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Old 11-15-2019, 03:01 PM   #181 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by grindy View Post
The violin sound on Mary, Mary comes from a guitar.
Glad you dug the album btw, it's one of my all time faves.
Seriously? I did wonder. Guy has got to be some player to be able to do that. I would have sworn it was a violin - had this been a few years later I'd have staked my meagre fortune that it was on synthesiser.

Thanks. Can't imagine how I missed it out originally. Blame Wiki I guess.
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Old 11-21-2019, 03:18 PM   #182 (permalink)
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Time to leave 1969 and make our way back to 1970, where we’ll look into the first selection of albums from artists who were doing their own thing, marching to their own drum, working outside, perhaps, the mainstream of prog rock as it was becoming, or were just, you know, different. In other words, time to head back


Album title: Quill
Artist: Quill
Nationality: American
Label: Cotillion
Chronology: Debut and only
Grade: C
Previous Experience of this Artist: Zero
The Trollheart Factor: 0
Tracklisting: Thumbnail Screwdriver/Tube Exuding/They Live the Life/BBY/Yellow Butterfly/Too Late/Shrieking Finally
Comments: I spoke about Quill pretty extensively in the “bands that broke up this year” section earlier, and I don’t have much to add to that really, as that was my first encounter with one of the few American prog bands around at this time. This was their only album, and while it’s said to have attained cult status in recent years, personally I’ve never heard of it. Starts off with a lot of weird sounds, then kind of falls into a blues/psyche groove, maybe Free or Bad Company or something, perhaps ghostly touches of VDGG leaking through but hardly progressive rock to my ears anyway. Certainly a decent song and I could see it going down well live, then “Tube Exuding” (um, yeah) rides on a fluid little bass and organ line, and this does at least have some nice proggy Hammond work. A whole lot better, from my point of view anyway. “They Live the Life” has a very Beatles feel, sort of slow-marching rhythm, with a stilted vocal, a thick bass line and what sounds like trumpet?

It’s over nine minutes long, which may be a little excessive for a track of this nature, but we’ll see. Kind of a tribal thing going on now in the middle, chants and drumming, now the drums take the tune solo. Pretty effective really. Getting faster now and turning into something of a drum solo, attendant voices coming in and fading out, then it’s a kind of blues/boogie/psych-out for “BBY” with a strong brass flavour. Some pretty good guitar work, and on into “Yellow Butterfly”, which seems to be a pastoral little ballad, with tinkling bells, piano and what may be sitar. The vocal here is really nice, almost floating along the melody. Very close to an embryonic “Man Who Sold the World” on the guitar riff here, hidden away. Sort of a country feel to “Too Late”, one of the better tracks really with some fine upbeat piano, reminds me a little of Creedence. The album ends then on “Shrieking Finally”, which opens with a joint acapella intro and then jumps into a striding blues-style tune.

Favourite track(s): Tube Exuding, They Live the Life, Yellow Butterfly, Too Late
Least favourite track(s): BBY
Overall impression: Again, apart from the odd Hammond touches and perhaps the idea of using percussion and chanting in an original or at least different way, I don’t see this really as prog rock of any stripe. Probably belongs in this section all right. I can see why Quill faded, though that seems to have been due to a combination of missed chances and minimal marketing. But they seem like a band who were still pretty rooted in the sixties, who might have been desperately trying to break into and embrace the sound of the seventies, but were unwilling to leave their old influences behind. Some bands, of course, managed for a time to merge the two, many of whom became big in the Canterbury scene, but overall I think if you wanted to be a prog band in the seventies you had to look forward, and while Quill may have had one eye on the future the other was looking back, which I think caused them to stumble, miss the exit, bus left without them - whatever metaphor you wish to use. Essentially, they got left behind and the seventies moved on without them. They both appear to have done all right though.

