Sunday, 31 July 2011

Can - Future Days (1973)

Final album with Damo Suzuki. Just by listening to this album, you can sense that this will be their final album with him. He tends to be a lot more low key than on previous albums. He then got married and became a Jehovah's Witness. This time, the band becomes more mellow, many times called "ambient". Regardless, this is by far the most pleasant music CAN has ever done, esepcially on the title track and the second half of "Spray". "Moonshake" harkens back to "Tago Mago" (specifically "Halleluwah", except much shorter), and of course the most accessible piece on the whole album. "Bel Air" is the side length cut that starts and ends side two.

This really divided the group. Holger Czukay liked it for the symphonic qualities, while Jaki Liebezeit hated it for those same reasons. A few CAN fans thought it sounded too much like prog rock for their liking, but since I'm a big prog rock fan, it doesn't bother me any. In fact, a lot of it reminds me a lot of that fusion-influenced prog that existed at that time. And while some might complain of it being "too prog", the band still played as an ensemble, so you don't get solos, as the band always avoided them. This song seems to have that feel of being in the meadow, no doubt helped by the sound of chirping birds heard on a small section of the piece. "Spray" starts off as an experiment of percussion, but the second half demonstrates the more mellow nature of the album, with Irmin Schmidt's organ and Damo Suzuki's often unitelligible singing (he sounds like he's singing "It's downtown when it rains" over and over, but he could be singing something else). This certainly sounds very little like anything they've done before (aside from "Moonshake"), and just when you thought you know the band, they gave us "Future Days". A great album, and a definate favorite of mine. CAN Future Days music reviews and MP3 review from

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Future Days (9:34)
2. Spray (8:28)
3. Moonshake (3:02)
4. Bel air (20:00)

Total Time: 41:04

Line-up / Musicians - Holger Czukay / bass
- Michael Karoli / guitar
- Jaki Liebezeit / drums
- Irmin Schmidt / keyboards
- Damo Suzuki / vocals

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Saturday, 30 July 2011

Par Lindh Project - Mundus Incompertus(1997)

"Mundus Incompertus", the last PLP studio album recorded until "Veni Vidi Vici"; was released in 1997. In my opinion, this wonderful CD is the most important and interesting work achieved by PLP; it is constituted of three pieces. In the first track untitled "Baroque Impression No. 1", we can appreciate a BACH & VIVALDI intro exquisitely executed, from which the music evolves to a discharge of sounds and colors in the most intense interpretation Swedish symphonic rock has got to offer. In the second piece, "The Crimson Shield"; we can listen to the operatic voice of Magdalena HAGBERG accompanied by Pär's harpsichord. The third piece, "Mundus Incompertus"; is divided in 13 parts creating an opus composed of recurrent themes and instrumental passages. this is truly the jewel of the band. "Mundus Incompertus" is a fresh and original composition. this is what EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER should be doing if they still had a bit of creativity.

As a musician, Pär LINDH counts with a long successful career as church organist, classic pianist, solo harpsichordist, drummer, Hammond organist, jazz musician, etc. In 1977 and 1978 Pär lined up for two rock bands, but by 1979 he got disappointed about the direction pop music was heading to and decided to quit on rock music to play classic music instead. There's where he has developed himself as a recital pianist and harpsichordist until 1991, when he rediscovered a LP from ELP. Thanks to the classical formation Pär achieved during all these years is that we can enjoy the magnificent and excellent musical gems PLP offer us. "Mundus Incompertus" is an exceptional proof of that. PÄR LINDH PROJECT Mundus Incompertus music reviews and MP3

Songs / Tracks Listing
 1. Baroque Impression No. 1 (9:10)
2. The Crimson Shield (6:38)
3. Mundus Incompertus (26:43)

Total Time: 42:34

Line-up / Musicians - Par Lindh / organ, piano, harpsichord, Hammond organ, Mellotron, synths, percussion, 12-string guitar
- Magdalena Hagberg / vocals
- Nisse Bielfeld / drums, percussion
- Marcus Jderholm / bass
- Jocke Ramsell / guitars

