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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Barclay James Harvest - Gone To Earth (Deluxe Edition)

This 2-CD/DVD release is a continuation of the Barclay James Harvest reissues done by the good people at Esoteric Recordings. This year alongside, Everyone is Everybody Else, they’ve reissued their eighth album entitled, Gone To Earth. Originally released in 1977 on the Polydor label, it was released at the time the Punk scene was happening as the music press derided prog as considering them as “Dinosaurs”. While their previous album, Octoberon was released and did well in the UK Top 20 and the tour was a success, it hit them on a low note.

John Lees was ill by this time as they were getting ready for the next tour in Germany. They started working on this album in March of 1977 with Mandalaband’s David Rohl co-producing on the album as they were recording it at Strawberry Studios in Stockport, England. They saw production in themselves when they did Octoberon and it gave some experience on what they want to do next.

When the album was released in the fall of that year, it was packaged in a beautiful cutaway design by Maldwyn Reece who suggested the album title based on a publication on Australian owls. And the album itself centers on the symphonic textures and from the late Woolly Wolstenholme’s keyboards, gives it more of the pastoral wonders. You have the song Poor Man’s Moody Blues.

Done in the style of Nights in White Satin, it was taken from a review that stung them as they were considered them, well you guessed it, a “Poor Man’s Moody Blues.” Even though it is a curious title, it would later become a fan favorite and one of the most popular songs in their career. I love how in the midsection that Lees guitar is shining like a glowing diamond and hitting those higher notes in the frets in the style of Justin Hayward and it’s a beautiful composition.

Lees’ composition of Love Is Like a Violin, shows the band’s romantic side featuring the string section from Wolstenholme and then goes into a rocking twist before going back into the ballad tempo while heading into a funky direction of a Hard Hearted Woman before seguing into the symphonic adventures that deals with the Space Race between the Russians and Americans of the Sea of Tranquility. The music really tells the story of the competition of setting the first man on the moon.

And the lyrics makes you wonder you are on a voyage to the moon to be the first small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind. The opener, Hymn, which would later receive a lot of airplay in Germany, sees John go into the acoustical textures. With background vocals, mellotron’s, and a horn section. I can hear some essences of Yes’ Wonderous Stories in the background and it is a beautiful song that deals with don’t take a risk of flying, because you might not come down.

The new stereo mixes along with the 5.1 mixes done by Craig Fletcher who also did Everyone Is Everybody Else does another amazing job. I can hear some bells coming in front of the song, Hymn followed by layered guitars coming front as with Lees voices in front for Love is Like a Violin as more keyboards flow into the light on the Sea of Tranquility.

There’s also the bonus tracks including the rocking punch with an AOR atmosphere in the styles of Foreigner’s Blue Morning, Blue Day of Loving is Easy in which it would later re-recorded for their ninth album, XII. And their country-rock essence which would be a B-Side an homage to the Eagles with Our Kid’s Kid.

There’s also Lied which was recorded during the sessions in 1977. It dealt with troubled relationships. It didn’t make it on the album due to some other competitions that needed to be on Gone to Earth. When the album was released, it made to number 30 in the UK charts in which it didn’t do well. But then something happened in Germany. They were getting word-of-mouth.

With the songs in the discos and the album boosted and selling over 250,000 copies, it showed that there was no stop sign. They did tours in Holland, Germany, and Switzerland to a sold-out performances. And they were in my opinion, the people’s band in Germany. Now I enjoyed Gone to Earth. Does that make me say I love this album? Not really, but there is some potential and knowing what they have accomplished to finally get some recognition.

The 20-page booklet contains liner notes about the making of the album and pictures of the performances they did in Europe along with promos and a 1977 Hannover poster on October 30thThis is another spectacular reissue that Esoteric Recordings have done. And I can’t wait to hear more of the BJH reissues with the next one of XII coming out at the end of October of this year.