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Old 11-30-2019, 10:33 AM   #183 (permalink)
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Album title: Ahora Mazda
Artist: Ahora Mazda
Nationality: Dutch
Label: Catfish
Chronology: Debut and only
Grade: C
Previous Experience of this Artist: Zero
The Trollheart Factor: 0
Tracklisting: Spacy Tracy/Timeless Dream/Dolle Mina in Oranje Vrijstaat/Fallen Tree/Power/Fantasio
Comments: No, not a prostitute in a small Japanese car (a-whore-in-a-Mazda, geddit? Shee! You people!) this is in fact another of those one-album bands, and they seem to have taken their name mostly from the Zoroastrian creator god, Ahura Mazda, changing only one letter and thereby ensuring forever that Google would return searches for their band name and/or only album with a snide “did you mean Ahura Mazda?” In other words, can’t you spell, idiot? Fucking Google. Anyway, somewhat like Quill above they seem to have been pretty rooted in the tropes of psych-rock, but they use a lot more and weirder instruments, such as tabla, jew’s harp, kalimba, slide whistle and, um, bells and rattles. The opening salvo is led by high, strong flute, which does not get on my good side, as you all probably know. It’s a long track, though not the longest on the album, at eight and a half minutes, and to be honest I find it pretty annoying.

The falsetto backing vocals don’t help, so we’re off to a good start. Oh, and having a drummer called Winky Abbinck doesn’t help either, even if that is his real name, which I doubt. But then, you never know: these crazy Dutch, huh? Some good guitar work then it descends into an atonal piano piece with a lot of booming echo and reverb in about the sixth minute. Drum solo now it would appear, more weird noises, and into “Timeless Dream” which begins with, yes you guessed it, flute again. At least it’s softer and slower this time, so perhaps this is a ballad? Actually at a mere three and a half minutes it could be an instrumental, and I think it may be. And I’m wrong; here come the vocals. I was however right about it being a ballad, very hippy-dippy, love everyone, embrace nature man etc.

The next one is in, I assume, Dutch, and I have no idea what it means, but it certainly has a lot of annoying horns in it. Interesting percussion idea, almost like the ticking of a clock with the sort of sounds Vangelis would use in his compositions a few years later - bouncing, squelching sounds, what appear to be high-pitched voices but are probably made on a guitar or something, and I would hazard that this is an instrumental this time, but given that it’s over seven minutes long and they could get vocals onto a song half that length even after it had run about half of that with none, I won’t. Does seem pretty improvisational though, a jam of sorts with everyone showing off what they can do. Well, I think there were only three in Ahora Mazda, one being the drummer, so I guess it’s the other two showing off their skills.

Ah, I’m pretty sure there will be no vocals now. It’s almost over, and takes us into the longest track, the nine-minute “Fallen Tree”, which leaves us in no doubt that there will be vocals, as they come in immediately, even before the music. As for that, it’s slow and seemingly strummed on an acoustic guitar for now anyway, very sparse, then the bass line kicks in and drums and (sigh) flute as the tracks picks up a little momentum and seems to be one of those finding-yourself type of things. Uh-huh. Pretty good guitar solo there. I guess the reason the song’s so long is that now we’ll have an extended instrumental jam. Yeah, flute’s getting in on the act now too. Really not at all bad, I have to say. Even the damn flute.

“Power” reminds me of Waits’s “Yesterday is Here”, that is until the flute comes in and kicks that idea up the arse. God damn I really hate flute, most of the time. And there’s a lot of it on this album. This appears to be a kind of science-fiction idea, and interestingly Ahora Mazda use some kind of effect on the vocal, which is, I think, at a time before such things as vocoders were available. That leaves “Fantasio”, a showcase for tabla, with jew’s harp (I guess) sounding a little like the old didgeridoo. Probably not really, but then I haven’t listened to too many recordings of jew’s harps. Actually, it sounds like when we used to put a plastic ruler on the desk in school and flick it so it vibrated along its length. Sax coming in there too like a bagful of cats to be honest, then a stronger, raunchier one and I guess we’re looking at another instrumental to close the album.

Favourite track(s): Timeless Dream/Fallen Tree
Least favourite track(s): Dolle Mina in Oranje Vrijstaat
Overall impression: Not bad. Very psych rock, but again can’t really call it prog rock. I’m sure lots of the ideas in it would be deemed progressive, and they do use interesting and different instruments, so from that point of view maybe yes, certainly more than Quill. Very competent album, good musicians. Wonder why they only made the one album?
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Old 11-19-2020, 10:48 AM   #184 (permalink)
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All right, there may be some controversy, even annoyance at my placing this album here, rather than in the main section, but bear in mind that its being covered here does not mean it’s any less regarded. Over the Garden Wall was conceived by me as a way of including albums by artists who were either not crucial to, or contributed in any major way to the prog rock movement, or who were just a little too different to be handled in the main section but still deserved to be looked at. Also in this section I intended, and still do, to look at albums that skip along the fringes of prog rock, as well as some that barely qualify as such but are or sound just too damn much fun to leave out.

