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

By Kostas Barbas, Nikos Filippaios, Paris Gravouniotis, Dimitris Kaltsas, Petros Papadogiannis, Tasos Poimenidis, Thomas Sarakintsis, Lefteris Statharas, Panagiotis Stathopoulos, Giannis Zavradinos, Giorgos Zoukas

Translation: Alexandros Mantas, Vangelis Christodoulou, Lefteris Statharas

 

The first part of this series of articles (click) received a great response from Progrocks.gr readers and was an extra driving force for the creation of the second part, as shown below.

The basic idea is of course the same. The “one-album wonders” are presented in no chronological order, but randomly and as in the first part, this article is a be a delightful journey back and forth in time and reading it will, hopefully, be as a fascinating experience as was writing every single piece.


 

Yatha Sidhra – A Meditation Mass
[Brain, 1974]

Yatha Sidhra | A Meditation Mass [Brain, 1974]

Yatha Sidhra’s A Meditation Mass (1974) is a unique case in the already heterogeneous Krautrock scene. The band consists of Fichter brothers, Klaus who plays percussion and the multi-instrumentalist Rolf who has taken over the synths, most of the guitar parts and the Indian flute. The two brothers are accompanied by Mathias Nicolai on the twelve-string electric guitar and the bass and Peter Elbracht on the flute. The album was released through the famous label Brain under the supervision of the very Achim Reichel.

A Meditation Mass consists of an intricate and naturally meditative instrumental composition. The intro is an ambient experimentation which gradually morphs into mantras of acoustic psychedelic rock imbued by Indian tradition which, in turn, climax into prog/jazz/blues improvisations showcasing the inspiration and abilities of the participants. Listening to Fichter brothers and their friends, you turn your gaze towards a distant mountaintop, the sea, the roof of a wrecked building, the sunset or maybe yourself…

As a footnote, the Fichter brothers carried on under the monicker Dreamworld, releasing two albums at the dawn of the 1980s. Interesting records, but nowhere near the summit of A Meditation Mass.

 

Room – Pre-Flight
[Deram, 1970]

Room | Pre-FlightRoom were formed back in 1968 in Blandford. Their only album entitled Pre-Flight with the classic cover displaying a triplane was released through Decca when they won the second position of a contest that Melody Maker held. The wind and string instruments under the guidance of Steve Edge at Tin Pan Alley and everything else in there was recorded in a mere two days capturing the spontaneity, yet eliminating sketchiness. The talented quintet’s trademarks were the inspired solos of Chris Williams and the peculiar vocals of Jane Kevern while their music reflected the fermenting underground British scene of the time. Their style is a mixture of jazz, blues and progressive rock (which was taking shape back then) so well-balanced that on the one hand impresses, on the other hand it casts doubts about the true intentions of the band. But, at any rate, Pre-Flight has gone down rightfully in history as a wonderfully unpretentious sample of early prog rock due to the musician’s talent, but also the impressive energy which was once a common ground, especially when the bands were taking their first steps. Room disbanded after the release of the album and the traces of all the band members that contributed to Pre-Flight were lost

 

Et Cetera – Et Cetera
[Apostrophe, 1976]

Et Cetera | Et Cetera

In mid 1970s the prog scene of French-speaking Quebec flourished and many, outstanding bands emerged from there with Harmonium, Maneige and Sloche as the most prominent ones. But aside the vanguard there was also a batch of groups that made it to put out some gems before they split. One characteristic example is Et Cetera from Montreal with their self-titled album. The Canadians deliver symphonic rock from the upper shelf with dashes from fusion and folk, recalling heavily Gentle Giant most of the time while the similarities with the Italian and British scene abound. Complex and technical, with numerous rhythm changes and sublime arrangements, Et Cetera introduces a mature band that no one would ever think that this is a new group. The enchanting vocals of Marie Bernard Page tie ideally with the music and their rich arsenal of instruments (guitar, keyboards, cello, flute, saxophone and vibraphone) paves the way to explore prog paths without getting pretentious, they only wish to reach the desirable result. Unfortunately they disbanded after their debut album and none of its members followed a solo career or joined a similar group.

