by Kostas Barbas, Paris Gravouniotis, Dimitris Kaltsas, Petros Papadogiannis, Panos Papazoglou, Thanos Patsos, Goran Petrić, Tasos Poimenidis, Kostas Rokas, Thomas Sarakintsis, Panagiotis Stathopoulos
The truth is that all of us at Progrocks.gr have been looking forward to the fourth part of this article series. Thank you all very much for your feedback! It is more than encouraging knowing that many of our readers have been waiting for this as much as we have.
As we did in the first, the second and the third part, the “one-album wonders” are presented in no chronological order, but randomly and as in the first three parts, this article is a delightful journey back and forth in time and reading it will, hopefully, be as a fascinating experience as was writing every single piece.
Festa Mobile – Diario di viaggio della Festa Mobile
[RCA Italiana, 1972]
Festa Mobile was formed in Rome by brothers Giovanni (keyboards) and Francesco Boccuzzi (bass, keyboards) when they joined forces with their compatriot (from Apulia) Alessio Alba (guitar) as well as Renato Baldassarri (vocals) and Maurizio Cobianchi (drums). In 1973, Diario di viaggio della Festa Mobile was released. It is a fantasy concept album that chronicles the adventures of a comedy group as they return from the celebrations in honor of the oppressive king of the imaginary country Hon. The exciting changes of scenery are perfectly depicted through the lyrics and the lyrical symphonic progressive rock of Festa Mobile with traces of jazz, with energy and high level of technique dominating. The combination of stunning classical keyboard themes with an idiosyncratic, almost Fripp-like, hard guitar playing impresses to such an extent, that the 32 minutes of the album seem more than enough.
After the disbandment of Festa Mobile, the Boccuzzi brothers formed the jazz-rock / fusion proggers Il Baricentro in their homeland, Bari, and released two excellent albums, Sconcerto (1976) and Trusciant (1978). Francesco then moved to the United States, and Giovanni works as a composer, professor and writer to this day, while Alessio Alba specialized in Indian music and became an expert on ethnic instruments such as the sarod.
Náttúra – Magic Key
[Nattura Records, 1972]
The pioneering Icelandic band Náttúra was formed in 1969 and quickly gained great reputation on the island playing in local clubs. In 1971, the band line-up changed significantly, mainly with the entry of American singer Shady Owens. In October 1972 they traveled to England and recorded Magic Key at Orange Studios, which was self-released on December 12 of that year.
The sole album of Náttúra features a very special mix of warm psychedelic rock with complex prog parts and pop philosophy with very good playing level, both in the smooth and hard / heavy parts. The tracks, which convince that this is a British band with a strong Curved Air (and not only) influence, differ a lot, showcasing the multi-faceted musical character of the band, but simultaneously sacrificing the flow of the album, which is strangely impressive and impressively discontinuous at the same time.
Náttúra split up in 1973. After that, Björgvin Gíslason (guitar, flute) played with Svanfríður and then reunited with Pétur Kristjánsson, former singer of Náttúra, in Pelican and then in Paradís. Karl J. Sighvatsson (ex Trúbrot) became the leading figure in the legendary Hinn leslenski þursaflokkur, bassist Sigurður Árnason played in Jónas og Einar’s excellent folk rock album (Gypsy Queen – 1972), and Shady Owens (ex Trúb) pursued a solo career.
