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Imperial 1971
Esoteric 2011
Gettin’ into focus: the Dutch legends’ psych classic for a current mind to melt.

Most famous as a launch pad for FOCUS, it was in BRAINBOX that guitarist Jan Akkerman and drummer Pierre van der Linden sharpened their creative teeth to bite bigger things, but in their native Netherlands the latter band’s first album is more than a footnote in the former’s history. More so, the LP still sounds strong, lacking many a contemporary’s naivete – if it lurks in the straightforward reading of “Reason To Believe”, then the raging “Summertime” blows such a gauze to pieces – and while there’s much energy in these exercises in interpretation, the group’s originals make the obligatory covers look pale.

If “Baby, What You Want Me To Do” shows the quartet were a mean blues force, and “Scarborough Fair” gently drives its ever-sprawling pile into the listener’s unconscious, lubricating its way with organ and flute, “Dark Rose” is delightfully demented slice of rhythm-and-blues that shoves Kaz Lux’s soulful voice to the fore of frenetic funky scratch, and the 17-minute “Sea Of Delight” could have been embraced by the most experienced acid-fried Californian – but the piece, all its Eastern motifs, time changes and solos creating a kaleidoscopic swirl of aural images – is a trip in itself. The scarcity of the players’ own material on the LP is compensated here by no less than 11 single sides where “Amsterdam – The First Days” rocks the catchy riff, “Cruel Train” chugs over the emotional gamut and “Down Man” explores the troglodytes’ groovy step.

The Akkerman fans will love his fretwork race on “Doomsday Train” and the lyrical lace of “Good Morning Day”, yet it was Jan’s desire to play outside the BOX that got him ousted for FOCUS to be born. There’d be more albums and Akkerman/Lux work but “Brainbox” still retains its erstwhile allure.


Give And Take
Charly 1978
Esoteric 2010
Straight off PLANET GONG, the Ladbroke Grove bunch battles the punk spikes in their own frenzied way.

Looks like Daevid Allen needed some good dirt to give the GONG offshoot a nice start in 1977, and he found the perfect soil in HERE & NOW. A rough-sounding collective bent on spontaneity and jamming before that, once the PLANET went to pieces the band picked up its idiosyncratic progness to create their own beast, “Give And Take”. Weird yet engaging, “What You See Is What You Are”, which seems to be skipping a beat in its Zappa-esque first part and goes spaceward on the leader Keith Bailey’s bass jive in the second, traps one’s ears to let go when the swirl grinds to a halt in “Improvisation” that’s exactly that – a fantastic folky free freak flow.

The waves roll the punk parody in the “This Time” acid chant and madful muble of “Grate Fire Of London”, all Gothic girly vocals and spaced-out in a musique concrete guise, alongside glittery things like “Nearer Now”, the song’s fairy-tale lysergic lining linking it to the late ’60s psychedelia, while “70’s Youth”, an axis of the band’s live shows, betrays their cosmic squat roots. But it’s all a game as suggests the bonus EP where “Addicted” seems to have crawled in from a mental BLACK SABBATH record and “Dog In Hell” rides the reggae rope before going all over the place and back again. A mixed bag, then, but somehow attractive.


Angel Air 2011
One of the best – and one of the most unsung – British rock belters receives his due.

Many eulogize this artist for his contribution to “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”, yet Bobby Harrison would be the first to tell you he didn’t play on the PROCOL HARUM perennial which the veteran re-recorded for his first-ever lifespan 2CD-collection. More so, now Harrison got to sing it, for in the company of Gary Brooker and Keith Reid Bobby was only a drummer. His departure a mutual gain for both parties, it took the novice vocalist some time to spread his wings with FREEDOM, through the psychedelic phase of soundtracking Tinto Brass’ "Nerosubianco", of which “The Better Side” proved prophetic, to the sharp swing of “Frustrated Women”, and then soar the highest with SNAFU who open the proceedings here with “Long Gone”.