Pär Lindh Project - Mundus Incompertus (1 of 3)

Pär Lindh Project - Mundus Incompertus (2 of 3)

Pär Lindh Project - Mundus Incompertus (3 of 3)

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Robert Schroeder - Galaxy Cygnus A (1982)

Galaxie Cygnus-A (again, unavailable on CD) brings the words "lost classic" to mind. Having left the live rock ensemble behind, this is Schroeder's enduring contribution to synthesised spacemusic and an essential listen for anyone with an ear for the genre's awe-inspring magic. The continuous 6-part suite ranges from non-musical metallic clangs, groans and radio transmitter noise to bleepy melodic waltzes and lovely celestial glides. It morphs from one movement to the next with remarkable grace and its classical avant-garde tendencies towards atonal noise are integrated in a surprisingly musical way.
Note: All Robert Schroeders releases are available to buy on CD which were apparently not when the above review was written. SoLaRiS - Robert Schroeder

Galaxie Cygnus-A, Teil 2

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Friday, 29 July 2011

Robert Schroeder - Mosaique (1981)

In 1981 Robert Schroeder the third LP MOSAIQUE was published. Like every present production was also marked Mosaique by Schroeder's independent style and sound and richly in change.

MOSAIQUE retreated from the frame of the character usual at that time of Electronic Music clearly. Here Schroeder combined the style patterns of the "old electronics school" with the timbres of "real" instruments. To produce a successful experiment, electronic music under use of conventional music instruments (bass, drums, E guitar, synthesizer). (Application of the first PPG digitally synthesizer). Review from the electronic music of Robert Schroeder

Dfferent again is Mosaique (not yet issued on CD) which positively rocks in places. A core group of bass/drums/electric guitar backs Schroeder's inventive keyboard bleeps, washes and cosmic chords. This is proper electro-rock fusion, its brilliant innovations devoid of bombast. The focus is very much on tight arrangements and the art of composing, with no empty displays of virtuosity ala Rick Wakeman or Emerson Lake & Palmer. The closing track "Computervoice" sits apart from the others, a deeply beautiful and melancholic piece of layered ambient trance. Review from - Robert Schroeder

Robert Schroeder Utopia

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Robert Schroeder - Brain Voyager (1985)

The Brain Voyager album is a film score for keyboards and synths with occasional acoustic guitar lines. It's a solid collection of ambient-leaning pop-friendly tunes; full-blooded arrangements and clean sounds but understated and reflective too, just like Tangerine Dream's best 80's film soundtracks. - Robert Schroeder

Robert Schroeder - The Inside of Feelings 1985

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Thursday, 28 July 2011

Ashra - Tropical Heat (1991)

What a lost of time. This album shows a radical direction taken by the band (even if we can hear a few controversial stuffs on "walkin´ the desert"). The musicians exchange their old materials for new technological and digital equipements. Consequently the sound is cold, heartless and sometimes we just wonder where are the musicians and all these warm electric organs and vintage analog synth... After "New Age of Earth" it´s clear that the musical level of the band dicreased. In this effort, the melodies and harmonies are so easy and self indulgent . Only the title track deserves a certain attention with a catchy, funky and groovy guitaristic section by Gottsching. The rest is as dull as what Tangerine Dream have produced during the same period. However, contrary to their colleagues of TD, Gottsching and his team tried with a certain success to renew with their golden spacey synth era during the emd of the last decay. I give more than one point because this band deserves a certain respect. ASHRA Tropical Heat music reviews and MP3  Review from

Songs / Tracks Listing
1. Mosquito Dance (8:44)
2. Tropical Heat (4:51)
3. Pretty Papaya (6:07)
4. Nights in Sweat (8:33)
5. Don't stop the Fan (5:26)
6. Monsoon (5:14)

Total Time: 38:55
Line-up / Musicians
- Manuel Göttsching / guitar, keyboards
- Lutz Ulbrich / guitar, keyboards
- Harald Grosskopf / electronic drums

Ashra - Don't stop the fan

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Univers Zero - 1313 (1977)

