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O-records 1979

My Records 2009

Pa Radio 1978

Demo Tapes

My Records 2009

Undusted artefacts from the dark, if golden, recesses of Scandinavian prog.

Swedish rock scene of the ’70s has yet to be explored in earnest. Intellectual and not as wild it must have been a perfect, though Aurora Borealis-colored, reflection of the country’s Nordic character with a hot heart beating beneath the frozen crust. It was so for AUTUMN BREEZE who in 1979, near the end of their seven-year existence, came up with the self-titled little masterpiece. The record company was in serious economical problems far before the release, so the album never really reached the market but now it’s re-released and fleshed out with a collection of demo recordings and a radio session.

On the album, the listener’s drawn in on an adventurous glide within the first minute of Gert Nilsson’s guitar strum-cum-flight of “Hostbris” with a tape hiss adding a tasty patina to its transparent purity. Taking “Crazy Diamond” and “The Snow Goose” as milestones, the piece makes a journey of its own, driven by the bass that gains momentum as it all progresses and careens towards what could have been a punk groove if only the band didn’t deny it and didn’t resolve the composition in an anti-climactic dirge. But this sadness is undermined immediately with the light, flute-awashed “Ugglans Nattvisir” featuring Brigitta Nilsson’s voice – yet vocal melodies weren’t the ensemble’s forte: their main strength lay in a strong instrumental interplay. It’s on display in a lull of the “Um Mani Padme Hum” almost orchestral mantra, made spaced-out with Jan Warnqvist’s synthesizers, in the acoustic undercurrent of the airy, Spanish-hued “Jordnara”, and the fantastic “Falsk Ouverture”, set right in the middle of the album rather than its beginning, “falsk” meaning “false” an explanation. Even more funny, and quite ingenious, feels unfolding a three-part “Suite” in just over 4 minutes: a kick in the many a prog hero’s head. Another blow comes with a brass-oiled funk of “U P A” which unexpectedly coils into a cosmic jig, while “Varen” soars on its pure piano, and “Medly” takes it all to a tired, yet blissful, finale.

“Demo Tapes”, the album’s companion piece, shows how fully formed some of its compositions emerged, with the 1977 “Falsk Overture” much more heavy and, thus, impressive than in finished form, and “Hostbris” less celestial and in places rocking hard. Most of the tracks here didn’t make it onto vinyl and it’s obvious why as “Dialogue” with its flute and rather pop vocals over the synth wave sounds like the second-rate TULL in a dead beat mode, while “Secret Space Agency” comes elegant yet pale despite its ziggurat-like building-up. Still, the bluesy “Nr. 646” with its improv middle section and the sprawling vignette of “Vintern” could have been developed into something tastier, but they weren’t and remained in the vaults justifiably.

“Pa Radio 1978” presents what had left the studio to make the ether waves before “Hostbris” was released, and contains only some ideas of the tracks to be recorded soon. Yet if “Evil Light” is funky to the tilt and “Ta Mig Med” alluring, and there’s a couple of demos such as “Secret Space Agency”, now an Oriental-shaped tune, taken further on down the prog road, the songs mostly lack imagination, and “Denman Fran Havet” as good as it is, with a drum solo to kill the listener, hints on the SHOCKING BLUE influence. The inclusion of interviews – in Swedish, of course – makes this CD not so appealing to international audience, but rather a completist’s dream come true. The collectors will be delighted to grab all three discs; the rest is advised to stick to the album and love it to death.

**** / **1/3 / **

Nasty Gal
Island 1975

Light In The Attic 2009

The dirty has never been purer than this – in terms of style and intent.

Betty Davis’ place in the history of music might be firmly secured thanks to her introducing the husband, Miles, to Jimi Hendrix’ oeuvre and, thus, contributing to the birth of jazz rock – two genres’ marriage out of her own – but when it came to ripping one’s psyche to shreds, the lady was more devilish than any rocker or jazz man there was. Betty’s funk, crystallized here, on her third album, is totally atomic, be its message political or sensual, be it “This Is It!”, a highly charged cry for the feminine liberty, or the orgastic peak of “Feelins”, oriental-snaky and tribal at the same time.

