Jimmy, Yoko and Shin - Sei Shonagon. 1978 Japan

Even though Jimmy, Yoko and Shin are on the cult underground Japanese jazz label Three Blind Mice, their sole album is square-on progressive rock. There are 3 long tracks that are as much informed by ELP as they are by the Japanese freaky underground of Rock Joint Biwa and George Hirota. The latter groups are more evident in the indigenous vocal led sections. And occasionally they catch a toe-tapping groove with organ and piano jamming on top. To be truthful, there really is no other album like it, and as such it's truly a rare gem. It's a grower for sure.

Personal collection
CD: 2013 Think! / Three Blind Mice

A very obscure album that I never even heard of until about 3 years ago. Disc Union's Think!, the same label behind the Genshi Kyodotai reissue, has come to the rescue again. I believe Three Blind Mice is under the Sony brand now and this is a co-release. Absolutely fantastic sound and it really opened up the album for me. The CD comes in the now standard paper/cardboard miniature LP sleeve. Also features the original booklet insert. A fantastic reissue.

Flight - Incredible Journey. 1976 USA

Flight - Incredible Journey. 1976 Capitol

CD reissue: 2013 Eastworld (UK)

Packaging: "Incredible Journey" is a relatively common major label single sleeve release. As such, I was very surprised to see this title receive a CD reissue. Eastworld is an old school reissue label, similar to Wounded Bird. Straightforward late 80s styled jewel case reissues, with no bonus tracks or info beyond what was on the original LP - and in this case it includes the lyrics. But it's better than nothing. Definitely an album worth owning! No word on the debut album. Hopefully Eastworld considers that as well.

Notes: Florida based Flight's second album is a super tight and intense fusion like Return to Forever.... mixed with AOR Midwest styled 1970s FM pomp like Styx or Starcastle. Just the most bizarre blend of contrasting styles one can imagine. As if the band were made fun of for being musical wizards, so in order to be cool they put out crowd pleasing rock music. WTH? I like it in any case. One of a kind that's for sure.

Orange Peel - s/t. 1970 Germany

Orange Peel - s/t. 1970 Bellaphon

CD reissue: 2003 CMP

LP reissues: 2003 CMP; 2011 Long Hair

Packaging: Always a very rare album since I've been collecting from the 1980s, Orange Peel's one album was strictly fodder for bootleggers for many years. In fact, my introduction to the band was one of those pirate CDs in the mid 90s. When the CMP versions came out, there was quite a bit of doubt on the legitimacy of them. There wasn't a website, they were related to the dubious Green Tree, and the CDs came out in Digi-Pak's with not a lot of information, similar to the bootlegs of the day. I then inquired with a reliable music industry source in Germany, and sure enough, they are legit! They bought the rights to the Bellaphon catalog and released a few albums in 2003/2004 - and then disappeared (this is a different CMP to the label behind artists such as David Torn and Mark Nauseef). So I own that CD, and it remains the only legit CD released, which is kind of sad for such an important album. A couple of years after that, I lucked into an original LP on ebay for relatively cheap, and I will of course keep that for the duration. And finally, I did decide to go for the Long Hair LP reissue, mainly to hear the two bonus tracks, and to have the historical liner notes. And they did a fine job on both accounts. Now there is one small problem for purists, and I mentioned this on the Virus "Thoughts" review, and that is the colors are way too dark. The original, and the photo above is a good rendition, has some distinct colors to it. Otherwise they did faithfully reproduce the gatefold cover. It's just strange that the artwork is so dull on the reissues.

Notes: Orange Peel's sole album comprises of long tracks filled with improvisational Hammond organ and loud electric guitar solos. Similar to Eiliff and "Inside" era Eloy, though given the 1970 date: 1) Orange Peel were certainly groundbreaking for the burgeoning Krautrock movement and 2) they were more heavily influenced by the blues and American psychedelic than the two aforementioned groups. No doubt the UK bands such as Deep Purple weighed in heavily with Orange Peel as well. An extraordinary example of early Krautrock in the truest sense of the word. Long Hair LP release adds their rare 45 single, which displays their heavy blues rock disposition.

Space Debris - She's a Temple. 2013 Germany

Space Debris - She's a Temple. 2013 Breitklang (2 LP)

CD issue: 2013 Breitklang

Space Debris also have at least four live albums not included above. It would appear that Breitklang is the house label for the band.

Space Debris are a German band that have been releasing albums for over a decade, and if the debut title is an indicator, have been recording for close to two decades. Their albums have never been for sale here in America, or if they had, only from a specialist mail order house and for a short time. Which is surprising really, as I think they'd sell pretty well here - relatively speaking of course. Since I was already ordering from Green Brain in Germany for the Cosmic Circus Music (see UMR site), I decided to throw this one in to save on postage.  Besides it was co-released by Green Brain, and the European write-ups I'd seen gave this one a big thumbs up. As you can probably tell by my album cover display protocol, "She's a Temple" is the only album I own by them - though I do still have a CD-R copy of "Three" which was my introduction to the band. I found both albums to be similar which gives me no reason to believe the remaining albums are any more different than the other. Though I'm sure each album has their peaks and valleys. I would certainly enjoy hearing them all at some point to see for myself.

I would consider Space Debris a Jam Band first and Krautrock band second. Their approach to music is based on the long form improvisational jam centered around the soloists for guitar and organ. On "She's a Temple" there are eight tracks of which only two are less than 8 minutes. Melody and composition are non existent, except if they accidentally stumble into one. The guitarist plays in a fairly heavy style, fortunately just short of the stoner fuzz standard, and certainly not metal. The keyboardist lives for his Hammond organ and 70s era synthesizers and it is he, more than anyone else in the band, that gives Space Debris their Krautrock undertone. While not exactly Orange Peel and Eiliff, one could potentially see those bands playing in a similar style 40 years later. The rhythm section keeps things moving along, and it's clear they have a background in rock rather than jazz. I found myself enjoying the album most when they locked into a solid organ groove. Perhaps it's just not something I hear as much nowadays, compared to the dozens of guitar-centered bands out there. I would say for comparison sakes that Electric Orange, another contemporary German band, is just the flip of Space Debris - that is Krautrock first / Jam Band second. The brooding and hazy atmosphere of the classic German underground is mostly missing here. Perhaps the biggest giveaway was the English spelling of "Temple". Haha - well maybe?

I think by now you can tell if Space Debris are for you or not. Maybe not my favorite type of band, but certainly I found this album enjoyable, and it's staying here for the long run. It was worth importing.

Virus - Thoughts. 1971 Germany

Virus - Thoughts. 1971 Pilz

CD reissues: 1991 Bernhard Mikulski; 1997 Second Battle; 2014? Garden of Delights

LP reissues: 1982 Pop Import; 1999 Think Progressive; 2013 Long Hair

Packaging: One of the more sought after of the original Pilz albums. Like all on the label, it was adorned with a fine gatefold cover. Definitely one of the more obscure Pop Import reissues. I never knew it came out via that imprint, even though Pop Import albums were readily available to me at the local Dallas import stores throughout the 1980s. In fact, most of the hard rocking Pilz albums didn't get a Pop Import release - only the folk and cosmic albums did. As such, my first encounter with "Thoughts" was in 1991 with the original CD on Bernhard Mikulski, which is in effect the Pop Import of CD releases. Like all on the label, it's a straight reissue with no extras or anything. Perhaps unbelievably, this is still the CD I have in my collection for the album. There really wasn't any incentive to buy the Second Battle version, as all they did was add a digi-pak cover. However, GoD has announced their intention to reissue it again - and we know that they will do a thorough job. Since they released "Revelation" this year, I think 2014 is a reasonable expectation for "Thoughts". And I'm definitely buying. As for reissue LP's beyond the 1982 press, I did once own the Think Progressive - but it was just a straight reissue but it did faithfully duplicate the gatefold. I sold it eventually. And that gets us to the Long Hair LP, which I just picked up. Once again, it faithfully produces the gatefold and, as a major plus, features a full booklet insert filled with unique liner notes and photos, and includes two bonus tracks - both taken from the 1971 "Heavy Christmas" Pilz concept album. And Virus had two of the best cuts from that album, though they total less than 5 minutes together. Nice to have them though. On the downside, the cover image is too dark, and isn't a perfect representation of the original. An odd oversight I think, but it isn't the first time they've done this. And I will discuss that in my next post too. So I own the '91 CD and the '13 LP. At some point, I'd like to have an original LP too. It's a great album worthy of multiple copies.