A big hats off to Mark and Vicky Powell along with Keith and Monika Domone of the Barclay James Harvest fanclub and also, Craig Fletcher for the 5.1 mixes and the DVD authorization by Ray Shulman.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Burnt Belief - Emergent

As a blogger and geek, I know I’ve always supported new music. It seems that whenever new arrivals come in between Syn-Phonic Music and The Laser’s Edge websites, I always know when the time is ready to go ahead and buy some music from the progressive genre both old and new. So when something special comes in the mail for me to review or by e-mail, I know right away it’ll be interesting and very good to hear. And when Glass Onyon’s package came in the mail, it’s like finding Treasure in the Sierra Madre.

One of the CDs that arrived in the mail for me was Burnt Belief. It is a duo project that started back when Bassist Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) worked with Jon Durant on Dance of the Shadow Planets and they brought everyone together to play live in the studio and that was when the ambient project was born. The name came from a book called When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger back in the 1950s UFO Cult and in Festinger’s mind, is that the believers when foretold an evacuation of the followers failed to materializing as the Mayan Prophecy has been doing the rounds.

It seems like an odd name for a project, but for me, I like where they are coming with. The sound of their music is Progressive Ethno-Fusion with Atmospheric soundscapes. I remember reading one of their reviews in Prog Magazine thanks to Sid Smith a few years ago when I bought Etymology and I fell in love with it. And it was on my top 30 albums of 2014 on Music from the Other Side of the Room. And I completely forgotten about them.

Until I recently heard their music again on an episode of Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room of their new album which is their third on the Alchemy Records label entitled, Emergent. And from the moment I put the CD on, I was completely in awe of how it sounded. It’s eerie, electronic, and experimental at the same time.

It feels very much as if both Durant, Edwin, and drummer Vinny Sabatino, created a score for a dystopian science fiction film that was done in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s with a collaborative partnership between directors William Friedkin and Ridley Scott. The title-track and Until the Stars Go Out sees them channeling the essence of Durant’s styles of Frippertronics, Klaus Schulze, and David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy.

You can hear the structures of a mysterious rhythm as if someone is creeping upon you with electronic drum beats, and eastern guitar melodies as if it is taken place in the Sahara desert. The Confidence of Ignorance brings to mind the style of Agitation Free’s Haunted Island from their 2nd album while Language of Movement features the mid-tempo drum lines in a drive into the belly of the beast to search for clues and grooving bass lines by Edwin himself.

More Snow is a darker acoustical theme. You can imagine yourself walking through this snowy ghost-town as imagining a pin dropped out of nowhere as the music is drawn through middle-eastern themes, ‘80s synths, and with guitars sounding like flutes followed by percussion.

I was so blown away by Burnt Belief’s Emergent. It’s not just a great album, but I would never say a dark album, but a spooky atmospheric yet supernatural albums that the duo have released. I hope to hear more from them and as I’ve always said in some of album reviews, this is the soundtrack and movie inside your head. With Emergent, it is one of them.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Darkwell - Moloch

Darkwell are an Austrian Female Fronted/Gothic Metal band that formed back in 1999 by bassist Roland Wurzer and guitarist Roman Wienicke. Their musical influences from their background is a cross between Type O Negative and Fields of the Nephilim. Now for me, I don’t hear that in their music. But more of both Gothic and Symphonic approach and I can hear the influences of Amberian Dawn and Within Temptation in Darkwell’s music.

They released two albums and a mini CD from 2000 to 2004. In 2003, lead singer Alexandra Pittracher left the band due to musical differences as Stephanie Luzie Meyer (Atargatis, Seasons in Black, and Diodati) was discovered as they emphasized the independent path. They toured during that time period in the mid-2000s with Atrocity and Leaves’ Eyes. After the tour was finished, they took a long hiatus break.

It wasn’t until 2012 they were thinking about returning. Then, they reunited with the original singer Alexandria and they knew that the flames of Darkwell was still growing. And they returned for an official show at Wave Gothic Meeting in 2014 at Leipzig, Germany. And it still is growing when they released their new and third album entitled, Moloch on their new label, Massacre Records.

