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Old 01-20-2010, 08:53 PM   #31 (permalink)
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Birth Control – Operation (1971)


"Hungry, hungry hard rock from the Fatherland that puts the did back in Katydid."

1. Stop Little Lady (7:16)
2. Just Before The Sun Will Rise (7:35)
3. The Work Is Done (5:56)
4. Flesh and Blood (3:27)
5. Pandemonium (6:34)
6. Let Us Do It Now (11:09)


Ah God, where to start with this exceptionally hard rocking and vibrant sounding Krautrocky patch of holyland...the cover for Birth Control's 1971 sophomore slice of hard n' heavy Operation kinda tells you already just how amazing the music these men make is without even needing to try!

Straightforward yet eclectic, this Berlin band marvelously blends Deep Purple Hammond Organ driven tackling with a wild sense of ragged, percussive gallop that Can and Neu turned into a household standard early in their own careers. Opening stomper 'Stop Little Lady' is where this meld of rock approaches proves to be super effective right from the get-go, with the drums and guitar creating a near heartbeat like crackling that grabs hold immediately and sticks fast to boot.




In fact, up until the oddly symphonic yet amazing 'Let Us Do It Now', everything from the opening track through the soul-tinged 'Pandemonium' is a delicious hard rock bag of googies. Vocalist Fritz Groeger has a damn good roar (and can sing nicely too when not roaring), the songs are memorable, and you don't have to be some kind of elitist nor a musically retarded person to love the whole of it; this is thick, rumbling straight-ahead rock with plenty of fun and thought to offer, busting at the seams with passion and grit the way only a good German rock record can burst.




If you are yearning for the simple things in music, the good kind of simple that never wears out its welcome and can be rocked out to in rain or shine alike, then do yourself a favor and pick up Operation today. As the cover art promises, this is a baby-eating good time for musical enthusiasts both young and old.
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Old 01-20-2010, 09:13 PM   #32 (permalink)
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great review, you have inspired me to check these guys out. on top of that you have just sparked a new 70's binge...this happens from time to time.

i love the hammond...and i've always been a sucker for the guitar fx used in pandemonium
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Old 01-21-2010, 03:59 AM   #33 (permalink)
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Baby-eating, gigantic ten-legged orthoptera-like creatures with teeth have litte or no place in biology, but they sure look awesome on album covers I have to say.
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Old 01-22-2010, 08:38 PM   #34 (permalink)
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Just noticed that Circus album up there...nice choice!
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Old 01-25-2010, 09:33 PM   #35 (permalink)
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Triumvirat – Illusions On A Double Dimple (1973)


"The ProggyMouse likes this...you should too!!"

1. Illusions On A Double Dimple (22:59)
2. Mister Ten Percent (21:22)

From mid-1969 through the summer of 1970, the success of groups such as The Nice, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Jethro Tull and Yes had begun to create waves and ripples throughout the music scenes of various countries both large and small, but particularly in Germany, who at this time was caught up in a variety of musical upheavals. While the bands who would later give rise to Krautrock and early Electronic experimenation were still finding their sea legs, a piano player by the name of Jürgen Fritz was astounding audiences at little bars and venues across the country, covering everything from Top 40 pop hits to Procol Harum and early ELP tracks, and became inspired greatly by much of what he was covering. Together with drummer Hans Bathelt and bassist Werner Frangenberg, Fritz formed a trio which would take Germany by storm for the next half decade or so, which he dubbed Triumvirat and by the release of their 1972 debut Mediterranean Tales were called by presses around the globe "The German ELP", and dismissed as derivative by many.

Their following sophomore record, however, proved that such a title was not befitting at all. For you see folks, 1973's Illusions On A Double Dimple added guitar and sax and a bludgeoning bass lead into the keyboard-lead approach that sounded better than anything their more famous English contemporaries had ever done or would ever do. Featuring two 20-minute sidelong epics and a cool ass album cover, it is difficult to comprehend how phenomenal this release must have been upon release back in prog. rock's heyday. Hell, it still sounds brilliant today.

The opening title track starts off gently enough on a catchy piano note and Gabriel-esque capella before beginning to gather speed around the minute mark where the synthesizers and pummeling drums begin to set in. Some interesting themes are established, as well as a fair amount of acoustic guitar woven like a ribbon amidst a blistering bass, all of which grows steadily sharper and more interesting as everything winds further and further toward an inexorable conclusion. It's the sort of affair that makes you wish you had been listening to these guys from the beginning instead of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, as this is one of the hardest biting prog. epics ever set to song by any band.