Back in the days when a prog fan had to seek out their fare, struggling to find those little prizes, the endless quest, personal and financial sacrifice and constant scorn from a Steve Miller and Carpenters-loving world, Univers Zero was no joke. Startling, brave and years ahead of their time, percussionist Daniel Denis led a chamber septet that rocked, or a rock band that liked to play parlour music... or both, and its history is crucial to the development of European progressive and avant garde music. Their roots began in 1970 with Arkham, the black and brooding Brussels group who traced their inspirations to the Canterbury school in England, particularly Soft Machine and its minimal jazz-rock adventures. Arkham's final concert took place in 1972 and its members went on to play with such legendary acts as Magma, Aksak Maboul, and Pazop. Daniel Denis formed Necronomicon (not the German band) with Claude Deron, finally emerging as Univers Zero in 1974. By 1977 he had some very good help from guitarist Roger Trigaux, bassoon player Michel Berckmans, violinists Marcel Dufrane and Patrick Hanappier, bassist Christian Genet and harmonium player Emmanuel Nicaise. This line-up would produce a music so new and disturbing that it would set the tone for much of the Rock In Opposition that came after, an influence that is deeply felt even today.

On their debut '1313', an unnerving violin and its bassoon counterpart sputter to life, followed by a twisted lot of various strings and trashed drums sounding like a makeshift set of kitchen utensils for the 14-minute 'Ronde', off-putting, squeaky and fantastically progressive. Daniel Denis and friends clearly wanted something more-- to split music apart, bring it back together and revel in the pain of that process. And though the pieces are entirely acoustic chamber music played with precision, the Zeroes did it with a rock spirit no less bare-knuckled than any of their contemporaries. 'Carabosse' murmurs with psychotic tendencies, and 'Docteur Petiot' has the band letting go with inspired darkness, nightmarish delirium, broken toys, and shades of Bartok and fellow Belgian composer Albert Huybrechts. 'Malaise' plays out like a drug withdrawl and 'Complainte' rusts its way out of this troubled record, and us with it.

Progressive Rock in the truest sense, doom music for grown-ups, every fan should have some Univers Zero around... you have to. It's the law UNIVERS ZERO Univers Zero (1313) music reviews and MP3 Review from

Songs / Tracks Listing 1. Ronde (15:08)
2. Carabosse (3:40)
3. Docteur Petiot (7:32)
4. Malaise (7:32)
5. Complainte (3:18)

Total Time: 36:50

Line-up / Musicians
- Michel Berckmans / bassoon
- Daniel Denis / percussion
- Marcel Dufrane / violin
- Christian Genet / bass
- Patrick Hanappier / violin, viola, pocket cello
- Emmanuel Nicaise / harmonium, spinet
- Roger Trigaux / guitaLine-up / Musicians

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Ash Ra Tempel - Gin Rose At The Royal Festival Hall(2000)

This album differed aestethically from the earlier works of ASH RA TEMPEL, but I found this still a very pleasant recording. The music on "Gin Rosé" is more synthetic sounding, as the recordings of their classic 70's period have raw analog and rock oriented sound, but the idea of improvisational music is still the same.

The concert is presented here unedited as it was performed, and that's the way I think it should be. There are some little duller parts in the music, as Manuel and Klaus are searching the musical seeds to be grown, but the final results are wonderful, and small faults are usually the price of an improvisation. The drum parts are done with programmed percussion loops or such, but they didn't bother me as they were quite smooth. And as they don't have a separate drummer, this is an understandable solution. There are also some great ethereal passages in their music which remind me of TANGERINE DREAM, so if you are into that band, you should check out this CD. I would also recommend this sincerely to the all fans of improvised music! ASH RA TEMPEL Gin Rosé at the Royal Festival Hall music reviews and MP3
Great album, reminiscent of their earlier works but with a heavier use of synths. They manage to avoid sounding artificial and also manage to retain their great use of ambient and atmosphere.
Since this record is mostly imrovised and lasts more than 60 minutes, sometimes it can get repetitive and too long, but dont let that detract you from buying it as it still has many great moments ASH RA TEMPEL Gin Rosé at the Royal Festival Hall music review by lordoflight

