One-album prog wonders (1969-1979) – part V

by Kostas Barbas, Paris Gravouniotis, Dimitris Kaltsas, Goran Petrić, Kostas Rokas, Thomas Sarakintsis, Lefteris Statharas, Panagiotis Stathopoulos, Alexandros Topintzis Giannis Zavradinos

 

It’s been a while since the fourth part of this article series was uploaded. All of us at Progrocks.gr have been looking forward to the fifth part. 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, the third, and the fourth 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.


 

Orange Peel – Orange Peel
[Bellaphon, 1970]

The self-titled Orange Peel album was one of the first recordings in the historical Dieter Dierks studios. It is the only album of one of the most important bands of the early German scene, alongside the single I Got No Time / Searching For A Place to Hide. Unlike the pioneering krautrock experimenters, Orange Peel fully embraced the rock explosion a few years before in Britain and the United States. The album opener, You Can’t Change Them All, and We Still Try To Change are excellent examples of early progressive rock with a strong psychedelic tinge and a tendency towards jamming. A trend that was the rule in the early 70s German scene. Hammond leads the tracks, but always in intense dialogue with the guitar. On the other hand, Tobacco Road is a heavy blues dynamite, which does not seem out of place in an album so well played and musically settled, especially for its time. Unfortunately, there was no follow-up. The singer, Peter Bischof-Fallenstein, made a career writing pop songs, while drummer Curt Cress played in great bands such as Passport and Lucifer’s Friend. He then became a sought-after session musician, even appearing on Boney M. records!

 

The Viola Crayola – Music: Breathing of Statues
[Fautna, 1974]

Viola Crayola from Texas was formed by brothers Anthony (guitar) and Ron Viola (drums) and Bill Jolly on bass. Their only album entitled Music: Breathing of Statues (inspired from Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem) was recorded during the first three days of October 1974 and was to be the only release of the independent Fautna records. The eight short tracks of the album, which lasts only 29 minutes, were all written by the band leader Anthony Viola, and the music of Viola Crayola is strange, enigmatic, and idiosyncratic. The mix of progressive rock and jazz-rock / fusion that is heard in this exceptional album has a purely jamming character. and is primarily based on Anthony Viola’s great guitar talent. The main and most obvious influences are Mahavisnhu Orchestra, mainly because of John Mclaughlin’s influence, and of course the untamed humorous and adventurous style of Frank Zappa. The only objection is the lack of compositional precision, but the class of the three musicians and the aesthetic level are enough to ignore this. A few days after the release of the album, Anthony Viola was killed in a tragic car accident and the traces of Ron Viola and Bill Jolly have since disappeared.

 

Babylon – Babylon
[Mehum Music, 1978]

Babylon was formed in Tampa Bay, Florida in 1976. The quintet released its only album through Mehum Music in 1978, which remained unknown until its first release on CD by Syn-phonic in 1999. The music on Babylon’s four tracks is heavily influenced by 1970-73 Genesis to the extent of some kind of tribute with original compositions. Although originality was not Babylon’s strong point, the executive prowess of all members and their successful dark, absolute symphonic progressive rock are at a very high level. Gary Chambers’ heavy use of synths alludes to what preceded it in the mid-1970s and what followed in the 80s in Britain through the neo-prog movement. In 1979 Babylons disbanded due to the general decline of progressive rock and especially in their country. Doroccas (lead vocals, keys) and J. David Boyko (guitar) reappeared shortly after with Helicopters (a new wave band that released a rather mediocre album entitled Insect Perfect in 1981). Since then, three live albums of Babylon have been released, two through Syn-phonic in 1989 and one through Mehum Music in 2002) with tracks from their debut as well as compositions intended for their second album.