The singer rides the bass riff of the mid-tempo title cut like a witch she’s pretending to be, while “F.U.N.K.” stands Betty in line with the soul heroes she’s namechecking. This boldness, coupled with a velvet sexuality of “Getting Kicked Off, Having Fun”, irritated many a misogynist, so “Dedicated To The Press” bubbles with a sparsely delivered anger, whereas the delicate “You And I” – co-written with Miles Davis and oiled with Gil Evans-arranged brass – bends the “it ain’t nothin but some fun” credo into a lightly swinging, building up and falling down, paean to emotional freedom. Once Betty rides again, slowly and elegantly, into the sunset, in “The Lone Ranger”, the magic mists comes upon you. Is it nasty to be mesmerized, then?

This re-issue is out simultaneously with its previously unreleased follow-up, "Is It Love Or Desire"


Paradise Ballroom
Decca 1977
Esoteric 2009
Balls rolling nicely, the soul pours in and the Paradise comes closer.

As the MOODY BLUES’ sabbatical lingered on in the mid-’70s, Graeme Edge couldn’t sit still and, as his band’s debut record gathered favorable reviews, there was no reason to change the tack. Which meant he called the Gurvitz brothers one more time but this time had a bigger hand in writing to share all the credits with the younger sibling, guitarist Adrian, whose voice is joined by the older one, bassist Paul‘s, on the sprawling title composition. A glistening example of the Philly sound with all its brass, it sets the Southern soul groove apace for the funky “All Is Fair In Love” and “In The Light Of Night” to bop disco-way, whereas the real ballroom grandiosity lurks in “Human”, the ethereal, piano-laden blues, in Elton John-like “Caroline”, and in the country comfort of “Down, Down, Down” where B.J. Cole’s slide performs the charming snake-dance.

If the band’s first album has the English misty aura about it, the second opens up to the vistas of America, and this tinsel-town vision is impressive enough to dwell on – on and on. Sadly, “Paradise Ballroom” remains the last album of this special ensemble.


The Rotters’ Club
Virgin 1975
Esoteric 2009
Perfectly wrought, not rotten. The story of greed killing the beauty and beauty standing tall against all odds.

With the debt, a result of the band’s first album‘s recording, hanging over the quartet like the sword of Damocles, bidding for glory seemed quite a hard task to carry out. But, expenses spared or not, there’s a steady gait to “The Rotters’ Club” and the sprightly “Share It”, its opening, title-giving piece which obscurely deals with the players’ situation, whereas “Fitter Stoke Has A Bath”, honed on the road, betrays none of the troubles but packs some gloom just like “Didn’t Matter Anyway” contains a dose of dawn in it.

Hooks abound, this time the fusion tendency in the music is more obvious as Dave Stewart’s keyboards come more stated. His “Mumps” dominates the second side of original vinyl, even though it’s Phil Miller’s slithery guitar and Richard Sinclair’s supple bass that lead the composition’s central part, “Lumps”, either sprawling, mist-way, or bristling dangerously like a playful cat. Yet while Miller has a serious field day of his own, in the “Lounging There Trying” pure jazz and the “Underdub” bossa nova, the usual humor is kept in place with the progressive drive of “The Yes No Interlude” – instrumentalists chase each other in a hide-and-seek mode and Jimmy Hastings’ saxes blare – stretching for seven minutes, which makes a couple of less-than-a-minute cuts feel like a delicious spice. Such a delicate precision marks three live tracks, all non-album, including the heavy metallic “Oh, Len’s Nature!”, that make the package complete.


MORGAN – Nova Solis
RCA Italy 1972
Esoteric 2009
The British prog boffins letting their hair down and out in the Apennine sun and ending out in the starry expanse.

From today’s perspective, Italians seem to have been suckers for art rock, which is no wonder with culture like theirs, and there were a lot of good bands in the country, but MORGAN who had much in common with those, and their own compatriots ELP, came from the U.K. The quartet boasted such luminaries as Tim Staffell who had sung with SMILE before they became QUEEN, and LOVE AFFAIR’s drummer Mo Bacon and keyboardist Morgan Fisher, so the level of musicianship matched the group’s ambition. The best expression of this comes in the mighty, side-long title suite: starting and finishing with anthemic reading of Gustav Holst’s “Jupiter”, the nine-part piece charts astronomic distances constantly shifting gears from sprightly jazzy boogie to musique concrete, from soulful balladeering to the funky groove and classical grandiosity – to a powerful, and entertaining, effect.

