CD: 2016 Bureau B
A common album on LP, and was released domestically here in the States, where I first picked up a copy during my original Tangerine Dream discovery phase while still in high school (early 80s). CD's however is a different story, with only the afterthought Virgin release from 1990 going OOP and staying that way for years. It wasn't until 2016 that not only one, but 2 CDs appeared on the market. I picked up the Bureau B version, which comes in a digi-pak, and features excellent sound and informative liner notes.
Listening to tracks like 'China', 'Yago', and 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' makes you just want to crawl into the cover painting, sit under the large tree with a bottle of wine, a beautiful girl, and simply watch nature go by. No insane taxation, stock markets, nor geopolitical tensions to worry about. Just beautiful life. Sigh.
Of course one cannot escape the influence of mid 70s Camel in any discussion about Rousseau, a band that shares their romantic side. But also early Genesis at their most pastoral comes to mind. The addition of vocals on 3 tracks was not a good plan however, and completely ruin the vibe. 'One of a Thousand' and 'Incomplete' are good songs otherwise though. The album closer was a truly bad decision as it appears Rousseau was going for some sort of New Wave pop hit. Double dumb actually, and a terrible way to end an otherwise splendid album.
One personal story: In 1991 while backpacking through France, I spent a full Sunday in Retonfey (near Metz) at Musea's home. During the day, various musicians appeared in what seemed like an eternal revolving door. It was quite extraordinary actually. Very casual and fun. The last band to arrive were two members from Rousseau (closing out the reissue of this album actually). That night I had planned to train to Luxembourg. Instead, these two gentlemen drove me there on their way back home to Germany. A fond memory for certain and great conversation along the way!
LP: 1983 Sri Lanca
CD: 1991 Musea
The original comes in a single sleeve. Sri Lanca later in the decade tried their hand at heavy metal before shuttering. The Musea CD is fantastic as usual, with full liner notes. No bonus tracks this time unfortunately.
A year later, we were super excited to learn of their new album Strangeitude. And it did not disappoint at all. 'White Rhino Tea' is as progressive a track as Ozric ever penned, with constantly shifting themes and meters. 'Bizarre Bazaar' is this album's 'Kick Muck' - tight and energetic. And they finish on a high note with the blistering 'Space Between Your Ears', where Ed Wynne really lets loose, and is one of their best tracks in their entire canon. For my tastes, I've never been a big fan of Ozrics' pure electronic work, and here there are two, including the title track and fan favorite 'Sploosh!'. The latter does have a foot stompin' beat, but would have been more effective at half the length I'd estimate. So not perfect, but still an excellent 3rd album, and showed the world that they still had plenty more to offer from a creative standpoint. This latter element would slow over the years.
LP: 1991 Dovetail
CD: 2010 Madfish
It was the LP that I first purchased, and later on added the same year CD. A couple of years ago while rummaging around ebay, I found a cheap copy of the Madfish release. A wonderful package, it comes in a hardbound digipak cover with photos plus an extra disc of live material from this era.
Perhaps the Exit album was a lesson learned for the veterans of the original Museo Rosenbach. Because Barbarica not only addresses its past, but also its future. We've talked about reformations here in the past, and generally they are abject failures. From Italy, Alphataurus and Le Orme have been glaring exceptions as their respective reformations successfully captured the spirit of the original band without them resorting to caricature. Barbarica is similar - except even more successful to my ears. Alphataurus had the added benefit of an unfinished 1974 album to work with, for example. Museo Rosenbach was starting from scratch. Original bassist (and now keyboardist) Alberto Moreno and drummer Giancarlo Golzi are the only steady members across their entire discography. Joining the reunion was original Zarathustra lead vocalist Stefano Lupo Galifi. The latter himself coming fresh off the debut by Il Tempio delle Clessidre which no doubt revived his interest in progressive rock - and most certainly he was held in high reverence by the much younger band that surrounded him. Ego boosts after age 60 don't come as often as they once did I'm sure. Even for myself, I was shocked at just how great his voice still sounded. And he continues to belt it out with the best of them on Barbarica. These three old warriors were then augmented by a new quartet of two guitarists, bass, and keyboards.
What amazes me most about Barbarica is how much the new material represents the spirit of their past, without copying it. The instrumentation is a mix of new and old - and the latter is often represented by the former. One of the most amazing aspects of Zarathustra was their ability to write jaw dropping breaks. Those kind where everyone looks at the stereo and says: Did you hear that? Well, guess what? You'll be doing that with Barbarica too. Like all great bands, it was the synergy of the collective whole that made that 1973 opus great, rather than a collection of soloists. Barbarica is exactly that. It's a true group effort, that retains their brilliant songwriting capability. The band sounds bold and confident. I've read some bellyaching that Barbarica isn't the same as Zarathustra. Well I hope not! While I'm not willing to say it's on the same level either - there are just too many parameters to consider where it would have the same effect on me - I will say that Barbarica may in fact be in the Top 3 of all the great Italian albums released in 2013. And that's a huge achievement given the competition. For me, the best ever reformation album coming from Italy. Yea.... Wow.