Bangor Flying Circus – Bangor Flying Circus
[ABC/Dunhill Records, 1969]
After the end of H.P. Lovecraft, drummer Mike Tegza formed Bangor Flying Circus along with David Wolinski on keyboards, bass, vocals and Alan DeCarlo on guitar and vocals, and in 1969 they released their self-titled album. The sound of the band from Chicago can not be described as pure progressive rock, as there was not a prog scene in the USA in the late 60s and on the other hand the influences came mainly from psychedelic rock, blues and jazz. In short, the music of Bangor Flying Circus lies somewhere in between: a psych / prog amalgam with lots of jazz touches. The wonderful melodies of Violent Man bring H.P. Lovecraft and Vanilla Fudge to mind, and tracks such as Concerto Four Clouds and Someday I’ll Find are pretty similar. The more psychedelic Come On People and Mama Don’t You Know coexist with the jazzier Ode To Sadness and A Change in Our Lives, proving the album’s stylistic diversity, while the finale with the excellent In The Woods and the amazing 6-minute cover of The Beatles’ Norwegian Wood couldn’t be more perfect. After Bangor Flying Circus split up, Wolinski and DeCarlo formed Madura (you should check their 1971 debut).
Apoteosi – Apoteosi
[Said Record, 1975]
Apoteosi, a band from Calabria with a Greek name and a strong Greek element, was formed in 1974 by the three Idà brothers, the then 14-year-old (!) Massimo (keyboards, piano), Silvana (vocals) and Frederico (bass, died in 1992) along with Franco Vinci (guitar, vocals) and Marcello Surace (drums), while the production was undertaken by the father of three brothers, Salvatore Idà. Apoteosi follows in the footsteps of prog giants PFM, ELP and Genesis without deviating much. However, the quality of the compositions is very impressive, especially considering the very young age of the band members. Massimo Idà was a child prodigy with amazing sound and high level of technique, while Franco Vinci’s guitar playing sounds like the great Franco Mussida (PFM). Silvana Idà’s voice is unique and ties in perfectly with the quieter, dreamy parts with flute and acoustic guitars. The switch of emotions and the superb instrumental passages give variety to the album, the sound of which is absolutely representative of Rock Progressivo Italiano. After Apoteosi broke up, all members continued playing and recording music.
Svanfriður – What’s Hidden There?
The heyday of the British rock scene in the late 60s-early 70s influenced northern European countries greatly, even the distant Iceland. Svanfriður released their only album in 1972, which was recorded in London. The album’s nine songs could belong to a British band of the time. How can an album that starts with such a beautiful guitar theme like the one in Woman of Our Day and with such a memorable vocal line in its chorus be bad? The Mug is also a great song, as it embodies the style of Jethro Tull, whereas the title track is gentle and the use of the violin flirts with folk. Apart from these, there are passionate compositions, deeply influenced by Cream and Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac, among others. The ending comes with Finido, an instrumental orgy with a beautiful violin attacking theme.
The album sold only a few hundred copies and fatally the band split up in mid-1973. After that, Pétur Kristjánsson (ex singer of Náttúra) became a founding member of Pelican, he reunited with Svanfriður bassist Gunnar Hermanís in Paradís, and unfortunately died of a heart attack on September 3, 2004.
Jackal – Awake
[Periwinkle Records, 1973]
Jackal was formed in Toronto, Canada by the Kellesis brothers (probably of Greek descent) in 1969. After a series of live appearances that secured them a record deal, they released their first and only album, Awake, in 1973, which included 8 songs and 40 minutes of music.
The first two wonderful songs graft acid rock with strong British heavy rock influences, with the keyboards of the main composer, Chris Kellesis, at the forefront, as in the whole album. The opener At the Station had all it took to gain them some commercial success, but this was never achieved. As the album progresses, things change towards British blues and prog rock and the band unfolds all its virtues, with the leading keys and the discreet guitar phrases raising the level of the compositions. In the wonderful How Time Has Flown, the keyboard themes bring Deep Purple and Uriah Heep to mind, with a strong dose of British prog. The group’s progressive mood successfully combines the magnificent British rock of the time, filtered by the influences of psychedelia and bands such as Electric Prunes, 13th Floor Elevators and The Doors.
Unfortunately, the lack of commercial interest gradually led to the disbandment of Jackal and all members abandoned the music business.