Given Barrett’s position in musical history, I felt it was only right to afford his debut solo album a place in the main area, but having heard that - and taking into account his relationship with one of prog’s most important bands - I felt it wasn’t even anywhere near prog. More folk or psychedelic if anything, and I couldn’t see it having had any effect on the emerging prog rock scene, much less Pink Floyd themselves. So, having given him the chance and been somewhat underawed by his first album, and assuming his second would be more of the same, I’ve decided to slot it in here, where I personally believe it belongs and will feel more comfortable.


Album title: Barrett
Artist: Syd Barrett
Nationality: English
Label: Harvest
Chronology: Second and final
The Trollheart Factor: 3
Landmark value: As the final album to come from the co-founder of Pink Floyd it has to have some historical significance, but the story behind the album seems to be one of worried and concerned friends trying to help someone they know is on a road to nowhere. Tragic, really, more than any sort of real landmark in music. Perhaps a “what if” or “if only” sort of thing. Sad.
Tracklisting: Baby Lemonade/Love Song/Dominoes/It Is Obvious/Rats/Maisie/Gigolo Aunt/Waving My Arms in the Air/I Never Lied to You/Wined and Dined/Wolfpack/Effervescing Elephant
Comments: I thought that was a really nice guitar intro, but I read that it was only Syd tuning his guitar before recording the album, and that Gilmour decided to tape it and add it onto the beginning of the album as a kind of intro. Nice though, and shows that, no matter what else you may think or say of him, Barrett could play the guitar. “Baby Lemonade” when it gets going is again a fairly Beatlesesque folky song, some nice guitar work sure but not what I could call prog by any stretch. I also don’t think he was much of a singer: voice seems a little forced and raw, at least here. “Love Song” I just find dreary, plodding and boring, while “Dominoes” is more of the same, though there’s a nice organ line from Richard Wright and what sounds like sax though none is credited.

In fairness, it’s not too bad, with some nice ideas including some sort of attempt to, I don’t know, French it up somehow? Lovely piece of Fender Rhodes there gives the ending an almost Floydish feel, but it’s telling that I only start to appreciate the song once Syd stops singing. I find his vocals very laconic, boring and basically disinterested, which ties in with the impression those who worked with him seemed to get. I’d venture to say that without Wright and Gilmour adding the colour here, this album would be very dull and ordinary indeed. The songwriting’s really not up to much, in my opinion, and the whole atmosphere is of someone going through the motions, as if Barrett has recorded ten albums by now and is only fulfilling a contractual obligation, rather than trying to launch his solo career. In short, he sounds like he doesn’t care.

And if he doesn’t why should I?

Again, it’s the keys of Rick Wright that are the heart and soul of this album, and without them it’s bland and uninteresting. “Rats”’s guitar riff reminds me of “Mrs. Robinson”, kind of a jam in ways, whiel “Maisie” is a slow blues grinder in the style maybe of Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf. To be fair, Syd’s vocal here is decent, he almost sounds interested in the song, and it could be one of the few standouts. “Gigolo Aunt”, on the other hand, goes back to the Kinks/Beatles pastiche Barrett seems to employ so much on this and his other album, a faster, sort of striding number which has a certain sense of catchiness about it and some fine guitar. “Waving My Arms in the Air” is nothing to get excited about, and segues into “I Never Lied to You”, which takes some real liberties with melody.

That leaves us with three tracks, and “Wined and Dined” is again firmly rooted in the sixties counter-culture, think maybe Donovan or someone, I don’t know. Wright’s organ pulls the track along again, almost against resistance, and on into “Wolfpack”, which feels a little to me like a man reeling around drunk, without any real idea what direction he’s going. Apparently it was one of his favourite songs. Not sure what to say about that. The album then closes on the appropriately weirdly-titled “Effervescing Elephant” (um, yeah) which, well, uses perhaps the most obvious instrument possible, a tuba. Meh.

Favourite track(s): Dominoes/Maisie/Gigolo Aunt
Least favourite track(s): Pretty much everything else
Overall impression: Look, again it’s not the worst album I’ve ever heard, and given Barrett’s temperament and general reaction to, well, the world, it’s maybe amazing that he even managed to get two albums recorded before he gave it all up, but I don’t feel like I’ve been losing out by not having heard either of these before. Give him credit, the man could play guitar and had some great ideas but he just wasn’t one to either take direction or advise others how to follow him, with the result that everything here, as on the debut, comes across as a kind of struggle, a tug-of-war between the, shall we say, serious musicians who wanted to make the album and Syd, who didn’t really seem that bothered.