Their songs set the tone with funky rhythm, the artist’s favorite groove, that Micky Moody, his short-termed partner in JUICY LUCY, provides so gracefully also on the cuts from Harrison’s solo album “Funkist”, Harrison showing how soft his touch can be on “Looking For A Friend”. The same bruised romanticism lifts “Losing You” from NOBODY’S BUSINESS’s only LP, the hardest rock bottom that Bobby’s ever drilled to dig out such nuggets as “Bleed Me Dry”. Tthe sheer force of Harrison’s lungs reveals itself on the blues classics, “Going Down” by the FREEDOM’s final power trio and “Oh Pretty Woman” which the singer laid down with Icelanders MEZZOFORTE, an ensemble he helped to rise, yet there’s more jazziness in SNAFU’s “Goodbye USA”, where Pete Solley‘s synthesizer allows Bobby to deliver a glossy soul, or SANTANA-esque “Drowning In The Sea Of Love”, and enough orchestral Tom Jones-ness in solo cuts “Cleopatra Jones” and “Thinking About You”. Yes, the pipes are that huge, and that’s about time to sing praises to the veteran who still cuts it.


Arista 1979
Esoteric 2010
The light percussive masterpiece with heavy guests at the feast table but no pixie lurking in the shadows.

Daevid Allen’s GONG had an idiosyncratic wind about them, and Pierre Moerlen joined the party right in the midst of it, during the “Radio Gnome Trilogy” phase. But when the band’s founding fathers left, the drummer was left to pursue a smooth dream of his own. In 1979, finally free from the Virgin contract, the classically trained Moerlen pushed his name to the fore and set about playing the highly melodic fusion with a prominent pop nous which strokes all the right places.

The only strange choice being Babatunde Olatunji’s “Jin-Go-Lo-Ba” – SANTANA’s version is impossible to upstage in the percussion department – its fire Europeized in the French hands, the original material runs from the airy “Aeroplane” to “What You Know” with Mick Taylor guitar to paint Moerlen’s vocals in blues. And when it comes to things to hit, “Crosscurrents” feels the place to dwell thanks to Pierre’s brother Benoit Moerlen’s vibraphone and Francois Causse’s marimba joining the drums, and Hansford Rowe’s supple bass slapping the leader’s synth rack. MAGMA’s Didier Lockwood’s violin spices the brew here as well as in the gentle “Emotions”, where all other instruments are laid down by the main man.

This simplicity is opposed to the epic title track that sees Michael Oldfield’s cosmic guitar repay Moerlen his involvment in the tubular bells master’s projects, yet it’s other tubes, Pierre’s glockenspiel, that reign here above Terry Oldfield’s flute and Steve Winwood’s Moog, while the rest of percussion ties it all to the ground and the old GONG sax-blower Didier Malherbe helps to build the delicious tension. The release comes with the shimmering “Xtasea” that winds down the album: such perfect balance between unpredictable and sweet would never be achieved again.


War Horses!
Angel Air 2011
Subtitled “Angel Air Rocks!”, the compilation sees the seasoned label ranging their seasoned stable.

The Suffolk label has a lot to offer when it comes to veterans, what with the company’s politics of paying the artists who have long been robbed of their due, so the eligibility benchmark of at least 30 years under one’s creative belt might be a good criterion for joining the ranks but not for cramming a small portion of the catalogue onto a single CD. Here, the parts work better than their sum: they just don’t gel – even on the stylistic level. GILLAN’s "M.A.D." and OLIVER DAWSON SAXON’s "747" outweigh the rest in their heaviness and don’t share the elegant emotionality with Maggie Bell’s take on “Wishing Well” or Gerry McAvoy’s "Misunderstood" that break out of the overall hard rock slant of the collection.