Fusion Orchestra – Skeleton in Armour
Lasting only 5 years, Fusion Orchestra formed in 1969 in London and disbanded in early 1975 after nearly 500 professional shows and a highly eclectic, yet powerful release, Skeleton in Armour (1973). The band’s “classic” line-up was formed in 1972 with the addition of Dave Cowell on bass who brought together more ambition, leading the band to further sophistication in rock and jazz themes. This led to the band’s only release (through EMI!) and a reputation of energetic and storming performers on stage. Their high point was playing in front of a 50,000+ crowd at the Scheessel Rock Festival in northern Germany in 1973.
Often associated with the sound of Babe Ruth (par the Spanish guitar), Skeleton in Armour boasts of character and personality mixing the female vocal-led, guitar-based and hard rockin’ sound with jazzy psych / prog rock of the highest calibre. The album is celebrated as a rare find of the best era in prog rock.
After disbanding, singer / flautist Jill Saward became a solo artist but also played in jazz funk act Shakatak, while guitarist Colin Dawson formed Fusion Orchestra 2 in 2009 (Dave Cowell joined him for a short stint) and released Casting Shadows in 2013 in the same vein and highly recommended to fans of the original material.
Capitolo 6 – Frutti Per Kagua
The quintet of Capitolo 6 was formed in 1969, when two ex members of Gli Eremiti (from Viareggio) joined I Rangers (from Livorno). Capitolo 6 signed with RCA and set up base in Rome in 1970.
In 1971, their first single was released and the band participated in famous Italian festivals, and was the support act at a Led Zeppelin concert. Unfortunately, the band line-up was not stable, and they appear on TV as a quartet. In the midst of all this, Frutti Per Kagua was released in 1972. The first side includes the epic title track, a mix of heavy guitar, with a strong flute presence and vocals sang in Italian. On the second side, there are three equally characteristic songs, which however do not reach the level of the album opener.
After that, two more singles were released, but the band split up before the end of the year, as they failed to reach success. Since then, their traces have been lost, except for keyboardist Antonio Favila who joined Campo Di Marte and died in the early 1990s. Even original keyboardist Jimmy Santerini died, of leukaemia, in 1977. Another case of a troubled band that left us with a remarkable release from the golden age of Rock Progressivo Italiano.
Rainbow Band – Rainbow Band
When Rainbow Band was formed in the early 1970s in Copenhagen, most of its members were already renowned musicians. Peer Frost (guitar) was a member of the legendary Young Flowers, Bent Hesselmann (winds) and Lars Bisgaard (vocals) were in Maxwells, while Niels Brønsted (piano) had collaborated with the great jazzman Albert Ayler. Their self-titled album was recorded in July-August and was released in December 1970 by Sonet, but the replacement of Bisgaard by Allan Mortensen led to the re-recording of the album, with minor changes to the tracks and the (unjustified) replacement of Rainbow Song with Sippin’ Wine. Mortensen may have been a much better singer than Bisgaard, but the warmth of the sound and the underground character of the original recording are missing from the 1971 release.
The high level of technique and the excellent arrangements are impressive for a 1970 release. The rich mix of early progressive rock, psychedelia, blues rock and jazz-rock that marked that transitional period may have a great historical significance, covering a huge range of music genres, but overall the album is deprived of homogeneity.
The band was forced to change name in july 1971 as a Canadian psych / folk band had the rights to their original name. Thus began the story of Midnight Sun.
Czar – Czar
Czar came to life when Tuesday’s Children, a band that released a series of pop singles in the late 60s, changed their name. In their self-titled album, they drastically changed their musical style, joining the explosion of British progressive rock. Czar is a very typical example of the transition from psychedelia to prog rock, and it also sounds quite heavy for a 1970s release, essentially infusing much of the new trends of the time. The compositions are based on the creation of a soundwall of keys and guitars, while the adventurous structure and playing intensity do not rule out a melodic psych pop touch, especially in vocals. The duration of the songs varies from three to eight minutes, with Tread Softly on My Dreams impressively opening the record, while the extensive Cecelia and A Day in September also stand out. Unfortunately, that was Czar’s only full-length album. The re-release includes the single Oh Lord I’m Getting Heavy, which was also released the same year, as well as a five-track demo that wasn’t included in the album. After their disbandment, the four members rarely participated in other bands, most notably Paul Kendrick in Tucky Buzzard.
