Jukka Tolonen Ramblin' Jazz Band - Jazz Liisa 03. 1973 Finland

Jukka Tolonen Ramblin' Jazz Band - Jazz Liisa 03. 1973. Archival

CD issue: 2016 Svart w/ KOM Quartet

LP issue: 2016 Svart

If there's an artist that is neglected in my collection, it would have to be Jukka Tolonen. Even though I possess his first 2 albums, it's been ages since I last heard them, and I can't recall much either. Truth be told, the same could be said about Tasavallan Presidentti, excepting my recent listen to their own Liisa session. In fact, Tolonen's studio concert is very similar to his own groups' foray. Even though 'Ramblin' is a track taken from his debut album, it actually serves better as a metaphor for the band itself, at least as evidenced by this concert. These are two lengthy excursions (the other track coming from Summer Games), where the band seem at ease improvising in front of the studio audience. There are no fiery rave-ups, or complex changes, but rather the band just sort of... rambles along. There's more diverse instrumentation here than with Tasavallan Presidentti, including trumpet, that befits more a jazz session than rock. This is easy listening for veterans of the early 70s jazz rock movement, and is yet again another fantastic find from the good folks at Svart.

Jukka Hauru & Superkings - Pop Liisa 02. 1973 Finland

Jukka Hauru & Superkings - Pop Liisa 02. 1973. Archival

CD issue: 2016 Svart (w/ Tasavallan Presidentti)

LP issue: 2016 Svart

Finnish guitarist Jukka Hauru had two fine albums from the 70s (Information, Episode) before hanging up his music career for the writing pen. Both are still quite obscure due to a lack on any modern reissue. This all instrumental live concert encapsulates perfectly the sound of both, most notably the raw and edgy Information. As I state on that review, it's quite apparent Hauru is influenced mightily by a one Frank Zappa, though for this live concert, the humor bits have been completely rubbed out. Other guideposts include Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report.

In listening to this set, it probably would have been a better fit for the "Jazz Liisa" series. All the same, Hauru has just enough progressive rock sound and composition style to qualify for the genre. And one reason for this is violinist Juhani "Jupu" Poutanen, whose nickname would lead to another obscure band without a proper reissue: Jupu Group. A band that now also has a "Liisa" concert available on LP and CD (review coming soon). Poutanen is one of the "Superkings", a made-up-on-the-spot moniker meant as a joke to counter the quintet being called by the local music press a "supergroup". So melodic and shredding violin and electric guitar define this kinetic set. It really is too bad Hauru called it a day, as he had some fiery chops to display. Keyboards and an agile rhythm section round out the ensemble.

Worth noting that opener 'Mai-Ling' appears to start in mid-jam form, but as it turns out, the first 3 minutes of the tape had been damaged, so they salvaged what they could. Also of note, both 'Twilight Time' and 'Angel' are previously unreleased tracks.

Yet another essential pick up for fans of early 70s Finnish progressive jazz rock.

Baxter - s/t. 1973 USA

Baxter - s/t. 1973 Paramount

No reissues!

How about another old CD Reissue Wish List item? This comes from a recent listen, though the notes more or less stayed the same.

Paramount were one of America's unsung labels. They signed some interesting acts, and I don't think any of them did very well from a revenue perspective. Baxter, hailing from New York's Long Island, were one of their more original bands. Mellotron, Moog synthesizers, Hammond organ, wah wah guitar solos, and some wonderful nutty/unpredictable progressions. And of course, rural singer songwriter pieces in the CSN&Y mold ('Gentle Arms', 'Can't Find the Time'), boogie rock n' roll ('Give it All'), hard rock ('51'), Yes-like progressive ('By the Gates', 'Renaissance Woman'), Polyphony-like progressive (yea, exactly... who knew right?) ('Moonfire II'), and the amalgamation of every style featured here ('Doctor, Doctor', '197 Three'). Wildly inconsistent, but there are some truly inspiring progressions to be found here. Unfortunately no continuity, just like the label itself. But there's just enough good here to recommend as an album worth buying.