The concept of survivors wins with STRAY whose 2010’s "Harry Farr" and for HEAVY METAL KIDS’ "Hit The Right Button" that are on par with, if not better than, their ’70s output, yet the idea falls on its face with DAVID BYRON BAND’s catchy "Rebecca" for the former URIAH HEEP singer was among the rock casualties. There are three more tracks featuring Robin George, the youngest veteran in these grooves, DAMAGE CONTROL’s "Savage Song" and NOTORIOUS’"Radio Silence" sounding too modern; the guitarist simply doesn’t have the same pedigree as others. But ex-DEEP PURPLE bassist Nick Simper swings on QUATERMASS II’s “Prayer For The Dying” and FANDANGO’s “Candice Larene” as does Bobby Harrison who leads FREEDOM’s version of the “Going Down” blues and NOBODY’S BUSINESS’ boogie of "Bleed Me Dry" and has his own anthology on Angel Air.

What leaves no doubt on the background of all this variety is that the label rocks indeed, so it makes sense to roll along its tracks into the albums the warhorses gallop on.


FIELDS – Fields
CBS 1971
Esoteric 2010
One avian transformation makes for a wonderful, if doomed, flight.

Ripped by their accountants to the extent where even the mighty “Sympathy” didn’t bring them much money, RARE BIRD had no other choice but split. Eager to play, keyboards master Graham Fields secured a better deal and, on Robert Fripp’s advice, got former CRIMSO drummer Andrew McCulloch on board, who brought in bassist-guitarist Alan Barry into the fold: thus, this trio were born – ELP-like but with a different agenda.

“Over And Over Again” sounds like a purest progressive rock, where instrumental prowess vies for the listener’s attention with the music soulness, and the opening salvo of “A Friend Of Mine” holds a classic bombast. But the fugue drive is pushed towards a cosmic dance in the mix of heavy organ and light synthesizer, and an arresting vocal line that gets straight to the heart, while the head is bobbing to the rhythm. Then, there’s “Three Minstrels” the folk drone of which has a vertiginous medieval fair effect, yet many of the pieces here possess a pop suss, “Feeling Free” exploring the spiritual side of things, “A Place To Lay My Head” flowing down the blues stream and and “While The Sun Still Shines” forestalling glam rock, the “no pretence” feel making the result adorable rather than reverent.

Sadly, this was the band’s only record, all due to the business again, yet the FIELDS’ pastures are still welcoming.


First Meeting
Dawn 1971
Esoteric 2010
A progressive rendezvous that, sadly, wouldn’t last. The memories are pleasant, though.

There was a smattering of British ensembles in the early ’70s who tried to engraft jazz freedom to rock frame but either slightly changed their tack – Interview with JON HISEMAN COLOSSEUM to blues, Manfred Mann‘s CHAPTER THREE to prog, AVERAGE WHITE BAND’s to soul – or vanished. None, it seems, had a chance then and there, but TRIFLE didn’t live up to their promise literally: their leader, singer George Bean, died around the time of this, the band’s only album’s release. Yet the music still stands its shaky ground.

Ringing with brass and roaring with organ, “Alibi Annie” gives the record a rolling start and could have made it to the charts in the funk-obsessed later part of the decade, when the melodies could be taken astray, but the free-falling “Is It Loud” floats into the proto-fusion focus thanks to keyboardist Alan Fealdman’s way with a soft tune up for improvisation, and “New Religion” wears an elegant solemnity. Elsewhere, the band employ their interpretational talents on Cat Steven’s “But I Might Die Tonight” that is wrapped in soul coat here, and CHAPTER THREE’s “One Way Glass” which gets pop-rocked – to not the brightest effect, while the acoustic “Devil Comin'” possesses the right dose of threat. What would have come out of all these strains is, unfortunately, impossible to even guess, yet the single “Dirty Old Town” deserved to hit the charts.


One Niter
Mercury 1976
Reactive 2010
Exceptionality stated in the very title: the best rock album from the very center of Europe, with all the grandiose aspects that go with it.

With something rock-like about Republik Osterreich, the Austrians’ lack of looseness made their country poor on rock ‘n’ roll. But it’s the same approach that produced EELA CRAIG, the inescapably artsy septet who took five years after their debut to snatch their second album, “One Niter”, out of symphonic waters, and the same reserve that made it a masterpiece.

