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Old 12-29-2009, 08:17 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Pavlov's Dog – Pampered Menial (1974)


"Ever Wondered What Geddy Lee from Rush would sound like on helium while fronting Roxy Music?"

1. Julia (3:10)
2. Late November (3:12)
3. Song Dance (4:59)
4. Fast Gun (3:04)
5. Natchez Trace (3:42)
6. Theme from Subway Sue (4:25)
7. Episode (4:04)
8. Preludin (1:39)
9. Of Once and Future Kings (5:27)


Of the many strange bands who emerged from the American musical woodwork of the swingin' 70's, you would be hard pressed to find a more polarizing band than Pavlov's Dog. Fronted by the mysterious but freakishly voiced David Surkamp and featuring more diverse-than-usual instrumentation than your average glam group, the group toured a bit through various clubs before catching the attention of the executives of ABC Dunhill Records, who in a curious move gave the band nearly $650,000 so that they could get into studio and record an album. The result of the ensuing studio work was 1974's Pampered Menial, the subject of this review, and in all the time that's passed since that year there has never been another album quite like it.

The first thing one might notice when listening to the opening piece 'Julia', which was also this record's big single, is that there is A. The piano and guitar are both quite dynamic, along with some nice flute and B. Surkamp's voice is possibly the coolest thing ever, regardless of whether you like the sound of it or not. Seriously, this guy could crack windows with that falsetto, and the very sound of it empowers and fleshes out the music in a way that a typically nice sounding or okay sounding vocalist would not be capable of doing. For better or for worse, you can't deny the uniqueness here.




'Late November', in something of a contrast to where we started at, is where the glam aspects begins to rear up. Featuring a strangely catchy chorus led by Surkamp's curious delivery and some wonderfully searing guitar clawing out from the depths of mellotron atmospherics, this is a nicely memorable track that could have been 5 or even 6 minutes long and still not worn out its welcome.



After this you may begin to see this album's main dynamic at work; fun slices of rock driven by vitar (a combination between the guitar and violin) laden with symphonic arrangements you'd expect more from Queen or prog. bands, and in this respect Pavlov's Dog excels fantastically. It's nothing too technical, but is great melancholic stuff fronted by a man who makes Robert Plant sound almost gruff in comparison. My favorite track, however, is the closer 'Of Once and Future Kings', which features a nice spurt in the energy department and two solos from both the piano and violin, bringing to mind Gentle Giant at their saner moments. It's basically five minutes of random, pure progressive fun, and the medieval lyrics fit these proceedings like a glove.



Where groups like Queen and Roxy Music were sublime to see in the mid 70's and David Bowie masterful, Pavlov's Dog may just seem weird and amateurish in comparison, but I for one find their earnestness endearing. The fact that an American band could stand out so starkly amidst their more successful British peers and still sound fresh thirty years later is remarkable in and of itself, and Pampered Menial can surely be appreciated by anyone who want to hear cool 70's American pomp. rock done odd, but with style and vigor to boot.
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Old 12-30-2009, 08:28 PM   #22 (permalink)
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I like this thread a lot. Your reviews are well written and thoughtful and without any over the top criticism. Just how I like it. Congrats Anteater.

Comments on a couple of reviews. I being a very ancient individual compared to the vast majority of the people around here (haa haa) got Rainbow Rising on release and Pampered Menial came into my possession about 4 years after it's release. Because I had them originally on vinyl I actually downloaded both these albums out of curiosity last year to see how they stood the test of time. I tended to find Rising rather cliqued after thinking it was a fine album once. The lyrics are not to my taste nowadays and I also find the keyboard work less to the fore than I once remembered. In fact out of the Blackmore Purple and solo works that I had the only one that still gives me a thrill is In Rock.

Pampered Menial is the same though I suspect that is because the songs have not stood the test of time. Also Surkamp's voice is a mood voice for me. Either in or not. I am sure I once read he was big in Italy or something.
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Old 12-31-2009, 04:09 AM   #23 (permalink)
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In fact out of the Blackmore Purple and solo works that I had the only one that still gives me a thrill is In Rock.
That`s because "In Rock" was well ahead of its time and the pure speed and heaviness of the album predates so much later similiar stuff by other bands. The album is always a great listen.
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Old 12-31-2009, 08:37 PM   #24 (permalink)
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^ Italy eh. That's a bit unexpected to know, but it makes sense in a way. I'm a pretty young guy myself (20), so I don't have the benefit of being someone who knew a lot of these albums as they were released, but I'm glad you like my reviews thusfar 4ZZ, thanks! And I also think In Rock is a pretty good release Soldier.