Deus Ex Machina - Devoto. 2016 Italy

Deus Ex Machina - Devoto. 2016 Cuneiform (USA CD)

Deus Ex Machina go back to their hard rocking roots on Devoto. It's a surprising return to form, especially for a band who had dabbled in more academic avant prog waters for such a long time. Hard rock guitar, crunchy organ, shredding violin, a driving rhythm section, and the Demetrios Stratos-like soaring Italian vocals of Alberto Piras, define this fine album. It's not dumbo hard rock either, but very much the complex sound of the early 70s. Truth be told, classic Italian prog was always more heavy than ever given credit for. Even bands like Area and Arti+Mestieri kicked out the jams once in awhile. If you listen to the early Deus Ex Machina albums, this is the sound you'll find, except now with more vintage gear in tow. Devoto is about as grimy, nasty, and dirty-under-the-fingernails as you'll ever hear on the refined Cuneiform label. My kind of album.

Hoenig / Gottsching - Early Water. 1976 Germany

Hoenig / Gottsching - Early Water. 1976. Archival

CD issues: 1995 Musique Intemporal; 1997 Spalax (France)

Early Water sounds exactly what you expect from Michael Hoenig and Manuel Gottsching circa 1976. Somewhat like New Age of Earth meets Departure From the Northern Wasteland, with sequencers raging and Gottsching letting loose on the electric guitar - more so than he did on New Age of Earth. Apparently this recording was made in the studio just before the duo were to embark on a tour of France, which was cancelled at the last minute. Fortunately Gottsching kept the tapes and sent to Hoenig (nearly 20 years later) who was then residing in Los Angeles as a studio producer. So the whole thing sounds magnificent. If all this resonates with you, this CD is a must own. Otherwise, maybe not the best place to start with either artist, as a 48 minute continuous track may be a bit much to open with.

The original CD came out on Bernd Kistenmacher's Musique Intemporelle label in 1995, and was repressed by Spalax in 1997 housed in a digi-pak. Today, either CD is incredibly scarce and expensive. I would expect another issue at some point, especially since it's never been pressed on LP.

Modry Efekt - Nova Synteza. 1971 Czech Republic


Modry Efekt - Nova Synteza. 1971 Panton

CD reissues: 1997 Bonton;2009 Supraphon (as The Blue Effect 1969-1989 9 CD compilation)

Nova Synteza is Modry Efekt's second album (not counting the co-release with Jazz Q Praha), and quite a departure from the blues rock/Czech pop oriented Meditace. I think the first thing one will pick up on this album is just how BIG it sounds. The Czechoslovak Radio Jazz Orchestra (or its indigenous name Jazzový orchestr Československého rozhlasu) proved to be quite the rockin' bunch, and Modry Efekt does a great job integrating with the difficult charts. For 1971 Czechoslovakia, this album is quite an extraordinary accomplishment. It is here that Radim Hladik begins to demonstrate his immense chops on the electric guitar. There's really no album quite like this one. It's not a rock meets orchestra type release, as many a UK band did back then (Deep Purple, Caravan, etc...). Nor is it a large scale horn rock band like Chicago on steroids. The album is all instrumental, and maintains a healthy tempo throughout. Blue Effect Blues is a bit typical of the medium, until the second half when Hladik feels the need to polish off a few licks. And 'Clinging Ivy' (3rd track) sounds a bit too familiar at times with some of its cliched orchestra type melodies. Otherwise, this is an album not to be missed, both from a modern aesthetic perspective, as well as an historical one.

The original LP stayed in print until at least 1980. My copy is part of the awesome 9 CD set Blue Effect 1969-1989. This will be the first of many posts from this set.