 

Berits Halsband – Berits Halsband
[Forsaljud, 1975]

Berits Halsband | Berits Halsband

In the midst of fermentation of the flourishing and influential sonic creativity of the Swedish 1970s and 1974 as the start, Berits Halsband came up with their individual angle about jazz/rock. A underrated music proposal where the progressive mindset of building-up is dominating, as well as a genuine fusion aura with the integration of traditional trace elements from where they come from, but also from Anglo-Saxon origin.

From the capital city of Sweden, Stockholm, as the jumping-off point, the ten-member band gave birth to an idyllic sequence of compositions. Göran Frost (bass), Michael Lindqvist (percussion), Jonas Lindgren (electric piano, violin, who joined later Fläskkvartetten and Fleshquartet), Mats Anton Karis (flute, who joined later Radio Balkan), Olof Söderberg (guitar), Per Lejring (piano), Thomas Brandt (saxophone), Tommy Adolfsson (trumpet, also member of Archimedes Badkar and Iskra), Bengt Ekevärn (trumpet) and Peter Carlsson (Peter Carlsson & Blå Grodorna in later years) set up an adventurous scenery. In four lengthy and purely instrumental acts, the group radiates melodic warmth in a harmonic conversation between the assorted instruments. The wind instruments melt into the groovy heat of the string instruments and the percussion, offering unique moments of folk nonchalance and catchy rhythm changes.

 

Nicholas Greenwood – Cold Cuts
[Kingdom Records, 1972]

Nicholas Greenwood | Cold CutsBefore the release of his debut album, Nicholas Greenwood had already participated in two historic releases: the stone-cold classic debut album of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Space Shanty from Khan which is one of summits of the Canterbury scene (see below). Cold Cuts seems to draw influence from his up till then experience. Aside the bass, he takes over the vocals taking a leaf out of Arthur Brown book and he proves himself as something more than a mere adequate singer. Although he is a band leader, he gives much space to the other musicians and commissions the arrangements to an outsider (Charles Lamont). Bryan Howarth and Chris Pritchard are on the guitars while the use of the wind instruments is quite intense, delivered by Buck Gardner. Yet the man who steals the show is the unknown up till then Dick Heninghem, who is inspired mainly by the great Vencent Crane and he turns out to be the driving force on the album. Cold Cuts could be described as an imaginative Canterbury version of Atomic Rooster (and vice versa). It contains ten marvelous compositions and listening to them begs the question why Greenwood and Heninghem took a clean break from the world of music after the release of this album.

 

Khan – Space Shanty
[Deram, 1972]

Khan | Space Shanty

Khan were the brainchild of Steve Hillage and during their short-lived existence they put out a top album in the Canterbury scene and many musicians came and go before they split permanently and each of them pursued their own successful goals.

Uriel, the band where everything began and provided the later skeleton of Egg, was renamed to Arzachel which also put out one and only album and they ended up as Khan and the creation of  Space Shanty. Through numerous member changes, the line-up of Khan was cemented as follows: Steve Hillage (guitars), Nick Greenwood (bass), Eric Peachey (percussion – he replaced Pip Pyle) and Dave Stewart (organ – he replaced Dick Heninghem).

The album stands out due to the poignancy of the lyrics and the intense flirt with the progressiveness of the compositions contrary to the standard fusion that dominates the equivalent albums of the Canterbury scene, even though some magical shreds from jazz emerge in key-points. Yet what takes the album to a higher level is the give-and-take between the guitar and the organ and it is totally unpredictable what they will come up with in every song. This is a landmark album where elements of the individual playing of Hillage slip in the grooves which later established him as the shaman of the sound of Gong.   

 

Vita Nova – Vita Nova
[Life Records, 1971]

Vita Nova | Vita Nova

A really unique case. How else could be described a group that features a Polish/German guitarist, a Hungarian keyboardist born in Serbia and a Swiss drummer, is based in Munich and sings in Latin? Undoubtedly, the German krautrock scene possessed all the elements (both cultural and artistic) that provided the ideal stage to host people of different nationalities with common purpose their musical goals. Vita Nova’s debut album is a gem where they blend symphonic prog in the vein of ELP, jazz, psych, ethnic in a daring and groundbreaking fashion, bringing in mind the great Embryo. The album is largely consisted of short songs, excluding the magnificent one-two Quomodo Manet and Vita Nova Inventions, which, by the way, are my personal favourites. Bearing in mind the aforementioned conditions, one concludes that Vita Nova were essentially a project group, therefore after their expected split, Eddy Marron had the most successful course with the krautrockers Dzyan and the jazz trio Giger Lenz Marron.

