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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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