* Home of the Hippies*
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content

ben miler

Julian Jay Savarin: Waiters on the Dance (1971)

Julian Jay Savarin is better known as a sci-fi author, but for a short time, he involved himself in music. He first founded a band called Julian’s Treatment, which was a progressive rock band with lots of ’60s psychedelic overtones. They released an album called A Time Before This (which I have reviewed here on this site), but the group then broke up, with female vocalist Cathy Pruden apparently returning to her native Australia. Julian then recorded that followup to A Time Before This, called Waiters on the Dance, this time under his own name. This time, he recruited ex-Catapilla vocalist Lady Jo Meek. Contrary to popular belief, Lady Jo Meek is not Anna Meek, Jo was Anna’s sister. So there’s no such person as a Lady Anna Jo Meek, as I have often seen in many other reviews of Waiters on the Dance (I should know, because my copy of Catapilla’s self-entitled debut is the 1993 German CD reissue on Repertoire, and it clearly mentioned that Jo Meek left the group to be replaced by Anna). Anna replaced Jo in Catapilla when Jo came to Julian Jay Savarin, and it was Anna who was the one that was on the two albums that group released. Others helping out were bassist John Dover, guitarist Nigel “Zed” Jenkins, and drummer Roger Odell. The album got released on the Birth label, although I hear varying sources say this album was released in 1969 (very doubtful), 1971, or 1973. 1971 sounds about right to me, although there might have been a possibility the album’s released was delayed until 1973 (if so, I’m not surprised, given how difficult it was for lesser known prog rock acts to find a label willing to release their stuff, although the Italian Akarma reissue does say 1971).

Are you a fan of Julian’s Treatement’s A Time Before This? It’s a no-brainer, you need Waiters on the Dance. It’s very much in the same style and sound, but this time around with a more aggressive, harder-edged approach, which I really like. That means I thought it was better than A Time Before This. Guitar is more dominate but Julian still uses plenty of that great organ in that same cosmic style of Julian’s Treatment! Not to mention Jo Meek sounds like Cathy Pruden with more punch (Annie Haslam is another valid comparison). “Child of the Night 1 & 2” starts off calmly enough, with mellow organ and vocals, but then the music really gets intense, with some great guitar playing from Nigel Jenkins. Mellotron pops up. “Stranger” is a short piece, with real strings (the only cut on the album with real strings, as the Mellotron is used elsewhere). “Dance of the Golden Flamingoes” is the album’s instrumental cut, demonstrating the harder-edged approach Julian favored on this album, with lots of nice changes, and some jazzy passages, and the Mellotron. “Cycle” features more great organ playing from Julian, for some reason the organ heard at the beginning reminds me of the title track to Web’s I Spider (1970) album (Web being an early British progressive rock band who changed their name to Samurai in 1971 that featured future Greenslade member Dave Lawson), but then once the female vocals kick in, it sounds like Julian’s Treatment with more punch. I really like that short, but intense bass and organ solo. The album closes with the wonderful “Soldiers of Time”, rather short, but a great way to close the album.

Too bad this was as far as Julian Jay Savarin went in his musical venture, after this he concentrated exclusively on writing novels, which he still does to this day.

This really is one of those great albums that too few know about. Original LPs of course are difficult to come by, but you can thank Akarma in Italy for reissuing this (be aware there was an early reissue of A Time Before This that included material from Waiters on the Dance as bonus cuts, although the more recent Akarma version of A Time Before This simply consisted of just that album). This album simply blew me away, and comes highly recommended.
– Julian Jay Savarin: organ, Mellotron, story, arrangements
– Lady Jo Meek: vocals
– Nigel Jenkins: guitar
– John Dover: bass
– Roger Odell: drums

Machiavel: Jester (1977)

Machiavel was apparently one of the best known and most successful progressive rock bands to ever come out of Belgium. From 1976 to 1978 they released three progressive rock albums, Machiavel (1976), Jester (1977), and Mechanical Moonbeams (1978). Most of their reputation lies on the last two mentioned albums. Starting with Urban Games (1979) they went a more mainstream direction (not unlike Genesis), and they actually had a hit with “Fly” off the album New Lines (1980), but for the progressive rock fan (to my understanding), it’s pretty safe to avoid the stuff after Mechanical Moonbeams.

Jester is regarded as their first great album, and apparently the band benefitted greatly with the addition of vocalist Mario Guccio, who also played some flute, sax, and clarinet. Keyboardist Albert Letecheur really steals the show here with lots of electric piano, string synths, Minimoog, Mellotron and piano, while Roland De Greef provides bass, Marc Ysaye provides drums, and Jean Paul Delvaux provides guitars.