(Excerpt from title track)


'Mister Ten Percent', however, doesn't even try to build up before launching into a drum+bass bone crunching lead that speeds up punkishly while the piano grapples forth at specific intervals. The backing vocal work is quite reminiscent of Yes circa Close to the Edge, but it adds rather than detracts to the feel of the piece. Twin to Side A's title cut, if a bit more straightforward at times, 'Mister Ten Percent' never loses itself in overt synth wanks or unmemorable noodling; rather, the piano is always tasteful, plus an interesting flamenco section pops up starting around the 4:00 minute mark, followed by some sax at 5:30, and so on and so forth until you are either boggled by the constant twists or dragged along hypnotically by the grooves and discernible themes at play. No matter which it may be, it's one hell of a 20 some odd minute ride, and stronger than what we opened with too.

(Excerpts from Track 2)



I know progressive rock isn't everybody's thing, especially the keyboard-heavy breed, but when even the most pretentious brand of a pretentious genre is executed with this kind of throughfulness and punch, you can't help but either enjoy the heck out of it or respect it from the bottom of your heart & soul.

Recommended, then, to classical junkies, progheads, and to anyone who is looking for something rather challenging to grace their musical taste buds for a short time or eternity alike. Either way, you really can't go wrong with a cute-as-buttons rodent nibbling its way out of an eggshell...it's just too awesome to deny!
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Old 01-26-2010, 03:00 AM   #36 (permalink)
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I really loved that little nibbling mouse getting out of his egg. Another great album that finds its way into your hands, and onto that thread. Beautifully written review as well.
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Old 02-04-2010, 03:07 PM   #37 (permalink)
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Sai Yoshiko – Taiji no Yume (1977)


"Darkling and occasionally vivid dreams given form and noise for the ears of you and I."

1. Gitano (3:43)
2. Alhambra no Aoi Bin (2:08)
3. Aru Hareta Yoru (3:31)
4. Hatoba (3:58)
5. Haru no Yume (2:48)
6. Umi no Chinmoku (4:20)
7. Aoi Garasudama (4:53)
8. Henro (3:55)
9. Hakuchūmu (2:51)
10. Taiji no Yume (9:04)



Some music in the world simply never get the due it deserves. From the 1960's through the early 1980's, while the musical world was primarily fixated on bands coming out of the U.K. and U.S. respectively, Japan was undergoing a fantastic sonic renaissance of its own. Folk music traditions that had been passed down for centuries on more traditional instrumentation was now colliding head on with every other musical form under the sun, from American jazz to English psychedelia, resulting in rockabilly and acid-folk movements that rivaled anything going on in the Western world. And within these movements, some musicians produced masterpieces that never saw the light of international release.

The subject of this review, Taiji no Yume, which translates to Dream of a Fetus, is one such release, the third album of a then 24 year old singer/songwriter named Sai Yoshiko. Sometimes referred to as the "Joni Mitchell of Japan", Yoshiko's trademark style juxtaposes psychedelic, sometimes virulent musical landscapes against her crystalline, dream inducing vocals and jazzy sense of atmosphere, resulting in ten intriguing movements that never fail to hook you in.

Although certain thematic touches tie these different songs together into something like a whole, there is loads of personality to be found on each cut individually. Opener 'Gitano' kickstarts with the record with a samba shuffle mixed in with some cool piano while 'Aruhanbura no Aoi-bin' serves as a gorgeous counterpoint with its harp, Yoshio's croon and some moonlit synth textures gelling into a two minute slice of perfection.




Still, this is an album that blends and balances before all else. 'Aoi Garasudama' sounds like something David Gilmour might have written in Floyd's prime years had he been born and raised in Japan, whilst 'Hatoba' and 'Umi no Chinmoku' emphasize a yearning, acoustic sort fragility, making for some rather pleasurable, if oddly nostalgic, listening experiences. Plus, although its fun to have constancy in a record, what's the point of the tracks aren't also distinguishable from one another? Taiji no Yume manages to be eclectic without forcing the variety, and hence avoids this pitfall altogether.



Japan is a country of absolutely fascinating music from nearly every genre imaginable, but it's only really in the last ten years that people living in other parts of the world have gotten the option to be exposed to it without having to actually travel there or spend ridiculous amounts of money importing vinyl/CDs. Sai Yoshiko is only one of many fantastic musicians who was doing music in a fledgling, revolutionary time in the country's musical history, but I feel one of her albums is as good as any to represent part of 70's Japan here.