You have songs like Loss of Reason. It’s a nod to Amberian Dawn’s River of Tuoni-era and bits of Alexandria channeling Sharon Den Adel and Heidi Parviainen. It is also emotional metal with climatic duels between guitar riffs, doubling drum sound, and also midsection keyboards. Meanwhile, the Fall of Ishtar contains some real punching sounds from Bachler’s drums, and Nussbaum’s guitar followed by the strings and the organ done by Raphael Lepuschitz.

It is prog and elevated as you tap your foot and almost head-bang to the entire song with some essence of Tool while Golem and Awakening resembles some church-organ sounds as it head towards the darker tunnels of the creature itself. The heart-wrenching symphonic metal goes into overdrive with Bow Down. Here, Darkwell bring the mysterious synth intro and machine gun rhythm of guitar and drums before letting more of the bullets out for a powerful and killer composition.

There is an homage to both Epica and early Within Temptation thrown into the mix and throw in the Beauty and the Beast arrangements of clean vocals/growling styles thrown in. Mind you when the growling vocals in the background, it's been considered as the “Cookie Monster” vocals. But it’s very good and with epic proportions as Alexandria nails it down on her voice.

I had an amazing time listening Darkwell’s Moloch. I’ve always have a love of Female Symphonic Metal when it comes to bands like Within Temptation, Amberian Dawn, Edenbridge, and Stream of Passion to name a few. This one is up on my list so far of this year as the Autumn has just begun. And I hope I will one of these days discover their back catalog. But for me Moloch, is not just a good album, it is in your face with both Gothic and Symphonic Metal to the core.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Hello Everyone: Popsike Sparks from Denmark Street 1968-70

This is for me, one of the best compilations that Grapefruit Records have released two years ago. Hello Everyone: Popsike from Denmark Street 1968-70 is a trip through obscure hidden gems from the label, Spark Records. Established back in 1968 at the recording branch of the Denmark Street publishing company, Southern Music. They were involved in helping out musicians including Jimmy Page and Clem Cattini of The Tornados and representing songwriters including John Carter and Ken Lewis since the early '60s.

But they were also representing acts including a new psychedelic band Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera who licensed their recordings to the CBS imprint direction. This is where Spark Records was born. What the label represented is to rely heavily on musicians, writers, and technicians in the studio who were employed by Southern Music. Now while the status of the traditional British music industry was going on, the publishing company didn’t have success with the label.

What you have in your hands is as I’ve mentioned in my intro, hidden unearthed singles that shows obscure psychedelic pop singles of a history of the label turning on and tuning it up to see where it would have gone next. And while they were recorded in the basement studio at the company of Denmark Street’s premises, there are some amazing tracks that perked my ears up.

You have Timothy Blue which was Eric Woolfson’s alias name of his psych single, Room at the Top of the Stairs in which he would later use the same melody in a haunting tone with The Alan Parsons Project’s concept album, Tales of Mystery and Imagination on The Cask of Amontillado. The blaring wah-wah fuzz-tone and heavier guitar distortions with a catchy melody brings essences of The Move, The Creation, and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich with The Eggy’s You’re Still Mine and Hookey.

The garage-rock psych with ascending rhythms just hits you in the gut thanks to the thumping drums and bass, followed by the rhythmic guitars of The Fruit Machine’s Follow Me while the late Eartha Kitt brings a strange and Psych-soul rock twist of Donovan’s cover in an emotional yet surreal tone of Wear Your Love Like Heaven and the hypnotic arrangements of Hurdy Gurdy Man.

I have to admit, when I first heard Eartha’s take, I almost didn’t like it, but I listened to it again and she did a not so bad, but pretty good and very interesting job of the Donovan compositions. It’s strange, but she can take it to a different level. Now Icarus released their only concept album based on the Marvel Comics entitled, The Marvel World of Icarus in 1972. Here before they did that, with some killer flute improvisation in a Beatle-sque touch of When The Devil Rides Out.

