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

by Kostas Barbas, Paris Gravouniotis, Dimitris Kaltsas, Petros Papadogiannis, Goran Petrić, Tasos Poimenidis, Kostas Rokas, Thomas Sarakintsis, Panagiotis Stathopoulos, Alexandros Topintzis

 

It’s been a while since the fifth part of this article series was uploaded and all of us at Progrocks.gr have been looking forward to the next one. As we did in the first, the second, the third, the fourth, and the fifth part, the “one-album wonders” are presented in no chronological order, but randomly and as in the first five 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. 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. Many of you have asked how many more parts will be included in the series. All we can say right now is that this is not the last part. Enjoy!


 

Kimio Mizutani – A Path Through Haze
[Polydor, 1971]

Although best known as a session musician, guitarist Kimio Mizutani played on three of Japan’s most important records in the early 70’s. Milk Time (1970), the first solo album of keyboardist Hiro Yanagida, Ceremony: Buddha Meet Rock (1971) by People and Love Will Make a Better You (1971) by Love Live Life + One are prog / psych rock gems that have influenced almost everything related to this sound in Japan ever since.

Mizutani’s only solo album was recorded in its entirety on June 7, 1971 at Nippon Gramophon No. 1 Studio. Musically, it is a genius mix of early progressive rock with jazz-rock / fusion and of course heavy psych with a characteristic variety due to the different composers of the songs (in fact the septet functioned as a regular band), although the result sounds remarkably homogeneous. A single listen is enough to convince with the perfect arrangements and Kimio’s guitar playing that shines throughout the album.

After the release of A Path Through Haze, Mizutani continued his career as a session musician that lasts to this day, and his excellent solo album was forgotten and is criminally ignored to this day.

 

Minotaurus – Fly Away
[Self-released, 1978]

Minotaurus from Germany is a typical case of an obscure 70s band and you can’t but wonder how it sounds so ready on its first album on a technical and compositional level. Their symphonic progressive rock, melancholic in some places, but also with many brighter moments, not far from Anyone’s Daughter and Novalis, is perfectly executed and bears several British influences. The presence of keyboards is very strong, the guitar work is excellent, while the tone of the instruments and the general underground / DIY aesthetics bring to mind the later Asia Minor. The production is not great really, but it does not reduce the overall enjoyment with the biggest songs Fly Away, Your Dream, 7117 standing out compositionally. A great asset in relation to many releases of the period is the Peter Scheu’s voice, well above the average of the time. Unfortunately, despite the great promises left by this excellent record, there was no continuity. Looking up the members’ bios, no one played elsewhere with the exception of the drummer who played in the unknown new wave / post punk band Fürst Pückler und die Eisheiligen, while the excellent keyboardist Dietmar Barzen contributed a song to the German melodic rockers Casanova in the early 90’s.

 

MacKenzie Theory – Out of the Blue
[Mushroom, 1973]

Formed in Melbourne in September 1971, MacKenzie Theory took their name from guitarist Rob MacKenzie’s philosophical theory about the link between music and life. The band debuted at The Great Australian Rock Festival, Sunbury 1973 in April 1973 with the song New Song And. In July of the same year the band’s first and only studio album, Out of the Blue, was released, recorded live in the studio in front of a small audience. The band’s music was an impressive, orgasmic combination of jazz-rock and progressive rock with a highly improvised (almost avant-garde) character and MacKenzie’s guitar and Cleis Pearce viola on leading roles, somehow combining the aggression of Mahavisnhu Orchestra with the lyricism of It’s A Beautiful Day. As difficult as it is to single out a track from the album, it is as much enjoyable as a whole.

In 1974 the live album Bon Voyage was released, recorded at the Dallas Brooks Hall in Melbourne (including new tracks) and in May 1974 the MacKenzie Theory disbanded. After that, MacKenzie moved to the USA, Pearce stayed in Australia, and Peter Jones (bass) collaborated with many artists and since 2016 he is a member of Camel.

 

Etna – Etna
[Catoca, 1975]

The story of Etna begins (as their name suggests) in Sicily before the band moved to Rome, initially under the name Flea οn the Honey, to participate in the historic Viareggio 1971 Pop Festival. Flea in the Honey’s self-titled album (1971) was quite weak, while the only album of Flea, Topi o uomini (1972) that followed marked the band’s shift from straight hard rock to progressive rock with signs of great improvement and maturity. After that, bassist Elio Volpini left to play on L ‘Uovo di Colombo’s amazing album (more details here) and when he returned everything changed for the second time. Under the name Etna, the quartet released its only self-titled album in 1975 through the independent Catoca (the original LP is very expensive today) making a bold move towards jazz-rock / fusion. The music of Etna can be described as a mix of Il Baricentro, Nucleus, early Nova and Perigeo, in other words the most melodic version of this sound, with excellent arrangements, amazing playing and very high compositional level. Shortly after the band broke up, brothers Agostino (drums) and Antonio Marangolo (saxophone) joined Goblin. Etna is considered one of the best albums from the stunning Italian jazz-rock / fusion 70s scene.