Hawk Africa She Too Can Cry (1972)


"Soul-Shattering Rock From The Dark Continent As You've Never Heard It Before!"

1. Uvuyo (3:13)
2. Elegy for Eden (2:37)
3. The Rolling of the Bones (2:43)
4. Dark Side of the Moon (2:55)
5. War Talk (2:42)
6. Africa (2:49)
7. African Day Suite (16:28)
8. Orang Outang (3:52)
9. Kalahari Dry (2:35)
10. Mumbo Jumbo (3:40)
11. Hunter (4:07)
12. In my Youth (4:56)


Of the procession of albums that have been reviewed so far, this one is without a doubt the rarest by far, as well as one of the more intriguing in my collection. Hailing from the racially charged rock scene of South Africa, were police could bust in and beat you to death merely by getting up on stage if you were black, the musicians who made up Hawk were given a golden opportunity when their manager cut a deal with Charisma Records, who were based in London, allowing them to escape the shackles of racism and cruelty that were prevalent in their homeland. They then were able to record several albums and go tour throughout Europe for quite some time, enjoying success to various degrees for their intriguing blend of African ethnicentrism and Van Der Graaf Generator-esque prog. rock, led by dual guitar and the fantastic vocals of Dave Ornellas.

Africa She Too Can Cry is Hawk's second release, a showcase for their abilities as well as an exercise in songwriting which reflected their patriotic love of the land of their birth. The songs dance between various moods, from the steller funk of 'Mumbo Jumbo' to dramatic, bluesy fare like 'Elegy of Eden' and 'In My Youth' to epic proggy hard rock such as the mammoth 17-minute "African Day Suite". Whatever the mood though, this is wonderfully raw stuff that sounds almost like a garage recording at times, unhinged and feral despite the fact its a studio album, but never forgetting to display its beautiful, most human elements when needed.





A lot of albums out there remain obscure for different reasons, one of which is that they weren't very good in the first place. I can, however, say with certainty that this is not the case with Hawk or any of their output on this early 70's gem, a work denied the audience it deserved for reasons more political and economical than due to any lack of musical worth. It's got a bucketfull of soul where it matters and some of the best rock n' roll sensibility this side of Leaf Hound to back up that zeal, tearing up the world to pieces with two guitars and some snarling rhythm in the dead of night.

PM me if interested in a copy of this, and a Happy New Year to everyone!!


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Old 01-04-2010, 01:22 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Talking Heads – Fear of Music (1979)


"This aint no disco, and all I see is little dots."

1. I Zimbra (3:09)
2. Mind (4:03)
3. Paper (2:39)
4. Cities (4:10)
5. Life During Wartime (3:41)
6. Memories Can't Wait (3:30)
7. Air (3:34)
8. Heaven (4:01)
9. Animals (3:30)
10. Electric Guitar (3:03)
11. Drugs (5:10)


In the wake of punk's sudden takeover bid for musical supremacy in the late 70's and the demise of the disco and prog. demographics, popular music was in need of renovation, along with a fair amount of innovation. The question was, what exactly would this entail? Now that the musical world had gotten a nice shot of adrenaline, how could this energy be focused into something meaningful and interesting to people who actually gave a shit about listening to music that could stimulate both the body and the mind?

Different groups came up with different answers, and by the dawn of the 80's a number of "art-punk" bands had emerged from the underground in order to stake a claim at the shoreline of these changing sonic tides; Television turned riffing into a friggin' industry of its own while the Ramones integrated the charisma of good ol' fashioned rock with some punk sensibility to fun effect. However, as bands began to arise from their primordial boarding schools and whatnot in order to tame the Punk Beast into something less mindless, there was this snotty bunch of white kids from New York who stood out beyond the others in their lyrical sensibilities, experimentation and oddly contagious grasp on rhythm. In the course of three albums, they laid the foundations for what musical canon would later call New Wave and for a short while were one of the most popular groups on the planet despite their anti-commercial stance and often paranoid subject matter: ladies and gents, say hello to the Talking Heads.