For anyone into folk, jazz, psychedelia, or just interesting music in general, this is most definitely worth the time to track down or request.
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Old 02-09-2010, 06:51 PM   #38 (permalink)
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Jon Anderson – Olias of Sunhillow (1976)


"Hold my life, cross the path, course and curl my dreams away...."

1. Ocean Song (3:04)
2. Meeting (Garden of Geda) (3:34)
3. Dance of Ranyart (4:19)
4. Qoquac Ën Transic (7:08)
5. Flight of the Moorglade (3:24)
6. Solid Space (5:20)
7. Moon Ra (12:48)
8. To the Runner (4:29)



If there is anything the 1970's had in excess (beyond fear of nuclear doom and oil crises), it was concept albums. Albums about "X guy/girl involved in blahblahblah" that listeners didn't really give a shit about anyway, or maybe a four part suite about the elements and the earth or whatnot. In either, with a few exceptions, concept albums could be just as annoying as they were potentially engrossing...when done right.

This particular album, a blend of Prog. Rock and New Age, is such an album done right. Olias of Sunhillow, the 1976 debut solo album from one of the most distinct sounding frontmen of any any generation, Jon Anderson of Yes, is an album that not only engrosses the mind on sheer musical listenability, but also manages to bring its concept to life without you needing to have any inkling of the specifics of its story (basically the Exodus in space) in eight tracks of various length and content.

Perhaps most interesting of all however, Jon Anderson did absolutely everything here himself; instrumentation (guitar, harp, synth, percussion, etc), vocals, songwriting, and even recording. In a time when independent releases were generally maligned or oftentimes considered extremely risky, Anderson destroyed all expectations and managed to win some critical acclaim from both fans of his parent band and the Yes-hating critics alike.

Rather than start at the beginning though, I'll simply illustrate a few of my favorite pieces; 'Dance Of Ranyart' is an acoustic, harp-based illustration which defines the beauty of this album best before segueing in its last two minutes into a soaring vocal display by Anderson. It's a perfect lead into my personal favorite piece here, "Flight of the Moorglade", a track about Olias and his fellows animating a space ark/ship into being through song. To put it simply, its three and a half minutes of glowing, upbeat space-themed joy, and serves as the album's centerpiece.






Side B marks a shift in the mood of Olias of Sunhillow, as the Moorglade has set off into space and must now endure a perilous journey to Earth. 'Solid Space' is an epic, static-tinged escapade into the atmosphere, building its density and volume throughout its five minute run, and features some rather noble sounding synths. This leads into the 12-minute 'Moon Ra', which is divided into two main halves: the dissonant title part, which swells high then low before leading into a surprisingly tender middle/end section driven entirely by acoustic guitar. 'To The Runner' is a dreamy, low-key closer of a track that ends the album on a contented note, completing the voyage and a call to the listener to look beyond the here and now toward something more. And to be honest, it's one of the best closing tracks I've ever come across; it packs a major ambient wallop.





If space opera, high-mind concepts and science fiction isn't your bag, then this is definitely one of those albums that may make you scratch your head at first. But give it time; the gorgeous arrangements, heavenly yet airy voice of Jon Anderson and captivating atmosphere are all excellent and may win your ears over before you even realize it.

In the derivative and generally eye-rolling genre known as New Age, Jon Anderson's debut stands out like a fireball on a moonless night in Siberia, larger than life in both conception and execution. This is not only one of the best solo outings of the 1970's, but in all likelihood the best New Age album of all time...and that's saying quite a bit.
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Old 02-23-2010, 03:06 PM   #39 (permalink)
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Kush – Presents Snow White ... And The Eight Straights (1974)


"Australian funk-prog. with David Bowie clone, kekekekeke!"

1. Wait Overture (2:04)
2. Easy Street (3:50)
3. All Right In The City (2:55)
4. McArthur Park (7:34)
5. Wait (4:53)
6. Satanic Deity (8:51)
7. Christopher John Suite (10:13)
8. Klue (5:23)

Although Australia never really has a progressive rock scene per se', the 70's was still a creative period in time period for the country, where bands were mixing things up and trying new things to see what would stick with audiences and what would not.

Kush, an unusual jazz-tinged rock group from Melbourne with some glam and prog. elements thrown in for good measure, is a case-in-point example of this creative era in Australia's popular music history. Fronted by the androgynous and enigmatic Jeff Duff and made up of other equally talented but obscure musicians, their 1974 debut Presents Snow White ... And The Eight Straights is an adventurous recording that tries a lot of different things...and rarely goes wrong in any of it.