 

Night Sun – Mournin’
[Zebra, 1972]

Night Sun was a German quartet formed in Mannheim 1970. The band released only one album, the legendary Mournin’ in 1972. The group was obviously influenced by British bands such as Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and King Crimson, but with its own unique, rich and brutally heavy sound for the time. In places this album shows a total affinity to Sabbath’s doom sound, but it also has fast bits, prog and calmer parts. The band also experimented with a somewhat jazzy sound in some parts, even including sax in one track. The highlights of the album are the two energetic tunes with metal-ish riffs, Living With the Dying and Got A Bone Of My Own. Although Night Sun showed enormous talent, they never got a chance to record another album and disbanded in 1973. Bassist and singer Bruno Schaab became a member of Guru Guru, while keyboardist  Knut Rössler continued his work with jazz fusion bands Chameleon and Orexis. The main star of the band, guitarist Walter Kirschgässner, disappeared from the music scene, while some rumors say that it was Ritchie Blackmore who played on this record… but who knows?

 

Sweet Slag – Tracking With Close-Ups
[President Records, 1971]

The sole release of the quartet from London is not just another lost album in the oblivion of the early 70s. Recorded in the fall of 1970, Tracking With Close-Ups, although it sounds completely typical of its time, it includes some very progressive ideas and seems to draw inspiration from many different music scenes. From May Blitz’s heavy prog to the avant-garde spirit of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, and from British jazz-rock to psychedelic guitar sound, Sweet Slag’s only album is chacterized by a strong experimental mood but can be equally enjoyed by the average progressive rock listener. Without exaggeration, one can hardly single out any of the seven compositions of the album, as they all stand at the highest level. The opener, Specific, is definitely the most uplifting, guitar-oriented track with Mick Kerensky’s guitar riffs going hand in hand with Jack O ’Neill’s impressive basslines. Milk Train and Patience are almost in the same style, while the rest of the compositions move on much more adventurous paths with the addition of wind instruments that tie in perfectly with the unorthodox and at the same time bold ideas of the rhythm section. Unfortunately, no member of Sweet Slag recorded another album, thus further strengthening their legend.

 

Toubabou – Attente
[Barclay, 1975]

Toubadou was formed in 1974, when the government of the Autonomous Province of Québec sought help in organizing the Superfrancofête music festival, the largest event in the region that year. Percussionist Michel Séguin and singer Lise Cousineau, also members of Ville Emard Blues Band (VEBB), brought French-speaking musicians of African descent to the billing, with the response being more than positive. Artists from Togo, Mali and Senegal combined their skills with those of the Canadians, resulting in the live recording of Le Blé et le Mil under the name Toubadou (the full name of the project was Toubabou Djebe Folla meaning white men play drums) in front of 55,000 people. Not only was the project not abandoned, but a few months later, in October 1975, this particular mix of fusion / jazz / blues rock with African drums and funk was recorded on the studio album entitled Attente. The album is a rare display of technical skills, especially in the field of percussion and drumming, with afro aesthetics standing out significantly, offering a unique rhythmology in the context of jazz-rock music, which was already successfully played by VEBB at that time in Canada.

 

Máquina – Why?
[Diábolo, 1970]

Máquina was the first band of the Spanish psych-prog scene from Barcelona and Why? was probably the first release with so many messages during the Franco regime. The croissant on the cover symbolizes breakfast and the clock refers to the time of awakening.

With a five-member line-up, hammond and two guitarists on the leading role, Máquina were formed in late 1968, released two singles in early 1969, and this historic LP came out the following year. With plenty of organ and a sonic orgasm by the two guitarists, the influences from Cream and a little less from Soft Machine are evident in their acid jams. The main attraction here is the epic title track that ends on the first side and continues on the second, offering a beautiful proto-prog sound with a very strong acid jam mood.

Máquina also released a live album in 1972 with a different line-up and a more blues sound. After that, the band members participated in some bands from Barcelona, ​​and some of them persued solo careers, but without any success. Why? Is not only great musically, but also carries the entire Spanish rock scene on its back as it’s the first prog rock LP from Spain bearing several symbolisms.