The band gets constantly compared with Genesis and Supertramp, and while the Supertramp comparisons might get some running, it mainly lies within Albert Letecheur’s electric piano work, which are much in the same style as what Rick Davies did with “Dreamer” and “The Logical Song”. Machiavel was nowhere as obsessed with studio perfection as Supertramp, neither were they anywhere as mainstream or pop-oriented (Machiavel only started going mainstream by 1979). “Wisdom” starts off with some pulsing synth sounds, then the string synths and guitar kick in. Some rather dramatic vocals kick in. It’s a great piece and a great way to open the album. “Sparkling Jaw” starts off with some spacy synths, in a rather slow manner, but then when the music kicks speed, the Supertramp influence (the electric piano) surfaces. “Moments” is a nice acoustic ballad done prog rock style, this reminds me most of Genesis during their more acoustic moments. The Mellotron rears it’s head for the first time on this album here, and the Mellotron would be heard for the remainder of the album. “In the Reign of Queen Pollution” has lyrics that don’t exactly need a rocket scientist to understand: about pollution and genetic mutation thanks to the consequence of pollution (including how after a thousand years children were born with the face in the shape of a gas mask). The song appropriately starts off in a rather dark and sinster matter with the string synths dominating. But the music starts picking up, Letecheur gives a nice Moog solo, then the music gets upbeat, for some strange reason, but the music is quite catchy. The title track has more of that Supertramp influence, but then at the end more nice synths that end this piece. “Mr. Street Fair” is a nice spacy piece dominated by string synths, with a circus-like atmosphere. “Rock, Sea and Tree” is the ending piece that has more great creative passages. What I admire is Machiavel is they also didn’t forget to create great songs, and make them interesting by including some great creative passages. It’s probably little wonder why they did so well in their native Belgium.

It’s amazing how this album even got released! I’m not referring to the music, of course, it’s the artwork inside the gatefold of the LP. The gatefold has very sexually explicit artwork, with lots of reference to oral sex and masturbation, and even a penis. Even so, the artwork is done surrealistically, as often you would see on many ’70s prog rock albums, just this one is perhaps the most sexually explicit art I ever seen on a prog rock album, even the cover to Frank Zappa’s Over-Nite Sensation is nothing compared to this! EMI (actually its division, Harvest, a label known for acts like Pink Floyd, Eloy, Triumvirat, Barclay James Harvest, etc.) actually released this album despite the artwork. I’m glad they did regardless of how controversial the artwork, at the risk of being banned.

There is no doubt about it, Jester is a great album to start if you don’t know Machiavel. And if you were turned off by them thanks to a later release such as New Lines, you’ll be glad to know Jester is much better. It comes highly recommended!
– Albert Letecheur: Grand piano, Electric piano, Honky tonk piano, Harpsichord, Solina String Ensemble, Mellotron, Synthesizers, Tubular bells, Glockenspiel
– Roland De Greef: Bass, Cellobass, 6 & 12 string acoustic guitar, Carillon, Bells, Whistle, Comb, Tape effects, vocals
– Marc Ysaye: Drums, Vocals, Tambourine, Maracas, Gong, Wood blocks, Glass blocks, Broken glass, Bells tree, Sleigh bells, Flextone, Nutcracker
– Mario Guccio: Vocals, Flute, Sax, Clarinet
– Jean Paul Delvaux: Electric guitar, 6 & 12 string acoustic guitar, Vocals

Alan Stivell: Roak Dilestra (Avant d’Accoster) (Before Landing) (1977)

When it comes for folk-rock, it was no doubt the late ’60s and early ’70s were prime-time for it. There was Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, all released their best material at the time. Over in Brittany, an area of France with a strong Celtic presence (not to mention their own language, Breton, which is Celtic, like Welsh, Cornish, Irish, Scots, and Manx Gaelic, unlike French, which is a Romance tongue) was Alan Stivell, who was responsible for giving the Bretons back their cultural identity (since the French government had really been indifferent). He recorded a string of albums, of varying, and often startlingly different styles. By the late ’70s, the folk-rock scene was in shambles (punk and disco were big reasons), Steeleye Span had seen their best days (and broke up in 1978, before periodic reunions in the 1980s and 1990s), and Fairport Convention, well, it was pure hell trying to figure out who was in the band in any given week (not to mention it was a miracle they were still allowed to be called Fairport Convention in Simon Nicol’s abscence). So what’s a big surprise was Alan Stivell created one of his finest albums, and one of my all-time favorite folk-rock albums, in the late ’70s!

That album was ‘Raok Dilestra – Avant d’Accoster, also known as Before Landing. Here Stivell puts aside covering traditional material in favor of a concept album in a largely rock context. Luckily his Celtic roots have not been abandoned! The prog rock elements show up on this album, which is the one album I strongly recommend prog rock fans who also enjoy Celtic music. Here all the singing is in Breton, but you’ll find plenty of narration, which is in French. I have to admit the narration isn’t the strong point in the album, but knowing French might help. Since my knowledge of French is limited, and of course Breton, well not at all, the album appears to be about France, Brittany, and the Breton people, and the Breton people’s wish to be free from French domination of their culture. While Alan Stivell always had an ever changing cast of musicians (although he often had regulars, like Gabriel Yacoub, before he went off to form Malicorne, and guitarist Dan ar Bras), I was a bit surprised to see Dave Swarbrick (Fairport Convention) and Richard Harvey (Gryphon) make an appearance on this album! Regular member Dan ar Bras is on this album and he was really responsible for the rock-part of this album thanks his use of electric guitar.