Notes: For their second album, Virus changed radically, in both band members and music direction. Gone are the psychedelic workouts found on “Revelation” and instead the group focused on a more direct hard rock approach. They also switched to the Pilz label, and were representative of the label’s heavy rock groups, similar to McChurch Soundroom and Dies Irae. However, it can be argued that Virus were far superior to both in terms of instrumental dexterity and a stronger compositional base. In fact “Thoughts” stacks up with the best of the German heavyweights like Bellaphon’s Orange Peel or United Artist’s Twenty Sixty Six and Then. Hammond organ and guitar are the solo instruments of choice, and most of the tracks rock relentlessly hard. The vocals take a bit getting used to, as they are fairly rough and gravelly, but fits the music appropriately. There is a striking similarity to all the songs, that if not paying close attention, can begin to run together. What separates Virus from others, is a strong melodic sense, and a contrasting light touch concerning the rhythms. The organ is sometimes played with an almost jazzy like beat. Tracks like ‘Mankind, Where Do You Go To?’ and ‘My Strand-Eyed Girl’ are good examples of this song style. Rest assured, each track is chock full of blazing guitar and organ solos, while the rhythms section goes berserk trying to match the intensity. In this way, they resemble their peers in the UK like Warhorse or Atomic Rooster. Even a little Canterbury quirkiness can be spotted i.e. Egg. A great album and a must for the collector of early 70s heavy German rock.

Charlies - Buttocks. 1970 Finland

Charlies - Buttocks. 1970 Love

LP reissue: 2013 Shadoks (Germany)

Packaging: Like yesterday's KSS album, the only legit reissue of Charlie's "Buttocks" album is via an LP that came out only this year. Shadoks has stated they will not be doing the CD, so that would seem to indicate someone else will. Maybe Rocket Records, or Love themselves (who miraculously are still around, but through different owners as the original label went bankrupt in 1979). For over 20 years I just had a crappy bootleg LP of this (which I can now get rid of), so I willingly paid the "Shadoks premium" and bought the new reissue, and I was rewarded with copious liner notes and an overall fantastic job, as is their custom. Originals are almost non existent and very expensive - we're talking $1K or more here for one in quality shape. I'm sure I'll never own one, and to be honest the cover... leaves something to be desired. For such a great album, this one deserves a CD as well - and I will most certainly supplement the Shadoks LP with a legit CD if one surfaces.

Notes: Had you told me this was from 1970 England or 1971 Germany, I would have believed you. Fantastic loud acid guitar, amplified sax, soft acoustic guitar and flute, tribal percussion and deep vocals. It's the blues-rock-jazz sound that was so popular during this era, and one of my personal favorite styles. If you like groups from Germany such as Nosferatu, Ardo Dombec, and Alcatraz or the UK bands like Diabolus and Raw Material, then this one is for you. Very energetic release.

Kvartetten Som Sprangde - Kattvals. 1973 Sweden

Kvartetten Som Sprängde - Kattvals. 1973 Gump

CD reissue: none!

LP reissue: 2013 Subliminal Sounds

Sustain fuzz guitar, thick/wedgy Hammond B3, and Latin percussion. You are correct, Kvartetten Som Sprangde caught the Santana bug, and we're all the better for it. Of course I mean the Caravanserai era, so it's not like KSS had to change their evil ways... baby. Though I've seen some people vehemently disagree with me regarding Santana. Yea? Go have a listen to 'Andesamba' and tell me that's not an outtake from a Lotus era concert. C'mon... Of course they weren't content to just play the style of music of Carlos and company, but also ported that same instrumentation while adding in more traditional Scandinavian folk scales similar to how Kebnekaise employed the exact same technique. There's definitely an undercurrent of the early 70s Nordic jazz culture as well, clearly informed by the Swedish headliners of the day like Bjorn J:Son Lindh and Sabu Martinez. Fans of instrumental progressive jazz rock will not want to miss this one.

Similar to the Resan album we covered earlier this year, Subliminal Sounds has gone forward with an exact LP reissue but not a CD to date. I bought this version because a) I enjoy Reine Fiske's outstanding and thorough liner notes and b) My original vinyl isn't in the best of shape. But if a CD came forth, I would buy it as well and own all 3 copies. I hope they consider doing just that (along with Resan!). A pirate CD exists, so beware of that.

Last update: July 10, 2016 

Gunter Schickert – Kinder in der Wildnis. 1983 Germany

Gunter Schickert – Kinder in der Wildnis. 1983 YHT (UK). Cassette only release.

Other Gunter Schickert features on the UMR

CD reissue: 2013 Bureau B

LP reissue: 2013 Bureau B

Cassette reissue: 1986 Auricle (UK)

CD-R reissue: 2002 Auricle (UK)

Release details: Originally released as a cassette on York House Tapes (first scan), it was followed by a cassette second press on Auricle (second scan), and later a CD-R from the same label (third scan). Finally the album has landed on a durable format courtesy of Bureau B (last scan). I picked up the CD for myself, and it comes with newly written historical notes and two very good and relevant bonus tracks. The sound is fantastic all things considered, much better than the cassette dub I had. An excellent package overall.

Notes: Gunter Schickert's "Kinder in der Wildnis" was itself an archival release compiled between 1981 and 1983 and released on the obscure York House Tapes due to a recommendation from the Freeman Brothers (Ultima Thule / Audion). As such, the music has a variety of styles, but all based on the patented cosmic sound-on-sound guitar style that Schickert had been performing since his "Samtvogel" album. There's a bit more of a rock element here, with nods to the NDW sound that was dominating the German underground at the time. The rockier sound also points to his days with the GAM ensemble he had formed in the mid 70s. As usual, there are all kinds of echoed vocals, from various sources. These augment the non-stop psychedelic guitar patterns, for a truly hypnotic experience. One of Germany's most innovative artists - quite a compliment considering the fertile scene from which he came from.

Last update: September 27, 2015

Il Tempio delle Clessidre - AlieNatura. 2013 Italy

Il Tempio delle Clessidre - AlieNatura. 2013 Black Widow

CD issues: 2010 Black Widow; 2013 Arcangelo (Japan mini-LP)

Three years later, we have Il Tempio delle Clessidre's second album AlieNatura. Gone is Galifi, who left to help restart Museo Rosenbach (and what a reformation it is!), and in his place is the also talented Francesco Ciapica. It's apparent, to me anyway, that Mr. Ciapica studied Mr. Galifi pretty intently, as the delivery is very similar, though a different tone to be certain. Musically, Il Tempio delle Clessidre continue very much in the same vein as the debut. Since they had to grind through their debut to find their own style, I'd say the followup is far more consistent.  But I also found that it didn't possess the same amount of peak moments either. Not sure if the "reckless abandonment of amateurs" aspect has been dulled somewhat, and Il Tempio delle Clessidre see themselves as being more professional. It's been my experience that bands who take the approach Il Tempio delle Clessidre has, have actually garnered more support, and I tend to be in the minority regarding this phenomena. Make no mistake, composers Fabio Grema and Ms. Montaldo still know how to compose an intense (or melodic) break like the best of the early 70s Italian masters would. I felt this album was a slight step down, but nevertheless still comes highly recommended. Like any great progressive rock album, Il Tempio delle Clessidre's sophomore album will require many listens to digest. Yet another winner from the landmark 2013 year for Italy!

