and you get this. The music is created with moog, melotrons, keyboards, guitars, bass, drums, piano, cello and woodwinds. That and his own vocals.

The mood here is pastoral throughout. The music is a bit cinematic and has got a lot of theatrical feelings in addition to some folk and neo-prog influences. The basis is symphonic prog throughout on this one hour long album.

This album is not really an immediate hit album in my ears. It is an album which slowly creeps up on the listener and then embeds itself in the ears of the fortunate listener. It has this creeping pastoral feel where the main theme is very infectious. This one hour long album also sounds like one song and not many different songs. It is one piece of music.

This is by all means a great album with a great theme flowing through it. I cannot fault this album on anything, besides of just missing the dot over the i. This album is a joy for my soul and my brain. It is a relaxing album too. I highly recommends it.

4 points

Hamadryad - Intrusion (2010)

The third album from this Canadian band.

Their two first albums got raving reviews. I also believe I got their first album somewhere and will dig it out. Their blend of Gentle Giant and Genesis with a modern, American twang is intriguing. Their sound and music also got a great deal of vaudeville, theatrical influence. That is why a band like Ange springs to mind. Their sound is fully American though.

Their music is created with keyboards, guitars, bass, drums and vocals. The vocals are in English although the band members names sound very French to me. But the vocals are very American-Canadian to me. No problems whatsoever.

This could had meant a great album if the songs on this one hour long album had been any good. They are not. The music is a baffling array of no melodies and half baked ideas. Nothing here really seems to have any purpose. Good solos springs out of..... well, nothing. I don't dispute the fact that this is a great band. But this album is an accident and not really worthy a band of this stature. It is a decent to good album.

2.5 points

Saturday 14 June 2014

Pooh. I - Un Po' Del Nostro Tempo Migliore (1975)

The seventh album from one of the oldest still going strong bands in Italy.

The band started out as a pop-beat band back in the 1960s and.... well.... continued down the same road more or less the whole career. A career not yet completed.

We are in essence talking about an Italian pop album here. Pop with a lot of Italian prog rock influences. You get the Italian vocals, the symphony orchestra sound, some guitars, bass, drums and the keyboards. The sound is very soft and ancient 1970s. Well, late 1960s, really. You get this movie soundtrack epic stuff in between the more pop songs. This is epic pomp pop throughout the album. In particular on the good final epic track Il Tempo Una Donna La Citta. The only really good track here.

The overall quality is decent though. The sound so ancient that it really reminds me about the various melody festivals which dominated this scene back then. Melody festivals this band were taking part in. I am afraid this album is not really for me.

2 points

Graal - Tales Untold (2007)

The second album from this Italian band.

I reviewed their 2011 album Legends Never Die some time ago. It was a great album and one to get for those into the vintage hard rock 1970s sound. The likes of Grand Funk Railroad, Uriah Heep and Deep Purple.

It should not come as a surprise that this album too is in that vein. Graal has found their space in time and a good sound. Tales Untold is a bit more softer than Legends Never Die though. A bit more standard stadium rock. Still with a very big Uriah Heep influence. Not to mention; a great deal of folk rock influence too.

The vocals here is in English. The keyboards, guitars, bass and drums turned back to the 1970s, although with a crisp clean sound. I love the keyboards. The guitar harmonies are great too. Ditto for the vocals too.
Not all the songs are great. But I really like what I hear on this fifty minutes long album. I now have two albums by them and cannot understand why this band is not more popular than they are. Graal is truly a hidden gem and should get all the attention they can get. This is a weak great reward from my side. Check out this band and their albums.

4 points

Friday 13 June 2014

Asgard - Imago Mundi (1993)

The third of in total five albums from this Italian band.

I have actually reviewed two of their albums in ProgArchives back in 2011. Somehow, this album has slipped through the cracks. Maybe because I do not rate their music.

Their music is a mix of neo prog and prog metal. The music is mostly very bombastic. Their lineup is the normal keyboards, guitars, bass, drums and English vocals. Asgard is a five piece band, btw.