I really like how this album starts off mellow, and gets rocking about three cuts later and often don’t let down. The album gets more experimental to the point of one cut almost reminding me of King Crimson! “Ar Gelted kozh” starts off in a mournful way, with Alan Stivell’s singing, bagpipes, mandolin, and sitar. This song will not prepare you for most of the rest of this album. “Ar Vritoned ‘ba’ Inis-Breizh” has a more ambient feel, complete with synthesizers, world-beat percussion, and nice Celtic feel. Then comes “Les Britons en Armorique”, which is simply Celtic harp and some narration, then comes the more rock-oriented stuff. “Rouantelezh Vreizh” is a really nice combination of prog rock and Celtic folk, with great use of bagpipes, plus Hammond organ, with some rather tricky time signatures. There’s a short organ solo that almost sounds a bit like ELP! “Dugelezh Vreizh” has a more medieval feel, complete with krummhorn, the results: not unlike something Gryphon did early on their career, except the singing is in Breton. I guess that comes as no surprise as Richard Harvey from that band is on this cut playing the krummhorn. “Le Traité d’Union franco-breton” starts finding Stivell at a more experimental mood, with the first part with narration in French, the other part with singing. The electric piano dominates this piece, and there’s this dissonance that almost reminds me of something King Crimson would do (of course, you don’t have Robert Fripp here, or any other Crimson member). Things really get off the deep-end with “La Révolution Française et le 19e siècle” includes a mangled version of the French national anthem played on guitar. Eventually things settle back down to “Eil lodenn an ugentwed kantwed”, which still firmly in rock territory, goes basically on a groove, it might be a bit repetitive, but I like the groove. “Da Ewan” is slightly mellower than what came before, with harp and bagpipes, but the rock elements are there. Then comes one of my favorites, “Gwriziad difennet”, a great rocking piece, with great guitar riffs from Dan ar Bras, and some nice fiddle playing. “Marw ewid e fobi” is rather mellow, which is a nice change of pace through some of the stuff that came before. This really harkens back to Renaissance of the Celtic Harp, dominated by Stivell’s Celtic harp. A really nice piece demonstrating how Celtic harp should be really played (not this unbearably cheesy crap, often New Age that passes as Celtic you might see at your local Wal-Mart). There’s some nice low-key use of cello in the background. “Naw Breton ‘ba’ prizon” features some really nice use of duo vocals (Stivell and apparently Dan ar Bras battling it out on vocals), then I really like how they get rocking again, in a Celtic manner, with tempo changes and some great themes. There’s also some nice use of bombarde (a Breton double-reed instrument, that Stivell tends to use on many of his other albums too). “Tamm-kreiz new'” is mainly bagpipes (I suspect something other than Scottish Highland bagpipes were used here, as it hits some really high notes the Scottish bagpipes can’t reach, probably some French or Breton variety of bagpipes). “Plinn-slogan” is basically a number that consists of a bunch of chanting, including (in English) “Free Brittany”. Thanks to that, that leaves no doubt the album refers to how the Bretons want to be free of French cultural dominance.

I am really surprised about this album. In the late ’70s, he continues to make high quality music, regardless of the changing musical fads of the time. The album might have a couple experimental bits gone awry, but this is simply a great Celtic folk/prog rock album!
Too many musicians here, but the key ones are:
– Alan Stivell: vocals, Celtic harp, bombarde, piano, bagpipes
– Dan ar Bras: guitars, vocals
– Dave Swarbrick: fiddle
– Richard Harvey: krummhorn, flutes
– Andrew Herve: piano, Hammond organ, synthesizer
– Mikael Herve: bass guitar
– Jean-Luc Danna: drums, percussion

…plus many others (would take too much time to type them down)

The Residents: Third Reich ‘n Roll (1976)

One thing you can expect with The Residents is the unexpected. Throught their entire existance no one knew for sure who they really were. They were always seen performing with eyeball masks and other costumes without ever revealing their faces. Many rumors surface, including their origins being from Louisiana, then moving to San Francisco, not to mention another where the founders of Ralph Records (which the Residents recorded for) were The Residents. It’ll probably never will be revealed who they are, after all they really wanted to be anonymous, to express art for art’s sake, rather than being manipulated by the audience (after all too often a band needs to meet audience expectations and The Residents didn’t feel that need).