Hubert Bognermayr, the band’s leader, escapes any pompousness here, exploring Gothic rather than Renaissance motifs in the records’ two epics. There is a stark solemnity in “One Niter Medley”, that of the space kind, and an orchestral beauty, while in “Circles” he steers the synthesizers’ flight towards Elysian pastures, once the dust of the main anthemic theme settles down and the cosmic funk’s echoes fall silent. It could be labeled new age if it didn’t feel so antique and didn’t have rock guitar at its most lyrically heroic to spill over into “Loner’s Rhyme” and go on the scintillating tiles again. George Clinton would have approved such cheekiness – jazzy in the fabulous “Way Down” – so the flute and acoustic guitars “Venezuela” make it all pastoral only for a change and a charge. A complete adventure.


Tomorrow Never Ends
Manticore 1974/1976
Esoteric 2010
Subtitled “The Anthology”, a brace of two sparkling albums from the British folkie whose rock conversion was mightier than Dylan’s.

Call him a maverick, but this kind of people tend to turn leftfield, while Keith Christmas has been operating in the right ways… until he left the music business for 20 years soon after this brilliant pair of records had been out. Schooled in the folk tradition but lending his acoustic guitar skills to “Space Oddity” and having opened for THE WHO and KING CRIMSON, the meeting with the latter’s band co-founder, Pete Sinfield, landed Christmas a spot on the poet’s "Stillusion" and a deal with ELP’s label, Manticore, which brought forth 1974’s “Brighter Day” and 1976’s “Stories From The Human Zoo”.

The title track of the former can’t be more American sounding in its supple Philly funk attack, the brass section conducted by Mel Collins and Neil Hubbard’s guitar adding lyrical coal to the fire; no wonder, then, especially with the Motown distribution Stateside, that next year Keith would cut THE TEMPTATIONS’ “My Girl”, also included on this reissue. But there are some simpler wonders on his fourth LP: the folk-past-betraying, Greg Lake-produced “The Bargees” and “Foothills” that, adorned with Pete Solley‘s otherworldly (or, in the first take among the CD bonuses, cosmic) Moog and Ian Wallace‘s hushed drumming, would have sit nicely on a TRAFFIC platter in their pure Englishness. Yet beside these dance the baroque “Robin Heed”, “Lovers’ Cabaret”, which grows from blissful to groovy, and a few vaudevillian ditties, all riding Christmas’ strum and rich-toned voice.

And it’s Keith’s pipes in the core of “Human Zoo”, which might be less brighter than its predecessor but is tighter and punchier in its soulful flow. Recorded in California with Steve Cropper on guitar and Duck Dunn on bass, and with strings and horns arranged by Cat Stevens, it starts impossibly effervescent with the playful “The Dancer” but ends with the unfathomably deep funk of “Life In Babylon”, placing the spicy rage of “The Astronaut” in between and cushioning it with back vocals. For the most part, though, it’s more standard fare than before, yet “Souvenir Affair” feels sweet without going saccharine, its resemblance to Springsteen’s “For You” notwithstanding, while “3 Golden Rules” sucks the listener in its boogie gale, with Snuffy Walden’s guitar wail to stress the recklessness of human ways, and “High Times” has one’s heart on its folky thread and uplifting chorus. After that, the only way for Keith Christmas was down, so he disappeared – only to find that tomorrow, indeed, never ends, as his legacy has lived on all still stands proud.


Four Letter Monday Afternoon
Kuckuck 1972
Reactive 2010
The sprawling goodbye with an obscene ambition utterly fulfilled – and then some. An album big but beautiful.

The received wisdom says OUT OF FOCUS dissipated due to the musicians pulling in their own direction. It might be so – in places the German’s band third, and last, record sounds exactly like it – yet all could be vice versa, for it was here the players finally bloomed to have their individual agendas. Ideas abound, “Four Letter Monday Afternoon” just had to be a double LP, or effectively, two albums under one cover.