The music is more on the heavy/prog metal side than neo prog on this album. Very standard heavy metal too with a lot of keyboards and guitars. Magnum springs to mind plus a lot of German heavy metal band. What is missing is the football terraces chants. Well, not missing. I cannot stand it. But you get my drift.

I am by no means a fan of this type of noisy racket. Or music as someone else would label it as. There is no originality and no imagination here. There is no real good tracks either. Just some sporadic good melodies. The sound is good though. The end result is somewhere between decent and good. But you are not missing out on anything here.

2.5 points

Thursday 12 June 2014

Delta Cyphei Project - Virtual World (1993)

The second album from this German band who released three albums between 1992 and 2008. I am not sure what they are up to now.

Neo-prog is the genre here. Germany has a great neo-prog scene. This band were in full swing before that scene really got some winds in their sails, though. The band is a five piece with two lead vocalists, drums, guitars and keyboards. I don't find any bassist listed here. But I think one of the lead vocalists is actually a bassist as the bass is present here. Clerical errors in progland.

The vocals are in English and a bit so and so. The music has it's base camp in Pendragon land and adds standard 1990s rock and sound to the proceedings on this one hour long album. An album who is also touching onto symphonic prog too and sounds pretty much like a 1990s neo-prog album.

The songs are not particular good. A couple of decent to good songs saves the bacon of this album though. It also has some interesting details. I have to admit this album has not made a fan of this obscure band. Thanx, but no thanx.

2 points

Delirium - Delirium (1985)

The debut album from this Mexican band. A band not to be confused with the Italian band of the same name.

Neither is the music anywhere similar either. Delirium from Mexico plays instrumental prog with the violin as the main instrument. Alfredo Flores is the violinist and I gather he has also been active in some other bands too. He is supported by bass, drums, keyboards and guitars here.

The music is said to be compared to Iconoclasta, a band I have yet to listen too although some reviews will follow in the near future. This as just a reference for those of you who knows this scene better than I do.

Based on this album, I am looking forward to that. The music on this half an hour long album is symphonic and gothic at the same time with a lot of references to dark, baroque classical music. The melodies here are both good and enjoyable with the violins, guitars and keyboards doing the solos. And that on a competent level. This is a good album from a band who went onto release another album before they split up.

3 points

New Trolls - Concerto Grosso # 3 (2013)

The nineteenth album from this Italian band.

With the other New Trolls album with a different lineup this year in mind, I wonder who and what is New Trolls these days. Two bands is using this name and the sound and music is very different from each other. A total mess in other words.

No matter who is who and what is what, this album is in that Concerto Grosso series of albums the band, whoever that is, has released since the 1970s. The first one in 1971 and the second one in 1976.

Those who were expecting a concerto grosso with symphony orchestra with all the whistles and bells will again be disappointed. Their second installment of the series back in 1976 was a mix of fish and birds. A mix of symphony orchestra and Italian pop music. Ditto for this album too. The same formula.

Vittorio De Scalzi is very much present here on this album and he has got help from numerous others too. Probably veterans in the scene. I am not that much into the history around New Trolls. It is confusing to say at least. But you get everything on this album.

You also get some very good melodies too. Some really good songs and pieces of music. This is by far the best installment of this concerto grosso series, I believe. It is years since I have been listening to the first one though. But the pop and rock melodies here, with Italian vocals, is really very good. I am really surprised !

This exactly one hour long album is a bit of a mess, yes. But a very good mess and a very good album too. I hope nobody else copies New Trolls and this album, though. Albums like this is a trial by fire for a reviewer and most listeners. Nevertheless........

3.5 points

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Danae - Medusa (2013)

The second album from this Argentine band.

Argentina has got a lot of very good bands at the moment. For some reasons, Argentina also has got some bands in an obscure prog genre I would label "instrumental heavy prog". Yes, I have invented that genre. It is a genre which is as popular as influenza.

Danae is four young men who produce their music with guitars (2 x), bass and drums. That is it and the format is powerful without being too heavy. There is no real heavy metal guitar riffs here. The music is a bit powerful, but not as in heavy metal. They are somewhere between prog and metal.