In 1974 and 1975 they recorded two extended pieces, “Swastikas on Parade” and “Hitler was a Vegetarian”. These two cuts ended up as their second album, Third Reich ‘n Roll. If you listened to the oldies station that tends to play a lot of stuff from the ’60s, like Tommy James & the Shondells’ “Hanky Panky”, The Surfaris’ “Wipeout”, the Ohio Express’ “Yummy Tummy”, or any given girl group that was produced by Phil Spector and you got really annoyed by that stuff (feeling all glad there was a psychedelic and avant garde movement to blow that stuff out of the water), then The Residents had came to your doorstep. Imagine all those AM hits from the ’60s given a total butcher treatment. Weird, demented vocals, purposely badly played on instruments, including guitars, drums and synthesizers, in a completely avant garde fashion, as if the oldies ruined their lives. All these oldies songs, as done by The Residents, were all segued together, not as performances of entire songs, but as excerpts, usually the hooks, so you can halfway recognize these songs (but there are times they make a certain song almost completely unrecognizable).

Apparently the album was a take on the music industry, and how they thought the industry was ran by fascists. The cover even features a picture of Dick Clark in Nazi regalia, with Adolf Hitler dancing with Eva Braun. Realizing an album cover like that would likely not be allowed in Germany, they also released a Swastika-free cover for the German market.

And releasing albums like that you know could only spark controversy, and that’s also a big reason why the Residents always preferred to be anonymous.

When you listen to Third Reich ‘n Roll, you’ll notice a lot of songs you might missed the first time around, you’ll have a lot of fun figuring out just how many songs they twisted, butchered, and mangled on one album! Pure fun, in which the oldies will never be the same.
Well, since The Residents always chose to be anonymous, getting proper info of who was in the group is obviously next to impossible.

King Crimson: Lizard (1970)

We all can be certain about King Crimson was the band wasn’t known for a steady lineup (at least in the 1970s, because during their 1980s and ’90s reunions, they were able to keep a more steady lineup). In the Wake of Poseidon was recorded where the original lineup was already falling apart. Ian McDonald wanted nothing to do with it (so Mel Collins filled in his shoes, although Robert Fripp started handling Mellotron duties). Greg Lake only stayed long enough to lay down most of the vocal tracks (only one vocal track by newcomer Gordon Haskell), and have Michael Giles brother, Peter lay down the bass track (both the Giles brothers and Fripp recorded together in 1968 on the Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles & Fripp album, which apparently is largely a curiosity, mainly of interest to King Crimson historians). We all know what happened to Greg Lake: he teamed up with ex-Nice keyboardist Keith Emerson, and ex-Atomic Rooster and ex-Crazy World of Arthur Brown drummer Carl Palmer to form Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Michael Giles simply teamed with with former bandmate Ian McDonald, and recorded the McDonald & Giles album.

Now comes Lizard, released at the end of 1970, the group now consisted of Robert Fripp, Gordon Haskell (now full-time, handling both bass and vocals), Mel Collins, ex-Fields and future Greenslade drummer Andy McCulloch, while Peter Sinfield still hung around providing lyrics. Keith Tippet is here on piano and electric piano, plus they added some horn players, some who had appeared on Soft Machine’s Third (1970) album. Robin Miller (Oboe, Cor Anglais), Mark Charig (Cornet), and Nick Evans (Trombone). Jon Anderson makes a guest appearance on vocals too. It’s my understanding that Jon Anderson wanted to invite Fripp to replace Peter Banks in Yes, but Fripp declined (which is probably easy to see why: musical incompatibility), but of course Yes continued on, with Steve Howe, whose presence helped that band greatly. I guess if Anderson couldn’t get Fripp to join Yes, he’d just guest on a Crimson album, which he did.

In the Wake of Poseidon was frequently criticized as being a pale copycat of their debut. Well I can agree, to a point, the second half of the album features two cuts that would have been completely out of place on their debut: “Cat Food” and “The Devil’s Triangle”. “Cat Food” added that playful humorous element that’s usually alien on a Crimson album, and that element is a lot more dominant on Lizard. This time around, while the group still relied heavily on the Mellotron and wind instruments, they decided to do something new, so no listeners would think this one cut resembles “21st Century Schizoid Man” or another “Epitaph”, etc. Also a first: synthesizers! King Crimson were never big on synthesizers, but here Fripp includes some EMS VCS-3 synth. “Cirkus” is the big opening cut, with some really stunning Mellotron work. You can tell that Gordon Haskell has a totally different voice from Greg Lake. “Indoor Games” shows the band’s humor. Here, you get to hear some synthesizers, but mainly the wind instruments take center stage. I really loved that Mellotron passage that comes out of nowhere. “Happy Family” continues in this playful vein, this time, with electronically modified voices. Apparently the song was addressing the Beatles, who broke up the same year this album came out. “Lady of the Dancing Water” is a rather mellow, laid-back number dominated by acoustic guitar and flute. Then comes Crimson’s only attempt at a side-length cut: the title track. Here it starts with “Prince Rupert Awakes”. Here Jon Anderson provides the vocals, so unsurprisingly you get a Yes meets Crimson sound. This would be the earliest recording you get to hear Anderson’s voice backed by Mellotron (of course, you’ll hear plenty of Anderson’s voice backed by Mellotron once Rick Wakeman joined Yes). Many people alway seem to laugh when Anderson sings this line: “Wake your reason’ hollow vote/Wear your blizzard season coat/Burn a bridge and burn a boat/Stake a lizard by the throat”. Most of the rest of this side-length piece is instrumental, going through different styles, from bolero to jazz to classical to Spanish styles, and near the end, when Gordon Haskell starts singing, back to the Mellotron-heavy symphonic sound. This is not the most easy thing to get into, but then King Crimson was often not the most accessible band out there.