Ingranaggi della Valle - In Hoc Signo. 2013 Italy

Ingranaggi della Valle - In Hoc Signo. 2013 Black Widow

CD issue: 2013 Black Widow

And continuing on with the Italian theme, here is perhaps the best new group to land on the scene this year: Ingranaggi della Valle. The band combines musical skill with a nervous energy, to produce one of the more kinetic albums of 2013. They possess a certain nimble dexterity that is missing in many of the plodding bands of our era. The vocals, in Italian of course, are delivered powerfully while the compositions never sit still too long for complacency to settle in. In addition to the usual bank of analog keyboards (Mellotron, Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes, Mini Moog, plus many more), a dedicated vocalist, electric / acoustic guitars, percussion - the quintet features a full time violinist. There is an undercurrent of jazz here, especially concerning the rhythms, though it's far closer to instrumental progressive rock than fusion. Deus Ex Machina (minus the Demetrio Stratos styled vocals), and by extension, DFA (Duty Free Area) are the guideposts here. This is a brilliant debut.

Capsicum Red - Appunti per un'Idea Fissa. 1972 Italy

Capsicum Red - Appunti per un'Idea Fissa. 1972 Bla Bla

CD reissues: 1999 Vinyl Magic; 2011 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissue: 2008 Vinyl Magic

Packaging: For yesterday's entry regarding Alain Eckert Quartet, I stated that if there ever was an album where buying the CD was more preferable than the original, then that was the one. Today, I will say the opposite: If there ever was an album to buy the original LP rather than a reissue, Capsicum Red is the one. Like most people, I discovered this album via the Vinyl Magic CD. It sounds horrible. I'd always been told the original vinyl was a mess, and that the masters were gone. I was fortunate to buy an original this year for a decent price (photo above is that album), and it changed my perspective on the album. Like all originals of this title, the sound has quite a bit of background noise (the original inner sleeve has a rough inside, which causes serious scuffing) - but much of the album rocks hard enough to obfuscate the noise. The CD's of this sound terrible in comparison. As I suspected (privately), the production wasn't the problem (though let's not get carried away, it's not incredible by any stretch). There's really no reason for this - as even a straight needle drop would sound better than what it's in the market. For me, it adds a solid half star (RYM) to my rating. I also do own the Japanese mini-LP for the packaging, but it's sourced/licensed/re-engineered from the Italian CD.

Notes: Capsicum Red are yet another Italian beat/pop group who attempted a jump on the Italian progressive rock bandwagon. In the same league as J.E.T., but no one killer cut like "Fede, Speranza, Carita". Still a fine effort if you can look past the production.

Alain Eckert Quartet - s/t. 1981 France

When I think of terms like "avant progressive", the music of the Alain Eckert Quartet is exactly what I expect. Like an earlier version of Forgas Band Phenomena, or a more playful and less serious Univers Zero. Compositionally strong, with a penchant for jazz, though a bit academic, without a strong sense of a groove. A good one for the brain, but perhaps lacking a bit in excitement.

The 31 minutes of live material as only found on the Soleil Zeuhl CD absolutely DESTROY the studio material. Here The Alain Eckert Quartet is ON FIRE, in the same zone as you might find Magma on their Live album - with killer Zeuhl bass, wild fuzz guitar soloing, insane drumming, and staccato piano. Stunning really.

Personal Collection
CD: 2013 Soleil Zeuhl

The original vinyl is housed in a typical early 80s austere single sleeve cover. My first exposure to the album was buying a copy off of ebay in the mid 2000s. If there was ever an album to get the reissue CD of rather than the original LP, it's this one. Not only do you get the usual Soleil Zeuhl high quality production with great sound, liner notes, and photos - but you also get two critical bonus tracks that are not to be missed. Read above. This album was on our CDRWL as a Priority 3 for many years. Had I known about the bonus material, most assuredly it would have been Priority 1. Update: I decided to part with the LP. The CD is all I need here.

Last update: August 5, 2017

Unreal City - La Crudelta di Aprile. 2013 Italy

Unreal City - La Crudelta di Aprile. 2013 Mirror (CD)

A couple of months back I was featuring the incredible renaissance we've experienced the last few years with the classic Italian progressive rock scene. Perhaps unbelievably, I was only about half way when I was forced to stop due to that everyday pesky life event we call a job.

As I'm sure you deduced by now, Unreal City is yet another new participant. Mirror Records presented us earlier in the year with Oxhuitza, a band that blended both old school Italo progressive rock (especially regarding the analog keyboards) with more modern sounds like metal guitar. For those who didn't care for the latter element, then Unreal City will most likely be more to your taste. There's a considerable amount of mellotron on here, though much of it sounds sampled to me (Planet Mellotron has given them the benefit of the doubt for now, querying the public for more info). In the end, it doesn't really matter much to me, as I love the sound - sampled or not. The guest violin adds a much welcomed ingredient. And the pipe organ recalls that old 1972 chestnut Il Paese dei Balocchi. Unreal City strike me as band that will be quickly dismissed by those saying it's "all been done before". Conversely, diehard fans will embrace it without too much questioning. I'm a diehard, and yes, I really like it for certain. I will admit nothing struck out in a head-turning way, like the very best Italian albums can, though I didn't hear anything cringe-worthy either. The style by itself allows for various interpretations of the same song over multiple listens. That's the beauty of it - there's so much to digest, each listen has its own rewards. And you will for certain get your money's worth with Unreal City, an album chock full of twists, turns, and great invention. I very much look forward to their next release!

Les Goths - Reve de Silence. 1968 France

Les Goths - Reve de Silence. 2011 Shadoks (Germany). Archival recordings from 1968

Packaging: This fine archival package was released on both vinyl and CD by Shadoks. Features full liner notes regarding the history, and plenty of photos. I currently own only the CD.

Notes: Here we have an insane psychedelic blues archival album from France, not a country normally known for such things - at least not in the late 60s. There's not a whole lot in the way of song craft here, but who cares really when you have this kind of insane fuzz guitar coupled with the frenetic drumming. Not to mention the spaced out vocals in English, French, and Mitterrand's personal burden: Franglais. Had Chico Magnetic Band released their album in 1968 rather than 1971, then this would have been a reasonable facsimile of such a fantasy. Quite an incredible find from the good folks at Shadoks. Highly recommended.

Polyphony - Without Introduction. 1972 USA

Polyphony are a complex and intense American progressive rock band from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Without Introduction brings forth an enormous amount of energy. Loud guitar, shredding organ, two hyperactive percussionists, and hazy psychedelic vocals is what you'll find here. ELP's Tarkus suite seems to be the main influence here, with a bit more of that American rough and tough edge, not to mentioned the heavy guitar presence. 'Juggernaut' is the pick of the litter, but the entire 37 minutes is well spent. I've always found it a bit surprising this album isn't more revered, as I find it among America's finest progressive rock albums from the early 1970s along with Metaphysical Animation and Ram's Where In Conclusion.