Frob – Frob
Frob is another case of a band revival undertaken by Garden Of Delights with its classic re-releases of hard-to-find, forgotten albums originally released in the 70’s. As many other acts of the time, they also released only one album, and were one of the many bands that were part of the German psychedelic – jazz – progressive music production, and certainly are a case worth mentioning.
The sound of the band from Westphalia was closer to Out of Focus than to the typical krautrock field. French guitarist Philippe Caillat – pretty unusual for a German band of the time – had a central role in Frob which he joined in 1975 seeing the band live. Of course, the keys and the piano lead the compositions with an improvisational spirit which is really impressive. And after overlooking the oddly indifferent cover (compared to other albums of the time), the jazz-rock / fusion logic that permeates the album is perceived from the beginning with the uplifting mood of the opener, Wassertropfen, while Locomotive is also a very good track that showcases the talent of the four musicians.
After the release of their only album in 1976, they split up, the four members followed different paths, and Frob never reunited.
Rialzu – Rialzu
Corsica is not among the geographic centers of French progressive rock. However, an underground band made its appearance in the late 70s with all its six members coming from the homeland of Napoleon Bonaparte. Rialzu, whose self-titled album was released in 1978 in just 1000 vinyl copies by the obscure Ricordu, became relatively known to prog listeners 30 years later with the reissue by Soleil Zeuhl. The Corsican sextet had guitar, keyboards, violin, bass, drums and three backing vocalists in its music arsenal, while all the lyrics, the band’s name and the titles of the songs were written in the Corsican dialect. Deeply influenced by the great Magma, as well as fusion and symphonic prog, they gave us an excellent album that sounds rich and dense, full of beautiful melodies and haunted atmospheres. U Rigiru, which covers the entire first side with its 16 minutes, is one of the highlights of the zeuhl sound, while the second side with the 11-minute I Lagramanti and the finale of A Mubba is equally impressive, focusing more on the band’s darker side. After the disbandment of Rialzu, Jean-Philippe Gallet played saxophone and sang in the debut album of zeuhl band Musique Noise (Fulmines Regularis – 1988).
Rustichelli e Bordini – Opera Prima
In 1973, when the expressive virtues of progressive rock musicians were at their peak in various parts of Europe, another peculiar album was delivered from Italy, with a strong RPI flavor, which was coordinated with the international development of the genre.
With the timbres of various keyboards and percussion instruments used to set their inspirations, Paolo Rustichelli and Carlo Bordini, left their short-lived band Cammello Black, and carved the rich musical mosaic of Opera Prima. The origins of the duet’s music may obviously lie in British prog, mainly Emerson Lake and Palmer, but the duet’s symphonic rock also bears an Italian character from start to end. An elegant, round, romantic, slightly nervous melody, released from hammond, mellotron, synths and piano, operates decisively on the bridge between classical, pop and rock perception. As for the rhythms, they are most often ecstatic and the vocals are pompous, operatic, rock in nature, without always being successful.
After Opera Prima, Rusticelli joined the band Oliver, which would shortly after become the famous Goblin (without Rusticelli), but in the meantime they released an album as Cherry Five, with Bordini in the line-up!