Anyway, the review: Fear of Music is the Talking Heads third major studio album, released in 1979, and although it was critically successful and lauded its never been as popular as Remain In Light or the majority of their 80's output. This is probably because despite their radio-friendly lengths, most of the tracks here are weird or lyrically dark even at their most danceable. Take opening track 'I Zimbra' for instance; you have King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp whipping out angular licks over conga polyrythms as frontman David Byrne spouts incomprehensible gibberish for three minutes. Catchy? Yes. Awesome? Yes. Going to chart high on the Top 40? Not a chance, though American DJs briefly picked it up as a club groove for a week or two. The following track 'Mind' seems almost mundane in comparison, but its lamenting tone and low-key beat proves to be compelling in its own right also.




Still, even beyond these first two numbers, we're dealing with a classic work of sorts, so therefore highlights are numerous. Plus, regardless of whether your in the Love or Hate camp, its certainly no argument that the Talking Heads have quite the distinctive sound: Byrne's odd inflections, tribal thumping drums, congas and bass, and ever evasive, slinky guitar work make for an intriguing set up even when the songs don't always work (though that's not the case here; Fear of Music flows like a charm). Also, the Heads have a knack for balancing between straightforwardness and the purposely quirky; tracks such as 'Life During Wartime' and 'Heaven' are both engaging and deceptively stripped down, while my favorite track 'Animals' places some interesting lyrics, drunken atonal delivery and upbeat instrumentals in a sort of tandem, each contrasting the other and resulting in something simultaneously cool and memorable. And when all is said and done, its tracks like this that make an album for me.



Ultimately, what can I say already that hasn't been said about this album by snooty music critics in the last three decades? It's fantastic stuff that came right as the 70's birthday candle was going to be blown out, and like all good records can engage a listener just as easily now as it could 30 years ago. And for anyone wanting to get into the more creative side of punk, you could do a lot worse than with Fear of Music. It certainly did me good back in high school, I'll say that much.
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Old 01-09-2010, 04:32 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Klaatu – 3:47 E.S.T. (1976)


"The Beatles =/= Klaatu. Klaatu > The Beatles!"

1. Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft (7:14)
2. California Jam (3:01)
3. Anus of Uranus (3:16)
4. Sub-Rosa Subway (4:36)
5. True Life Hero (3:25)
6. Doctor Marvello (3:37)
7. Sir Bodsworth Ruggelsby III (3:22)
8. Little Neutrino (8:25)


For the last thirty years or so, anything with two particular words within the context of an album guaranteed Gold, sometimes even Platinum, sales of said album. What were these magical words you may ask? Why 'The Beatles' of course! Whether it was solo albums by its members, bootlegs, live recordings or the infinitely numerous compilations of their material, anything The Beatles did or do today sold/sells like crack on the street. It's insane, but that's the power of Beatlemania for ya.

Now, what does any of this have to do with a Canadian progressive pop band named Klaatu who released a fun and strangely awesome debut record back in 1976 on Capitol Records? Simply put, due to a strange yet fortuitous rumor, most of the U.S. thought that Klaatu WERE, in fact, the Fab Four reunited, and as a result this album here sold planet-sized volumes within a month of its release that it otherwise wouldn't have. This is due in part to Klaatu's often whimsical approach to their tune writing, but the fact that 3:47 E.S.T. was released through Capitol, who were also responsible for many of the The Beatles material being released stateside, as well as that none of the musicians in Klaatu were named in the album's linear notes, led many to believe that they were The Beatles despite the fact that Klaatu sounded a lot more grandiose, weirder and proggier than Lennon and co.

The album opens with a song that the Carpenters later stole and did a godawful cover of, the 60's tinged 'Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft', which while silly in the lyrical department has some fantastic vocal work and loads of eclectic spacey textures that give this piece a lot of sonic depth, though some may not like the Sgt. Peppers feel it gives off. This opener, more than anything else, was probably what started all those Beatles rumors.