Personal collection
LP: 1972 Eleventh Hour

CD: 2011 Belle Antique

For years this album had more boots than a shoe store. I ultimately plunked down some serious coin for an original LP, which is certainly worth it when you consider the artwork of the cover. Plus it sounds great! The Gear Fab CD finally gave the album a legitimate release. It's obviously taken from vinyl (masters are long gone) that inexplicably skips the first 10 second or so, and the overall package is typical of Gear Fab: Single tray card with liners... and that's it. But at least those notes cleared up the date issue, stating it was from 1972 rather than the assumed 1971. My guess is they were printed up before they received Glenn Howard's liners. Mike Diana's story corroborates the 1972 date. But it's legit and we'll take what we can.  Oct 2016 update: I've also since picked up the Belle Antique CD version. The good news is that even though Belle Antique licensed it from Gear Fab, they did remaster the contents, and fixed the screw-ups that Gear Fab produced. And with the beautiful cover reproduced precisely, I would recommend this as the CD route to go.

Last update: October 14, 2016

After All - s/t. 1969 USA

After All - s/t. 1969 Athena

CD reissues: 2000 Gear Fab; 2011 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissues: 2000 Gear Fab; 2013 Out-Sider (Spain)

Packaging: An original will set you back anywhere from $200 to $400 depending on condition and market dynamics. This is an album that I somehow missed entirely until a couple of months ago, so I just picked up the Gear Fab CD, which is pretty scarce nowadays (though still available new if you look hard enough). The CD is typical barebones Gear Fab fodder, with a single tray card. But at least they utilize that one slip with unique liner notes. And it's legit, and sounds great. I don't think the single sleeve cover warrants the extra expenditure for the Japanese mini in this case. With that in mind, I doubt I'll pursue an LP in either original or reissue form.

Notes: Put me in the contingent that claims After All's sole album to be unheralded. I also have to agree with those that say this sounds more like what was coming out of England during this time, rather than the capital of Florida. A superb example of psychedelic rock within a jazzy framework. Fantastic Hammond and guitar leads. Side 1 is particularly excellent, and the opener 'Intangible She' has to rank amongst the best tracks I've heard in the genre. Side 2 drops off a bit, but there's some fine songwriting throughout.

Ampledeed - A is for Ampledeed. 2013 USA

Ampledeed - A is for Ampledeed. 2013 private (CD)

Ampledeed is a new group from the Los Angeles area, who clearly have an affinity for the classic early 70s Canterbury scene - unwittingly it may appear. The genre itself has always been a favorite of the UTR, due to its highly appealing combination of melody and complexity. Other characteristics include fuzzy psychedelic tones and a jazzy rhythmic base. And the well studied Ampledeed succeed on all 4 accounts. Of course, much of the "analog" keyboard tones are derived from samples, but that's a small thing. It's the sound itself that counts, right? What's interesting to me is that the band themselves do not indicate that they know Caravan, Soft Machine, National Health, but rather the usual suspects of Pink Floyd, Yes, and King Crimson. So perhaps they came to the same conclusion of Dave Stewart and company, rather than as a direct influence. Even better as far as I'm concerned. I found myself, predictably I realize, enjoying the instrumental work as some of the vocal oriented songs can drag a bit. Really curious where the band goes from here.

No vinyl issues exist.

Last update: December 29, 2016

Major Surgery - The First Cut. 1977 England

Major Surgery - The First Cut. 1977 Next

CD reissue: 2013 Proper

Packaging: In look, sound, and feel, Major Surgery's album appears older than 1977. It seems like a 1971 release. This was an AC discovery from early last year, and I subsequently bought the LP not long after, not expecting a CD reissue anytime soon. So indeed the CD came as a real surprise. Proper is a label with many titles, but this is the first time they've intersected with the UMR. The reissue is excellent. Comes in a fine digi-pak, with a separate booklet containing archival photos. A short bio and one bonus track round out this fine package. I currently own both this CD and the original LP.

Notes: From my point of view, there is a big difference between fusion and jazz rock. Fusion, as typified by bands like Return to Forever or Weather Report, is instrumental rock music played by jazz guys. It would almost seem the perfect marriage of the two genres: Virtuoso players tackling the meatier rock angst and sounds. But like any genre, there are some albums with depth and others that are pretty transparent. Jazz rock, on the other hand, is usually a jazz album with rock instrumentation sprinkled throughout. Fusion was more of a mid to late 1970s thing. Jazz rock was more typical at the turn of the 1970 decade, when the creativity of rock was capturing the imagination of jazzers tiring of the same ole, same ole. Major Surgery is a great example of jazz rock, and very much a sound out of vogue for 1977.

The AC sums up: "Jazz-rock rarity from this largely unknown unit, led by saxophonist Don Weller. He and drummer Tony Marsh would go on to become fairly well-known figures in the UK jazz scene, but of perhaps greater interest to prog fans is that the guitar here is handled by Jimmy Roche, who once played with the great East of Eden. His playing here is in a sort of jumpy, Larry Coryell-esque style that I find highly appealing. This stuff is definitely coming from the jazzier end of the jazz-rock spectrum, and being sax-fronted and lacking any sort of keyboard presence..."

Gringo - s/t. 1971 England

Gringo - s/t. 1971 MCA. Released in multiple countries including on Decca in the US.

CD reissues: 2000 Audio Archives; 2013 Gonzo

Gringo on their sole album present a very intriguing mix of UK styled proto progressive with female vocals, and American harmonized pop-psych. With the progressive opener 'Cry the Beloved Country', Gringo can easily be placed with contemporaries like Room or Goliath for example. But Gringo also look back in time to fellow countrymen The Animals and their edgy psychedelic work. And then there's the pop psych angle, and the female lead harmony work recall The Mamas & The Papas, as well as The Association at times. Gringo is worth seeking out for serious progressive rock archivists. 

I love the Art Deco styled painting that adorns the cover. The AA CD was always hard to find, and there seemed to be (at the time) authenticity questions surrounding it. Soon after, an outright bootleg appeared on the scene. So it is much welcome to see the new Gonzo release, which features unique liner notes written from each member of the band + many photos. Also features 2 short bonus tracks.

Last update: August 31, 2016

Cosmic Circus Music - Wiesbaden 1973. Germany

Cosmic Circus Music - s/t. 1972 private. Cassette only release.

CD reissue: 2013 Garden of Delights. Released as "Wiesbaden 1973". (And, as it turns out, different than the above cassette)

Packaging: It's hard to discern if the cassette was ever available for purchase. I had been lead to believe you could obtain it via mailorder back in the 70s. The GoD liner notes mention the cassette, but mainly as the private property of the one who recorded it (see the bottom of this section for more explanation). Apparently the tape is filled with 90 minutes of music, and they had to shorten it for the CD to 82 minutes. (As as aside, I learned that they now have CDs that can go as long as 90 minutes, but not many of the players can replay that much back. I'm not familiar enough with the technology to understand that aspect). As well, we learned the concert was longer than 90 minutes, and some of the missing time was between "Side 1" and "Side 2" when they had to flip the cassette over. Ah, the good old days...  Anyway, the CD is fantastic, filled with informative liner notes and photos. And most certainly the best sound possible, though it will never be perfect. It wasn't meant for release in the first place.