 

Franck Dervieux – Dimension M
[Columbia, 1972]

The charismatic pianist and keyboardist Franck Dervieux collaborated in the 60s with Jean-Pierre Ferland, Monique Leyrac and Ginette Ravel, before deciding to write his own music. Although he was suffering from cancer, he managed to complete Dimension M when his health recovered (the album is dedicated to his three doctors). His excellent band proved to be all-star, as soon after they formed the legendary Contraction and Ville Emard Blues Band. Even though it was a commercial failure for Columbia, Dimension M is one of the brightest diamonds of Quebec’s amazing progressive scene in the 70s, the scene’s most groundbreaking album, a masterpiece of unique beauty that sounds like nothing before or after, combining the dominant prog rock with jazz, blues rock, psychedelia and experimentation that goes hand in hand with the occult concerns of the genius Dervieux, who died on April 23, 1975.

“So, this is how we could touch, see, music made of color and rhythm slides, find and imagine at its different levels, what we know, what we believe what it could be or actually was. Music that will unite the coordiantions of old and new universes. A music that would be a projection of parallel worlds.” – Franck Dervieux

 

Kravetz – Kravetz
[Vertigo, 1972]

Jean-Jacques Kravetz studied music in Paris and in 1967 moved to Hamburg to work as a saxophone teacher. He was a founding member of Frumpy and played keyboards on their first two legendary albums. The line-up of his unique solo album came from the sessions of Udo Lindenberg’s first solo album, who plays drums and sings to all tracks except I’d Like To Be A Child Again, with Frumpy’s Inga Rumpf on vocals. The style of the album can be described as progressive rock with hard rock and blues elements, and it will surely interest fans of bands like Frumpy. Although it is the solo album of a keyboard, all participants play a catalytic role. Special mention should be made of the amazing playing and tone of the then debutant Thomas Kretschmer. Ann Toomuch is perhaps the best track among almost equal compositions of a well-hidden gem, the commercial failure of which led to its reissue in 1974 under the title 8 Days In April, The Hamburg Scene with the names of all the musicians on the cover. Kravetz later joined the band that followed Frumpy’s split, Atlantis, and has played as a session musician on over 100 albums.

 

Ram – Where (In Conclusion)
[Polydor, 1972]

The early 70s US underground rock scene is very interesting, due to its great diversity between heavy rock, psychedelia, blues and some scattered prog elements. A classic example of this category was Ram from Long Island, who released Where (In Conclusion) through the legendary Polydor in 1972. With their style changing cinematically from composition to composition, Ram assimilated every possible influence that an American rock band of the time could have. The tremendous album opener The Want In You seduces the listener with the heavy guitars and the bucolic flute by the Demartino brothers, while in the more atmospheric Stoned Silence the star of the singer / pianist Dennis Carbone shines as the melody reveals their most psychedelic side. In The Mother’s Day Song with the clear blues references we return to harder rockin’ forms (the flute and saxophone parts are exquisite), however the main reason that Ram is included in this article is none other than the 20 minute Aza that covers the entire B-side of the record. Divided into four parts, balancing between psychedelia and heavy prog, with sharp jamming and intense experimental mood, the New Yorkers reached the top here, leaving a bittersweet taste after they disbanded.

 

Ikarus – Ikarus
[plus 4, 1971]

The short-lived sextet of Ikarus, may not have reached a groundbreaking sound through its studio and live ventures, like other great on German bands of the same era, however they released one album that is worth mentioning for the coexistence of fertile improvisation and structured songwriting. Through eclectic motifs in which melody and rhythm are on the same priority line, the Hamburg-based band established an open dialogue between the rock guitar-bass-drums triptych, winds, keyboards, and vocals. A fusion conversation with seductive oscillations between explosions and soft parts, which brings to the table phrases from the late ’60s psych / prog wave (with reminds of Van Der Graaf Generator, King Crimson and Colosseum), transforming them into raw expressiveness, which bridges rock with jazz and classical music. Jochen Petersen, who excels in guitars, saxophones, flute, clarinet and vocals shines throughout the album. He was also the one who in relation to the rest of the band members (Lorenz Köhler – lead vocals, Wolfgang Kracht – bass, backing vocals, Bernd Schroder – percussion, Manfred Schulz – guitar, lead and backing vocals, Wulf-Dieter Struntz – instrument, piano) had a long and successful career, collaborating with Randy Pie, Achim Reichel, Ton Steine ​​Scherben etc.