Most people obviously refer to In the Court of the Crimson King as one of their finest, I happen to think Lizard is too!
– Robert Fripp: guitar, Mellotron, electric keyboards, devices
– Mel Collins: flute, sax
– Gordon Haskell: vocals, bass
– Andy McCulloch: drums
– Peter Sinfield: words, pictures

with:
– Robin Miller: oboe, Cor Anglais
– Mark Charig: Cornet
– Nick Evans: trombone
– Keith Tippet: piano, electric piano
– Jon Anderson: vocals on ‘Prince Rupert Awakes’

Jethro Tull: Thick as a Brick (1972)

If there was any doubt about Tull early on, it was Aqualung that propelled the group to superstardom. There were songs receiving constant FM radio airplay, like the title track, “Cross-Eyed Mary” and “Locomotive Breath”. Many people saw the album as a concept album, especially since several songs were highly critical of organized religion, but Ian Anderson didn’t think it was a concept album.

Shortly after Aqualung came out, drummer Clive Bunker left, replaced by Barriemore Barlow. This new lineup first recorded a 5 song EP called Life is a Long Song. These fives songs ended up on the Living in the Past double semi-compilation album, as the final five cuts. The first full album with the new lineup of Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, John Evans, Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, and Barriemore Barlow was Thick as a Brick. Like I said, Anderson didn’t feel Aqualung was a concept album (but we know we can’t believe what he said in regards to that album), but he said he purposely made Thick as a Brick a concept album. The original LP came with newspaper-like packaging, and there’s such a big reason to continue holding onto the LP, because the packaging was lost to make for the size restrictions of the CD (although the Japanese CD does replicate the full newspaper, it still isn’t the same being shrunk to CD size since it would be harder to read). Here, the “newspaper” is totally fictional. The paper states that an 8 year old named Gerald Bostock wrote the poem to Thick as a Brick. We all know that’s fiction, it was none other than Ian Anderson, we can all tell the lyrics were undeniably his style. There’s also a listing of BBC TV programs, which is also totally fictional, because it consists nothing of the sort of programs I know were aired on the BBC in 1972, no listings of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Doctor Who, Tomorrow’s World, etc. Not even the BBC News. And listings of programs like Disney: The Wonderful World of Colour*, the astrisk standing for “Not in colour”. I ended up laughing at parts of this “newspaper”, because you’ll find it hard to believe a lot of this happens, even in a small, out of the way, completely fictional English village like St. Cleve.

On the musical front, Tull did something they never did before, and I don’t think any rock act had done before: a whole album that’s essentially one song. The first two and a half or so minutes are rather acoustic, giving it a rather strong folk feel, with Ian Anderson’s trademark vocals and flute. It’s here that got some radio airplay. I get reminded of “Mother Goose” off Aqualung, because that was one of the album’s more acoustic, folk-oriented pieces (it always happened to be a favorite of mine off that album). People who bought Thick as a Brick was in for a surprise. Because after that, the band really gets rocking, with electric instruments, but still the same there are plenty of folk-influenced and acoustic passages throughout. The album goes through many different changes, as if they were a collection of songs segued throughout. Sometimes between changes, they’d go an extended guitar, organ, and flute solo, sometimes you’ll see the main acoustic guitar theme rear its head again to make you realize what you’re listening to.

Despite the risk the band take, the album was a huge success! In the United States it actually went to number on on the album charts! Hard to believe something like that happening today if some music act records a song that’s one full-length album! The rock critics, on the other hand were rather mixed towards this album.

More recently, since the rise of the Internet, this album regularly gets on the top list of almost every prog rock website out there as the “Top 10 progressive rock albums”, “Best progressive rock album ever made”, “Essential progressive rock albums”, etc. and regularly on the polls as a favorite in the prog rock community, and I can’t blame them. This is truly Tull at the top of their game, and it’s a no-brainer: get this album!
– Ian Anderson: vocals, flute, guitars, sax
– Martin Barre: guitars
– Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond: bass
– John Evans: Organ, piano
– Barriemore Barlow: drums, percussion
– David Palmer: Orchestrations

Amon Duul II: Wolf City (1972)

Amon Düül II is simply one of the greats of Krautrock, and in the early ’70s, made some of the finest albums in Krautrock, like Phallus Dei (1969), Yeti (1970) and Tanz der Lemminge aka Dance of the Lemmings (1971). The band frequently witnessed lineup changes, such as bassist Dave Anderson leaving to join Hawkwind, and other musicians going in and out.