---UMR's friend Achim from Germany further clarifies the situation above: "I just picked up the Cosmic Circus CD. As I understand from the German booklet notes, there are (or were) two tapes. Or, that is the most logical explanation of the text. One was recorded at "some festival" in 1972 (featuring a 45 minute version of Sternenmaskerade) was supposed to be released as tape by Andromeda Press (and mentioned in the article by German magazine Sounds). This got never officially released, but apparently some copies exist, maybe privately distributed by the band members. Another one was recorded in July 1973 by Muck Krieger and was not meant to be released back then. This was rediscovered some time ago, now shortened to 80 minutes and released  by Gardens of Delights." Then it must have been the "Andromeda Press" album that I believe I first heard. Which explains the difference between the 1972 and 1973 dates. And would seem to indicate they are different albums! I will leave everything here in any case. I don't think I have the energy to update RYM and Gnosis :-)

American buyers: Even though this CD was released over 9 months ago, it has yet to hit the shores of North America. I finally gave up waiting and imported a copy from Germany myself.  German retailer Green Brain has them relatively cheap via ebay, even with the higher postage costs. I recommend them highly.

Notes: The music is fantastic. That unique cosmic Krautrock blend that recalls luminaries such as Agitation Free, The Cosmic Jokers, Dom, and Yatha Sidhra. Cosmic Circus Music is essentially a jam band, but is absolutely dripping with atmosphere that was typical of early 70s Germany. If you're a fan of this style, then you won't want to miss this CD.

Siddhartha - Trip to Innerself. 1998 Turkey

Siddhartha - s/t. 1998 private (CD)

CD reissue: 2009 Trail (USA). Reissue of the above (as Trip To Innerself) with a complete new re-edit, and a couple of additions/subtractions.

I've often thought that Turkey is a country that could - perhaps should - produce amazing psychedelic space rock albums. The indigenous music culture alone, outside of any rock influence, speaks to the exotic and... well... the psychedelic. But it really hasn't happened that way, even if you consider the more known stars of the 1970s like Baris Manco and Erkin Koray. Siddhartha at least made a sincere attempt at mixing the music of East and West. Though unfortunately it weighs too much towards the latter, and ultimately sounds like any number of bands from Europe emulating the various stages of instrumental Pink Floyd and the like. Still, there's much to admire here, in particular the title track, 'The Explorer', and especially 'Nervous Breakdown'. 

For Middle Eastern psychedelic cosmic rock, it's hard to beat Agitation Free's "Malesch" (Germany 1972). And for modern bands, Astrakhan's Vespero is the gold standard for such a sound. But there's never too much of this type of music as far as I'm concerned, and I do hope Siddhartha do consider reforming in some form or fashion. Though it appears that one of the key contributors - namely Özgür Kurcan - sadly passed away in 2011.

Phase - Midnight Madness. 1979 USA

Phase - Midnight Madness. 1979 Red Mark

LP reissue: 1981 private (as Fusion Quartet - Comprovisations)

CD reissue: 2013 Modulus (mini-LP)

Packaging: Scarce as an original, but not particularly expensive, Phase's one album pretty much escaped everyone's radar until Midwest Mike discovered it a couple of years ago. His discovery lead directly to the CD reissue, as well as our entry into the CDRWL. The 1981 second press has a different cover, band name and title. Ken reissued the CD with the preferable original cover, in exact detail similar to how the Japanese do it. The booklet contains unique liner notes from the participants from the original recording, plus the ultra-technical music geek notes from the LP (as the AC so appropriately put it). A superb reissue, that all fans of progressive fusion should look into. I own the original LP and now the CD.

Notes: Phase is smoking fusion first, instrumental progressive rock second. A great mix of instrumental dexterity, with complex compositions and ferocious playing. RTF meets Kenso; or Iceberg meets Transit Express for a more obscure reference.

Much more info here.

Yuji Imamura & Air - s/t. 1977 Japan

Yuji Imamura & Air - s/t. 1977 Three Blind Mice.

With the Holidays coming up, hopefully I'll have a little more time for posting on my three blogs. I've certainly fallen way behind here.

So let's continue our Japanese jazz rock theme with Yuji Imamura & Air.

CD reissues: 2001 Three Blind Mice; 2013 Sony/Three Blind Mice (mini-LP)

Packaging: As I just recently mentioned on the CDRWL, Three Blind Mice have gained a cult following amongst jazz rock aficionados. Original LPs are more scarce than expensive. The 2001 CD had become nigh impossible to find (believe me here, I was looking for it for about 4 years). So I was quite enthused to see a repress, this time in the mini-LP format. The cover is a standard single sleeve, so no real need for the upgrade if you already have the original CD. I was just glad to get any CD of it - and this is the copy I own.

Notes: Two side long tracks clearly influenced by the deep funk groove of mid 70s Miles Davis albums like "Dark Magus", "Agharta", and "Pangaea". No trumpet, but the saxophone is instead treated to sound similar. Much more flute and spaced out than classic Miles, but still plenty of wah wah guitar and dual percussion to get down with. A few jazzers from Japan were highly influenced by Miles Davis, and percussionist Imamura is one of the finest emulators I've heard to date. Good album.

Takeshi Inomata & Sound Limited - Sounds of Sound L.T.D. 1970 Japan

Takeshi Inomata & Sound Limited - Sounds of Sound L.T.D. 1970 Nippon Columbia.

CD reissues: 2007 P-Vine; 2013 P-Vine (mini-LP)

Packaging: We featured Takeshi Inomata & Sound Limited's "Innocent Canon" back in March, and interestingly enough, has proven to be the second most popular post on UMR according to blogspot. The situation with vinyl and CD are almost exact as with that album, except the new "Sounds of Sound LTD" is in the mini-LP format (single sleeve cover). And that's the version I own.

Notes: Nice bit of psych exploitation from Japanese jazz group. Beautiful flute/Hammond driven soundtrack styled pieces ('Theme-Mustache', 'Monster', 'Lullaby for Yuh' (haha, yea that's the spelling), 'Theme') are offset unexpectedly by the one 7 minute freakout on here: 'Scotland Scene', with its massive fuzz bass and psychotic electric guitar leads. Not near as insane (or frankly as sublime) as the 1971 followup "Innocent Canon", but this album is a heck of a lot of fun. Pick it up if you see it.

Embryo - Opal. 1970 Germany

Embryo - Opal. 1970 Ohr

Other UMR features on Embryo

CD reissues: 1990 Materli Sonori (Italy); 1997 Materli Sonori (Italy); 2013 Belle Antique (Japan mini)

LP reissues: 1990 Materli Sonori (Italy); 1997 Think Progressive; 2010 Wah Wah (Spain); 2010 Get Back (Italy)

Release details: Embryo's debut was one of the original 5 Ohr albums, each featuring a unique gatefold cover of painted body parts. In the middle of the front cover, there was a slit that contained a balloon (like the auction photo above). For those with the balloon fully intact, the prices can soar over $500. On the reissue front, it's surprising to see that no indigenous label has taken this on, especially given its historical importance from one of Germany's most uncompromising and famous underground bands. Surprisingly, the Italian label Materli Sonori has managed to exclusively hold onto the rights of the first two Embryo albums. I believe the reason is that Embryo had moved to that Italian label for their new material in the 1980s, and they bought out the rights at that time. Not until 2013 did we finally see a Japanese mini, and given the cool cover, this is the copy I now own. The Belle Antique version, like all Japanese mini's, is true to the original and includes a balloon in a plastic package. None of the reissues sound great and are slightly muddy (and as you can see I've managed to own them all at one point or another), as I'm sure the source doesn't either. But I've never owned an original to confirm that. However, all the CDs feature the 26 minute bonus track, which I discuss below. As for the LP reissues, all of the above are fine reissues that come in a gatefold, minus the balloon. I've had the first two at one point or another, but decided to move them out years ago. I wouldn't mind having an original, but they are consistently expensive.