 

Skywhale – The World At Minds End
[Firebrand Records, 1977]

Formed in 1974 in Bristol, a city that would become world famous for its trip hop revolution with bands such as Massive Attack and Portishead two decades later, Skywhale released a forgotten British fusion / prog diamond in 1977. Consisting of 7 members who covered a huge range of musical instruments (2 flutes, 2 saxophones, keyboards, violin, guitar) to give their full vision and their own version of the combination of progressive rock and jazz / fusion, the British play exemplarily technically and melodically in The World At Minds End. Through the 6 long instrumental compositions of the album the listener cannot believe that this is a debut. Their level of technique, their sense of melody as well as the assimilation of their influences (Brand X, Camel, Weather Report, Soft Machine) reflect an experienced band with two or even three records on its back. Although all the pieces stand at a very high compositional and aesthetic level, Eternal Optimist and Epicure stand out. Unfortunately, this was the only release by Skywhale, although they had both perspective and talent, while none of their members had a remarkable career after they split.

 

Frame – Frame οf Mind
[Bacillus Records, 1972]

Frame was a quintet based in Marburg, Germany, with Frame of Mind being the only record they made. The style of the album has little in common with experimental krautrock of that era. In these 8 tracks, the listener encounters progressive rock with a strong symphonic element and the main concern of the musicians was apparently songwriting rather than experimentation. The album is interesting because it has a hard rock touch, a psychedelic air, and some folk moments. The keys are definitely in the foreground, without underestimating the role of the guitar, while the Dieter Becker’s voice adds to the narrative style, without being impressive. The best compositions are in the middle of the album. The prog epic All I Really Want Explain impresses throughout, while If that follows is a heavy prog dynamite. Fans of this sound should definitely listen to this one. Frame of Mind may not be one of the best records of the German scene, but its quality is further proof of the high quality of music that was released in the early 70s in this country. Frame did not release a second album and some of the members participated in records of their fellow citizens and friends, Pell Mell.

 

Chetarca – Chetarca
[Atlantic, 1975]

Chetarca was a prog / jazz band from Melbourne, Australia, formed in 1972. They consisted of Paul Lever on lead vocals, harmonica and tambourine, Andrew Vance on keyboards and vocals, John Rees on bass and violin, Geoff Gallent on drums, and Bruce Bryan on synthesizer. The band did not have a guitarist but there were two keyboardists which were quite successfully replacing the lead guitarist. The band recorded and released their self-titled album in 1975, and it is considered very rare and highly appreciated by diehard  prog rock fans, not only because it’s hard to get, but mainly for the quality of the music performed here. The overall sound was based on the keyboards and there’s a heavy dose of blues injected into the music here, with even some harmonica parts. The highlight is the 23-minute epic The Oceanic Suite. When the band broke up, bassist John Rees went on to form Men At Work. Chetarca is believed to be an Australian version of ELP but it’s not quite true. The influence of the titans is felt, but the band has built its own sound. This is a very strong album that deserves more attention among prog fans.

 

Fuzzy Duck – Fuzzy Duck
[MAM, 1971]

Fuzzy Duck was formed by bassist Mick Hawksword after Andromeda disbanded. With him, keyboardist Roy Sharland with a small sting in the Crazy World of Arthur Brown and in Spice (the first iteration of Uriah Heep), drummer Paul Francis that has played with the Rolling Stones bassist Billy Wyman, and guitarist/singer Grahame White that legends says that when he shared the stage with Ritchie Blackmore he out-shined the Man in Black. From the CV of the band members it’s easy to assume that Duzzy Duck played heavy psych/blues with heavy hammond sounds and fuzzy (pun intended) production. Mrs. Prout is the highlight here with its more jazzy arrangements, while More Than I Am and Country Boy stand out with their more jam feeling. The hero of the album cover makes his grand appearance in A Word from the Big D with Fuzzy Fuck not being afraid to experiment with the kazoo. An album that could easily be forgotten amongst the big names of the time but it has great musicianship and strong songwriting. Fuzzy Ducky might have been a stepping stone for the musicians to go and do other things, but who knows, if they had stuck with it we could have had another classic band to count with Uriah Heep and Deep Purple.