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Gin Rosé (69:26)

Line-up / Musicians - Manuel Göttsching / guitars
- Klaus Schulze / synthesizers, percussion

Ash Ra Tempel - Eine Pikante Variante

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Robert Schroeder - Floating Music (1980)


        Second album by this very under appreciated german electronic artist.
Floating Music drops the classical leanings in favour of more electronics but also loosens the grooves with live drumming on several tracks. Strongly melodic, colourful in texture and varied in tempos, its synthetic sounds are subtlety different from any other music of the era. Different again is Mosaique (not yet issued on CD) which positively rocks in places. A core group of bass/drums/electric guitar backs Schroeder's inventive keyboard bleeps, washes and cosmic chords. This is proper electro-rock fusion, its brilliant innovations devoid of bombast. The focus is very much on tight arrangements and the art of composing, with no empty displays of virtuosity ala Rick Wakeman or Emerson Lake & Palmer. The closing track "Computervoice" sits apart from the others, a deeply beautiful and melancholic piece of layered ambient trance. - Robert Schroeder

Robert Schroeder - Out of Control -excerpt- (1980)

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Robert Schroeder - Harmonic Ascendant

Schroeder is one of Krautrock's forgotten heroes, perhaps because he started releasing music towards the end of German electronica's first wave rather than near its beginning. Stylistically he is close to the Berlin school of ambient trance and psy-rock which includes Tangerine Dream, Ashra and Klaus Schulze among others, yet today he rarely rates a mention in such exalted company. Schroeder deserves better. His classic albums from the late 70's and early 80's compare favourably to the music of his peers. They are also blessed with the childlike curiosity of a musician who loves to custom-build his electronic instruments. Upon hearing his early demos Schulze called him a "contemporary romantic" and his music "naive and beautiful", taking the youngster under his wing and producing his first four albums.

The "naive" reference was no doubt meant only in spirit because Schroeder's lovely debut Harmonic Ascendant is the sound of an artist arriving already fully formed. His style proves less epic and more intimate than Schulze, a trait preserved on most of his subsequent releases. The 22-minute title track is like Mike Oldfield on a trip to Germany, combining an ensemble playing bright piano, acoustic guitar and cello with the celestial synths and chugging sequencers of vintage Berlin ambient. "Future Passing By" builds its repeated motif very slowly with odd vocoder mumblings skimming the surface, eventually swimming in an incredibly lush male choral sound. Although rich, the sound of Harmonic Ascendant is never overly dense, Schroeder perhaps learning something from the less successful outings of his more famous - Robert Schroeder

Robert Schroeder - Harmonic Ascendant -Excerpt- (1979)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Passport - Ataraxia (1978)

With "Sky Blue", Klaus Doldinger tips his hat and his planetary axis to German electronic music, while making it his own as only he can do. The two-part "Ataraxia" alone is worth the cost of the disk, beginning with gently hypnotic synths and building to a crescendo of vivacious sax-led testimonies that never completely drown out the keyboard rhythms. This is music that can appeal to jazz, progressive, funk, world, and even remotely adventurous new age fans.

Keyboards do tend to dominate when the sax is not to the fore, and on the title cut, "Sky Blue", the synthesizer doodling reaches its apex without wearing thin. Roy Louis' guitar and Dieter Petereit's bass provide the backing that makes Passport one of the more listenable groups of their ilk. This is jazz for sure, but in a more loosely structured rather than free form sense. Listen to "Mandrake" for an even better example, with guitar leads not unlike some of Andy Latimer's workouts on "Rain Dances", but with a greater respect for the overall piece. It's not so much dance music, but music that dances. Another highlight is the chugging "Loco-motive", in which Doldinger's flute simulates the whistle of the train when actual audio samples are not being used, and his flutes elsewhere are sprightly and melodically integrated with the sax. Quintessential travelling music, it skips and careens along the rails with its own frothy character.