This is the man, remember, who after playing four songs at his only live gig, took off his guitar and walked off stage. It’s no surprise that his albums didn’t catch the imagination or sell well at all. Perhaps, had Floyd been better known in 1970 he might have had a better chance of riding thier coat-tails, but as it was I can see most of the record-buying public ignoring this album as someone they didn’t know. Perhaps Floyd fans bought it, or, given the problems Syd had caused within the band, maybe a minor backlash caused sales to stall as fans refused to buy it. Who knows? What we do know is that Syd never recorded again under his own name, though he tried a few odd ventures, and then retired into virtual obscurity, becoming a recluse until his death in 2006, taking a keen interest in painting and gardening.

Perhaps then, in the end, it’s appropriate that his second and last album ended here, where he appears to have been more comfortable existing.
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Old 11-19-2020, 11:05 AM   #185 (permalink)
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I personally love Syd's solo stuff. It's definitely flawed, but in a way that's endearing and moving to me. I think his brilliance shines through almost everywhere, although it definitely helps that he was backed up by some musicians who had their **** together. Oh and I'm with you on the guitar intro opinion, one of my favourite moments in his work.
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Old 12-02-2020, 01:17 PM   #186 (permalink)
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Album title: Aardvark, or Put That In Your Pipe and Smoke It!
Artist: Aardvark
Nationality: English
Label: Deram Nova
Chronology: Debut
Previous Experience of this Artist: Zero

Tracklisting: Copper Sunset/Very Nice of You to Call/Many Things to Do/Greencap/I Can’t Stop/Outing/Once Upon a Hill/Put That In Your Pipe
Comments: Let’s not mention Free again, shall we? By the time this album was recorded both Simon Kirke and Paul Kossoff had left to make music history, so the only other real point I can make about this, Aardvark’s only (until their rather unexpected reunion in 2016) album is that this was a band who did not employ a guitar player. In a prog rock band, that’s not quite as jarring as having no keyboard player (whoever heard of such a thing?) but it’s still pretty unique. Is it the only thing of interest about the album? Let’s have a listen.

Well you could have fooled me! I’m told that “fuzzed-up guitar sound” is made on Hammond, so I guess I have to believe it, but I would have sworn it was a guitar. Anyway, the opener is a down and dirty grinding rocker which sounds very much more in the psyche/hard rock mould than prog rock to me, Dave Skillin’s vocal reminds me a little of Dave Brock. Not a lot to write home about yet. “Very Nice of You to Call” (a typical English genteel song title if there ever was one!) gives me a kind of early Santana feel, quite jazzy with some nice piano emulating Rick Davies at his best. Steve Milliner, take a bow. It then just dies and fades off into nothing though, while “Many Things to Do” has another heavy psyche vibe, very raw and ragged; a bit annoying if I’m honest. The sprightly organ run actually makes it worse.

“Greencap” uses some sort of Beefheartesque distorted vocal and is driven by expressive organ, but though I’m a fan of the keys I am already missing the bite of a guitar. You can make a Hammond sound like one, but it’s still a Hammond. And so the album relies almost exclusively on keyboard passages, which, no matter how I love the instrument, can get boring and predictable. Another thing Aardvark seem to do here is noodle, go on extensive jams and sort of fill up what appear to me to be substandard songs with long, rambling instrumental passages. I mean, they’re good - they’re not pointless or wankery - but they can get wearing. This track is six minutes and change, and really does not need to be.

There’s a nice lush Hammond intro to “I Can’t Stop”, and it may actually be the first track that’s impressed me. Thought it was going to be an instrumental but as the keys get faster and boppier the vocal comes in, and to be perfectly honest they’ve kind of ruined the song. Another really nice honky-tonk piano solo from Milliner but the track has suddenly degenerated into a sub-Berry blues/rock thing now, and while it’s good, it’s not what I had hoped it would be. “Outing” kicks off like some mad version of “Summer Holiday”, almost punk long before punk, and god help me it runs for almost ten minutes. I think I’m going to hate this. Skillin’s vocal this time puts me in mind of the guy who sang “The Monster Mash”. Seriously. How the hell are they going to stretch this piece of garbage to ten minutes? Oh I see: a Hawkwindesque space-out jam. They sing “We’re going away”. Sadly, they’re not, not for some time.