 

L ‘Uovo di Colombo – L ‘Uovo di Colombo
[Columbia, 1973]

L ‘Uovo di Colombo was a quartet from Rome, formed by members of I Fholks and Flea. This is one of the many cases where a unique and exceptional release did not receive much support from a record company. In 1973, the progressive rock was at its peak, and the Italian scene had already spread its sound and style. With the keys on the front line, occasional touches by the classical and electric guitar and a strong ELP influence, L ‘Uovo di Colombo combines the classic progressive sound of the time with many symphonic elements. We could call it something like “electric melody”. The album includes eight songs of high aesthetics with great musicianship that constitute a jewel of Rock Progressivo Italiano. Following its release, the band split. The band members had a strong presence on the Italian scene, as Toni Gionta became the singer of Cherry Five changing his name to Tony Tartarini. Elio Volpini (bass, guitar) reunited with Flea and later formed the jazz-rock band Etna, while Ruggero Stefani (drums) joined Samadhi and later other lesser known bands.

 

Circus – Circus
[Transatlantic Records, 1969]

Circus was born out of the ashes of the Stormville Shakers in the late ’60s playing a refined but diect jazz / pop white soul. Things changed after the departure of keyboardist / singer and main composer Phillip Goodhand-Tait. In 1969 when they released their one and only album Circus was a different band, freer with improvisational trends and clear jazz-rock elements. On their album, they covered songs by Tim Hardin, The Mamas and the Papas, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, and The Beatles. Their own three compositions were signed by saxophonist / flutist Mel Collins. The overall performance is free from the exaggerations of the time and ranges at decent levels with controlled outbursts. Apart from the obvious that it is nothing more than the already rich and dreamy style on the winds, Chris Barrows’ jazz drumming is noteworthy (he later concentrated on Buddhism rather than music), while the guitarist Ian Jelfs participated in recordings of French progsters Alice. As for Collins, it’s impossible to name his countless contributions to albums by exceptional artists and bands (e.g. Kevin Coyne, Humble Pie, Bad Company, Uriah Heep, Anthony Phillips, David Sylvian, Tears for Fears etc.), and of course he was an important member of King Crimson and Camel. The historical value of this project essentially lies in the fact that it is defined as the starting point of Collins’ brilliant career.

 

GoodThunder – GoodThunder
[Elektra, 1972]

GoodThunder was a psych / prog / hard rock quintet from Los Angeles, formed in 1972, including James Cahoon Lindsay (vocals and percussion), John Desautels (drums), David Hanson (guitars and vocals), Bill Rhodes (bass), and Wayne Cook (keyboards). Their short existence allowed them to make only one self-titled album in 1972 consisting of eight tracks with the famous producer Paul A. Rothchild (The Doors, Janis Joplin, Rush) behind the console. The eight songs are connected with  all the dominant forms of rock at the time, from early metal (lead guitar solos) to symphonic prog (the keyboard arrangements, complex changes of tempo and structure) to psych and folk.  The overall sound can be compared with Deep Purple and the early days of Uriah Heep, and you can certainly hear a heavy dose of Yes when Matt Wayne Cook’s keyboards are at the forefront. There’s lots of interesting interplay going on between the different instruments and there are some cool jams. The proggiest song Barking At the Ants shows their talent to craft wonderful and rich material. After their break up, some members participated in local pop / AOR bands. Cook went on to play with Steppenwolf and Player. Despite the quality of the material, GoodThunder has remained virtually unknown, which is a real shame considering they certainly released one of the best debuts of 1972.