Actually, almost all of Side A has a particularly late summer-y 60's feel to it, though filtered through Klaatu's slick approach to production and arrangement. 'California Jam' is everything that was great about the West Coast sound with a bit of extra punch to the drums and guitar, whilst 'Anus of Uranus' and 'Subway Rosa' start to harden the edges somewhat, with the vocals and guitar work getting sharper and more noticeable. There's even a shade of sitar in the later of these two songs, marking the line where the pop ends and the real weirdness begins.




Klaatu begin to stretch their tendrils out a bit more freely here on the dark side of this particular moon - the peruvian 'Doctor Marvello', raunchy 'Sir Bodsworth Ruggelsby III' and space-drone epic 'Little Neutrino' all stand out here. To briefly summarize, sitar leads and dominates 'Doctor Marvello', but in a more raga-rock kind of way that anything The Beatles did. 'Sir Bodsworth...", on the other hand, is without a doubt the most demented piece of anything on this whole album: to put it one way, its as if Animal from the Muppets jacked the mic from Klaatu's actual vocalist while replacing the rest of the group with some Tiny Tim session musicians. It's awesome and catchy to a point (especially if you pay attention to the lyrics), but extremely strange nevertheless!

We end this album on a darkly cathartic note on 'Little Neutrino', which is led acoustically throughout most of its 8 minute run while swelling into explosive vocoder climaxes at key moments, eventually fading off into silence with the pulse of an orchestra behind it. Very evocative, very spacey, and a most importantly look into the true creative deeps Klaatu would begin to plunge down into on later works.





Pomp and plaster and potential disaster all mix with some killer musicianship here on 3:47 E.S.T., and all in all its one of the most fantastic and fun debut albums to ever hit the market. It takes all the best parts of the late 60's, puts them in the electric chair, then blends up the remains with a a few cups of power-pop and an ounce of ham for maximum playability. I really can't recommend it enough, and along with the follow-up, 1977's Hope, this represents some of the best weird pop the 70's have to offer.
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Old 01-13-2010, 09:44 PM   #27 (permalink)
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Circus – Movin' On (1977)


"Yes meets Van Der Graaf for a cup of joe during winter break in Switzerland under a bulbous, golden moon."

1. The Bandsman (4:25)
2. Laughter Lane (4:11)
3. Loveless Time (5:32)
4. Dawn (7:51)
5. Movin' On (22:23)


Ah Switzerland: the fancy cheeses, the delicious chocolates, the snowy mountains, Social Security...and in the context of this review, the land of REALLY FRIGGEN AWESOME OBSCURE PROG!

Circus is one of those groups who had everything a good prog. band needs to stand heads and shoulders above its ilk: untypical instrumentation, interesting songs and themes, and perhaps best of all a overall sonic approach that melds the dark jazzy tendencies of Van Der Graaf Generator with the golden harmonics of Yes. Also, there's no keyboards...at all! Quite an intriguing lineup choice, and one that lets the flute, drums, bass and acoustic guitar and sax shine through at their darkest and more shimmering, which is really what makes their 1977 release Movin' On interesting: it sounds more organic than most of the prog. albums some of you are familiar with, as well as having a more reasonable length than most; the five tracks that comprise Movin' On together only clock at about 45 minutes in total. The majority of this time is taken up by the title track on Side 2, which in and of itself is worth the price of admission and most representative of Circus's prowess as a group.




Not that side one doesn't have quite a bit to offer the listener in its own right. 'The Bandsman' is a wonderfully flute n' bass driven opener, occasionally even danceable from the sheer craft of its rhythm. 'Laughter Lane', in contrast, demonstrates a folksier side to Circus where flute, guitar and xylophone dance together to form a beautiful soundscape, building up a bit of speed near the end and bringing in some tasty sax for extra kick. The vocals may not be to everyone's liking, but they generally work to these tunes' favor.



'Dawn', however, is my personal favorite track from this album and the sole instrumental. It starts off with a soothing ambience that hints at discord beneath the waves with the sighing of the sax, eventually evolving into an ambitious little jazz jig that segues skillfully into the album's 22 minute title track, living up to the imagery of its title without a hitch and a bright spot amidst an already starry musical canvas.