A refuge of level headed coolness as it was in 1978, "Ataraxia" remains as relevant today as then, and a passport to further enjoyment of this classy act. PASSPORT Ataraxia (Sky Blue) music reviews and MP3

Songs / Tracks Listing 1. Ataraxia, Pt. 1 (2:55)
2. Ataraxia, Pt. 2 (5:23)
3. Sky Blue (4:38)
4. Mandrake (4:27)
5. Reng Ding Dang Dong (3:01)
6. Loco-Motive (4:17)
7. The Secret (5:05)
8. Louisianna (4:32)
9. Algeria (5:12)

Line-up / Musicians -
 Klaus Doldinger / saxophones, flute, keyboards, Mellotron
- Willy Ketzer / drums
- Elmer Louis / percussion
- Roy Louis / guitar
- Guillermo G. Marchena / vocals, percussion
- Dieter Petereit / electric bass
- Hendrik Schaper / keyboards

Klaus Doldinger & Passport - Ataraxia

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Monday, 25 July 2011

Univers Zero - Rhythmix (2002)

By the time this thing came out, I was completely primed for it. I'd become immersed in Univers Zero, and finally come to appreciate the nuances of The Hard Quest as compared to their earlier work. I knew it would take a few listens to grasp the work as a whole, and sat patiently through my first listen, waiting for the defining moment.

The first thing that struck me was the addition of so much extra instrumentation. The return of cello was nice, and flute and accordion were presented with a subtle enough touch as to be virtually transparent. The kickers, though, are trumpet (!) and acoustic guitar. Christophe Pons' guitar work on "Rouages: Second Rotation" saved the sequel from tedium. After several listens, I can no longer decide if I like the original better, and the guitar has everything to do with that.

The defining moment comes with the opening of "The Fly-Toxmen's Land". As soon as it started I thought "This is it!", and was blown away by every note of it. The trumpet's arrival is absolutely jarring, which is fitting for such a brutal composition. New bassist Eric Plantain holds his own with spidery bass fingering against Denis' rampant thumping, while the winds and percussion swirl around like dreams of angry lactating bats. Before long (I wish it were longer!), the whole thing shifts into a melancholic coda, with the trumpet resurfacing in a much less piercing fashion. Denis' drums take on a more direct approach, with bass and keys repeating a daunting riff. I must admit that I only listened to this one song for months after buying the CD. Five minutes was just not long enough.

All in all, Rhythmix holds up to modern Univers Zero standards. Berckmans' style is very present, and the structure throughout the CD never falters. I suppose one could credit the somewhat more subdued pieces to 'maturity', but I'd say they hold up to moments on Heresie and 1313, which aren't exactly infantile works. While there may be more to appreciate with the early works, this CD is perhaps more accessible to new listeners, and not a disappointment to old fans. Ground and Sky review - Univers Zero - Rhythmix

Songs / Tracks Listing
1. Terres Noires (6:06)
2. Rêve Cyclique (5:53)
3. Rouages: Second Rotation (3:38)
4. The Invisible Light (3:09)
5. Phobia (5:31)
6. Zorgh March (3:23)
7. Zébulon (2:19)
8. Forêt Inviolée (2:19)
9. Shangaï's Digital Talks (4:48)
10. Emotions Galactiques (5:47)
11. Waiting for the Sun (3:16)
12. The Fly-Toxmen's Land (4:50)
13. Rêve Cyclique (0:50)

Total Time: 51:59
Line-up / Musicians - Daniel Denis / drums, percussion, keyboards
- Michel Berckmans horns and wind instruments
- Eric Plantain / bass
- Bart Quartier / marimba, other percussion

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Porcupine Tree - The Incident (2009)

Porcupine Tree's The Incident is probably the most anticipated album of a phenomenal year of new prog. Many fans of the genre know the artist inside and out, so I offer the perspective of a more casual fan. I have downloaded one album (In Absentia) and scattered tracks from other albums, all of which I've enjoyed. I am not familiar with the early PT catalog. This is the first album I've listened to repeatedly with a critical ear, specifically with a review in mind. I'm not quite sure if my favorable impression is based more on spending the extra time, or with the material itself.