Twenty Sixty Six and Then – Reflections on the Future
[United Artists Records, 1972]
What does the Battle of Hastings have to do with one of the most complete and lavish heavy prog albums of all time? Twenty Sixty Six and Then were formed in Mannheim in 1971 with Geff Harrison (the only non German member) on vocals and were inspired by the historic battle of 1066 between the English and the Normans, adding one millennium. The striking thing about them was that they had two very talented keyboard players covering all the main instruments of the era (Mellotron, organ, electric piano, synths). Combined with Geff Harrison’s characteristic superb hoarse voice and Gerhard Mrozeck’s impressive guitar performance, the five compositions of Reflections οn the Future comfortably enter the pantheon of the then thriving German scene. From the extremely heavy opener At My Home to the beloved Autumn (there is a proto-prog metal guitar riff here), and from the psychedelic extensions of Butterfly and How Do You Feel to the 16-minute title track that includes all of the above, we come to the conclusion that we are dealing with a masterpiece. After their disbandment, Geff Harrison continued more actively, participating in two Kin Ping Meh albums and pursuing a solo career.
Abraxis – Abraxis
[International Bestseller Company, 1977]
Abraxis is one of the most unknown supergroups of the 70s. With the exception of session guitarist Paul Elias, the professional experience of the rest is in itself a testament to a great historical injustice, probably due to the fact that the Belgian band had been active for less than two years. Charles Loos (keyboards) and Jean-Paul Musette (bass) who led the band and wrote all the music played together in the great Cos, flutist Dirk Bogaert and drummer Jack Mauer were members of progressive legends Waterloo and Pazop, while Tony Malisan, who plays drums on most tracks, was a member of the excellent Esperanto.
Abraxis’ music was basically perfectionistic jazz-rock / fusion with strong prog elements that mainly refer to the Canterbury sound and more specifically to Gilgamesh, National Health and Supersister, while the most improvised fusion parts are strongly influenced by Chick Corea. The best tracks on the album are Clear Hours, Valse de la mort / A boire / Et à / Manger and Sweetank, but there is not a single dull moment throughout the album.
After their disbandment, Loos reunited with Cos and then played with Nuit câline à la villa mon rêve and Julverne, while continuing his solo career.
Diabolus – Diabolus (High Tones)
Diabolus is one of the cases of English / German bands that operated on German soil. They were created in the late 60’s by the British John Hadfield (guitar, vocals), Anthony Hadfield (bass, vocals), Philip Howard (keys, wind instruments, vocals) and the German Elwood Von Seibold (percussion). Their only album was released in 1972 and is one of the best hidden gems of the 70s. Their music is an amazing mix of British progressive rock, heavy prog and jazz-rock of the era with inventive transition between genres. Howard gives the impression that the band is a septet, as he plays jazz saxophone, prog folk flute or keyboards wherever needed, and even does overdubs in the stunning Lady of the Moon. The guitar solos are great, while the jazzy rhythm section shines everywhere. Diabolus’ music had an aura, with compositions and arrangements of a great band, and it seemed that the best was yet to come, but unfortunately they split up and the members disappeared forever from the music scene. In fact, according to sources, this material was probably their demo and they were unaware that it was released in Germany for more than thirty years, until 2005.
Déjà-Vu – Between the Leaves
Norwegian band Déjà-Vu was formed in 1975 by Svein Rønning and Knut Lie after they both left the band Høst. The album Between the Leaves was financed by the band and was initially released in 1976 as a small test pressing with a generic white cover and remained unknown even in Norway until Research label re-released it twenty years later on CD in memory of late vocalist Kai Grønlie. The band offers music with a strong personality, mixing symphonic prog a la Yes with early seventies hard blues. The compositions are the definition of excellence and the performance is beyond superb. Each song is loaded with emotional vocals and delicate arrangements. Not only there are no fillers, but there is absolutely no dull moment here either. The use of mellotron and synth is really exceptional. The keyboard melodies are divine and breathtaking especially in combination with the Hendrix-esqe guitar sound and the splendid rhythm section. From what is presented on the album, nothing suggests that they went unnoticed even in underground prog. For anyone who appreciates an artistic approach to music and 70s prog rock of the highest level, Between the Leaves has all the necessary requirements.