Caedmon - s/t. 1978 Scotland

Caedmon - s/t. 1978 private

CD reissue: 1994 Kissing Spell; 1995 Si-Wan (Korea)

LP reissues: 1997 English Garden; 2012 Acme

Caedmon are a Christian folk rock band from Scotland, with a psychedelic streak that comes many years past others of this sound. Perhaps Mellow Candle, Agincourt, and Spirogyra are good guideposts here, and the music is clearly anachronistic for 1978. Crystal clear female vocals, acoustic guitar, String Synthesizer, cello, and a fuzz tone guitar define this fine work. A very pleasant, breezy, somewhat harmless psychedelic album. Its reputation is well deserved for the style, though it's very much inside the rails, so not one likely to wow anyone but the most dedicated progressive folk rock collector.

The original LP is incredibly rare and sought after (as in 4 digits). The original also includes an additional 45 single. Funny to read the Discogs sales history for the original LP. Median price: $24.55. Yea. Of course, if you drill down on the sales history, you'll see that they are all commented as reissues, and simply placed there incorrectly. Unfortunately, Discogs has a lot of bad data like that which needs cleaning up. 

It appears I first picked up this CD in the mid 90s. And that CD is a co-production of Nices and Si-Wan. The former is a division of manufacturing giant Samsung, and the high quality CD is pressed by them. In effect, though, it's simply a repress of the Kissing Spell release from England, and is credited as such.

Kissing Spell, apparently, have issues with Christianity. They don't have the balls to say it as such, but that's exactly what it is. They hide behind the following phrase: "Kissing Spell is opposed to all forms of mysticism/religion - the sentiments expressed on this record in no way reflect those of K. Spell." Do you really think this would have been appended were the album representing Shinto, Hindu, Norse Mythology, or Islam? You know the answer already. I do tire of this kind of disguised hypocrisy. They even titled the final track simply as 'Give Me....' leaving out Jesus as originally presented. That's just pathetic. If it was 'Give me Thor', you think they would have changed it? Accept the music as it was presented and let others do the judging on their own. Leaves me with a bad taste for the label.

Topper - At Last. 1977 USA


Topper - At Last. 1977 Scot

No reissues!

As stated in many places, I truly enjoy the underground rock scene of the great American Midwest and Topper are no different. This time hailing from Kansas City, we have a band that was typically over ambitious, and wonderfully amateurish. The Moog soloing in particular is inspired. There are a lot of ideas on their one album, and it's clear they had a few Uriah Heep, Nektar, Yes, and Led Zeppelin albums in their closet. Basically a mix of hard rock, progressive, and a little bit of FM/AOR too. And they get a little too close to plagiarism in a couple of places ('Smile for the Clown' rips straight from 'Stairway to Heaven' incredibly. Guys, surely you were aware everyone knew this song already. Right?).

Another longtime album from the CDRWL. Apparently the band did reissue it, but based on conversations with them, it sounds like it's a CD-R hand-pressed by the group. That doesn't count for me, but others may not care about such a distinction. I bought the LP recently while we await a CD.

Mythos - Concrete City. 1979 Germany


Mythos - Concrete City. 1979 Venus

CD reissues: 1997 Spalax (France); 1999 Zyx

Mythos, under the direction of Stephan Kaske, were always an odd bird. Never fitting convention, they went on to release a number of albums that do not fit any preconceived notion. Concrete City was the latter of two "normal rock band" albums from Mythos. Kaske couldn't sing to save his life, but yet he continued on cluelessly here, always offsetting that weakness with his brilliant flute and synthesizer play, and having the smarts to employ an excellent guitarist. I can assure you, Concrete City sounds nothing like anything you've heard prior - yet it is familiar all the same. There's symphonic progressive, electronic, NDW, AOR, and hard rock all within the confines here. I find this album more enjoyable now than ever. Not one to win any awards, but well worth your time to give an ohr.

The Zyx CD is clearly taken from vinyl and offers up nothing more than album credits. Not a stellar reissue, though audiophile freaks may appreciate the lack of compression and digital remastering attempts.

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'...