 

Kvartetten Som Sprängde – Kattvals
[Gump, 1973]

1973’s Kattvals was the first album in the career of Swedish guitarist and producer, Finn Sjöberg, who also participated in the most important album from his country (i.e. Abba’s self-titled album). They took their name (translation: “the quartet that disbanded”) from a book by Birger Sjöberg (1885-1923 – no relation to Finn), as the band was originally a quartet. The heavy prog of Kvartetten Som Sprängde, which sometimes jumps into more obscure prog rock forms and other times flirts with Santana’s classic rock guitar approach, is perhaps one of the few instrumental albums of the Swedish 70’s prog in which the folk character is compressed. Despite the clear international prog rock sound and the excellent production, Kattvals did not have the response that the trio deserved and the trio (not quartet) of Kvartetten Som Sprängde did indeed disband, confirming its name and giving us a unique gem of ‘70s Nordic prog. Sjöberg also released his first solo album (Finn) in 1978 which, although moving on more jazz / blues tracks, embraces the spirit of Kvartetten Som Sprängde to some extent when Finn decided to write more freely.

 

Pascal Duffard – Dieu est fou
[CBS, 1976]

The influence of the great Magma on French prog bands was already evident in many great bands such as Zao, Vortex, and Art Zoyd. In an even more underground context, there was an incredible burst of new bands and artists who, driven by the legacy of Christian Vander’s band, wanted to explore new musical horizons. In 1976, singer, pianist and lyricist Pascal Duffard, brought together 18 musicians (including 5 soprano singers, members of Zao and Magma, the well-known Tim Blake and the great trumpeter Pierre Thibaud), named his art vision Dieu Est Fou (God is Crazy), and handed us a masterpiece that doesn’t deserve being in obscurity until today. Overall, this is a rock opera with elements from jazz and avant-prog, with a characteristic exaggeration which fascinates and doesn’t annoy at all. The operatic female vocals refer directly to Magma, fitting in perfectly with Pascal Duffard’s more narrative à la Serge Gainsbourg style, while the abrupt changes from the most acoustic medieval / chanson moments to the more pompous and jazzy or creepy passages make Dieu Est Fou an unprecedented experience that every listener must experience.

 

Electric Sandwich – Electric Sandwich
[Brain, 1972]

Electric Sandwich was created in Bonn in 1967. Their unique full-length album was recorded in 1972 with producer Dieter Dierks and it’s a very typical example of the German scene of the 70s, while the special cover art by Heinz Dofflein is also in tune with that time. The album opens with China, one of the best krautrock tracks of all time, a monumental 8-minute spaced-out jam. The style then partially changes, without completely losing the space aura. The following tracks have vocals and move between progressive rock and jazz-rock with sporadic heavy outbursts. At the same time, there are some more special moments such as a pure blues song, Archie’s Blues, while in I Want You and Material Darkness we find a very special atmosphere that was so easy for the German musicians of the time to create. Electric Sandwich may not be one of the ultimate krautrock top albums, but it certainly stands next to them. After two singles, Electric Sandwich disbanded and none of the four members played elsewhere. A few years ago they reunited and today they only exist as a live band. In 2018, Lava was released in 100 copies, a collection was released with unreleased recordings from 1974.

 

Thors Hammer – Thors Hammer
[Metronome, 1971]

Thors Hammer were formed in Denmark in the mid-1970s and belong to the same generation of bands as Secret Oyster, Midnight Sun and Burnin ’Red Ivanhoe. Their self-titled album with the terrible cover and the wonderful music is a concise journey to central, northwestern and northern European jazzy prog. The sextet follows the pattern of bands based on these geographical coordinates and is stylistically related to bands such as Traffic, Nosferatu, Titus Groan, and Blue Sun. Before Thors Hammer, their members were not distinguished for their artistic pursuits, with the exception of bassist Henrik Bødtcher, who participated in a few pop and fusion rock bands, and saxophonist Jesper Nehammer, who had participated in Peace, Tordenskjolds Soldater’s only record, an astonishing album of modern and dark jazz. Bødtcher, along with Henrik Bødtcher and keyboardist Henrik Langkilde, was also the most powerful weapon of Thors Hammer and besides being talented, he is also the most versatile, with participations in a variety of bands.