1972 marked a point in Amon Düül II’s career where the band dispensed with side-length jams and extended experimental passages for more compact, song-based material. Carnival in Babylon was that album. Renate Knaup, who sat out Tanz der Lemminge was back, and she played a much greater role in the band than she ever did before. The band was obviously looking for a larger audience, that’s why the recording of more accessible material. But luckily they did not sell out, so if that’s what you’re fearing, relax. Later that same year comes Wolf City.

To me, this is a leap over Carnival in Babylon (although Carnival in Babylon is not bad, and I recommend that one too, just they made some obvious improvements on Wolf City). Many familiar members are still here including Renate Knaup, John Weinzierl, Chris Karrer, Lothar Meid, plus the return of Falk-U. Rogner (who wasn’t on Carnival in Babylon), plus a new drummer, D. Secundus-Fichelscher. This time around Rogner included synthesizers, first time for this band. Also included is Jimmy Jackson, an American who played with the likes of Ray Charles (which means he had an R&B background), who strangely turned to the Krautrock scene by playing for the likes of Embryo, and this group. Here he plays something called a choir organ, which sounds like a Mellotron choir, but can hold those notes indefinately, unlike a Mellotron (Wolf City isn’t the first ADII album Jackson played on, he was also on Tanz der Lemminge). Finding proper info about this choir organ is not easy to come by, and I seen no pictures of one.

“Surrounded by the Stars” is the opening cut, and often regarded as a fan favorite. Has sort of a Pink Floyd meets Jefferson Airplane feel. Renate certainly is an acquired taste, as she’s often compared to Grace Slick meets Nico. “Green-Bubble-Raincoated-Man” has a rather pop/psychedelic feel, but I really like the twists the band included to this piece. “Jail-House-Frog” is a wonderful example of the band merging the song-based approach the band was now exploring with spacy experiments of the past. The first half pretty much covers the same ground as the previous two cuts, while the second half of this piece includes piano, some strange spacy sound effects and the extended choir organ from Jimmy Jackson. The title track is a rather aggressive, rock-oriented number in which Lothar Meid handles the vocals. “Wie der Wind am Ende einer Straße”, despite the German title, is actually heavily Indian influenced, with Indian musicians guesting on sitar and tabla, it starts off rather electronic, with Falk Rogner handling the synthesizers, before the sitar and tabla kicks in. “Deutsch Nepal” is the only song on the album sung in German, and another aggressive rocker, with some Eastern influences. Then comes the last piece, “Sleepwalker’s Timeless Bridge”. The instrumental section sounds a lot like something off Carnival in Babylon, but when the vocals kick in, this time by D. Secundus Fichelscher, I get reminded of Gong, even the vocals sound a lot like Daevid Allen!

Wolf City really shows how tight and solid the band became. The production is also excellent, which is something I couldn’t believe I’d say for an ADII album. Earlier albums, like Yeti, did not have very good production (but of course, the music quality more than makes up for it, making them easy for me to recommend), but I guess that kept their underground status legitimate. It’s nice to see the band was still able to hold their own recording shorter, more accessible material, and still not selling out! My only complaint is this album is just too darn short (not even 40 minutes here). And it turns out to be one of their finest albums too.
– Chris Karrer: guitars, violin
– Lothar Meid: bass, vocals
– Renate Knaup: vocals
– John Weinzierl: guitars
– Rolf-U. Falkner: synthesizer, organ, piano
– D. Secundus Fichelscher: drums, vocals

Guests:
– Jimmy Jackson: choir organ
– Olaf Kübler: sorpano sax
– Peter Leopold: percussion, vocals
– Al Sri Al: sitar
– Pandit Shankur: tabla
– Liz van Neienhoff: tamboura

Rare Bird: As Your Mind Flies By (1970)

Rare Bird sure wasted no time in getting some music recorded. They formed in October 1969 and already had an album out within two months of their formation! How many other bands can make that claim? Apparently Tony Stratton-Smith (head of the then-newly established Charisma Records) was so impressed by the band’s demo tape that it essentially became their album. The band received some success in Continental Europe with the anti-war, anti-hate anthem “Sympathy” which actually became a hit there.