Notes: "Opal" is very different from the later works by this excellent long running band. Indeed it is an embryonic version of the group. It's mostly psych rock with jazz elements and is fairly straightforward and harmless overall. Two distinguishing songs take it higher: 'Revolution' is a fun instrumental and danceable jazz rock track, that you actually see more in the TV/films of the day (with "wild dancing teenagers" and hair flailing about) than what you would hear on album. 'People From Out the Space' is definitely the highlight - brilliant in fact - not only foreshadowing the sublime "Embryo's Rache" album, but it also fully captures the zeitgeist of the early Krautrock movement. On the other hand 'Glockenspiel' is an annoying attempt at the era's free jazz movement, and is completely at odds with the musical approach of "Opal". 

While I wouldn't want a reissue without the two bonus tracks, I don't personally consider them enhancements to the overall package. 'Lauft' is a loose 26 minute sax, bass, and drums jam with no peak moments. Excellent archival material that tells the whole story, but not necessarily good music. 

Last update: July 25, 2015

Blim - Zero + No Frills. 1992-1993 England

Blim - Zero. 1992 private (MC)
Blim - No Frills. 1993 private (MC)

CD reissue: 2013 private (both albums on a 2 CD set)

Packaging: The originals were cassette only. I remember seeing both of these in the early 90s through the old Freak Emporium catalogs (back when they were still paper!), but never ventured to try them. Only within the last 6 years or so, did I finally hear them. They were instant hits with me, and were promptly labeled "Priority 2" for my CDRWL. And now we have a wonderful 2 CD set (last photo), with additional bonus tracks on each album. Almost 2.5 hours of quality music here! About the only thing missing are historical liner notes, though as long as their website is up, you can read about Blim there.

Notes: Outstanding festival psychedelic space rock band. Blim were an offshoot of Omnia Opera and were originally intended to be a more progressive variation of the already excellent parent band. And they achieved just that. If you ever wanted to hear Ozric Tentacles take things to a more complex level, Blim is your chance to hear it! Also reminds me some of Mandragora's earlier works, when they were experimenting with various styles and structures. These are two of the best albums I've heard from the entire festival scene. Brilliant guitar work throughout. I would say that "No Frills" is the more complex, aggressive, and less spacey of the two. It also features a more professional sound, and I think it's the better of the two albums. Having said that, both albums feature a much better production than many of the cassette releases of the day.

Poobah - Steamroller. 1979 USA

Poobah - Steamroller. 1979 Peppermint

CD reissues: 2005 Monster; 2009 Rockadrome

Packaging: And once again, another rare American private hard rock album. Poobah are more known than the other two we just posted, and this is their 3rd album. Originals cost about the same as the Survivor album. Given the high quality of the album, as I describe below, it's no surprise to me that the resuscitated Monster via the Rockadrome brand, started with Poobah's superb 3rd album. Worth noting that Monster altered the track order, much to its benefit I think. The second cover is the Monster CD. The Rockadrome version changed the cover slightly again, but I'm too lazy to copy it in. I own the Monster CD myself.

Notes: Not deterred after not being signed to a major label for "US Rock" (1976), Gustafson reformed the band again, and released one of the best hard rock albums for the entire 1970s in “Steamroller”. Not prog or psych or metal, just plain old hard rock. Power trio hard rock the way a band from Youngstown, Ohio oughta be. These guys just kick ass on the album from the beginning to the end. If you at all have interest in the US Midwest private hard rock scene, this is the album to get. 

We covered off on Poobah's debut "Let Me In "a couple of years ago. As far as I know, "US Rock" has yet to be reissued.

Survivor - All Your Pretty Moves. 1979 USA

Survivor - All Your Pretty Moves. 1979 private

CD reissue: 2003 Monster

Packaging: Similar story to yesterday's Amulet, though a bit easier to score an original. And the CD on Monster is top drawer, which is the only version I own.

Notes: Not the ‘Eye of the Tiger’ bunch, but a much better than average early heavy metal group from Shreveport, Louisiana, saved from complete obscurity by the good folks at Monster Records. The vocalist is a slightly less forceful Rob Halford sound-alike, and the songwriting is up to the “Sad Wings of Destiny” standard of sophisticated hard rock. Even has a killer long track called ‘Deceive Me’. Hmmm.. wonder where that idea came from? Thin Lizzy and Led Zeppelin are other groups the band list as references and certainly the former makes plenty of appearances throughout.

Amulet - s/t. 1980 USA

Amulet - s/t. 1980 Shadow

CD reissue: 2000 Monster

Packaging: The original LP is a typical bare bones single sleeve from the USA. If you saw this in a used record store, you would know instantly it was a private release and probably worth money. And it is (expect to pay between $100-$200 for a nice copy depending on the week and who is watching). So somewhat still affordable if you're a hardcore private press hard rock fan. The only CD is from Monster, who later became Rockadrome. They remain the gold standard for hard rock reissues, with solid liner notes, great sound, etc...

Notes: If you’re looking for the real deal when talking the late 70s American underground hard rock guitar scene, then Indiana's Amulet is for you. You can’t fake this. There’s nothing flashy, slick, pretentious, or commercial about this release. Just a bunch of guys who gave you an honest dollar’s performance, because they knew their audience didn’t have much scratch to spare. Straight from the mines to the dimly lit tavern for some Falstaff and an evening of rockin' with Amulet. And if the groupie girls were there... well... then... the night was to be remembered forever.

Space Circus - Fantastic Arrival. 1979 Japan

Space Circus - Fantastic Arrival. 1979 RCA

CD reissues: 1991 Made in Japan; 2008 BMG (mini-LP)

Packaging: Original is a single sleeve cover with a really cool astronauts on fire cover. Like almost all Japanese reissues, there are no liners in English available.The first CD reissue was always a bear to find. After many years of being absent from the shelves, the mini-LP from BMG filled the gap - though this version too looks to be slipping into the collector's market. 

Notes: Whereas Space Circus' debut "Funky Caravan" traded in on the cliches of the late 70s era - fat funky bass lines, and overall danceable jazz rock - "Fantastic Circus" reaches further back into the fusion canon and emulated no less a luminary than Mahavishnu Orchestra. As the album cover demonstrates, this is one fiery affair certain to light you up. By far the better of their two albums.

Ptarmigan - s/t. 1974 Canada

Ptarmigan - s/t. 1974 Columbia

CD reissues: 1999 Groovedigger (CD-R); 2005 Lion (USA)

Packaging: Original is a single sleeve with a black border, and is definitely not common. My introduction to the album came in the early 1990s via a bootleg LP which doesn't have the border. And I still own this copy (gasp!). Hopefully one day I'll get the original. The first CD on the scene was actually a CD-R release by the band under the name Nordstrom/Dias. It came with a very informative booklet on computer paper. Six years later, Lion reproduced this as a CD with a more professional looking booklet, and even added more information to it. And that's the CD version I own.

Notes: Ptarmigan's sole album starts with the impression that this will be a typical acoustic guitar / vocal fronted folk album. But all bets are off starting with 'The Island', an extraordinary composition with haunting recorders (alto, tenor, and bass), thrashing acoustic guitars, otherworldly percussion, scattered drums, spastic acoustic/electric bass, and some mystical dual harmonic male vocals. At once you hear the serenity of Popol Vuh, the weirdness of Might of Coincidence, combined with something perhaps completely unknown. As the album delves deeper into the recesses of its own world, it becomes clear we are hearing something of the brilliant. Each composition is distinct, but uniquely Ptarmigan. Perhaps it's because of the isolated locale of the band as they resided on Vancouver Island (a remote wilderness area across the channel from the city).