 

Panna Fredda – Uno
[Vedette Records, 1971]

Panna Fredda | UnoAnother case of obscure outfit that left behind nothing else than one single blueprint in the early 70’s. The story begins around the second half of the 60’s and the funky/blues Vun Vun and guitarist/singer Angelo Giardinelli, who went on to form a new and much more ambitious band. Vedette, the publisher that signed them, was hoping for something more mainstream and refused to release the album, although it was recorded as early as 1970. It did eventually a year later, after succumbing to public demand. Uno reflects the symphonic heavy prog that later became Rock Progressivo Italiano’s trademark and even though it’s by no means the peak for the genre, it did however play a big role for what came next. No matter how historically overlooked they are, Panna Fredda are over there with the pioneers of that sound, alongside important bands such as Le Orme, Osanna and The Trip. The guitar-keyboards duels are representative, as are the distinctive melody lines, and all that in an underground environment. After participating a few festivals, the lack of promotion and the inability to secure a record deal forced them to disband. Since then, none of the members made any appearance to other bands.

 

Atlas – Blå Vardag
[Bellatrix, 1979]

Atlas | Blå VardagIn the end of the 70s, when the music industry and fans had turned their back on progressive rock, underground releases such as Blå Vardag would keep the flame alive. Atlas from Malmö, Sweden released their sole album in 1979, a year that marks some of the last quality releases for symphonic prog. An instrumental album, Blå Vardag is comprised of material full of melodicism that owes almost everything to Genesis, Camel and Focus, while resembling – the fellow Swedes – Kaipa. The two keyboardists result in the sound being, of course, mainly keyboard-driven, accompanied by the essential guitar work. Oddly, the northern melancholia that is so central with most Scandinavian outfits, is quite absent, as is the dramatic tone that is often associated with our favorite symphonic prog bands, as Atlas prefer the major scale and a generally softer atmosphere that is also influenced by Canterbury’s fusion era. Following Atlas’ breaking up, 4 of their 5 members participated in the prog rockers Mosaik’s only release in 1982.

 

Weidorje – Weidorje
[Cobra, 1978]

Weidorje | Weidorje

Sci-fi movie scene: a spacecraft is exploring the galaxy and suddenly, another spacecraft is sliding out of it, taking its own course. That’s approximately what happened during Magma’s Üdü Ẁüdü recording sessions. Bernard Paganotti (bass) and Patrick Gauthier (keyboards) played on the Weidorje track, with the latter functioning also as a cocomposer. It was around that time that they decided to go on their own endeavor and explore the vast musical universe, effectively parting ways with the Magma mothership. Weidorje is one of the first Zeuhl releases besides Magma’s, and definitely one of the finest is that special music style. The main distinction lies in the choral group, which is somewhat reduced and so is the female presence. The album kicks in with the entrancing and space epic Elohim’s Voyage, with Paganotti’s playing standing out, while the two other compositions (Vilna and Booldemug) hover in astral heights. Weidorje is a typical example of how the communal and collectivist operations of many groups from the 70s. opened up new musical ways. Unfortunately, the project did not continue, apart from two live compositions that made their appearance on the CD reissue.

 

Sandrose – Sandrose
[Polydor, 1978] 

Sandrose | Sandrose

To compare with modern bands that require a decade in order to release their album, it only took Sandrose a week to record one of the most magnificent records in French prog. In charge was the great guitarist Jean Pierre Alarcen, an important figure in the French prog scene, with whom they practically revived Eden Rose, after the latter broke up upon releasing their memorable and sole orchestral album On the way to Eden, following consequent disagreements with their producer. And it was admittedly a premature dissolution, seeing that 4/5 of Eden Rose went on to form Sandrose. Nevertheless, it was Rose Podwojny, or Rose Laurens as is widely known – the then-to-be 80’s pop star – that would add a new air of exceptionality. Their eponymous album is a timeless British-prog-styled gem of top artistic value, that lies where Julian’s Treatment and Genesis would meet. It is necessarily an admirable heirloom containing dazzling and detailed guitar work, all-time epics (Underground Session), hair-raising songs (Old Dom Is Dead, Never Good At Sayin´ Good-Bye), memorable organ playing (Metakara), unique and dynamic performance by the now deceased Rose Podwojny, an ideal rhythm section and exemplary work on the mellotron and organ by the outstanding Henri Garella. An artistic jewel of British esthetic.