In 1970, comes their second (and unfortunately final) album with the original lineup, As Your Mind Flies By (although the band did reemerge in 1972, with an altered lineup that included guitarists, and released three more albums on Polydor until 1974, which had a mellower, West Coast-influenced feel). This was the album their reputation largely stands on, and for real good reason! Many of the songs on this album shows some pop influences like “What You Want to Know” and “I’m Thinking”, while “Down on the Floor” tends to have a stronger baroque feel, complete with harpsichord. Then you have the heavy and aggressive “Hammerhead”. This is no doubt the highlight for me on the first half of the album (side one, if you own the LP), even if it’s very short. And vocalist Steve Gould often receives no credit as he’s a great vocalist, and a rather distinctive one at that. You could never call his singing pretentious, as he was as much influenced by soul and R&B as Arthur Brown (although Gould was never as wild as Brown), yet it works great in the progressive rock framset of the band. Then comes the side-length cut “Flight”. This was, without a doubt, the most ambitious thing Rare Bird ever did! A four movement suite that goes through different changes, including some experimental passages, a bolero (actually it was the band performing Ravel’s “Bolero”) and some great organ passages from Graham Field. And I almost forgot, a choir was included on some of the passages.

Unfortunately this original lineup from Rare Bird quickly disintegrated. It’s too bad that they only managed two albums with this lineup, but it could be argued that they couldn’t really go any further (and probably true, as their Polydor albums sound drastically different from their Charisma albums, but those albums are good too, at least the two I have, Epic Forest and Somebody’s Watching as I don’t have Born Again yet). In 1976, Charisma released the compilation album called Sympathy. Although containing a nice selection, you really know how unnecessary a compilation album is if it solely concentrates on two albums (I would have a lot less problem if it also had non albums singles like “Devil’s High Concern” or the single version of “What You Want to Know” which is said to be different from the album version, but this compilation doesn’t). Organist Graham Field left to form a band with ex-King Crimson drummer Andy McCulloch in a band called Fields, who released one album in 1971 on CBS. Drummer Mark Ashton, well he was all over the place. Meanwhile the other Steve Gould and the other keyboardist David Kaffinetti formed a new edition of Rare Bird and released three albums on Polydor, Epic Forest (1972), Somebody’s Watching (1973) and Born Again (1974).

Long after the band was history, an interesting note: David Kaffinetti appeared on the movie Spinal Tap in 1984, playing Vic! He shortened his real name to David Kaff in that film. If a movie was to mock rock music (specifically hard rock and heavy metal), it only made sense to have a real rock musician appear in the film!

As Your Mind Flies By is certainly Rare Bird at their finest and a great place to know this band!
– Steve Gould: vocals, bass
– Graham Field: keyboards
– David Kaffinetti: keyboards
– Mark Ashton: drums

Jefferson Airplane: After Bathing at Baxter’s (1967)

As everyone knows that Jefferson Airplane was riding high in 1967 when they released Surrealistic Pillow. Original members Signe Anderson and Skip Spence left in 1966 following the release of Takes Off. Anderson left to start a family, and Spence went and formed Moby Grape, in comes Grace Slick (ex-Great Society) and Spencer Dryden. These new members, alongside Paul Kantner, Marty Balin, Jorma Kaukonen, and Jack Casady, defined the classic Airplane lineup. We all know Surrealistic Pillow spawned two big hits, “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love” (both Great Society songs that Grace Slick brought to the Airplane), and it earned them a ton of fame.

June 1967 saw the Beatles releasing Sgt. Pepper, we all know what happened after that: it gave people brand new ideas and attitudes to the approach of music. And that affected Jefferson Airplane, so they quickly got to work on that followup to Surrealistic Pillow. RCA was obviously pleased with the success of that album so they gave the band total artistic control. And the results was After Bathing at Baxter’s, which saw the light of day in November 1967. And the results were shocking! This ain’t exactly what RCA had in mind. RCA expected a continuation of Surrealistic Pillow, instead they got a much more experimental album. The reason: the band did not want to make hit singles, so they purposely created an album not to yield hits. It’s also a harder-edge album, because there were likely a few detractors who thought of the Airplane as a bunch of softies. This time, the band went for five suites, all divided into separate songs. Those five suites were “Streetmasse”, “The War is Over”, “Hymn to an Older Generation”, “How Suite it Is”, and “Shizoforest Love Suite”. “Streetmasse” starts off with “The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil”. With guitar feedback, and a harder rocking sound, with more elaborate vocal harmonies, you knew this was going to be different from Surrealistic Pillow. “A Small Package For You Will Come To You Shortly” is an bizarre, experimental piece that’s not unlike the more experimental moments of Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention. Something completely alien on Surrealistic Pillow. Then comes “Young Girl Sunday Blues”, written by both Kantner and Balin, with Balin handling lead vocals. This is, unfortunately, the only song to feature Balin on lead. It’s a rather straightforward rocker. “The War is Over” starts with a wonderful acoustic Kantner number called “Martha” with some really nice use of recorder. “Wild Thyme (H)” demonstrates how After Bathing at Baxter’s is a harder-edge album than anything they done before. “Hymn to an Older Generator” includes “The Last Wall of the Castle” and “rejoyce”. The latter is a Grace Slick composition, a classically-influnced piece dominated by piano, Grace Slick’s unmistakable voice, plenty of tempo changes, some jazzy and Middle Eastern-influenced passages. “rejoyce” is strangely the Jefferson Airplane playing a brand of progressive rock that ’70s bands like Renaissance would later do! And this was 1967, coming from a Bay Area acid rock band, when, in Britain, the Moody Blues just released Days of Future Passed, and Procol Harum released their first full-length album (“A Whiter Shade of Pale” was released as a single prior to the album’s release). “How Suite it Is” features “Watch Her Ride” and “Spare Chaynge”. This latter piece really polarizes listeners. Many think it’s one of the worst things the Airplane ever done, but to me, it’s actually quite good. What they were doing is an extended jam, other Bay Area bands like Moby Grape, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and of course, the Grateful Dead were well known for jams, so the Airplane got in the game. The first half simply consists of Jack Casady playing on his bass, and it only really takes off when the rest of the band kicks in (Jorma Kaukonen’s guitar playing, and Spencer Dryden’s drumming). “Shizophrenic Love Suite” consists of “Two Heads” and “Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon”. The former is from Grace Slick, and reminds me a bit of “Somebody to Love”. I like the use of electric harpsichord on this piece. Somewhere, if you listen clearly, Grace Slick quietly sings “Fuck you”. The presence of profanity on their albums was the result of RCA letting them have full artistic control. The latter features a lot of flower power lyrics, and a nice piece, overall.