Yeah. That’s for dopeheads only. I’m sure they’ll love it. Me, I hate it. About nine minutes longer than it needs to be. On we go. “Once Upon a Hill” is the only song on the album not written by Dave Skillin, so perhaps bassist Stan Aldous can give us something here we might actually enjoy? It’s short anyway, just over three minutes, and it’s very airy-fairy, hippy-dippy balladry, kind of sounds like it might have worked on one of Syd’s albums. Still, for what it is, not bad, and it takes us to the last track. The alternate title of the album, “Put That In Your Pipe” (for those who don’t know or are too young to get the reference, this used to be a sort of put-down: comparable I guess to “chew on that” or "if the cap fits" or something) has another big Hammond intro which then becomes an uptempo space-rocker driven on Aldous’s thick buzzing bass with Milliner’s fingers flying over the keys. This one, it turns out, is an instrumental, and it’s not all that bad.

Favourite track(s): Once Upon a Hill (maybe)
Least favourite track(s): Outing (by a mile, although I hate most of this album)
Overall impression: Boring and bland and very repetitive. Can’t deny it’s got the proggy touches, but as I said I think the album suffers from the lack of guitar. There also isn’t much going on in the songwriting area and overall this did not impress me at all. Looks like Kirke and Kossof had the right idea!
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Old 12-04-2020, 10:17 AM   #187 (permalink)
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Okay that's enough fun for now. There's work to be done! Back we go into the garden. Come on now: there'll be time to play later...

Album title: Home
Artist: Procol Harum
Nationality: English
Label: Polydor
Chronology: Fourth
Grade: A
Landmark value: Probably none really; PH were more or less ignored by the prog movement after that song. Whether this influenced any upcoming prog band or not I can’t say.
Tracklisting: Whiskey Train/ The Dead Man’s Dream/Still There’ll Be More/Nothing That I Didn’t Know/About to Die/Barynard Story/Piggy Pig Pig/Whaling Stories/Your Own Choice
Comments: Fans of the band, or those more knowledgeable about prog, may be scratching their heads and wondering “What about A Salty Dog, released in 1969?” To that I say, well, I can’t review every album in every year released by every band, which is my way of saying oops I forgot. But it is true; not so much about ‘69, which we’ve left well behind, with the addendum of Can’s debut shoehorned in, and I’m not doing that again, spoil my carefully-planned out layout, but about all years. As we get deeper into the seventies I will have to pick and choose what albums to feature or I’ll be here forever. So while ASD may have been a great album, I missed it out. Get over it. This was their next.

Now, I do admit to some trepidation before beginning, as I see that PH were planning to “return to the r&b style of their previous band, the Paramounts,” and had replaced departed members with people from that band, so that this could be the first PH album that sounds less proggy than I would hope. Indeed, looking at the titles of the songs, well, they just don’t look prog-worthy, do they? But we’ll see. It kicks off with “Whisky Train”, and my fears are, at least for this song, realised, as this is very much a blues/hard-rock track with little prog of any note in it at all. More like Cream or Steppenwolf than Van der Graaf or Yes. Sigh. Decent song, but very basic and simple, and very guitar-driven. The longest track on it is just over seven minutes, which is a far cry from the seventeen-minute epic on Shining Brightly, the last of theirs I reviewed here.

“The Dead Man’s Dream” does at least have a piano opening, a slower song with Hammond backing which does give me some hope that maybe the opener was an aberration. Much better. In fact, in total contrast to “Whisky Train”, this seems to have very little guitar in it. Very dark and doom-laden, with the vocal at times spoken rather than sung, but it works very well. This is a massive improvement. And “Still There’ll Be More”, they promise, and they’re right; while it’s a little more of a nod back to the opener there’s still enough proggy good stuff about it to make it a far better track, with some quite exuberant piano and now you can hear Robin Trower’s guitar, but it’s not taking off like it did originally. Nice kind of acoustic ballad in “Nothing I Didn’t Already Know”, with a kind of country feel, some beautiful organ which almost reminds me of AWSOP and some nice piano.

Well after a small bump in the road it seems like we’re on track again, sorry for the somewhat mixed metaphor. Despite my worry, initially confirmed by the opening track, this is turning out to be yet another near-perfect Procol Harum album, and “About to Die” just raises that already high bar with a mixture of grinding, punchy blues, soul and prog, including some powerful organ work from Chris Copping, and then the tracks that worried me begin. “Barnyard Story”, rather oddly (and somewhat comfortingly) opens on an acoustic piano, and seems to be a ballad, while “Piggy Pig Pig” has a Beatles feel about it but still sounds proggy enough to satisfy me, quite an ominous tone to it, some crazy guitar from Trower, really excellent.