Thors Hammer is an excellent example of Danish prog. If they had continued, most of the band’s great musicians would not be lost and the sophisticated 70s prog of Denmark would be even greater.

 

Anna Själv Tredje – Tussilago Fanfara
[Silence, 1977]

Following Berlin School Electronica (Schulze and Tangerine Dream), American organ minimalism (Terry Riley), a ritual with a Far Eastern aura (close to Deuter and early Popol Vuh), and Scandinavian paganism, Anna Själv Tredje unfold their sonic mysticism. It was a Swedish duet that had been experimenting with electric, electronic and acoustic instruments since the mid-70s, to crystallize its sound and aesthetics in one and only LP, Tussilago Fánfara, released through Silence. A dark, mysterious, grotesque mass of frequencies acts penetratingly like a dream from fragments of real memories intertwined with a galloping imagination. At one moment it sounds spacey, due to the eerie synth sounds and the guitar and at the others it sounds earthly, instinctive and almost primitive, through the utilization of the human body, the hands on the percussion, as well as from the sacred melodies that seem to come out of the distant past. Multi-instrumentalists Ingemar Ljungström and Mikael Bojén will remain forever in the memory of those who scrape under the surface of music developments. As for their later creative journeys, only that of Ljungström was interesting (with Ragnarok and Cosmic Overdose or in collaboration with Dan Söderqvist), but these were not at Anna Sjalv Tredje level.

 

Hermann Szobel – Szobel
[Arista, 1976]

The story of the wonderkid pianist, who released a single album in 1976 and then disappeared, without anyone knowing where he is today, was one of the real “myths” of the American jazz scene. Being a nephew of German-American Bill Graham – the most important US concert promoter in the 70’s – 17-year-old Hermann Szobel started from Austria and with excessive audacity entered the famous Hit Factory studio in New York, declaring that he was the best pianist in the world. Without much effort to convince the producers, since his technique was simply shocking, a few months later he released his self-titled album with music that includes an unprecedented mature mix of jazz fusion and classical music, to such an extent that you find it hard to believe that it was actually composed by an almost minor. During the sessions for his next album Szobel collapsed psychologically, opened the door and left the studio and since then he has disappeared. A documentary by Katarzyna Kozyra about fake Christs in Jerusalem in 2015 includes an audio statement of a homeless artist eating what he could find in the streets, telling his story and claiming to be Szobel.

 

Bella Band – Bella Band
[Cramps Records, 1978]

The quintet of Bella Band was formed in Florence in 1977 and a year later released the self-titled debut through the legendary Cramps Records (known for the releases of Area, Arti + Mestieri, Electric Frankenstein). Although still underrtaed to this day, Bella Band can easily be described as one of the leading bands of Italian prog / fusion in the second half of the 70s. The impressively good production highlights the huge talent of all members and although purely instrumental, the album keeps the listener’s interest with constant changes, great ideas, and especially this energetic character throughout its four tracks. The comparisons with the great Arti + Mestieri are perfectly valid, but Bella Band also had their own sound. Their brave jazz-rock / jazz-fusion was also filled with the magic of Canterbury. Unfortunately, shortly after that Bella Band disbanded. It is really questionable how it is possible that this record has not been re-released on vinyl till this day…

Their drummer Mauro Sarti was a member of Campo di Marte, while their keyboardist Riccardo Cioni played in funk / disco bands, pursued a solo career and died on January 7, 2021 due to covid-19.