Apparently Jefferson Airplane wanted to name this album After Taking LSD, but that would be a bit obvious so the album was called After Bathing at Baxter’s. The album is supposedly the affect of being under the influence of LSD. And the reason for songs being called “rejoyce” and “Spare Chaynge” was the band admired James Joyce.

After Bathing at Baxter’s was a huge shock for so many reasons: that the band would take such a huge risk so quick, in the same year they released the hugely successful Surrealistic Pillow. Surrealistic Pillow consisted of simple, easily enjoyable, relatively straightforward songs (aside from the obvious hits like “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love”, you also got great songs like “Today” and “Coming Back to Me”). After Bathing at Baxter’s did not. And I’m certain even the band realized recording an album like Baxter’s so quickly would alienate a large part of their audience, and that was true (Baxter’s did not do as so well, in terms of chart success as Pillow). Even RCA warned the band. I am convinced had they done Crown of Creation first, then Baxter’s, the public might have been more ready.

Regardless, this is a truly great album, it requires a few listens to get it, after all, it is a much more elaborate and ambitious album than anything they did before. Another classic from the Bay Area, as far as I’m concerned.
– Paul Kantner: vocals, guitars
– Grace Slick: vocals, piano, recorder
– Marty Balin: vocals, guitars
– Jorma Kaukonen: guitars
– Jack Casady: bass
– Spencer Dryden: drums

Tim Blake: New Jerusalem (1978)

In 1978, Tim Blake recorded and released his second solo album, Blake’s New Jerusalem, also released on the French Egg label. This time around, it’s a studio effort, so whatever flaws of Crystal Machine, are not here, since he got time to edit those flaws. Blake this time around, not only handles his trustworthy Mini Moogs and EMS Synthi “A”s, but he also plays acoustic guitar and glissando guitar (that same sliding techique that Daevid Allen and Steve Hillage used), and he sings on all but one cut. He also gets some help from a Frenchman named Jean-Philipe Rykiel on additional synths. Admittedly Blake is not the greatest singer out there, but it works fine in the context of the music here.

“Song For a New Age” is the opening cut, with a great spacy feel, acoustic guitar, spacy synths, and while the song title might sound like he was exploring New Age, luckily it wasn’t, it was his brand of spacy electronic/prog rock! Then comes “Lighthouse”, which features some spoken dialog like it came off an episode of Star Trek (the narration actually went, “Captain’s log, stardate…”), which is largely dominated by synths and some great use of glissando guitar. “Generator (Laser Beam)” was actually released as a single prior to the album’s release, here it’s almost disco-like. Yes, that might scare many off, because it has that pulsing beat and synth rhythms that would almost go well in a disco (this is 1978 after all, the height of disco), but it actually works here, because he still has that same progressive electronic attitude, and keeps up with the spaciness of the rest of the album. “Passage sur la Cité (Des Révélation)” is an all instrumental electronic piece, it reminds me a tad of Jean Michel Jarre, but using instruments Jarre wouldn’t use like glissando guitar and Mini Moog. The title track closes the album, which features more great spacy electronics, and a quote from William Blake (Tim Blake obviously realized he beared the same last name as the famous poet, but I doubt Tim had any actual releation to William).

After this album, Tim Blake joined Hawkwind for the albums Live ’79 and Levitation (both released in 1980), but apparently the band ditched him, and Blake pretty much laid low, only releasing that occasional solo album like Magick (1991) and Tide of the Century (2000).

Blake’s New Jerusalem is a great album of electronic/prog. This doesn’t sound much like Gong, and even non-fans of Gong who like electronic would have no problem with this album.