The three-part suite “Huchen 55” that takes the whole of the second disc could stand out in its own, enveloping one’s ears with a delicate folk which transforms into an anxious art rock, bent on free-form extemporization and led mostly by organist Hennes Hering and the flute-wielding guitarist Remigius Drechsler. It’s deep and complex yet indefinitely tasty, save for the part C where all hell breaks loose to rip the joint asunder and then get it together again on a new, more energetic, if slow, level.

The first disc is more digestible, even palatable, with memorable pieces like the scat-lifted Gypsy carnival of “Tsajama” or baroque blues of “When I’m Sleeping”, where the titular four-letter word makes its appearance. Still, the marching dirge of “L.S.B” with its acid-burnt guitar scorching the ground under the brass storm opens the album to a vista so large it’s difficult to measure, yet very easy to be drawn into and revel in this faux-symphonic mix of progressive fusion, especially once the synthesizer brings on a trance-inducing drone. Broken later on with explosions and smoothed with a flute, the war tableau is complete and a playful jazz gallop comes on to paint the modern scene with a plonking guitar and boogie piano. Then, “Where Have You Been” is a pensive acoustic ballad, with another expletive for more impact – it’s more Sunday than Monday in its mood, and is a perfect way to get out of this swirl of an album, so swap the discs and surrender to the flow.


Land Of Cockayne
EMI 1981
Esoteric 2010
The train, already gone, blows its last – and strong, if different – whistle. But whether there was a band remains a question.

There was nothing new to the situation when Karl Jenkins, who’d joined SOFT MACHINE in 1973 and seen the group’s demise four years later, was asked to revive the ensemble’s name for his 1981’s solo project: it went the same way for Ian Anderson and "A" a year earlier. All kudos to the Welsh keyboardist for not only calling to arms heavyweight friends, including ex-SOFTS John Marshall on drums and Allan Holdsworth, plus Dick Morrissey, but also realizing his orchestrator ambitions, all to shape up his tuneful ideas. The result brought another facet to the MACHINE’s multi-dimensional enigma while remaining undeniably Canterbury-rooted.

The familiar thread is there, in the transparent, heart-tugging, almost symphonic swell of “(Black) Velvet Mountain”, gently rippled with Jack Bruce’s bass glissandos, and the bubbly jazz rock of “Hot-Biscuit Slim”, the arrangements still adventurous, never more so than in the flute-washed hidden dramatics of new-agey “Lotus Groves”. At the same time, the fusion vibe goes on the ’80s as suggest the smooth “Panoramania”, that sees just slightly tamed synth solo, and “Over ‘n’ Above”, which flows on the strings’ wave, light sax and backing vocals. Call it a sophisticated approach to easy listening, if you will, but if cuts like the jiving “Sly Monkey” became a supermarket music life would be much better… without drugs, by the way, as the medieval title means a land of plenty.


Island 1975
Esoteric 2010
Minimalism on a grand scale making an aquatic picture near impossible to fathom.

Any artist has the right to self-indulge, and JADE WARRIOR were no strangers to such concept when embarking on their second Island album. It’s tempting to see their blueprint in “Tubular Bells” – that the WARRIOR flautist Jon Field played on – but in fact, the duo simply solidified what they’d started on “Floating World”, so the themes coalesced into two LP side-long pieces on its follow-up. The charts in the booklet showing each part of “Waves” comprises several compositions, the result is too transparent to grasp, like water through the fingers, never more so than at the very start, so quiet as if the sound’s not there at all. Yet it flows out of the mist to fill the rarefied sonic air without forming a distinct melody, only bits of tunes, but drinking from Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun”.

Still, Tony Duhig’s guitar and bass groove in trance-inducing reverie, while Field’s reeds build a bridge to jazzy planes for Steve Winwood, thanks to whom they landed on Island, to splash his piano improvisations. Folk is but a wonderful thread in this canvas, and when its themes radiate harmonies, the progressive psychedelia beams through the surface, especially in the electric guitar scorching “Waves Part II” amidst the seagulls’ cries, where the dynamics are much wider in scope. It even takes in a spanky funk led by sleazy sax and drums before spreading thin yet delicious again. When the whale songs come into the aural view, the bigness of it all feels justified, and the waves’ roll beckons back.