I don't think Columbia wanted any part of this, but the influence of one Paul Horn managed to get the recording released on the major imprint a full year after being mixed in 1973. And it sold all of about 12 copies, hence its rarity today. OK, maybe 25...

Do not miss this gem if you get a chance. Truly one of a kind, though within the context of the familiar.

Broselmaschine - s/t. 1971 Germany

Bröselmaschine - s/t. 1971 Pilz

CD reissues: 1994 Spalax (France); 1999 Zyx; 2013 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissues: 1982 Pop Import; 2007 Wah-Wah (Spain)

Release details: And speaking of 1971 Pilz, here's another one that features a very fine gatefold cover. Unlike Ardo Dombec, this one did receive a Pop Import reissue. And it's that version I owned for many years, and was my introduction to the album. Eventually I bought the Spalax reissue that came in a nice digi-pak. And I just now supplanted that with the excellent mini-LP packaging from Belle Antique. Originals have remained very expensive, in fact even more so than their siblings Hoelderlin's "Traum" and Emtidi's "Saat", though I consider this album to be inferior to those. 2015 update: I received the original LP as a gift from a dear friend for my birthday last year. So now I'm a proud owner of the original too!

Notes: One of the three legendary Pilz folk albums from the early 1970s German scene. Of these, Bröselmaschine were certainly the most folky. The five-piece lineup included primarily male and female vocals with acoustic guitar. And as accents to various songs, the band added electric guitar, bass, hand percussion, flute, sitar, zither, and mellotron.

The five minute opener 'Gedanken' is a pleasant enough folk track with heavily accented dual male and female English vocals, flutes, and some nice electric guitar. 'Lassie' follows and is just the sort of song that my Dad would have enjoyed. One gets the impression that Bröselmaschine would feel comfortable opening for comedian Bob Newhart at a place like the Hungry I in San Francisco circa 1966. Ceramic plates and silverware clanking in the background - and after the song completes - an uproarious crowd claps maniacally while cigarettes dangle from their lips. The two minute acoustic guitar interlude with wordless female vocals 'Gitarrenstuck' is where the proceedings begin to get interesting. 'The Old Man's Song' starts with a repetitive and trance-like acoustic guitar. Hand percussion and wah-wah guitar enter while some delicate flute sets the tone for the peaceful female singing. The nine minute 'Schmetterling' is the album's highlight and recalls "Hoelderlin's Traum" with its Eastern motif (sitar, tablas, flute) and female narration in German. Later in the song there's a wonderful driving bass guitar that gives the song a sense of contrasting urgency not found elsewhere. The album closes with 'Nossa Bova' a nice stroll in the park kind of song with emphasis on acoustic guitar, flute, wordless voice, and hand percussion.

Overall, Bröselmaschine is the type of album to sooth ones nerves after a hard days' work. Not particularly experimental or groundbreaking, but for fans of early Hoelderlin, Emtidi, or other such cosmic folk bands, Bröselmaschine is a must pick up.

Last update: July 25, 2015

Ardo Dombec - s/t. 1971 Germany

Ardo Dombec - s/t. 1971 Pilz

CD reissue: 2002 Garden of Delights

Packaging: Like almost all Pilz albums, Ardo Dombec's sole effort features a wonderful gatefold cover, this time showing a vanilla ice cream cone covering a cactus. This was one of the few Pilz albums not later reissued by the Pop Import label in the early 1980s. Oddly enough, given the cool cover concept, it's never been officially reissued on LP (not even sure there is a bootleg). The Garden of Delights CD is of their usual high standard, with full liner notes, photos, and 4 relevant bonus tracks. And that's the only version I own. Originals are very expensive, and not sure the music warrants the high price.

Notes: I think the most surprising aspect of the Ardo Dombec album is just how ordinary it is. Terms like "ordinary" and "1971 album on Pilz" just do not go together. The album starts off promisingly enough with 'Spectaculum', with its driving sax melodies and fast rhythms - perhaps indicating this could be like the awesome Nosferatu album. But alas it was not to be. Subsequent tracks show no progression, and they leave behind no memorable melodies either. By Side 2, the band have completely lost their way - the Louisiana back porch harmonica taking it to new lows. Final track 'Unchangeable Things' brings it back to a respectable level. The 4 bonus tracks on the GoD CD are in a similar vein. There's nothing egregious here, more like a flat line. This is a borderline Gnosis 9 / 3 stars effort, but I'm such a fan of the genre, I hear enough to keep it at the Gnosis 10 / 3.5 level. Not a riveting recommendation, I realize.

Spring - s/t. 1971 England

Spring - s/t. 1971 Dawn

CD reissues: 1992 Laser's Edge (USA); 1994 Repertoire (Germany); 2013 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissue: 2002 Akarma (Italy)

Packaging: Well, they don't come any more collectable than this: An incredible triple fold out cover that exists in very small quantities. I talk some about this in the below notes, but this album was always beyond my budget. I started in the 80s with a (gasp) bootleg LP and didn't like the music - at all. I tried again with the Laser's Edge CD in 1992. Bought and sold quickly. Then about 15 years ago or so, I wised up. I eventually bought the triple FOC version on Akarma - but buying non-Italian albums on that imprint makes you feel a little dirty. But I'll keep it until I can get an original (ho ho ho, keep wishing there sonny). For years and years, I kept hoping this title would come out as a Japanese mini-LP. And it finally did this year! It's a wonderful package to behold. And the music continues to improve for me as well.

Notes: If there was ever an album that confused me on what the term "progressive rock" meant, it had to be Spring's sole effort (sans later bootlegs of course). What do I mean by that? Ah yes, quick context setting for those reading this. In the 1980s, as a young lad hungry to hear everything that was labeled with the almighty "progressive" tag, I can assure you that Spring was very much at the top of every catalog writers' best-of lists. THREE MELLOTRONS!! TRIPLE FOLD OUT COVER! LONG TRACKS! My imagination went wild. Then I got hold of some crappy bootleg LP that I no doubt paid way too much for (even then, originals were way beyond my pauper budget). You won't see that boot LP listed in too many places (good!) but it came out in the late 80s. Dull single sleeve. Dull vinyl. Dull music. Well... that's how I heard it anyway. Bootlegs are never a good way to learn about an album (lesson learned for a young Tommy), but this one even went beyond the sloppy sonics. As in - exactly what is "progressive" about this? My cynical nature was coming to the fore - more like 3 people who play the mellotron - not 3 mellotrons (which is probably a true observation actually). Big deal! Not a time signature change in sight. Whoopdee-doo. Had RYM/Gnosis existed in 1988 - this would've got a 2 star / 7 rating.

So what changed? Me, of course. Years of spending time with the original late 60s / early 70's progressive movement has provided me with the right context for which this album had originally come from. Now I hear something that was considered progressive in 1971, but maybe not what the term meant to me by 1988. Spring features some fine songwriting, and wonderful textures (mellotron of course, but even the fuzz guitar and organ too). Even Pat Moran's infamous nasal vocals sound good to me now! If you're a fan of the Dawn / Neon / Transatlantic / Deram branch of early 70s English progressive rock, then no doubt Spring will be a welcome addition.

Clear Blue Sky - s/t. 1970 England

Clear Blue Sky - s/t. 1970 Vertigo. Also released in France and Germany.