 

Hanuman – Hanuman
[Kuckuck, 1971]

Shortly after the disbandment of Berlin Murphy Blend (details here), Wolf-Rüdiger Uhlig (keys) formed Hanuman, taking their name from the Hindu god who was a follower of Rama in the Sanskrit epic Ramayama. However, the music of the quartet has nothing to do with ragas, being based on symphonic progressive rock with elements of heavy prog, krautrock and jazz, while the excellent use of wind instruments (flute, saxophone) is a clear reference to Out Of Focus. The band’s self-titled album was released through the legendary Kuckuck and is a hallmark of multi-collectivity in the early 70s. With the sole exception of the very mediocre vocals, the executional level of all members is very high, and even though Uhlig has the leading role, he does not overshadow the rest of the members. The fact that Hanuman is not one of the best albums from the German 70s scene is just proof of the level of krautock and progressive rock in Germany at the time. In 1972 Hanuman changed their name to Lied des Teufels (i.e. the third track on the first side of Hanuman) and released two more albums under that name before finally disbanding in 1975.

 

Rocky’s Filj – Storie Di Uomini E Non
[Ricordi, 1973]

Rocky’s Filj was a really awesome band from the city of Parma, a band that gained recognition after playing with Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso at the Villa Pamphili Pop Festival in 1972. With singer / saxophonist Roberto “Rocky” Rossi as a leader, Rocky’s Filj released their first and sole full-length album, Storie di Uomini e Non in 1973. It is an RPI gem, sought after by prog collectors worldwide. The 13-minute prog / jazz / fusion epic L’Ultima Spiaggia could be incuded in the 10 best tracks from the Italian progressive scene. Objectively, the next four pieces cannot be compared with the opening masterpiece, but they also stand at a high level. Prog vocal interpretations blend harmoniously with symphonic touches, highly structured organ parts and unique saxophone explosions. The material sounds a bit like Osanna or even Arti e Mestieri to some extent. However, the elements that capture and attract are the complex instrumental parts and the very clever guitar interventions. The truth is that even now the album is known only to a very specific audience that specializes on what is characterized as prog in general.

 

Laurent Thibault – Mais On Ne Peut Pas Rêver Tout Le Temps
[Ballon Noir, 1978]

His brief presence in Magma put the French multi-instrumentalist Laurent Thibault on the map of important figures in progressive music. He was the band’s original bassist before recording their debut, where he undertook production and wrote a track, and also produced Attahk. Apart from these, his solo career is worth mentioning because of his only album, Mais On Ne Peut Pas Rêver Tout Le Temps.

In this idyllically sounding record, the zeul spirit of his rhythms and basslines emerges in a peculiar jazz fusion grandeur. Anglo-Saxon and French folk, classical, Arabic, Indian and African elements are mixed ideally, painting an adventurous sequence of timeless moments, inextricably linked to the unforgettable album cover, Henri Rousseau’s oil painting La Charmeuse de serpents (1907).

In addition to bass, Thibault performed enjoyable guitar parts and undertook the stunning production and airy mixing, in a melodic creation of transcendental standards. Francis Moze and Richard Raux (Magma) participate on bass and tenor saxophone respectively, while Amanda Parsons (soprano vocals), Jacqueline Thibault (Laurent’s wife – keyboards), and David Rose (violin) also made significant contributions. Since then, Thibault has worked as a musician or producer on numerous records.

 

Råg i Ryggen – Råg i Ryggen
[Rondo, 1975]

Råg i Ryggen is a great example of six young Swedish musicians who tried to find their artistic voice during the musical proliferation of the 70s. Their self-titled and sole album is full of ideas and although it does not offer anything new to the legacy of the 70s, it stands as an important recording of the Scandinavian scene. Stylistically, it lies between British hard rock and progressive rock, with the intensely Scandinavian folk melodies betraying the origin of the band, and also adding a special character. Some songs are sung in Swedish and the rest have English lyrics, and both options are succefull. The compositional level stands quite high, especially if one takes into account the age of the band members. The presence of two guitars, keyboards, and flute in the orchestration, makes the sound fuller and adds variety to an album that flows effortlessly, despite the production that’s far from perfect. Jonas Warnerbring’s voice is immature, but he sings quite interesting vocal lines. Unfortunately we will never know how this group of musicians would evolve. Warnerbring later became a popular pop singer in Sweden, while drummer Peter Sandberg formed The Go Getters.