Buon Vecchio Charlie – Buon Vecchio Charlie
[Melos, 1990 – recored 1972]

Buon Vecchio Charlie

Buon Vecchio Charlie came to existence in Rome in 1970 and even though they had recorded their first album as a demo in 1972, they had to wait until 1990 to see their work released properly (containing two extra tracks). The sextet under the guidance of the enigmatic Italian/British Richard Benson (guitar/voice), could be described as a mix between British prog with jazz elements and the Italian prog’s veil of pomp and finesse.

The continuous improvisations, the equal use of the flute and saxophone alongside their electric counterparts, the classical pieces (Peer Gynt’s standard is covered on the album), as well as the Italian vocals, comprise a very good album that is however not ranked high within Italian prog. It is impossible to know what the next step would be, but the two extra tracks reveal a turn to simpler forms, while both are excellent!

The album’s importance is that it coincides with the beginnings of great bands, like PFM, Banco and Quella Vecchia Locanda, thus placing Buon Vecchio Charlie right in the heart of the magical Italian prog’s first wave.

 

Hallelujah – Hallelujah Babe
[Metronome, 1971]

Hallelujah | Hallelujah Babe

The short story of Hallelujah left the beautiful Hallelujah Babe behind as well as a lingering suspicion that if they kept going, things would be just as good. The British (born in Germany) guitarist/singer Paul Vincent began the musical cooperation with his compatriot and talented drummer Keith Forsey (ex Motherhood) at the dawn of 1970s while Pete ”Fink” Wood (keyboards) and Rick Kemp (bass) also participated on the album. And the result? Magnificent – though typical- heavy prog with evenly distributed psychedelic insinuations and melodic pop sensitivities which do not take the edge off the strength of the music. After the release of the album and the split of the band, Kemp tapped on his fame in the folk rock circles thanks to his participation in Michael Chapman’s albums and joined Steeleye Span on the heels of a brief and unsuccessful tenure in King Crimson. Wood cooperated with top artists like Al Stewart, Bob Dylan, Roger Waters, whereas Vincent kept a low profile, releasing quite many solo albums. As regards Forsey who participated in Amon Düül II recordings, he pulled off to become a most sought-after producer and studio musician and cooperated, among others, with Giorgio Moroder on Donna Summer’s well-known hits and as a composer he was credited for What a Feeling (Irene Cara) and Don’t You Forget About Me (Simple Minds).

 

Quatermass – Quatermass
[Harvest, 1970]

QuatermassThe British trio of Quartermass was formed in 1969 by Peter Robinson (keyboards), John Gustafson (bass/vocals) and Mick Underwood (drums). Underwood was performing with Outlaws, the band of Ritchie Blackmore, and then he joined Episode Six replacing Roger Glover who went to Deep Purple. They were named after the teacher Bernard Quatermass, a fictional scientist who featured in three influential BBC science fiction serials of the 1950s. Their only album came out in 1970 through Harvest and it was a powerful symphonic progressive rock and hard rock release where the leading role was asserted, naturally, to Robinson whose style was something in between Jean-Jacques Kravetz, Dave Stewart and of course Keith Emerson. Himself conducted an orchestra of 16 violins, six violas, six cellos and three double-basses for Laughin’ Tackle, whereas Underwood was in touch with his old friends who were recording In Rock at these very studios. Unfortunately the band split a year later. Gustafson joined John Du Cann’s Daemon and the band of Ian Gillan and in 1994 Quatermass II were formed with Nick Simper and Don Airey as members. For the record, Black Sheep of the Family from the superb album of Quartermass was the first track that Rainbow recorded which was rejected for Deep Purple’s Stormbringer

 

Leviathan – Leviathan
[Mach Records, 1974]

Leviathan

The band from Little Rock of Arkansas was formed in 1972 with Wain Bradley (bass, guitar, vocals), Peter Richardson (vocals, keyboards), Don Swearingen (piano), Grady Trimble (guitar), John Sadler (mellotron) and Shof Beavers (percussion). Leviathan opened for ELO and built up their fame as a great live band, reaching their summit playing before an audience of 8000 attendants.