Overall, I feel that Circus is one of those prog. rock ensembles that has the appeal and distinctiveness to make it into the libraries even those unfamiliar or skeptical about progressive rock, especially the one's who think it all "sounds the same". Amidst the innumerable obscure 70's one shots and hard-to-find releases that are ultimately derivative of other bands, Movin' On is a kickass piece of work which managed to set a foundation all its own, and I honestly can't praise this band highly enough for releasing something this fantastic. It's certainly become one of my favorites in the time that I've owned it!

Highly recommended to prog. lovers and haters alike, especially if you are curious about prog. without the keyboards and pompousness.
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Old 01-14-2010, 10:31 PM   #28 (permalink)
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I'm still in the process of digestion but safe to say this is the best thread I've seen in a very long while. I'll certainly be revisiting.

Excellent work.
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Old 01-14-2010, 10:38 PM   #29 (permalink)
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On a previous recommendation from you, I've had Movin' On for a while now and it's not just a curiosity, it's a great sounding album! Definetly an album to get for those who think they might like a little prog.
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Old 01-16-2010, 09:19 PM   #30 (permalink)
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Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear (1978)


"The greatest soul album of all time? Probably."

1. Here, My Dear (2:48)
2. I Met a Little Girl (5:03)
3. When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You (6:17)
4. Anger (4:04)
5. Is That Enough (7:47)
6. Everybody Needs Love (5:48)
7. Time to Get It Together (3:55)
8. Sparrow (6:12)
9. Anna's Song (5:56)
10. When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You [Instrumental] (6:03)
11. A Funky Space Reincarnation (8:18)
12. You Can Leave, But It's Going to Cost You (5:32)
13. Falling in Love Again (4:39)
14. When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You [Reprise] (0:47)


By 1978, the legendary sultan of soul, czar of croon, master of move Marvin Gaye was at the end of his rope. Divorced, on the verge of mental breakdown and nearly out of money, the musician who had already become legendary in the halls of Motown cut fourteen tracks to pour his sadness, longing and growing sense of dislocation into and turned the whole thing into a concept album, a catharsis to get over his various pains. And hence Here, My Dear was released in 1978 to mixed reviews and poor sales, and hence the last leg of Marvin's strange, star-studded life began its trek to a terrible, unfortunate ending.

However, as the decades passed, critics and fans alike began to look back on this album beyond its commercial viability. The heartache and inner damage that Gaye had unleashed within had actually given rise to some of the most beautiful yet most unhinged and experimental work of his mostly singles-driven career...without anyone noticing at all! The man who had brought soul to life at the beginning of the 70's had produced his greatest statement near its close, and at times it can be nearly breathtaking to behold.

There's a sense of reflection and spacious wandering from the start to the moment where this album's embers fizzle into silence. The opening title track meanders like a shining fog into the touching, almost hymnal soul of 'I Met A Little Girl', a wistful take on the joys of marriage and that joy's collapse over time, leaving both broken. But as the album lets loose its various aches and nostalgia, highlights begin to pop up in earnest; 'Is That Enough' carries Marvin's lush tones over a reggae-like shuffle while 'Funky Space Reincarnation' and 'Falling In Love Again' makes up the apex centerpiece tracks; the former is a literal wonder in spoken-word psychedelia while the latter ranks among one of the single more gorgeous and heart-wrenching cuts that Gaye ever recorded. Not a single wasted letter nor excess note pervades here; this is almost painfully raw and unpolished emotion from someone who no longer understood what it truly means to love another person, and its that sort of emptiness that makes this record come alive.





Everyone has demons inside of them, and many musicians have oftentimes tried to give form to such things through the music they craft and set to posterity with their own hands. Marvin may not have created the greatest soul album of all time in this singular attempt to exorcise himself of his negativity and regrets, but he came pretty damn close here. These are tracks wrought with frustration, nails digging into the palms, the works. It's unfocused at times, lyrically oblique at others, lost in a haze so often...and it all comes together just like that before you even realize it as you journey down the minutes.

For people who stopped on Marvin Gaye at What's Going On, or even for those who want to hear some of the best this man could bring about musically, pick Here, My Dear up immediately. The only thing you'll regret is the fact you didn't have it in your collection before now!


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