 

Brian Davison’s Every Which Way – Every Which Way
[Charisma, 1970]

Brian Davison was an integral part of The Nice, the band before ELP, until they disbanded in 1972. Brian Davison’s Every Which Way is the drummer’s personal expression and is a sought-after album, which was recently re-released by Trading Places in a neat version. Every Which Way was released in 1972 and apart from Davison the members are: Graham Bell (lead vocals), John Hedley (guitar), Alan Cartwright (bass) and Geoffrey Peach (wind instruments and vocals). The record is an unrecognized gem, which is far removed from Davison’s previous band. The style is somewhere between proto-prog and early 70s British prog, with blues (the opening song Bed Ain’t What It Used Shocks), jazz (the excellent The Light is a prime example), folk / soul influences (e.g. Go Placidly), as well as compositions close to the sound of Traffic (e.g. the wonderful All In Time). The album has calm and heavy parts (the solos in Castle Sand and What You Like confirm that), with several lyrical / melancholic sides and dim dark passages. Awesome album!

 

Siddhartha – Weltschmerz
[Self-released, 1975]

Siddhartha were formed in the town of Korntal-Münchingen in 1973, taking their name from a novel by Hermann Hesse. The band members were five five students: Martin Mörike (organ, piano, vocals), Klaus Hermann (drums), Gerhard Kraus (violin, vocals), Eberhard Müller (guitar) and Klaus Scharff (bass). Weltschmerz was recorded at Tonstudio Zuckerfabrik and released in 1975 (Pancake’s Roxy Elephant was also recorded there the same year). The music is a very special combination of psychedelia, jazz, art rock and progressive rock. Although the technical level, the vocal skills and the sound quality cannot be compared with professional bands in Germany at that time, the result makes Siddhartha’s only album unique, especially due to its orchestration, as originality was obviously the main goal of the five students and the result was successful.

After the disbandment of Siddhartha, the traces of most of the members disappeared, however drummer Klaus Hermann participated in the album Canto General (1985) playing Mikis Theodorakis’ music. The few copies of Weltschmerz that have not been destroyed to this day (only 400 were cut in 1975), are sought after by many collectors and are among the most expensive vinyls from the 70s German rock scene.

 

Carnascialia – Carnascialia
[Mirto, 1979]

As early as 1977, the Italian prog rock scene was past its former glory, with the great albums of the period 1971-1976 being considered obsolete due to the punk and disco explosion. One of the last great 70s albums from Italy was the project of Pasquale Minieri and Giorgio Vivaldi, two members of the Romans Canzoniere Del Lazio, who had just disbanded. The duo formed Carnascialia and released their only album in 1979 with the valuable contribution of 12 guest musicians, among which the great Mauro Pagani (PFM) and Demetrio Stratos (Area). Keeping the prog folk style of Canzoniere Del Lazio as the main axis in their music, they decorated it with elements of classical music, touches from the tradition of the Italian south and avant-garde mood, and the result was really impressive. The rich orchestration as well as the technical training of the musicians allowed them to include a multitude of ideas and different moods. Although the six compositions are not very much connected, I personally single out the opening track Canzone Numero Uno and Gamela that closes the album. This was the last record of Demetrio Stratos shortly before he passed away.

 

Artcane – Odyssée
[Philips, 1977]

Artcane’s music was really dark, even for the French progressive scene of the 70s. The quartet was formed in 1973 in the city of Bezenet in central France and disbanded in 1979. A music engineer and a guitarist were the band’s two main contributors. They released only one album, Odyssée through Phillips in 1977, which was a rarity for many years. Unfortunately, the time of release was not the best for the prog genre since its era was over. Artcane  was an underground band with King Crimson as the main influence (the guitarist was obsessed with Fripp’s technique). The album consists of six tracks, of which only two have vocals (in French). There’s a heavy and aggressive prog aesthetic with synth and guitar coexisting and dominating sometimes together and sometimes separately. The main part of the album is the 16-minute Artcane 1 where Fripp’s influence is evident, while there are some electronic and space elements, common in late 70s prog. The high level of technique makes the result an absolute pleasure and ranks Artcane next to big names of the French scene (e.g. Pulsar). Unfortunately there was no sequel and all the band members never played anywhere else before or after Artcane.

 

Windchase – Symphinity
[Infinity, 1977]

WIndchase was an Australian symphonic prog band that released only one album, the Aussie prog classic Symphinity. Coming from the band Sebastian Hardie, guitarist Mario Millo and keyboardist Toivo Pilt formed the band in 1976, taking the name of the second album of their previous band (1976). They were joined by Duncan McGuire (bass) and Doug Bligh (drums) and in 1977 they entered the studio to record Symphinity. An unfairly underrated album of airy symphonic progressive rock, the band’s sole album follows the style of Sebastian Hardie, but the music here is much more energetic. The compositions are distinctive and interesting, containing all the necessary ingredients: melody, variety and musical passion. Millo ‘s guitar work is truly exceptional and the keyboard sound is also great. The songs Horsemen to Symphinity and  Lamb’s Fry should be known by anyone who loves to 70s classic prog rock. The album sales were below expectations and the band members decided to take different paths the same year the album came out. Millo started working as a solo artist and a soundtrack composer, and finally released Sebasian Hardie’s third record in 2012.