As a contrast, there’s a delicate, initially acoustic ballad “Alone” on the offer, a calm after the storm of the opener, “Samarkhand The Golden”, which lays it all out onto a tightly knit spacey tapestry stricken with Bob Sapsted’s bass and the vocals flying in and out of focus. Yet, of course, it’s Fisher’s cosmic synthesizers that rule the game here – hence the band’s name. And while the bass is also soloing throughout the dramatic epic “War Games”, it’s led by piano and includes a delirious organ dance. What strikes the most about this album, though, is the feeling that for all its ambition the music is almost free from typical prog pretention and all the better for it. Much better than many MORGAN’s contemporaries’ fare.


Go Too
Arista 1977
Esoteric 2009
If the title means “anything goes”, the “anything” in question is universal, mind-opening and soul-expanding.

While “Go” was spaced-out, and "Go!...Live From Paris" exploded into space, the third part of the trilogy just had to be equally cosmic. But if the fusion element couldn’t fizz away from it, the soulfulness of “Go Too” comes totally unexpected, and in Jess Roden Stomu Yamashta found even better foil than in Steve Winwood before that. Now, the band allow themselves to deliver the fantastic blues “Mysteries Of Love” – basically “As The Years Go Passing By” elevated to heaven by Paul Buckmaster’s strings and Al DiMeola’s six-string magic – which is worth the price of admission alone, as is the transparent musings of “Beauty” with its acoustic guitar lace and former QUATERMASS maestro Peter Robinson’s piano. But this album schtick is Yamashta aligning with the disco Zeitgeit.

Going beyond the ballads, he engages the ex-BRONCO singer in breezy duets with Linda Lewis over the bubbly funk of “Wheels Of Fortune” and “Seen You Before”. The groove amplitude grows even more in “Madness” where the main man’s percussion and Michael Shrieve’s drums drive synthesizers and Paul Jackson’s bass into the infectious riff, a half of “Smoke On The Water”. The result sounds equally commercial and sophisticated to make your night on the dancefloor and the day on the sunlit terrace, “You And Me” flowing as a blissful comedown for any given hour. It’s neither conformism nor revoultion, yet with the music movement like this you can go too.


A&M 1975
Esoteric 2009
The last flight of the singing Yardbird on the verge of his electric funeral.

Did Keith Relf sense he’d taken the wrong road when his RENAISSANCE, as good as they were, couldn’t reach the heights his former guitarist Jimmy Page scaled once THE YARBIRDS split? Or did the singer feel his new band might be as successfully heavy as LED ZEPPELIN? There seems to be no other explanation to ARMAGEDDON, the supergroup Relf came up with in 1974 in attempt to make another assault in the battlefield of blues.

They could have made it – it’s impossible to resist the blast of “Buzzard”, a blinding blizzard of grinding guitar, sawing bass and jazzy drums – but the band’s progressive route clearly lacks melodic signposts. More so, the voice so suitable for rhythm-and-blues gets lost in this music, led mostly by former STEAMHAMMER axeman Martin Pugh and propelled with the CAPTAIN BEYOND’s skin-hitter Bobby Caldwell who shines in the funk of “Path And Planes And Future Gains”. Still, when diving in the cosmic-cold ballad “Silver Tightrope”, its depth fathomed with ex-RENAISSANCE bassist Louis Cennamo, the singer shows a new facet to his talent, and it’s his trusty harmonica, following the dramatic guitar bends, that takes “Last Stand Before” beyond the mundane which the four-part mini-epic “Basking In The White Of The Midnight Sun” touches on, until the fight of Relf’s harp and Caldwell’s battery rams the quartet’s name closer to home.

For the Yardbird, though, there was no time to roost. A year later Keith Relf would be dead, and this recording remains his last, impressive statement.


Kick Off Your Muddy Boots
Threshold 1975
Esoteric 2009
The MOODY BLUES drummer goes it alone… with the band marching to the sound of his boots.

It’s hard to say what Graeme Edge really meant to do when, with the drummer’s main group put on ice, he embarked on a solo project in the company of Adrian and Paul Gurvitz to run the risk of the brothers pulling the carpet from under his feet. Well, maybe Graeme knew that, as a bandleader in the jazz sense of the word, he could rein in their energy that still bubbed on when the siblings’ last power trio, with Ginger Baker, came off tour, to serve his own creative needs. And he did exactly so.