So my current opinion is that this is my favorite Porcupine Tree material. I hear a greater range of sounds on this record including more dark electronica and nastier guitars, both of which I enjoy quite a bit. For the first time, I hear Opeth influencing PT rather than the other way around, and the Akerfeldt-ish riffing gives the heavy parts some cajones that I really hadn't heard before. In fact, the whole album just seems like Wilson is pulling from a more authentic darkness rather than an imagined one. Maybe the fact that he was inspired by specific, real stories got him a little outside of his head a bit. Maybe someone kicked his dog. In any case, his menace is a bit more convincing than in the past.

That doesn't mean this is the best album of all time of even of the year. But it's a very enjoyable listen that pulls on a variety of dark prog, sometimes purposefully derivative. The centerpiece track "Time Flies," which begins by listing the music of Wilson's youth, has multiple direct allusions to Pink Floyd. The most obvious is the main acoustic riff based directly on "Dogs," but there are sections reminiscent of "Time" and "Run Like Hell" also, covering PF's classics nicely. The title track sounds exactly like a Nine Inch Nails track, though Trent Reznor hasn't recorded anything as good in over a decade. Added into the mix is a healthy helping of odd time signatures which make at least these prog ears happy.

There's nothing here you haven't heard before. There is a plenty of pop sensibility, including even a couple big choruses. What is new is that the production is better than ever. In the past, Porcupine Tree has always seemed over-worked, almost clinical sounding. I'm sure Wilson still pores over everything with a very finely toothed comb, but the sounds on this album have a bit more life in them than the older tracks I have. The harmonies on "Kneel and Disconnect" are as good as they've ever been on a PT album. Some of the outros are overlong, but all in all this is quite good.

I've wavered between 3 and 4 stars for this album, but the album has grown on me. Especially when I'm giving more attention, I've really enjoyed the album. Even after 8-10 listens and reading all the lyrics multiple times, I haven't started to saturate yet. 4/5 it is.PORCUPINE TREE The Incident music reviews and MP3 review fron
Songs / Tracks Listing Disc 1 - 55:08
1. The Incident
I. Occam's Razor (1:55)
II. The Blind House (5:47)
III. Great Expectations (1:26)
IV. Kneel and Disconnect (2:03)
V. Drawing the Line (4:43)
VI. The Incident (5:20)
VII. Your Unpleasant Family (1:48)
VIII. The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train (2:00)
IX. Time Flies (11:40)
X. Degree Zero of Liberty (1:45)
XI. Octane Twisted (5:03)
XII. The Séance (2:39)
XIII. Circle of Manias (2:18)
XIV. I Drive the Hearse (6:41)

Line-up / Musicians
- Steven Wilson / vocals, guitar, piano
- Richard Barbieri / keyboards, synthesizer
- Colin Edwin / bass guitar
- Gavin Harrison / drums

Passport - Ocean Liner

Passport's albums always reflect the time in which they were released. Since Oceanliner came out in 1980, they are already working with two strikes against them. Most of this album is made up of early 80s pop/dance music with jazz and funk overtones, and very little of it is memorable.

Side one opens with a couple of bouncy Euro synth-pop numbers that feature Doldinger playing the Lyricon, a synth-horn instrument that doesn't sound near as good as his saxophone. Ancient Saga is an instrumental 80s metal hair ballad complete with a "soaring" guitar solo, to his credit Kevin Mulligan is a very good guitarist. Side one closes with Oceanliner, a funk-dance number that almost redeems this side except for the trendy vocoder vocals. This song features a nice solo on the Tenor sax from Klaus.

Side two opens with another vocoder driven dance number that features the considerable skills of bassist Dieter Petereit. Its too bad Pasport didn't have Dieter back when they were playing fusion, he would have been a big asset. This song is followed by a bland AOR vocal ballad and then things finally get interesting as the band makes a sharp left turn for the rest of the album. Bassride is a mellow spacey jazz number that features a lengthy Jacoesque solo from Dieter. Scope opens with some odd synth or Lyricon and then heads for an Ornette Coleman style wandering melody free-jazz jam that is actually pretty good. The album closes with Seaside, which is a pleasant pop Reggae tune that sounds fresh after the big freakout on Scope.