 

Guruh Gipsy – Guruh Gipsy
[Self-released, 1977]

As a result of the collaboration of Guruh Sukarnoputra and the band Gipsy, Guru Gipsy stands in time as the most important recording of both. Gipsy were the musical vehicle for Sukarnoputra’s vision to integrate the progressive vocations of the western world into the Indonesian artistic temperament. And it is quite impressive how this vision passed from the realm of ideas to reality, with Sukarnoputra undertaking vocals, gendèr (metallophone of gamelan technology) and lyrics. The members of the group were mainly in charge of composing the songs, with Chrisye on bass, Keenan Nasution on drums, Odin Nasution on guitar, Ronny Harahap on piano and organ and Abadi Soesman on mini-moog synthesizer, while some guests participate on gong, flute, metallophones, guitar, piano and backing vocals.

The result is full of sonic pluralism and aesthetic grandeur, with the British symphonic prog school (Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant) standing out as an influence on the multi-layered way of building the songs, while folk, classical music and rock are combined in a mystical traditional environment (from Bali and Java), thus constituting a purifying experience of some kind of ancient futurism.

 

Cervello – Melos
[Ricordi, 1974]

Cervello from Napoli is a rare case of a band. It’s really impressive how ready they were from their first album at such a young age. In their only album, the masterpiece Mellos, you can find a variety of influences, classical orchestrations, jazz elements and of course progressive rock of that time, with obvious references to Van Der Graaf Generator, PFM, Genesis, King Crimson, Jethro Tull and Mahavinshnu Orchestra. As it’s easily understood, with such an interesting and wide range of influences, good compositions and technical training would make a really great album, and that’s exactly what happened. Amazing signature vocals, guitars that often catch fire in the hands of the then teenager Corrado Rustici who sounds like John McLaughlin, excellent flute work, high quality saxophone and generally excellent playing by all members. After they broke up, Rustici became a world-renowned session musician and has played with Herbie Hancock, George Benson and Whitney Houston among others. Their singer unfortunately passed away in 2005 having released a solo album, while the rest of the members continued to work in music. In 2017, three of the original members reformed Cervello and their concert in Japan was released as Live in Tokyo 2017.

 

Mad Curry – Mad Curry
[Pirate’s, 1971]

The live performances of a group of five musicians from Leuven, Belgium attracted the interest of the local record label Pirate’s and after six months of rehearsals, their self-titled album was released in 1971. Primarily, their musical origins were jazz and blues and to a lesser extent the whole aura of the Woodstock festival. What’s special about Mad Curry is definitely the female vocals and the absence of guitar. Viona Westra’s vocals, although immature in some parts, are convincing due to her range and expressiveness. It is also impressive how the use of saxophone and keys fill in for the missing guitars, adding the required depth and weight.

Mad Curry’s prog jazz-rock finds its culmination through compositions such as Music, The Reason Of Our Happiness and 5 Longhaired Children In A Cave. The album, however, consists not only of interesting jazz prog sounds, but also includes influences from San Francisco acid rock in Men and British folk in The Worker.

After their disbandment, some members continued to play music, but without any commercial success. However, their claims that the compositions for the second album they had prepared would be superior raise reasonable curiosity as to what the sequel would be.

 

Tetragon – Nature
[Soma, 1971]

Tetragon were formed after Trikolon broke up, and are essentially their continuation. Nature is a special record from the 70s German prog scene, being very close to the British symphonic prog sound. To describe Trikolon and Tetragon respectively we can simplify compare them with The Nice and ELP respectively. Although Hendrik Schaper acts as another Keith Emerson here, the role of Jürgen Jaehner’s guitar is just as important. Opening the album with a cover on Bach, Tetragon’s intentions became clear from the start. However, they’re not included in the history of progressive rock as another copy of ELP, primarily due to their tendency towards improvised jazz-rock, but also due to the German underground character in the mood of the album. Even though a second album was never released, the collections Stretch (2009) and Agape (2012) brought to light recordings of the time, which are unreservedly recommended to all those who like Nture. After their disbandment, Schaper had a long career as a keyboardist and a composer (e.g. Passport and Udo Lindenberg), while drummer Joachim Luhrmann also played on several records of the German discography.