Their only album came out in 1973 after a long break where they were fine-tuning their songs due to their perfectionism and the numerous views about their development. Their music bore their trademark, which was mainly melodic, but at the same time hard progressive rock, while maintaining the elements of American hard rock and the heavy use of mellotron. Today Leviathan is held up as an underground classic of the US prog rock which was never received as well as it was in Europe.

The band recorded a second album entitled The Life Cycle, but when the recordings were finished the interest for progressive rock was so much diminished in the USA that no label was interested in releasing it.

 

Saturnalia – Magical Love
[Matrix Records, 1973]

Saturnalia – Magical Love

Although Saturnalia was a quintet, the leading members of this band were a dancer-model of German descent, Aletta Lohmeyer and guitarist-singer Adrian Hawkins (known from the band Horse). In Magical Love, an album released in 1973 (recordings actually date back to 1969, and the release is mistakenly assumed by some that in was released in 1969), a deeply dark psychedelic prog rock is imprinted, balancing between the west coast and the British pre-prog wave, though there are several parts that sound a lot like the Californian sound of the then leading bands such as Jefferson Airplane (Saturnalia seem to highly appreciate Volunteers and Crown of Creation). Besides, two of the biggest influences of the band in its only album are Renaissance and to a lesser extent the debut album of Coven. Lyrically, Saturnalia sing with the same enviable ability for metaphysical subjects, centered on astrology and love expressed through hippie values. The subsequent classification of Saturnalia in the so-called ‘obscure’ class cannot justify the indefinite ignorance of theoretically interested listeners about such a gem.

 

Brave New World – Impressions οn Reading Aldous Huxley
[Vertigo, 1972]

Brave New World | Impressions οn Reading Aldous Huxley

The self-titled album from Hamburg dreamed up a unique way to channel their ideas in the studio. Therefore, in the year of 1972 a hybrid jigsaw came out, not in the sense of a wayward collage aesthetic with pretentious intelligence, but in the sense which wants to see the numerous references hug each other in harmony around a common thematic axis.

In Impressions οn Reading Aldous Huxley, Herb Geller (wind instruments – he has performed with Max Roach, Benny Goodman among others), John O’Brien-Docker (guitars, vocals, organ, percussion, piano, he has performed with Hawkey Franzén), John O’Brien-Docker (guitars, vocals, organ, percussion,  he has also branched out on his own as a songwriter), Lucas Lindholm (bass, double bass, organ, piano, he has performed with Hawkey Franzén), Reinhart Firchow (flute, ocarina, stylophone, percussion, vocals, also on Kaarst), Dicky Tarrach (drums, percussion, also on The Rattles, Randy Pie, Wonderland), they practice as they preach on the album’s title. They fashion a meditative amalgam of sounds which ties up with the sense of decay and psychosomatic disorder which features in the dystopia described in Aldous Huxley’s book Brave New World. The album provides room for the listener to think and act via themes that bear electronic, folk, rock and jazz stigma, and psychedelia leading this spiritual conjuring and rhythmic release. A genuine and timeless kraut ritual.

 

Il Paese dei Balocchi – Il Paese dei Balocchi
[CGD, 1972]

Il Paese dei Balocchi

The Italians Il Paese Dei Balocchi were formed in 1971 in Rome as a continuation of the band Under 2000. The music is heavily led by strings and a Hammond organ and combines the rock sounds of ELP and Camel, with the symphonic sounds of Vivaldi or Bach. The overall feeling of the album is quite pessimistic, atmospheric with small outbursts of energy. The vocals even add to the pessimistic and mystical atmosphere of the album since they were recorded in a church and it gives it a big reverb. Their sole album was way ahead of its time and today it’s rightfully considered as one of the ideal examples of flawless RPI with stunning orchestration and an artistic character of its own.

Even though it’s not a concept album in a strict sense there seems to be an instrumental atmospheric line that flows throughout the album which makes it hard to listen track by track but only as a whole. The band actually had written and recorded in a cassette tape the second album, with the outlook of it being more accessible, however their life progress and the need to earn a living prevented them from recording and releasing the album so they disbanded in 1974.