I am by no means a fan of this genre. I chose to review this album after using an online dice and were not too pleased when this music came out of the speakers. I sighed. Nevertheless, the band has a great deal of quality and they are all good musicians. I hope they love what they are doing here.

There are no really great tracks here and the music is a bit on the anonymous side. The band has a great deal of Latin-American sound in them and that makes this album a great deal better than normal from this genre. It is a good album, but one who probably has overstayed it's welcome during my listening sessions. Good, but a bit too dull for my liking.

3 points  

Oloferne - Oloferne (2003)

The debut album from this Italian band. A band who released their fourth album earlier this year.

Italy has always had a very strong folk music and folk rock scene. Some of the folk rock scene morphed into what became the Italian prog rock scene. Oloferne though plays folk rock with some psychedelic undertones and influences on this album.

This one hour long album is mostly a pure folk rock album with a lot of Italian folklore, life and sound. You get violins, flutes, guitars, percussions, bass, keyboards and drums here with mostly Italian male vocals too. There are a couple of English songs too.
Some of the songs are also pretty standard rock too. Psychedelic rock. That gives this album a very contemporary sound and it is not bogged down in the past, in the early 1970s. The vocalist phrases his words like Kurt Cobain once did too. There are some shades of Nirvana on this album, yes.

The end result is a good album. It is not my cup of tea and I may pass up on the tray with their other albums. I would still recommend this album to anyone into this kind of music. Check it out.

3 points

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Halloween - Part One (1988)

Review originally published in ProgArchives on 2. November 2010

The French symphonic prog scene is not like any other symphonic prog scene. This is why I regard this scene as one entity, far remote from any other scene.

The most important difference between this scene and the scene in England & anywhere else is the French scene's operatic, melodramatic type of symphonic prog. Ange is the most typical example of this scene and the forerunners of this scene. Halloween is not far behind on this, their debut album though.
The music on this album is concept based melodramatic music with long guitar solos, some both spoken and somehow melodic sung vocals, violin and tonnes of keyboards. It feels like this is scene or film music to an extent. The music is pretty dark and so is the vibe here.

The quality of the music is good throughout. But this album is never breaking sweat and it never takes of into greatness. The sung vocals are pretty sub standard, but the rest of the band is OK. This is a concept album which does not click into gear. But it is a good album nevertheless.

3 points

Sea Vine - Sea Vine (2013)

The debut album from this Polish band.

This band describe themselves as neo-prog and is indeed listed as such many different places. Which is very odd.... I could not disagree more with this neo-prog label.

Sea Vine is basically Michal Cywinski and his keyboards and drum machine. This is what we get throughout this album. Keyboards. He is supported by bass and guitars. There is some occasional female vocals here. That is it.

The keyboards is the dominant factor. The music is not a cascade of Keith Emerson/Tony Banks/Rick Wakeman overkill. Thankfully ! The music is a mix of symphonic prog and electronic prog. Tangerine Dream springs to mind. The female vocals chimes in and that bit of this album is more post-rock and lounge jazz.

Anyway, this is an album for the keyboards enthusiast out there. The music is decent enough without really capturing my heart. It does not capture my imagination. It is a decent album, nevertheless.

2 points

First + Aid - Nostradamus (1977)

The one and only album from this English band.

It is said that this album was supposed to be the final hooray from the symphonic prog scene. Punk was all the rage those days and the band showed the middle finger to it all by going back to 1970 with a deliberate pretentious album.

And they succeeded. There are narrated vocals here, a symphony orchestra, long winding melodies, a mad concept about obscure historical figures, overly dramatic music and cheese all around. Even by the 1970s standards, this is a cheesy, pretentious album.

Besides of the symphonic orchestra, you get keyboards in the vein of Keith Emerson, guitar solos, bass and drums. Yes, and some vocals too. The lyrics is barking mad cheesy. The sound is very typical 1970s.

Funnily enough, this kind of works. OK, there are no real good melodies here and the this cheese board is perhaps best forgotten and/or to remain obscure. But the band got what they were after. It is a very decent album too. I did not enjoy it much, but it has it's qualities. Check it out.

2.5 points