So it’s Edge’s drums that steer Adrian’s bluesy soloing, gospel harmonies and orchestral sweep of “In Dreams” and his own “Something We’d Like To Say”. Composing only three tracks on the album, the lush ballad “Have You Ever Wondered” among these, and sharing the credits on stately funk of “The Tunnel”, Graham takes the band to the cross of prog and pop. He might engage Baker in the selfless groove that “Gew Janna Woman” rolls across the barrelhouse into the slide-stricken music-hall, just like the jocular bonus single “We Like To Do It”, but “Bareback Rider”, where Mickey Gallagher’s keyboards sparkle, is a pleasantly commercial song, while in “Shotgun” the Gurvitzs’ pull on an acoustic country rag. With constant shifts of texture, sometimes within one song, the album feels as whole as it gets – and as great a masterpiece as one drummer could think of.

See also “Paradise Ballroom”.


Hatfield And The North
Virgin 1974
Esoteric 2009
The first Canterbury supergroup justifies the “super” tag. Adding the “b” to make it “superb” is recommended.

This band just had to be huge with the players pedigree listing MATCHING MOLE, GONG, CARAVAN and EGG, and in their case blind faith was rewarded with two marvellous albums of immense sophistication, enormous tunefulness… and great sense of humor. Take the axis of their debut album: fizzing in with “The Stubbs Effect” and oozing out with “The Other Stubbs Effect”, it hits a zenith with the quartet’s storming interplay of “Shaving Is Boring” which, like an overture, quotes the record’s main themes. In equal parts progressive rock and jazz fusing perfectly in the funky “Rifferama” plus folk motifs emerging from the shadows of “Bossa Nochance”, the “Hatfield And The North” might be the definitive statement of the Canterbury scene.

A typical English whimsy makes the knotty groove of “Fol de Rol” and the ten-minute-plus nervous complexity of “Son Of ‘There’s No Place Like Homerton'” foggy and sunny at the same time. Elsewhere, the bubbly romantic “Big Jobs (Poo Poo Extract)” sees Richard Sinclair’s hard bass underpin his soft voice while Robert Wyatt’s wordless serenity keeps “Calyx” afloat above Dave Stewart’s electric piano and phased guitar of Phil Miller who, in “Aigrette”, sends the light elegy back to Sinclair to vocalize. And there’s no escaping the hymnal transparency of “Lobster In Cleavage Probe”, that very bodily kind of geology which this ensemble took to some vertigionous heights. With the lovely, almost pop “Let’s Eat (Real Soon)” and two tracks to be recut for the second album as bonuses, it’s the music to have and savor.


The Fire Sermon
Sony 1991
Sky-Rocket 2009
The message from the time when “ethereal” and “full-on” weren’t antonyms.

How such a record could have appeared in the minimal void between the ’80s’ plastic and the ’90s’ dirt is an enigma – as is THE VIOLET HOUR’s “The Fire Sermon” itself. Hailing from Leeds, the quintet drank from both folk and prog wishing wells but came up with the sound that was all their own with Doris Brendel’s husky voice and cold flute to the fore. Flowing in from the mist of “Dream Of Me” in the web of Martyn Wilson’s strum, this ghostly presence possesses you and you’re only happy it’s there, its piano and cello a shelter from the bombers lurking in the clouds. As otherworldly as it may seem the music breathes life: “Could Have Been”, gliding on the singer’s flageolet and bouncing on Andrew Fox’s bass, takes you from the mundane to the fairy tale, while the predatory “Ill Wind Blowin'” rocks hard, and “The Spell”, swelling up with anthemic brass, offers a trip back to The Fabs-crowned psychedelic 1967.

It’s tempting to play the spotting game – the “I Am The Walrus” effects here, the “Feel Like Making Love” guitar break there, the “Time” chorus in between – yet if you do, you’re following the rules set by THE VIOLET HOUR. So why not simply enjoy the baroque burlesque in “Falling” or rest on the spiritual “Offertory Song”? It’s all timeless, the only period indicator being the stadium rock swagger of “Better Be Good”, the penultimate track on the original album which now is expanded with three bonus tracks, among them “Haunting You”. Rather a threat than a promise, it underlines what this album is going to do to you – and you’re bound to like to be stalked by the flaming specter.


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