If you actually like early 80s dance music then you might stand a chance of enjoying this album. If there had been more songs on here like Scope, this would have been a classic. PASSPORT Oceanliner music reviews and MP3 Review from

Songs / Tracks Listing
1. Departure (4:54)
2. Allegory (3:40)
3. Ancient saga (4:15)
4. Oceanliner (5:52)
5. Rub-a-dub (4:39)
6. Uptown rendez-vous (3:32)
7. Bassride (4:09)
8. Scope (2:12)
9. Seaside (5:28)

Total Time: 38:41 

Line-up / Musicians - David Crigger / drums, percussion
- Klaus Doldinger / saxophones, Lyricon, keyboards, vocoder
- Kevin Mulligan / guitar, vocals
- Dieter Petereit / bass
- Hendrik Schaper / keyboards

Friday, 22 July 2011

Gentle Giant - Live in Stokholm '75

It's been a year since I saw the reunion of Three Friends, featuring Gary Green, Kerry Minnear and Malcolm Mortimore, at Musikens hus in Gothenburg and I still have very strong memories of that wonderful gig. While there, chatting before the show, I met quite a few people who attended the '75 Stockholm show and spoke very fondly of the whole experience telling me that it would be a great honor to revisit a Gentle Giant performance almost 35 years later!

Unlike many of the British acts of their time, Gentle Giants live performances were just as notorious as their studio releases. Listening to this 2009 release of the 1975 live recording from Stockholm University's Kårhuset I can clearly see why. Not only do the band members manage to recreate the compositions in the live setting but they also elevate them to a whole new level. This was, after all, the band's golden era period where they could pretty much do no wrong and it shows on each one of these performances.

The set-list features an unexpected range of tracks mainly from the three consecutive masterpiece released by the band after the departure of Phil Shulman in 1972. These are: The Runaway/Experience from In A Glass House, Proclamation, Cogs In Cogs and So Sincere from The Power And The Glory, a loose instrumental adaptation of Plain Truth from Acquiring The Taste followed by two new tracks from the 1975 release Free Hand.

First off, let me put your worries to rest about the sound quality since this release has an excellent sound for its time. Each instrument is distinguishable from the mix and the audience participation, although present, doesn't distract from the performance even in such quiet moments like the first part of Experience. This is definitely a major improvement for us who hated the live sound featured on the bonus tracks on the remastered edition of In A Glass House. I definitely think that everyone who attended the concert will be able to fully relive the memories and nostalgia that they have for the performance by listening to this album!

The first few tracks do deviate from their studio counterparts on a few occasions but it's towards the album's second part, starting with So Sincere, that the band begins to loosen up the material and we get some truly extraordinary results. First off the 4 minute So Sincere has been expanded to an 11 minute mark by a jamming middle section followed by drum & vibraphone solo spot outro. Plus we get a vocal duet between Derek and Kerry! Plain Truth isn't really the straight forward composition that we all rememberer so well from the band's second album. Instead we get a very loose instrumental version of the track that doesn't feature a single uttered vocal line. Finally, the two Free Hand tracks have also been slightly expanded by added jam moments that definitely leave the crowd screaming for more!

Overall this is an excellent Gentle Giant live release that should have a place in every prog rock collection right next to Playing The Fool and Giant On The Box!