Atlantic Bridge – Atlantic Bridge
Atlantic Bridge was a British band, formed as a quartet in the late 60s by pianist Mike McNaught, who in 1967 showed his love for The Beatles in Take a New Look at the Beatles with The London Jazz Four. It was an innovative approach to the material of their favorite band from a purely jazz perspective. His passion for The Beatles was also shown in the self-titled Atlantic Bridge album released in 1970. With the help of great musicians such as Mike Travis (drums – later a member of superb band Canterbury Gilgamesh, he also played in some Hugh Hopper albums), Jim Philip (saxophone, flute), virtuoso Daryl Runswick (bass – later a member of The Alan Parsons Project), they cover songs by Jimmy Webb and The Beatles, radically changing the original compositions. It is an album that has been described as completely jazz for rockers and too rock for the jazz audience, although the intention of the band was the free perception of their venture, regardless of genres and enclosed descriptions. The album is a gem and the performance of all musicians, especially Jim Philip, is captivating. The aesthetic status of this album is indestructible, despite the passing of half a century.
Providence – Ever Sense the Dawn
Ever Sense the Dawn by Providence is a very special case of recording and a unique musical proposition for a US band in the early 70s, just before the beginning of Kansas and Styx. Certainly, it is surprising that symphonic progressive folk / rock had been played in 1972 in the United States, with a particular British temperament. There is, however, one explanation: the producer of the album is none other than Tony Clarke, who was a pioneer of the progressive rock sound with his productions on Moody Blues records. In that sense, Providence could be misunderstood as yet another Moody Blues copycat band, but that’s not the case at all. The intense folk sound, the almost exclusive use of acoustic instruments and the beautiful melodies give a strong chamber character to the album and place it among the very well hidden gems of the early ‘70s in the USA. Unfortunately, there was no sophomore album for Providence, with the 33 minutes of Ever Sense the Dawn being their only legacy. Tim Tompkins, Tom Tompkins and Jim Cockey took advantage of their acquaintance with the Moody Blues’ “camp” and played in Justin Hayward’s Blue Jays and Songwriter.
Mainhorse – Mainhorse
Another case of a versatile band of the early 70’s, which, had a contract with a huge record company of the time, but was finally left with a self-titled album and the legacy of its members, mainly Swiss keyboardist Patrick Moraz. Mainhorse’s music was pure British progressive rock, which can be heard from the very first notes that run through their debut. Sounding like early Deep Purple, but also with a direct ELP or Nice influence, they are mainly remembered for the participation of Moraz. Although the album is characterized by the aura of the Swiss maestro, as well as the heavy guitar parts, it also has obvious compositional weaknesses. However, despite the fact that it’s not a groundbreaking contribution to the genre, the arrangements and dynamics presented in Mainhorse are elements that bear Moraz’s signature. Pale Sky and God are the best compositions that show what they could do in their next endeavors.
After the debut of Mainhorse, Moraz played with Refugee, but left his mark on prog rock through his participation in the inconceivable Relayer by Yes, when he was invited to replace Rick Wakeman.
The Facedancers – The Facedancers
Little is known about this mysterious band. The quintet from Philadelphia was formed in 1971 as an evolution of the comic group Lobotomy, they signed with Paramount and in 1972 released their self-titled album, produced by the great Teo Macero, producer of Kind of Blue, Sketches of Spain and Bitches Brew by Miles Davis and Time Out by Dave Brubeck Quartet.
The Facedancers’ music is so versatile that it is impossible to be classified, and the only thing that’s certain is that they had nothing to do with anything else coming from the US. The peculiar mix of psychedelic rock with pure but extremely strange progressive rock acquires a very special identity combined with the intense folk, blues and experimental elements. Imagine a cocktail including Yes’ symphonic sound, Tim Buckley’s melancholy, the romance of US psych, the darkness of Scandinavian prog and the directness of blues / hard rock in the form of songs which transform from lyrical compositions into endless jams, instrumental parts with odd time signatures and triple harmonic vocals with unbelievably high notes. The absolutely mysterious Facedancers remained that way forever, as all five musicians never recorded anything else, before or after this album.