CD: 2013 Immaginifica
The CD is housed in a fine gatefold mini-LP with cover art that recalls their Zarathustra past, while also looking forward. Just like the music itself.
Grobschnitt's self-titled debut was a dynamic opening for the band, and is simply a superb slab of heavy prog rock. Hard psychedelic driven guitar and Hammond organ lead the instrumental parade, whereas the crack rhythm section push the proceedings along with constantly changing and complex rhythms. Guitarist "Lupo" has a very sharp edged sound and plays in a constant fiery/heavy blues mode, while drummer "Eroc" is a master of creating and maintaining the tempo for the complex yet energetic compositions. The four tracks contained within recall other heavy German bands of the day like Orange Peel, Prof. Wolfff, 2066 and Then, and even Inside era Eloy. Had this been Grobschnitt's only album it surely would've gone down as one of the great one-off Krautrock classics. As it turns out, it may very well have been their shining moment, though no doubt much great music was to appear in their future, including the can't miss space rock suite 'Solar Music'.
LP: 1972 Brain
CD: 1998 Repertoire
My first copy came from a record store while backpacking in Switzerland, and was the single sleeve copy on Brain (black label). Such was the situation in 1987, where an album like this was impossible to find back home in Texas, and yet it was something of a commodity in Europe at the time. Indeed, Grobschnitt's debut was in print for the entire duration of the Brain label, and is still easy to source well into the 2010's. Over time, I eventually scored the first press original gatefold green label with Metronome under the logo. The Repertoire CD was the first to market, and was mastered by Eroc himself (who is now quite noted for doing such). It's a superb reissue with full liner notes and a 29 minute bonus track - with excellent sound as expected.
Their debut is a consistently excellent album, that mixes French and English lyrics, with a hard psychedelic bite in the guitar work. The vocals have a slightly gruff sound that recall Family, and especially fellow countrymen Ergo Sum, who they share a similar sound overall with. The highlight is also the longest track. 'Cameron's Complaint' sees Triangle take on a more jazzy sound with additional flute, that recalls the Canterbury scene, and predicts the coming of bands such as Moving Gelatine Plates.
This debut is generally considered their best album. I haven't heard the second album, and it's been many a year since I heard Homonymie, almost to the point I don't trust my rating there.
LP: 1970 Pathe / EMI
CD: 2010 Culture Factory
The LP is a single sleeve with a catalog "tab" in the back. Like the RYM photo, mine has the 1971 sticker, so that would indicate a later press. The album sold well in its day, so it isn't too scarce.
For an album that was once popular, it had been surprisingly ignored in the reissue market, save for the always lame Mantra CD. This travesty was finally addressed by Culture Factory. The CD comes in a fine mini-LP styled cover, with an insert and a small history (in French). Best of all is that the CD has all 3 of their singles prior to the album proper, and each is just as good as the LP itself.
As to the music, Bodkin hit near the bulls-eye of that organ drenched heavy prog sound. Think of all of those 1971 albums on the German Bellaphon or Philips label. Or the original Vertigo Swirl label roster. Even the Canadian band Warpig. It's got that sound. All 5 tracks here are well played, with memorable melodies and progressions, and fine performances from all. The vocals have that husky "lost" tone, that was popular is those blues infected days. For reasons I could not articulate back to anyone, I didn't care for this album much when it first hit the CD circuit in 1989. My stance softened about 10 years later, and it has grown in stature since then. To me it definitely earns the Excellent rating.
CD: 1991 Witch and Warlock
As mentioned above, the story of the album itself is interesting. Popsike lists precisely one copy that has sold with the original cover (in 2012 - photo #1). It went for a cool $2300 and change (not shown on RYM as I write this). Most original copies out there in the wild did not have an album cover, and go for a much cheaper $1k (smirk) (photo #2). Sometime in the late 1980s, the album was released on vinyl in very limited quantities with paste on custom green or orange covers (photos #3 & #4), but weren't widely distributed at the time (at least that I can remember). In 1989, the German label Witch & Warlock debuted their catalog with a CD reissue of the album (with yet another different cover - photo #5). Ah, but you say, I know Witch & Warlock is a pirate concern right? Perhaps they ended up making poor decisions, but they didn't start out that way. Witch & Warlock are in fact the same guys behind the German Oak album. And I think we can safely presume they did not bootleg their own privately released album (though another story emerged in 2018 about this). The next CD on the label was Dom's Edge of Time, and while I later upgraded to the Second Battle versions (LP and CD), it's pretty apparent from the short notes on the CD that the members knew each other. Most everyone accepts this version as legit (though the sound wasn't improved upon at all). This was followed by an archival German Oak album, and then finally they decided to try their hand at needle drops and foregoing obtaining legal permission. (Confession: I still own their CD version of Diabolus and patiently await for a legit version to surface). They also issued two other albums from Scotland: Soho Orange and Tentacle - both of these being archival releases. Most websites consider these to be legit. And it makes sense, when you consider the German connection to the Bodkin album, as mentioned above. In any case, the CD was repressed multiple times, and it was many years later I picked it up again - mine being one of those reissues (originals are numbered with a different backplate).