That longest track I mentioned then is next, and at just over seven minutes it’s hardly an epic, but “Whaling Stories” (continuing somewhat the animal theme explored in the last two tracks) does a very good job keeping up the high standard this album has set for itself since track two. More lush organ, rippling piano, hard guitar and a kind of semi-ballad I guess, actually I feel there’s quite a VDGG idea here, as it gets a little frenetic and the organ and guitar combo certainly drive that, though you can’t discount Brooker’s manic vocal at times. The album closes on “Your Own Choice”, which is a nice piano driven mid-paced song with a strong country feel to it.

Favourite track(s): Everything except Whisky Train
Least favourite track(s): Whisky Train
Overall impression: Much better than I had feared it would be; the opener made my heart sink, but thankfully it was only a blip and this is once again another great Procul Harum album, continuing the almost unbroken line of superb releases from them since their debut. Yes, I know; but of the ones I’ve heard. I’m sure A Salty Dog is just as good. It’s getting to the point now where I’m just expecting a high score for a PH album, and so far have not been disappointed. Long may it continue!
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Old 12-06-2020, 10:29 AM   #188 (permalink)
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Album title: Third
Artist: Soft Machine
Nationality: English
Label: CBS/Columbia
Chronology: Um, third?
Grade: A
Landmark value: Not an idea. Canterbury, Canterbury and, oh what’s that other word? Oh yeah. Canterbury. Shrug.
Tracklisting: Facelift/Slightly All the Time/Moon in June/Out-bloody-rageous
Comments: well, nobody could ever accuse Soft Machine of originality in the choice of album titles, could they? Their first album was self-titled (fair enough) their second called Volume II, this one, their third, they decided to call Third, the next is Fourth, the fifth is… well, you get the idea. It seems that Soft Machine may have pioneered, begun or at least perfected the art of fusion, as their albums all seem to cross over into jazz territory, taking some electronic and avant-garde detours on the way. There are only four tracks on this, but not one is under eighteen minutes, so that’s still well over an hour of music.

It’s pretty freaky, as I’ve come to see is the case usually with this band; a lot of effects of some sort (quite impressive, given the time and the limited availability of options) and the horns are high up in the mix for sure but hey, I’ll admit, it’s damn catchy, and I think that’s the first time I’ve been able to say that about a Soft Machine album. “Slightly All the Time” continues this trend with a pretty relaxing, laconic slow jazz brass section taking most of the melody, some very nice bass and a fine piano line. I don’t know if I mentioned this before (or even realised it) but this band don’t use guitars. At all. Other than bass, and on the previous album I think there was one track where an acoustic guitar was used, but there are none on this. And really, the album does not suffer from the loss of what should be so integral an instrument to any rock band. I’m not even sure where there’d be a place for guitar in this music.

For eighteen, in some cases nineteen-minute tracks these don’t drag as I had expected they might, or make me want to saw off my head with a blunt spoon. They’ve been pretty good so far really. Some sweet sax work right now, against a Hoehner pianet (you can tell I’m reading that off Wiki can’t you? ) which gives the track quite a spacey, atmospheric feel. Speeds up near the end and finishes up on a weird heavy organ, then the third track actually has vocals, which threw me a little. Driven mostly on organ, “Moon in June” gives me very much a feeling of really early Genesis - I’m talking debut here - though much heavier, and on into Trespass. Well I would have sworn that was a guitar there - what else could it be? Hmm. Says here that this was the last song Soft Machine used with lyrics in it, and the last prog rock song. Oh dear. Anyway, it then develops into an instrumental jam, which fits in more with the rest of the album so far, though I could probably do without the last part, where the violin screeches all over the place.

And that leaves us with just one track to go. “Out-bloody-rageous” starts very slowly and quietly, building up to a pretty frenetic electronic instrumental thing that’s quite ahead of its time; the kind of thing you’d hear Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis and the like play years from now. Morphs then into a cool jam on mostly piano and organ, again very jazzy but not at all (to me) annoying and back to the electronic thing.

