Keep - II (Rock'n Rocked Rock). 1982 Japan

Despite the subtitle Rock'n Rocked Rock, Keep's second album is definitely a fusion affair, similar to their contemporaries like Crosswind, Prism, and Casiopea. But the separator here is the ferocity of the instrumental work - recalling edgier outfits of the early 70s like Mahavishnu Orchestra. 'Aristocrat Bachelor' is the definite highlight here, and is closer to heavy progressive rock than jazz.

Personal Collection
CD: 2011 Clinck (Japan)

The original LP is a typical single sleeve with requisite obi. I sold my copy of the LP when the first edition CD came out (1999 Vivid Sound). And it was a bear to find. I finally had to ask a friend who worked at Marquee in Tokyo to send me one. (4/2017 update): I recently discovered another mini-LP version, this time part of a 4 CD box set called J-Fusion Masterpiece Collectors' Box, which I now possess.

Last update: April 26, 2017

Blood Ceremony - The Eldritch Dark. 2013 Canada

Blood Ceremony - The Eldritch Dark. 2013 Rise Above (UK)

CD issues: 2013 Rise Above (UK); 2013 Metal Blade (USA)

The Eldritch Dark sees Blood Ceremony improve on the already excellent Living with the Ancients. The doom metal Black Sabbath component has been reduced, and a decidedly more typical 1969/70 tone has been adopted in its stead. Oh yes, it's still a heavy album - just not as overt as prior. Organ, mellotron, acoustic guitar, fiddle, and flute are more prominent than prior. From a compositional perspective, the band took a page from the early 70s UK folk rock playbook of Mellow Candle and Fuchsia. And Blood Ceremony are now fully admitted into the Post psychedelic, proto progressive with female vocals club. As I said on my Living with the Ancients review, Ian Anderson wasn't the only one walking around with a flute in England in those days - it was a fairly standard instrument in the 1970 English rock landscape. So you may find comparisons to Tull compulsory, rather than accurate.

Now a word about Alia O'Brien's vocals. Throughout the album, I was reminded of someone very specific. But I couldn't figure it out. Then it hit me. All I needed to do was look at my own list above. It's Silvana Aliotta of Circus 2000, who no doubt was influenced by Grace Slick herself. And the first time I read a description of Circus 2000, her vocals were said to be "witchy". How appropriate, then, that O'Brien has a similar voice. Not sure if it's intentional (probably not), but definitely a cool voice to possess.

All the changes Blood Ceremony implemented on The Eldritch Dark are for the better as far as I'm concerned. Even the lyrics have improved. It's still witch stuff, but at least they seem to be taking it more seriously and professional than prior.

Lisker - s/t. 1979 Spain (Basque)

Lisker - s/t. 1979 Xoxoa

CD reissue: 1994 Lost Vinyl

LP reissue: 2002 Guerssen

Packaging details: One of the more highly sought after rarities from the Basque Country of Spain. I once had the original gatefold in the 90s, but couldn't resist trading it for about 30 new CDs back then. Even today, I question whether or not that was a good idea. But money was much more scarce then for the UMR. Like all Lost Vinyl reissues, the CD is bare bones with no info. It's legit and from the masters, but there's also quite a bit of hiss. This is the version I own. I haven't heard or seen the Guerssen LP, but if it's like the others on the label, I'm sure it's an overall excellent package.

Notes: A rather simplistic, primarily instrumental, album filled with fuzz guitar and flute, nice melodies, and a healthy amount of energy. From the above statement, two items are worth calling out: 1) The melodies are well thought-out, and are memorable long after the music has stopped. And 2) the guitar tone is decidedly psychedelic, which is quite the rarity for a 1979 recording. Lisker probably tracks closest to the French band Triode. And the melodic quotient could make one state that Lisker is to the Basque Country what Gotic is to Catalonia. Plus the psychedelic influences of course. Good album.

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'...