             

 

Dashiell Hedayat – Obsolete
[Shandar, 1971]

Dashiell Hedayat | Obsolete

The collaboration between Dashiell Hedayat and Gong is a typical exemplification of the era of the latter when they were still forming their identity before they conceive the universe of the legendary trilogy Radio Gnome Invisible. It is the selfsame line-up that recorded Camembert Electrique and Continental Circus although it is portrayed as a back-up band to Dashiell Hedayat to whom Obsolete is credited. Ηedayat  was a writer, poet and a rock buff and attempted to blend Gong music phase at of that era with the Beatnik culture that characterized him, something that Daevid Allen was also passionate about anyway. His artistic name came from Dashiell Hammett (American writer of crime novels, playwrights and political activist) and Sadegh Hedayat (Iranian writer, translator and intellectual). Here he narrates, without being overwhelmingly persuading, with the result being overshadowed by the frenzied improvisational mood of the rest that leads to their acquired launch into the space rock universe. In conclusion, beyond its undisputed collective value, Obsolete is not a major evolutionary link in the course of Gong. Dashiell Hedayat who concentrated on literature (and never went back to music) committed suicide in 2013, after suffering for years from depression.

 

Machine – Machine
[Polydor, 1970]

MachineOn the heels of the release of Through the Eye (1969) by Swinging Soul Machine who were playing nederbeat (the Dutch version of British beat) the band from Rotterdam was renamed to Machine in 1970 and their style shifted to bluesy hard rock / psych-prog with soul-funk elements which manifest themselves on their self-titled and only album. Sonically, they balance between Deep Purple, Irish Coffee, Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears (no matter how paradox this mixture strikes). Machine were an eight-member band with a trio of wind instruments, jumping on the brass trend of the time. The result is very tight, featuring very nice vocals by John Caljouw (ex Dragonfly), groove in high doses and magnificent tracks. Maybe the fact that they didn’t have a particular style or that they lacked a hit single cost them success. Machine remains mysteriously underrated up to this day, even though it is a flawless exemplification of a transitional phase of rock music which unfortunately failed to keep the brass element in the then dominant prog trend. Unfortunately, shortly after the release of the album, the band split in 1972. Paul Vink (bass) became later the original keyboardist of the legendary Finch, but was replaced before the release of their debut album Glory of the Inner Force (1975).

 

Ακρίτας – Ακρίτας
[Polydor, 1973]

Ακρίτας

Akritas was a trio formed in 1972 by singer, guitarist and bassist Stavros Logaridis, drummer Giorgos Tsoupakis and keyboardist Aris Tasoulis. After Logaridis’ stint with flower power band Poll he decided that he wanted to create some more complex music and formed Akritas. The one and only album they released has strong influences from the early Yes days and of course ELP but mixed with a lot of Greek folk and Balkan touches. The lyrics and the libretto were written by the great director Kostas Ferris who also wrote the lyrics to 666 of Aphrodite’s Child. To no one’s surprise though, given the time that the album was recorded there are some production issues with the drums being quite muffled, but that doesn’t stop from a unique experience that is this album.

In just about 30+ minutes of music the band captivates the listener with transitions from melodic to complex and strong instrumental jazz outbursts that will make you want to repeat the record the moment it ends. Unfortunately, the band disbanded shortly after the release of the record leaving the people (even decades later) wanting more.

 

Logan Dwight – Logan Dwight
[PDU, 1972]

Logan DwightIn 1970, the trio of Genesi in Rome was formed in Rome by Donatella Luttazzi (vocals), Francesco Ventura (guitar) and Gianni Mereu (acoustic guitar). After the addition of Federico D’Andrea (vocals) and Claudio Barbera (bass) they were renamed Logan Dwight and they recorded their only album which came out in 1972. Many guest musicians also participated, the great Toto Torquati among them, while on four out of the seven songs a symphonic orchestra performs. The heavy British sound is due to the three British musicians (Alex Ligertwood-vocals, Mike Fraser-drums and Derek Wilson-bass). Truth is when the recording sessions commenced, D’Andrea replaced Ligertwood who joined Brian Auger’s (who loved Logan Dwight) Oblivion Express.  The initial success dried up and the financial difficulties resulted in the split of the band. Logan Dwight remains underrated up to this day, maybe because it is the typical RPI exemplification, but this why the album is so unique. In just 30 minutes encloses a brilliant view on groovy and melodic prog coupled with hard rock, soul, funky and symphonic elements. The singer Federico D’Andrea joined later the proggers Libra and recorded with them their first two albums.