New Generation go into a vaudeville turned ominous rock thanks to some walking bass lines and climbing beats of a shuffling piano styles of Scott Joplin of the Digger as Sir Ching I go up into the heavens featuring the mellotron to welcome the people and the listener of Hello Everyone and the Indian tribe of Hiawatha Mini Ha Ha Love. I have enjoyed listening to this amazing set and yes there are a few hits and misses, but you can imagine why the label was so ahead of it’s time.

Speaking of the Spark label and Denmark Street, Henry Scott-Irvine, who I championed on my blog site thanks to his book and liner notes he did for Esoteric Recordings which is a part of the Cherry Red family on the first four Procol Harum albums reissue last year and not to mention his book Procol Harum: The Ghosts of a Whiter Shade of Pale which I highly recommend you check out. He is planning to do a documentary about the history of Tin Pan Alley entitled Tin Pan Alley Tales.

And he’s doing his best to save not just Tin Pan Alley, but with Denmark Street also. Here’s the website to show donations and support Henry whatever he can to help. It’s a shame that some of the buildings are gone, but please go to the websites and show support and as Henry said in an interview with a London news channel, “Don’t let the music die. People come here for the music. Don’t let the music die in Tin Pin Alley.”

It’s a strong and powerful message.


Don't Bin Tin Pin Alley!

Tin Pin Alley Tales

Save Tin Pin Alley

Monday, September 19, 2016

Gong - Rejoice! I'm Dead!

Since my appreciation of Gong came in the mid 2000’s when hearing their music on the Prog Archives website and being in awe of their Spacey, Jazzy, and Canterbury taste, I always wanted to know more of their music. My review of I See You which appeared on this blog site back in December of 2014, which was Daevid Allen’s last album with the group as it was a hard album for me to listen to, but a farewell and saying thank you to his fans for being on his ride before passing away after a battle with cancer on March 13, 2015.

But he wanted to make sure that the legacy will live on. When Kavus Torabi joined the band two years ago, the band would sent links or recordings to Daevid while he was in Australia, he praised and shown support of what the band is doing. They knew to carry on is a big leap forward and to fill in the shoes of Allen’s work. And then this year, Gilli Smyth passed away with pulmonary pneumonia on August 22nd. Carrying on Gong’s legacy, is a big challenge, and a leap forward to see where the band will go to next.

And they have done justice with the release of their new album on the Madfish label, Rejoice! I’m Dead! It came over several weeks in a rehearsal studio in East London as the songs and arranging is accommodating. When I heard they were doing a new album, I went ahead and bought the album on The Laser’s Edge website last week and I put the CD on, and I fell in love with it after listening to it three times now. It’s an emotional, beautiful, atmospheric, and mind-blowing album I’ve listened to.

As guitarist/vocalist Kavus Torabi, Fabio Golfetti on Guitar/Vocals, Dave Strut on Bass/Vocals, Ian East on Sax/Flute, and Cheb Nettles on Drums/Vocals, they want to make sure that the flying teapots are still operational to take the listener back up into outer space and the engines themselves are ready and good to go for lift-off. There’s also Gong alumni including Steve Hillage, Didier Malherbe, and Graham Clark on here.

One of the tracks that is a chilling jazzy composition which features the last time of Allen’s voice singing in French through a demo recording as the music has a mournful atmosphere, you could feel the emotions and mourning arrangements between Dave’s acoustic bass, Ellis’ piano, and East’s tenor sax setting the tempo and knowing that near the end that you can hear that Allen has the humor in him. And he still has that with Beatrix.

There’s also the 11-minute groove that reminisces of The Isle of Everywhere from the Radio Gnome trilogy entitled, The Unspeakable Stands Revealed. Here, Strut and East do this amazing improvisation on their instruments channeling the You sessions with the mind of Fusion Space Rock as the sliding guitars take you back into the Flying teapots for another journey back into the milky-way.