CD reissues: 1990 Repertoire (Germany); 2001 Universal (Japan mini-LP); 2005 Repertoire (German mini-LP)

Packaging: Another rarity, though compared with The Human Beast, this is dime store stuff. The French and German originals can be had relatively inexpensive, so that's an option if you just want to own the rather cool looking gatefold cover. I haven't done that myself, as I keep hoping to get a UK original for cheap. Keep dreaming buddy... Anyway, I started with the Repertoire CD and traded up for the Japanese mini, which is my only current copy. It's a beautiful package, and I have no issues with the sound - but purists usually hate that some equalization has been applied. From my perspective, it just saves me the trouble of doing it myself. LOL. As far as I know, no specialist label has reissued this fine album with unique liner notes, bonus tracks, etc... On this theme, it's also surprising not to see this reissued on LP as well.

Notes: One of a handful of highly creative, psychedelic influenced, progressive guitar power trio albums coming from England circa 1970. Can easily be compared with Stray's debut and The Human Beast. Perhaps it's the runt of that litter, but it's such a gorgeous family, that just being in the same house is prestigious enough. Love those higher pitched British psych-era vocals. 'The Rocket Ride' and 'You Mystify' are both exceptional, though there's not a single weak track here.

The Human Beast - Volume 1. 1970 Scotland

The Human Beast - Volume 1. 1970 Decca. Released in Germany as well.

CD reissue: 1990 Deram (Japan); 2007 Universal (Japan mini-LP); 2008 Sunbeam

LP reissue: 2008 Sunbeam

Packaging: A mint UK original can set you back 4 figures (one sold recently for over $2,000), so that's a tough option for most unless wealthy. Up until the Sunbeam reissues, The Human Beast lived in the gutters of the pirate market. The first Japanese CD was extinct from Day 1. I did, however, jump on the mini-LP in 2007, as it's an exact replica of the original. It's a single sleeve, but with those cool pasted flaps like the original. And of course the album cover is incredible. This CD is the first copy of the album I ever owned. But Japanese mini-LPs are expensive and limited, so that's not going to stop a bootleg. Finally, a year later, Sunbeam got it done the right way. With a cover like that, I had to supplement the CD with the LP. Interestingly, they pressed the LP as a gatefold, and put a black border around it. I know purists will scoff, but I have no problems with reissue labels taking a little personal creative license with the packaging - as long as it's tasteful, or an upgrade. The inside of the gatefold contains newly written liner notes. I would love an original, but I don't see that happening. The original German copies are more reasonable but hardly cheap.

Notes: On the surface, it would seem The Human Beast's sole album to be typical of the era, given the guitar-bass-drums trio format. But these guys aren’t Cream plagiarists, nor did they go the Led Zeppelin, Ashkan, Elias Hulk psychedelic power variation of the blues. No, we’re moving towards the freaky, to the astral zone of Clear Blue Sky, but even beyond. The lyrical concept and overall acid feel gives the feeling that Vangelis may have stumbled onto the album before launching into “666” for his Aphrodite’s Child group. And yes, I’m sure Human Beast digested plenty of “Saucerful of Secrets” and “Ummagumma” before heading into the studio. One of the most creative of the UK power trios, no doubt.

Taste of Blues - Schizofrenia. 1969 Sweden

Taste of Blues - Schizofrenia. 1969 SSR

CD reissue: 2010 Transubstans

LP reissue: 1992 Garageland

Packaging details: Single sleeve cover and originals are very rare. I first heard this album via the Garageland LP reissue not long after it was released. Over time, I decided this is a title I didn't need, and sold it. Finally a CD reissue emerged in 2010 from the always excellent Transubstans label. The side long track alone is worthy of ownership - and now we have an excellent CD filled with informative liners. The CD is the keeper copy.

Notes: One side is a cool free rock jam, like the best of the Krautrock and Swedish artists like International Harvester. No doubt this track was influenced by Paul Butterfield Blues Band's "East West" suite from 1966. The other side is more traditional electric blues, so the album is indeed schizophrenic. But electric blues in 1969 is hardly the same thing as traditional blues, and there's plenty of psychedelic fuzz guitar and organ in the best tradition of the underground bands of the era.

Last update: August 25, 2015

Sway / Sante Palumbo Orchestra - s/t. 1973 Italy

Sway - s/t. 1973 Cipiti

CD reissue: 2013 private (mini-LP)

LP reissue: 2016 Schema (includes CD). Under the moniker of Sante Palumbo Orchestra.

Led by pianist Sante Palumbo, Sway is an excellent album heavily influenced by early 70s Miles Davis, even without the presence of trumpet. Throughout, the album features wah wah guitar rhythms and tribal drumming. The first side is a bit looser, with some shrieky sax, drum solos and some piano noise bits. But Side 2 contains 'Mad' which is absolutely sublime. The sax is traded in for flute, there's an actual melody line carried throughout, and the guitar fuzzes out some wonderful solos. CPT (Cipiti) is the same label that released the rare debut by Le Groupe X.

Just forget about finding an original. This puppy is off the charts rare. It's one of those albums you might luck into finding for a $1, because of its obscurity. But if in the hands of a dealer who knows what it is, an auction will land big bucks. This was an album that Midwest Mike turned me onto for the CDRWL. So now we have a CD... and many people have asked me about the legitimacy of it. Here's what I wrote for the CDRWL blog and on RYM: "Well... first thing is the "obi" strip uses my description for the album. And they didn't ask for permission. Not that I care all that much really, but it is protocol to do such - so that's a major red flag right there. The sound is absolutely fine considering it's not from the masters. And we do have it on good authority that Palumbo himself is aware of this reissue. This is the classic "gray area" reissue. Sometimes I see that term when they outright mean to say it's a pirate edition. This is not the case here. All the same - I'm not considering this reissued legit, and will keep in the main list. Unless I hear convincing data otherwise. But I don't regret buying this version, and if a legit CD comes along, I'll buy it again willingly. But it's my understanding the masters are gone, and demand is light, so this is probably it. Unfortunately."

Well, fortunately I was wrong! Schema has now come through (2016) with a legit reissue (under the moniker Sante Palumbo Orchestra), that is one of their combo LP + CD jobs. I have purchased it as well, and the  CD sounds great to me! I haven't listened to the LP figuring it to be a similar experience. I'll keep the old CD, because honestly, how many CDs out there have your own - unwittingly perhaps - liner notes.

Last update: April 11, 2017

Horrific Child - L'étrange Monsieur Whinster. 1976 France

Horrific Child -  L'étrange Monsieur Whinster. 1976 Eurodisc

CD reissue: 2010 Finders Keepers (England)

LP reissue: 2010 Finders Keepers (England)

Packaging: Pretty rare album as an original, though it doesn't get the kind of money it did back in the 1990s, when it obtained an almost mythical status. As such, I had this album on my CD Reissue Wish List for as long as the list existed. Finally in 2010, the excellent Finders Keepers label (who also reissued the very fine Jean-Claude Vannier album) came through with both an LP and CD. With a cover like that, I went straight for the LP reissue - which is housed in a nice rough paper cover. Comes with complete liner notes as well. Maybe one day I'll grab the CD as well, though not sure the music really warrants having it in both formats.

Notes: Where would the music world be without Jean-Pierre Massiera? It certainly would be a more dull place without him, that's for sure. Everything he was involved with can only be described as obscure. And now he's the undisputed king of the 1970's Euro oddball rarities chase. And of all the albums he was involved with, Horrific Child remains his most sought after, and arguably most eccentric release ever. The musical realization of a Psychotronic B-Movie classic. If this were a movie, it would be on at 3:00 in the morning, on your cities' last remaining UHF local station. In short, "L'Etrange Mr. Whinster" defines J.P. Massiera's niche in life.

The Word of Life - Dust. 1995 Sweden

The Word of Life return with their sophomore, and ultimately last effort, Dust which is somewhat different from the predecessor. There'...