Anthology – Vol. 1
Angel Air 2011
Still cutting it to shreds, the future of heavy metal that time and the world criminally forgot.

Praised by the press back in the day, the Ealing quintet arrived on the scene a bit too late to get in the NBOWBHM competition at a full force. Their released legacy is scarce, the classic line-up having put out a sole EP, but the music MOURNBLADE played remains fresh in their time-bubble to kick a listener in the balls as hard now. The fantasy slant may paint the group as heroic, and Dunken Mullet’s vocals are warrior-like indeed, yet it’s the rock ‘n’ roll zap and Rich Jones’ hookful riffalama that’s the catch of their first demo, 1984’s “Anthem Of Chaos”, which has all the energy of the four tracks served up two years later on the aforementioned mini-album, the heart of this collection.

The “Ein Heldebtraum” EP, heavy as it is, somehow fails to deliver the punch, due to keyboards smoothing the sharp edges and the overall theatricality of songs like the HAWKWIND-indebted “Science Friction” or “The Stairway”, while the qualities play out strong on the live recordings such as the fantastic “Eternal Champion” and “Servants Of Fate” – mid-paced for the best impact and shot through with bass rumble – that make the bulk of the CD. These tapes show how tight a unit the band were on-stage: had they pushed a little harder on “Sidewinder”, the speed metal crowd would have adored them, yet the Brits didn’t go for the modern grit and, thus, entered obscurity.

The phase in the quintet history ended when the rhythm section departed to revitalize WHITE LIGHTNING, who also left their mark on the face of British metal, but that was not the end for MOURNBLADE, hence the “Vol. 1” tag. On to the second one!


Sanctuary 1971
Esoteric 2010
The seeds of future being sown, the present is lost to be rediscovered.

That the former YARDBIRDS Jim McCarty and Keith Relf’s band’s second album had to be released initially in Europe, not the UK, speaks volumes of the ensemble’s stability, and it wasn’t the dynamic the musicians wanted to explore. Considered a transitional record between the original and classic, Annie Haslam-voiced, line-ups – thanks mostly to the appearance of the latter’s leader Michael Dunford on guitar and Cornish poetess Betty Thatcher who would write all the lyrics later on – for many years “Illusion” hung in limbo but now proudly stands its ground.

It surely is lighter than its predecessor, the tone-setter “Love Goes On” wallowing in glittery vocal harmonies before a glimpse of drama comes out of its blissful core to play a heart-tugging game in McCarty’s bittersweet “Face Of Yesterday” lifted by Jane Relf’s soft trills. Without overt nods to classical composers, here the ensemble paint on broad canvas, totally their own in the mix of John Hawken’s piano and Keith Relf’s acoustic guitars, to unfurl the grand beauty of the cosmically vibrating, if jazzily unfocused but high on percussive grit, epic “Past Orbits Of Sun” and “Golden Thread”, a ballad which gains pace as it flows to open up like a delicate flower washed with voices but grounded in English melancholic restrain. The same feeling oozes out of Dunford’s baroque “Mr. Pine”, the most traditionally progressive composition on offer that slightly falls out of the context – more stylistically, rather than due to the completely different personnel with Terry Crowe at the mic. There was that transition.

But the Relfs and McCarty didn’t break up and soon after their split from the fold delivered two songs for a long-forgotten film “Schizom”, both on this CD as bonus tracks, alongside a demo of “All The Fallen Angels”, written for the movie yet penned for inclusion on the trio’s new endeavor, ILLUSION’s album. The group picked up where “Illusion” left off, but without Keith who’d tragically died in 1976 before they really started anew, so the last record of original RENAISSANCE is the testament to his lyrical talents.


Out Of Focus
Kuckuck 1971
Reactive 2010
Method to the madness: the German hipsters got their act together to take on jazz – in their own rebellious way.