Next up was the Akarma release (of course they'd get involved with something like this). And now we have our 5th unique cover (last photo)! This time it's quite extraordinary as the LP opens up as a multi part cross (similar to Necronomicon or Heaven's Brass Rock 1). This most assuredly is the definitive edition right? Wrong! What an utter disaster of a reissue. A needle drop (fine), but with skips and scratches (in the mastering!). C'mon, really? How stoned do you have to be? I eventually parted with it...
There is a legit LP that recently surfaced from England on the Acme label (and replicates the orange paste-on cover). I wouldn't have high hopes for a sonic revelation at this point.
Over the years, I began to embrace Bort's album on its own terms, ignoring the cultural backdrop. The irony here is that Bort had no business singing in English, and is really the only weak element on the album. The music here evolves greatly from the psychedelic folk rock of 'Thoughts', onto the progressive hard rocking 'Walking on the Grass', and finishes in superb symphonic fashion, with multiple themes, meter shifts, and mellotron galore. Overall an excellent pan-European styled progressive rock album and definitely well worth owning.
CD: 1989 Fonomusic
I never did improve upon the initial CD, which is as basic as it gets with a single tray card. But the sound is fine and from the master tapes. Original LPs come in a fine gatefold, and I wouldn't mind owning one myself, but as noted above, it's always been a bit pricey. Incidentally Fonomusic is Movieplay Ver 2.0.
Worth noting that the original and early reissues do not list a definitive date beyond the recording date of 1974. Later reissues appended a copyright of 1975, which appears to be the correct release year.
CD: 2004 PDI
I bring all of this up here in an Al Di Meola review, because this new chum also brought an entirely new music perspective with him. Unlike myself and my running set, he had no use for FM radio (i.e. AOR/MTV/Corp Rock), hard rock, or heavy metal - the latter being my first foray into collecting underground music. Oh no - this guy was already a well schooled audiophile, who had thousands of dollars of stereo equipment throughout the 15,000 sq ft mansion he lived in. He read all the magazines, and absorbed the music culture that went with it. And jazz fusion was the music of choice. I wouldn't have known what fusion was had it hit me in the nose back then. And his favorite guitarist was, ta-dah - Al Di Meola. And Elegant Gypsy, along with Casino, were LPs he played constantly while at his house shooting pool or playing ping pong. Eventually I bought up the Di Meola line through Electric Rendezvous, and then I exited for college.
There in college, of course, I met more people who were quite informed about music. It was also about the time that a one Yngwie Malmsteen entered stage right (who friend above and I discovered via the somewhat disappointing Steeler album). Then came all those tiresome debates, ones it seems I engaged in for far too long in life. Like "who's the fastest guitarist". And off went the arguments "Malmsteen only plays chromatic scales.." "Di Meola is a one trick pony". "Oh yea, well John McLaughlin blows them all away!"... Who's that I ask? And then I found myself loading up on Mahavishnu Orchestra albums. Ah you kids and the internet. In those days it was talk (none of this was on the radio) and used record stores if you wanted to learn about something.
Eventually I got worn out by all of that, and held Al Di Meola responsible for me not liking music that seemingly was all about technique. And it was in college that I was first discovering Krautrock and European underground prog rock - pretty much the polar opposite of the slick, audiophile friendly jazz fusion.
None of which was fair to our subject matter at hand. Eventually I went back to Elegant Gypsy and revisited it on its own terms - sold off the dogeared LP and purchased the CD - and heard it with a fresh pair of ears. Honestly the chops are only a part of Al Di Meola's repertoire, but I do think he's quite unheralded when it comes to songwriting. He's quite adept at that too, and every song here is enjoyable (with like-minded cohort Mingo Lewis penning the opener 'Flight Over Rio'). And 'Race with Devil on Spanish Highway' is what everyone else says - a brilliant track, the perfect combination of jazz fusion and prog rock. I don't agree with those who state Di Meola was retreading ground that Santana laid out. To me, we're talking two entirely different branches of Latin influenced music.
Nowadays, I may hear the album every few years, and this listen just confirmed again how enjoyable Elegant Gypsy really is. After knowing the album very well for 37 years, I can say that with conviction.