Favourite track(s): Can’t honestly say there was anything on this I didn’t like
Least favourite track(s): Can’t honestly say there was anything on this I didn’t like
Overall impression: A huge step up in terms of how I appreciate this band. The first two albums did nothing for me. Here, they’re crossing over into electronic and jazz territory, melding the two and - which is very important - not boring the crap out of me in the process. A real triumph. I’ll rate them higher from here on in if this continues.
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Old 12-15-2020, 08:02 PM   #189 (permalink)
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Album title: Time and a Word
Artist: Yes
Nationality: English
Label: Atlantic
Chronology: Second
Grade: A
Previous Experience of this Artist:
The Trollheart Factor:
Landmark value: It’s not as if it set the world on fire, but I expect as it a) was the catalyst to introduce Steve Howe to the band, and thus create the classic lineup that would prevail through the seventies and b) was the first (and only) time they used an orchestra, it must be fairly significant.
Tracklisting: No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed/Then/ Everydays/Sweet Dreams/The Prophet/Clear Days/Astral Traveller/Time and a Word
Comments: Tony Kaye’s growling Hammond leaves you in no doubt that you’re in prog territory, then a reworking of the theme from the western movie The Big Country gives way to Anderson’s voice, and it’s an upbeat beginning, though I would say Anderson is not as strong here as he perhaps should be. That might be down to the documented problems with producer Tony Colson, whom it seems some of the band thought was not up to the task. Strangely enough, and it’s probably just me, but I hear strains of Genesis’s “Illegal Alien” here. Wonder if they ripped it off, thirteen years later?

The usage of the theme is clever, but I’d question why it needs to be there at all? I mean, it’s not like this is a song about cowboys is it? Anyway, I can hear why Banks was pissed off. The second track seems to feature no guitar at all, or at least none I can hear. Oh there’s some now. Yeah but it’s definitely relegated to bursts here and there, the song mostly driven by Kaye. Oh and that bass run! Graham Gouldman must definitely have had that in mind when 10cc were writing “Rubber Bullets”! But you know, here again, this early, my old problem with early Yes surfaces. I’m losing interest in the songs. There seems to be nothing I can hang a hook on and hold onto. Man, the vocal on this in the latter stages is almost inaudible! Is that intentional or just crappy production?

“Everydays” is a cover of a Stephen Stills song, nice little ballad, well it kicks up near the end, which I kind of don’t like, but as it’s not their song I guess I can’t blame them. “Sweet Dreams” is much better, more uptempo and gives me a sense of later ELO in the harmonies, some guitar here for sure. Little repetitive though I must say. “The Prophet” is pretty good, quite bombastic in places and Anderson’s voice is definitely stronger here, while “Clear Days” really benefits from the use of the orchestra, nice violin-driven ballad which also showcases the softer side of Anderson’s voice. Very short though. The track, not Anderson. Well, then again... Banks has I guess his final blowout on the intro to “Astral Traveller” though Kaye soon takes over with a “Watcher of the Skies” style Hammond attack, also throwing in arpeggios that would surface a couple of years later on “Can-Utility and the Coastliners” on Genesis’s fourth album Foxtrot. The title track then brings it all home with what I would have to say sounds very like a Moody Blues rip-off track, not anything terribly special but not a bad closer.

Favourite track(s): No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed, Sweet Dreams, The Prophet, Clear Days,
Least favourite track(s): Everydays
Overall impression: Despite this being their second album, this is no revelation. I don’t hear anything here that tells me these guys are going to be emperors of the prog rock movement, have millions of fans and still be recording today, fifty years later. It’s a good album, and of course with the benefit of hindsight you can see where they are going, but if I was hearing this in 1970 (I’d only have been seven though) I think I would pick out Procol Harum or the Moody Blues to be the big thing. Just shows you I guess. Of course, 1972 would see the release of Close to the Edge and that would be it, for them, as they basically rewrote the rules on progressive rock and scored a hit that would, even today, almost always top any list of greatest prog albums. That’s still three years away though, and on the strength of this, perhaps they were lucky to get that far.
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Old 12-16-2020, 09:35 PM   #190 (permalink)
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Album title: Supertramp
Artist: Supertramp
Nationality: English
Label: A&M
Chronology: Debut
Grade: B
Previous Experience of this Artist: Big Supertramp fan; have all their albums
The Trollheart Factor: 10
Landmark value: Little really; I feel this and the next album they released went largely unremarked, and it wasn’t until Crime of the Century, their third album, that they would come to the public notice. Ironically, this would also be the time when they moved mostly away from prog rock and towards more, if you will, prog pop, but more of that later. I believe you could be a Supertramp fan and never have heard this album, which would be a pity as it rewards repeat listenings.
Tracklisting: Surely/It’s a Long Road/ Aubade - And I Am Not Like Other Birds of Prey/Words Unspoken/Maybe I’m a Beggar/Home Again/Nothing to Show/Try Again/Shadow Song/Surely (Reprise)
Comments: Anyone who’s seen the Playlist of Life will know that I reviewed this album in full not once, but twice (quite by accident; forgot I had already written one and only realised after it had been posted duh!) so what more can I say about it? Well, in fairness not everyone may have read that, or I should say those reviews, so I won’t take the easy way out. Let me start by noting that, as I mentioned in the Landmark Value section above, this album (and the one that followed it) bear little to no resemblance to the later ones, such as Breakfast in America, Even in the Quietest Moments or Crime of the Century[, with a very soft folk/psych rock direction taken by the fledgling band.