As unkempt as this quintet’s debut was and as grandiose as their last album would be, in between the two lay the band’s self-named record, the tightest one. The musicians bare their agenda in the angry organ-and-bass smut of “What Can A Poor Boy Do (But To Be A Street Fighting Man”, where Moran Neumuller puts on a Stone skin before blowing the blistering sax and letting his colleagues do their solo bits – all reined-in now where before and after the mighty jam could have unfurled. The strains come entangled into a driving riff in the longish “Whispering” which gains momentum as it rolls, yet the wildness is desperately lacking from the plaintive “It’s Your Life” kept afloat only by Hennes Hering’s organ.

At the same time, “Fly Bird Fly” tries to soar like the regular flute-weaving ballad, but welcomes a whiff of adventure in its heart that sprawls into “Television Program” which replicates its beginning only to switch direction to the gloomy recesses of a psyche – and rock down the road. And then the mournful “Blue Sunday Morning” takes the rootsy idiom down the eastward folky route tune-wise while molding the vocal recital in the Iggy shape, until the composition grows in stature to transcend its initial crawling. As does the album as a whole. A winning platter.


Insane Asylum
Capitol 1974
Marin 2010
The greatest white blues chanteuse in America struts her star-studded stuff. A reason to get crazy, indeed.

Forget about that insecure girl called Janis who Kathi McDonald replaced in BIG BROTHER & THE HOLDING COMPANY; better think of Maggie Bell, the equally underrated soul warbler who mined the similar vein in the UK at the same time. But when it came to stellar cast on her solo debut, McDonald, a veteran of sessions for the likes of THE ROLLING STONES and Leon Russell, saw no equal, and the fact the singer isn’t overshadowed here by her guests speaks volumes of her talent. After all, how many artists would dare to engage Sly Stone in fantastic reading of the Willie Dixon-penned title cut which closes this record?

Funnily, the funk is thrown at listener at its start by Nils Logfren’s guitar splicing the “Starman” ring to “Bogart To Bowie” and a good dose of gospel courtesy of THE POINTER SISTERS who provide the ground for Kathi to fly off. And she does exactly that on a great array of covers – the boisterous “Something Else”, the barnstorming “Heartbreak Hotel”, Peter Frampton’s “All I Want To Be” that Neal Schon paints dramatic – the deepest being BEE GEES’ “To Love Somebody” which the piano of Pete Sears, the dame’s songwriting partner, renders celestial and that her vocals infuse with wild spirit. There’s also an airy, organ-smoothed blues of another original, “Threw My Love Away”, the luxury vaudeville of “Freak Lover” where Papa John Creach’s madful fiddle shares the spotlight with the driving voice, and the sultry, brass-oiled take on THE VANDELLAS’ “(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave” with Ronnie Montrose to lay down the sharp riffage. Not a weak spot and hardly a moment to take a breath!

“Insane Asylum” is a criminally forgotten masterpiece which demands to be reassessed and adored.


In The Realm Of Asgard
Threshold 1972
Esoteric 2010
Mythical Nordic coldness psyched-up to a multicolored warm sea. The only vestige of a great band that never blossomed.

Being praised by collectors doesn’t mean a certain LP is of much interest content-wise, but in this case it’s certainly so. Led by axeman Rodney Harrison, previously with BULLDOG BREED, and welcomed by the MOODY BLUES’ label “Threshold”, ASGARD’s only outing entered obscurity soon after its release, as the record company had its directors to look after, yet proves to be an outstanding opus.

Why didn’t “Town Crier” challenge SLADE in its glittery spill, remains a mystery – perhaps, here’s too much naivete for 1972, even in a driving jig of “Friends” but, above all, in the breezy “Children Of A New Born Age”. The equally memorable title track, meanwhile, is a pop confection in a progressive, violin-sprinkled coating with a memorable chorus and a tremendous, although short, rocking guitar solo, whereas the BREED’s “Austin Osmanspare” re-emerges enveloped in orchestra, and “Time” comes on as a nicely psyched-up slice of electric folk rock. Rich on melody and going spaceward in the infectious acoustics of “Starquest”, the realm of ASGARD is the place to revisit – and not for sweet nostalgia but for pleasure.