***** star songs: So Sincere (11:03)

**** star songs: Cogs In Cogs (3:16) Proclamation (5:33) The Runaway/Experience (10:07) Plain Truth (8:21) Free Hand (7:09) Just The Same (6:07)

GENTLE GIANT Live In Stockholm '75 music reviews and MP3(Review from progarchiv)

Songs / Tracks Listing
1. Cogs In Cogs (3:30)
2. Proclamation (3:18)
3. The Runaway/Experience (10:08)
4. So Sincere (11:05)
5. Plain Truth (8:01)
6. Free Hand (7:20)
7. Just The Same (6:23)

Total Time 49:05
Line-up / Musicians
- Gary Green / electric guitar, acoustic guitar, 12 string guitar, alto recorder, descant recorder, vocals, percussion
- Kerry Minnear / keyboards, cello, vibes, tenor recorder, vocals, percussion
- Derek Shulman / vocals, alto sax, descant recorder, bass, percussion
- Ray Shulman / bass, violin, acoustic guitar, descant recorder, trumpet, vocals, percussion
- John Weathers / drums, vibes, tambour, vocals, percussion

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Argos - Circles (2010)

In some way ARGOS' new effort points to the predecessor debut which basically was divided in three parts, bearing references to different music styles and bands. But this time they obviously avoid a clear distinction and mix them all up across the album respectively even within the particular songs. So you will find a tricky blend of canterbury, eclectic and symphonic elements ... with the emphasis on the latter as for my impression. They are a quartet now due to the addition of Rico Florcak which surely gives the guitar more importance.

This new album was completely worked out on their own with love for detail (recording, mixing, mastering, cover artwork). While exploring the booklet the front cover is something to think about especially. The circle according to the album title - built up by a marching band which probably are representing the vintage retro aspect of the album. Finally we have the @ char which stands for the modern internet dominated society. And indeed you will find several comments within the song notes pointing to inspirations taken from several websites, speaking of the lyrics for example.

To pick up some impressions from diverse songs now ... the short keyboard dominated Sammelsurium covers some german recitative and a fantastic drive due to Ulf Jacobs' intriguing drum work. Or on the contrary just take the wonderful eclectic ballad Custody Of The Knave - when I hear Robert Gozon singing the lead vocals I'm often remembered at Peter Hammill. Lines On The Horizon seems to be the most charming one, very melodic with delicate flute and keyboard support (including mellotron) ... so much the more provided with stunning variety. Everytime I come to this song it sounds different somehow. Or to describe it in another way - and this basically fits for most of the songs - what seems to be relatively simple at first proves to be something tricky finally.

A Thousand Years musically expresses some sort of optimism as for my impression, a strong, powerful and excited exemplar - at least matching for some parts. Speaking of Sun And Moon next I want to mention the impressing guitar contributions. The symphonic The Gatekeeper is decorated with some Erich Kästner poetry (excerpts of 'Der Oktober') - an epic which is comparable to Big Big Train's masterpiece 'The Underfall Yard'. Nearly working in the same way Lost On The Playground is pointed out as the true showcase of their new band member ... and indeed, you will hear Rico Florcak alternating between riffing rhythm and soaring solo guitar work.

So far so good ... even if two or three tracks lose potential a bit 'Circles' can be already counted among the 2010 big hits. The compositions are surely picking up influences from diverse prog bands. However, the songs are ARGOS typical in the end, compact - which means melody, melancholy, instrumental and vocal variety, short solos, turns and breaks are blended to something fresh and impressing. This is the real deal - they have worked out an entertaining album. 'Circles' is dedicated to lovers of charming prog songs provided with a symphonic and canterbury outfit - highly recommended! ARGOS Circles music reviews and MP3 ( Review from

Songs / Tracks Listing 1. Sammel Surium (2:49)
2. Closed Circle (4:36)
3. A Thousand Years (8:12)
4. Lines On The Horizon (5:48)
5. Sun And Moon (3:36)
6. Custody Of The Knave (6:04)
7. The Gatekeeper (7:51)
8. Willow Wind (3:13)
9. Total Mess Retail (3:47)
10. Lost On The Playground (8:17)
11. Progology (5:16)

Line-up / Musicians - Thomas Klarmann / bass, flute, keyboards, guitars, lead vocals (4,8,9)
- Robert Gozon / lead vocals, keyboards, guitars
- Ulf Jacobs / drums, percussion, Roland DM, vocals
- Rico Florcak / electric guitar

guest musicians:
- Michael Hahn / electric guitar
- Dieter Guntermann / soprano sax

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