The album is bookended by two versions of the piano ballad “Surely”, a very short one opening the album while a longer version closes it out wonderfully. The first voice we hear is that of Roger Hodgson, one of the founders, and the voice radio listeners would later get used to hearing on hits like “Dreamer”, “It’s Raining Again” and “The Logical Song”. I always thought, whether it was planned or not, the juxtaposition of the two voices - Hodgson’s soft crooning almost feminine voice compared to Rick Davies’ more growling, ragged blues voice - worked really well, and again whether it was deliberate or just coincidence, Davies always tended to take the harder, more mature songs while Hodgson took the lighter, more commercial ones, leading to his being the voice most people would identify as that of Supertramp.

There’s a dark blues feel then to what I suppose you’d have to call the first real track, “It’s a Long Road” with some fine organ from the as-yet-silent Davies, who won’t add any vocals until well into the second side of the album. There’s a fair bit of jamming on this album, and that’s possibly due to the fact that, as stated in (both of my) review(s) Hodgson and Davies were both worried about writing lyrics - the two wrote all the music but the lyrics came from the soon-to-depart guitarist Richard Palmer. Some nice harmonica here too from Davies. The odd title of the third track - “Aubade/And I Am Not Like Other Birds of Prey” - just screams hippy sixties, and indeed the song is a quiet, gentle, reflective piece carried again on organ, soft this time, and “Words Unspoken” is one of my favourites, with a very gentle acoustic line and a sweet vocal from Roger.

Musicians they may be, singers certainly, songwriters (later) absolutely, but here, at least, they were not producers. I can barely hear the vocal (or much else) when “Maybe I’m a Beggar” begins with a sort of Celtic flutey uillean pipes thing going on. It’s very low in the mix. What is? Everything really. Oh, I see it’s a flageolet. Sounds vaguely kinky. Right, now it’s coming more to the fore - not the flogger sorry flageolet but everything, mostly on Palmer’s powerful guitar and Davies’ insistent organ. “Home Again” is barely a minute of acoustic goodness with a soft little vocal before we blast into “Nothing to Show”, where for me the album dips sharply in quality.

I just don’t like the sudden change from what has been, mostly, pastoral folky-ness to a rip-roaring blues freakout, and while it introduces us to the vocals of Rick Davies for the first time, it’s my least favourite track on the album. It’s another of those jams, and to be perfectly and brutally honest, what lyric there is is about as throwaway as it gets. So no, I don’t like it. It’s soon forgotten though as we retreat into the enchanted forest for the beautiful “Shadow Song” as Hodgson puts Davies back in his box and takes over vocals again, then the longest, jammiest track gives us twelve minutes plus of “Try Again”, which isn’t as bad as I remember, not at all. Still not crazy about it though; has that kind of “Echoes” feel - the middle bit, you know? Album closes then as I mentioned on a longer version of “Surely” with a wonderful organ and guitar solo to take us out.

Favourite track(s): Surely/ Aubade- And I Am Not Like Other Birds of Prey/Words Unspoken/Shadow Song/Surely (reprise)
Least favourite track(s): Nothing to Show
Overall impression: In some ways, when I listened to this first, I had a Genesis to Revelation moment, thinking is this the same band? Still, it certainly shows if nothing else the musical talent and vocal talent of the two guys, mostly Hodgson, but like a lot of prog (ish) bands it’s a gentle nudge into the consciousness rather than a kick in the head, or indeed anywhere else.
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