 

Arachnoïd – Arachnoïd
[Divox, 1979]

Arachnoïd

Progressive rock was no longer in its first youth at the end of the 1970s. The then releases came courtesy of already established groups or from countries where its progress was somewhat lagging behind. The case of the only album of the French Arachnoïd is very unique. In a context where the odour of underground is intense, they set out a stall of influences which includes numerous waves of progressive rock originating mainly from the UK and their own country. In Arachnoïd we encounter the paradox of a symphonic proposition with the keyboards as the basis, drawing influences mainly from King Crimson and VDGG rather than Genesis and Yes. Simultaneously, the avant-garde slant of bands like Magma and Univers Zero is lurking, while Ange and Pulsar have a direct impact on them due to common origin. And like that, more or less, they pull off to deliver one of the darkest albums in the history of symphonic prog. The album may not be perfect, both sonically andcomposition-wise, but its atmosphere and peculiarity place it in the pantheon of “second-rate” releases in the history of prog rock. The hearing of the emblematic starter Le Chamadere is an illuminating proof of the statement above.

 

Zakarrias – Zakarrias
[Deram, 1971]

Zakarrias

The self-titled and only album of Zakarrias was recorded in 1971 and released the same year through Deram. The leading figure of the band was the Austrian Robert Haumer (vocals, guitar, bass, kazoo), whereas the rest band members hailed from England where the band operated. Their music was a unique and magnificent dry hard / prog / blues /folk with intense acoustic elements, masterful arrangements and possessed a totally unique identity. Perhaps the only thing that recalls, up to a point, of something else are the experimentations that Led Zeppelin tried on III, mainly because Haumer is evidently influenced by Plant with regard to vocals. All the compositions are obviously carefully worked out and the quality of the album as a whole is far off any obscure oddity or underground release.

The band came to a bitter end when Haumer’s work permit wasn’t approved. Consequently, Deram withdrew all the copies and as a result the album’s first edition is very rare (one of them was sold for £2249 in 2013). It makes sense since it is one of the most sought-after items not only by collectors, but also of the fans of British 70s prog / blues rock sound as a wholeυ.

 

Mogul Thrash – Mogul Thrash
[RCA Victor, 1971]

Mogul ThrashMogul Thrash were put together by the amazing guitarist James Litherland when he was fired by Colosseum and their initial monicker was James Litherland’s Brotherhood. Brian Auger, who produced the album and played the piano on a song, floated the idea to rename the band and thus Mogul Thrash was born. Their self-titled album is considered up to this day a classic because, among the other reasons, the great John Wetton plays on it. Their style is a beautiful meeting place of progressive rock, jazz, brass rock (the wind instruments here include trumpet, saxophone and mellophone). The sonic relation with Colosseum is obvious, although the guitar here has a starring role which leads to impressive results. Listening to Litherland’s manic playing, one suspects that he wanted to prove his worth and regardless if this was the case or not, he did it. Litherland’s vocals are at least very good, although if the role was assigned to Wetton the result was bound to be better. In a flawless album as the only album of Mogul Thrash is, Elegy, Going North, Going West are sublime examples of the prog explosion of the best rock scene in existence, ever.

 

Steel Mill – Green Eyed God
[Penny Farthing, Bellaphon, 1972]

Steel Mill – Green Eyed God

Steel Mill is among the well-hidden secrets of the vast 1970s British scene and very few things about them have trickled. Their music has elements both from the heavy rock scene of the late 1960s/ early 1970s and the psychedelic British scene of their time.  The result we hear on their only album Green Eyed God is exceptional where the heavy and dreamy moments interchange constantly. John Challenger’s wind instruments (flute and saxophone) are sometimes folky and some others jazzy and occasionally in the dissonant constellation of the great David Jackson and call the unique tone on the album especially when they coexist with the heavy/rock moments. The most illuminating examples are Mijo and The Laying of the Witch and the epic heavy/rock title track with the tremendous finale (it brings Jerusalem to mind) and every fan of the 70s should check out these sublime tracks. The nostalgic/sentimental Turn the Page Over is one of the highlights of the album which features a performance by David Morris that is etched to the subconscious of those who have experienced it. Overall, this is an album with rich variety and interchanges of styles from song to song, all the while never losing its cohesion in spite of the heterogeneous nature of its songs.

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