The album kicks off on a minor key, letting some sax, flute and guitar float for a two minute overture amidst Jeff Duff talking off into the distance...before it kicks off into a Chicago-esque swing-jazz number called "Easy Street", giving off a distinct early 60's feel with the dueling sax and horns while the guitar sizzles. Very retro in all the right places, and not bad for an opening number either.




The following three tracks bring a more psychedelic feel to the overall proceedings while still retaining the jazziness present from the opening two-punch, with 'All Right In The City' being quite funky and 'Wait" quite reminiscent of early Soft Machine with a Bowie like vocalist. The balance of elements is rather ear-pleasing, indicating in an obvious way that these guys are more than meets the eye for your average jazz-rock group.



The second half of the album, however, is where things begin to get more interesting. 'Satanic Deity' and 'Christopher John Suite', the two longest tracks on the album, serve as evolutions of what has come before while still remaining very different beasts sonically. The former features some killer guitar and piano work midway, not too unlike some of Jimi Hendrix's more adventurous stuff while the latter 10-minute epic is an exercise in hypnotism, with almost mystical-sounding flute taking center stage for much of the song. Despite the length, it's without a doubt the best cut on the album, falling back on Jeff's vocals and some psychedelic jamming near to end to go out with a bang. The album then closes the door with 'Klute', a short Oriental-scaled number that speeds up the near the 5 minute mark, leaving you wanting more as the horns and guitar disappear into a gradual quiet.




In all honesty, I'm not sure if Kush were ever popular in their home country; they got a bit of radio play and some T.V. appearances, as well as being one of the few brass-rock outfits to possess a sense of humor in their lyrics. That aside though, this was a rather creative group who deserve a wider audience and should touch base with people who are looking for something a bit different from the norm, especially those with a taste for jazz-rock without the meh and bleh.
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Old 03-08-2010, 03:50 PM   #40 (permalink)
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The Stooges – Fun House (1970)

"RWARWWWARRGH."

1. Down on the Street (3:42)
2. Loose (3:33)
3. T.V. Eye (4:17)
4. Dirt (7:00)
5. 1970 (5:15)
6. Fun House (7:46)
7. L.A. Blues (4:55)

Chaos. Savagery. The thrill of a rave at the climax of an insurmountable high. At a time when art-rock was quickly beginning to dominate airwaves, saturated by Hammond organs, synthesizers and the occasional Moog, a young Iggy Pop and his fellow Stooges were keeping things hot, crushing and manic to the point of rapture, blowing the minds of hundreds upon hundreds at live venues with with their eclectic yet electric sonic sledgehammer of an approach to rock. It was during the height of this creative onslaught that they pulled together 1970's Fun House, an album which reconciles the rawness of their infamous stage performances with an almost jazzy sense of improvisation.

The results, needless to say, are spectacular.

We kick off the curb with 'Down On The Street', driven by a characteristic unpolished riff tethered to the earth by Iggy's whooping and a gridlocked drum beat. Almost tame by these guys' standards, it's still a fine start to an album that only grows more and more unhinged with every passing note.




'Loose' and 'T.V. Eye" serve as pacer pieces of sorts, amping up the energy a bit and settling in your mind to the crunching pulse that makes Fun House what is is: shit in your face walls of sound that doesn't care about anything. The tone is remarkably different between each though; the former embodies rock's primal urges to **** and pillage, the latter an excursion into paranoia. And that's what makes this album great: it embraces the ugliness and negativity of people and turns it into rave material.




From here on out, we begin to move into the real wasteland though, with longer tracks that give the band room to bleed their sentiments like rags and to entrance audiences into these expanses. 'Dirt', '1970', and the jazzy title cut are all cravings for love, for life, for a good time when there's none to be found, and that's something anyone can dig whether its 1970 or 2010. In brief, these are songs for us.



But then, suddenly, it all comes crashing down in one final, hellish blast from the apocalypse in the five minutes of 'L.A. Blues'. The drums and sax loose all sense of sanity, with Iggy screaming amidst the madness and dissonance of a world about to end. The high is over, the joy is fading, and the horsemen bring calamity and cleansing as fire tears the sky to nothingness.

Fifty some-odd years ago, poet T.S. Eliot wrote the world would end with a not with a bang, but a whimper. Me? I'm of the opinion that it ends to this song.




Neither quite punk nor like most of the rock of it's time, Fun House, like the rest of the early Stooges' discography, is regarded as a timeless classic by every man and woman who has ever screamed at heavens for the sake of screaming, a testament to those who love to live. Its really not hard to see why!
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Quote:
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Trump might be the best thing since free jazz.

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