Make The Monkey Dance
Target 2006
Angel Air 2011
The heavy metal kid steers his own flying object with some well-known tunes along with new numbers on board.

Who’s that guy? He knew you’d ask – otherwise why admit his stance in the heavy groove of “Never Been Cool”? But when you reach the swaggering “Midnight Lady”, you’ll recognize its author, the former UFO keyboard and guitar player. Peyronel’s style, first demonstrated in HEAVY METAL KIDS, who Danny leads again now, is basically the same on his first solo album: sharp riffs, smooth runs and memorable melodies. Which is all one needs to have a ball stadium-wide as “Makin’ Room For Noah” welcomes to do, and why not if the title track so nicely follows in the wake of “Born To Be Wild”? Ah, the panache!

And then, the delicate blues: it fills the ever-expanding silky bubble of “Ships In The Night” and the ’80s sheen of “Bigger Than Love”. The similar jungly vibe rings in the remake of “Lie For A Lie” which Peyronel originally submitted for David Gilmour to sing on “Profiles”, Nick Mason-Rick Fenn collaboration, another resurrected classic being the buzzing “Midnight At The Lost And Found” that Meat Loaf used to belt out. Now Danny’s voice, operatically trained, sounds stronger than ever – crank up the tar-sticky “Happy” to appreciate the scope – and if you miss the classic UFO songwriting, “This Heart Is Broken” will quench your thirst. Meet the master in his element.


Floating World
Island 1974
Esoteric 2010
The most atmospheric duo find their blissful spot to flower and grow in power.

Island was the place to land for JADE WARRIOR once they were discarded by Vertigo, as Chris Blackwell’s empire had no borders when it came to style, even though for this group his vision dictated dropping a vocalist and turn instrumental – which, perhaps, was what made the band sharpen their focus and become so unique. In their case, still, sharpening the focus meant throwing it out the door and open up to the atmospheric, ambient space with unpredictable dynamics: don’t turn up the volume if the initial flossy quietude of “Clouds” feels too watercolor to embrace, as a drum will suddenly burst into your ear while guitar wails far away. Here, Tony Duhig’s six strings show their teeth in crazy Balinese chug “Monkey Chant” and the heavy “Red Lotus”, rare examples of the band’s ability to rock hard and heavy, whereas the shadow of Debussy lurks here and there.

The most transparent and traditionally progressive the group fly in the captivating “Easty” – Mike Oldfield might have found kindred spirits in the duo – but there’s much more jazzy bass to walk nicely around “Mountain Of Fruit And Flowers”, where Jon Field’s woodwind and organ roam in thunderous unison, just like acoustic and electric axes go in serene, if pregnant with anxiety, “Rain Flower”. The closing “Quba” wraps things up in silky panorama and brings on an emotional resolution to the sonic enigma of “Floating World” without revealing everything. It’s close yet out of reach, and here lies the album’s enduring allure.


Wake Up
Kuckuck 1971
Reactive 2010
A slightly chaotic reveille that arouses a listener to a new kind of reverie.

This German band liked to jam for all the right reasons: to show not their instrumental prowess but their mental state. And the quintet’s debut opus can turn some heads in, mixing the British prog influences, such as Ian Anderson-esque flute dances, with the acid-riven fuzz that carries the engaging flow of “God Save The Queen Cried Jesus”.

Irony in jazz context is always welcome, yet “See How A White Negro Flies”, in which folk meets the funk, is brought down by gloomy vocals, the same pipes measuring the darkness of “Hey John” while singer Moran Neumuller’s reeds and Hennes Hering’s organ shine a light into the abyss. More so, “Worlds End”, scorched with Remigius Drechsler’s guitar, wouldn’t be a stranger on a BLACK SABBATH album, whereas the 11-minute “Dark, Darker” is prog rock in its purest, with not a jot of originality yet rather pleasant – here’s one reigned-in jam. A bold and rightly mad statement from the then-unknowns.


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