CD: 198? Columbia
One of those old school-no info CD's that proudly state "Now Made in the USA!". If you recall, CDs were originally made in Japan (and expensive at that), so it was something of a big deal when they became a domestic product. It's really too bad folks have moved away from CDs. I would expect a renaissance at some point.
And that's really too bad, as Down in the Village is quite an aural document. It's also one of those one song albums that will live on long past any of our lifetimes. In this case - as with most of the others I will mention - it has yet to be truly discovered. But even taking out said song, what we have here is a fine psych-blues-soul rock album from 1970. The title track is a good opening, but it's the potent 'Lena' that you will hear the mean psych streak that is an indicator of what to come. 'See No Evil' is another winning track. 'Goin Up the Road' is a decent blues rock song. The other 2 songs are throwaway soul numbers. Side 2 is much more consistent, with the final two tracks 'Hi Low' and 'Goodbye Cruel World' competing vigorously with 'Lena'. As a whole, this would be a 3.5 star album if it were not for...
...'Give You Plenty Lovin'' Oh my, what do we have here? The ultimate combination of freaked out psychedelic jamming with screams of madness, that's what. We are talking what Isaac Hayes and The Bar-Kays did with the face melting 'Do Your Thing'. Or when Del Jones goes deep into the abyss with 'Cold Turkey'. Or John L's pleas for help on 'Flowers Must Die'. We are talking goosebump inducing insanity of the highest order. It's hyper, intense, chaotic, and scary. I almost want to give this 4.5 because of it. I probably will one day. Maybe a proper reissue will unearth similar recordings... Oh we can dream can't we?
LP: 1970 Paramount
Never reissued legally, though the original LP can still be had for a reasonable sum. A gem in the rough if there ever was one.
LP: 1974 PLA
The single sleeve cover features a wonderful fantasy design. Still not reissued in any legal form.
LP: 1979 Erlkonig
Single sleeve. Not been reissued legit on LP or CD as I write this post.
LP: 1972 Elektra
Originals are housed in a single sleeve and come with a lyric insert.
As noted about the music above, it definitely wears its Rush patch proudly, as well as adding some metal crunch. Nothing too heavy mind you, and there's plenty of guitar solos in the 70s hard rock tradition. One can hear the same embryonic steps that Manilla Road were taking at a similar time, different place. Another reference would be the obscure Florida based group UHF. Easy recommendation for those predisposed to these kind of sounds. And we know who we are - don't we?
LP: 1987 Mausoleum (as Gypsy Roller) (Belgium)
The LP above is about the only affordable copy available. For a long while I hadn't realized it was the same album, and continued to wait for a decent priced copy of the original. Duh. Well anyway, I finally figured it out, and here we are. This one isn't going anywhere for a long time.
The first scan is the cassette, followed by the American Phonograph and Mausoleum LPs respectively.
LP: 2014 Long Hair (Germany)
A rare album in original form (on Philips). The reissue comes in a fine gatefold (like the original) with a short history insert. It appears the two CD reissues on Second Battle have become difficult to source.
LP: 1978 Gratte-Ciel
As I write this, no legit reissue exists in any format.
Then there's the presence of American WWII vet and famed jazzer Charlie Mariano on sax and flute. He was in his own discovery phase of life, moving on from his hometown Boston and his underground psych/prog/jazz group Osmosis, and digging deep into the European scene. It appears he spent most of 1973 in the Netherlands, first jamming with flutist Chris Hinze, before hooking up with Supersister - an odd combination that doesn't necessarily gel as one would hope (Supersister weren't a jazz group for certain). Mariano was to eventually head back to Germany and jam with Embryo for a couple of years, which was a better fit for the talented saxophonist.
Overall, Iskander is more consistent than its predecessor, but lacks the charm of the early albums. Objectively though, an excellent album if you approach it on its own terms.
CD: 1990 Polydor w/Spiral Staircase
Oddly this one I've never owned the original LP for even though it's not very expensive or hard to find. I should probably rectify that situation. My first copy was the French press (also from 1973) that I bought in the 80s. The CD is as basic as it gets, and shares a single disc with the lesser Spiral Staircase (IMO, one many disagree with). But the sound is excellent, and to my ears anyway, is better than the recent Esoteric remasters.
CD: 2002 Garden of Delights
I did once own the original LP, but traded it away for something presumably better. What that was, I cannot say. I want it back.
RUK really is an acronym, and stands for Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser. Obvious now, isn't it?
CD: 1989 Vinyl Magic
LP: 1999 Akarma
Well, the LP gatefold reissue is certainly nice looking. Would prefer an original, but this will have to do for now, given the exorbitant cost of such. I bought the CD upon release based on the reputation in various mail order catalogs of the day.
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