With Kapital which is one of Daevid’s compositions, it’s Gong heading towards to prepare themselves to hurtle through the Cosmos (Ren & Stimpy quote for you). It’s the rockets ready for go up into the outer space with throttling guitars, blaring sax’s, reverb vocals of welcoming you to the dream world while the 10-minute voyages continue with Rejoice!

Featuring Steve Hillage’s extraterrestrial textures in the midsections as he slides and experiments throughout his ideas and it is a trip to another world that Gong go forwards into. I love how Cheb’s drumming is making the jump to light-speed and going through the tunnel of stars in various landscapes. It’s a requiem for Daevid Allen as the lines “And sometimes I can hold it in my hands/And nearly have a word for it/But then it slips away/And soon we’re gonna say/Rejoice, I’m dead/At last I’m free.” Shows that now he is in the heavens giving the angels a mind-blowing adventure with his music.

The fanfare opener, The Thing That Should Be begins with a blaring introduction from the rhythm guitars and drums about the afterlife. It has boundaries that shows the touch of the Syd Barrett-era of Pink Floyd in the styles of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and touches of Peter Hammill’s Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night thrown into the mix that gives it a welcoming introduction.

Gong is at their best. And I hope they will do more for many years and years to come and what will they think of next. I am still completely in awe of Rejoice! I’m Dead! So be prepare to join with them as Kavus is the new commander of the Pot Head Pixies as he and his crew mates take you on their flying teapots to boldly go where no man or Radio Gnome has gone before. It will rise to your expectations to see where they will go next.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Richard Pinhas and Barry Cleveland - Mu

It is music that features two guitarists from the realms of Heldon and Lard Free’s Richard Pinhas and San Francisco/Bay Area guitarist Barry Cleveland. Now for me, I’m very new to their music. I’m also new to Pinhas’ music when I heard some of his music with Lard Free 11 years ago when my Mom got me the OOP (Out of Print) 4-CD box set released on the Rhino label entitled, Supernatural Fairy Tales: The Progressive Rock Era with a snarling and Jazz-Avant-Rock territory of Warinobaril. Cut to 2014 when I bought on Wayside Music, his collaboration with Australian multi-instrumentalist Oren Ambarchi entitled, Tikkun. And then I almost forgot about Pinhas.

Until now. Both he and Cleveland had performed together for several years in 2013 when Pinhas was doing his North American tour and played at some of the Bay Area shows with Barry. The two of them invited other musicians including Bass innovator Michael Manring and Brazilian drummer, Celso Alberti. And the four of them created a recording session that lasted four hours entitled on the Cuneiform label, Mu.

Now the word Mu is a Japanese word which means “nothingness”, but it is also the response of Zen’s most famous Koan, gesturing speaking of a deeper truth than rationalizing dualistic thinking that can obtain with a creative mindset. The album itself is a crossover between the genres of; Ambient, Jazz, World Music, Experimental, and Electronic. And they have created with not only the musical improve, but with pure form.

The dark opening of Forgotten Man begins with a swirling mysterious synthesized introduction. With multiple rhythmic textures and Cleveland’s programmed percussions, it feels very much like a Sci-Fi Film Noir as you can imagine of what the gentleman himself will think of his next suspicious move. There is the tension in the rhythm of the music, but also elements between Peter Gabriel and Tangerine Dream’s score to the films of Martin Scorsese’s 1986 controversial classic, The Last Temptation of Christ and William Friedkin’s 1977 film, Sorcerer.

I Wish I Could Talk In Technicolor is a 26-minute suite that takes the listener to these exotic locations as Manrig’s bass is taking you to those locations through his improvisations on the journey you are embarking. It then moves into a midsection with a trippy effect of the electronic background thanks to Alberti’s drum kit before heading back into space.

Cleveland’s shrieking effects of the bowing guitar and Pinhas nightmarish droning shows some reminiscing’s Brian Eno collaboration of the Berlin trilogy with Bowie and bits of Here Come the Warm Jets-era that comes to mind with some of the looping effects. Zen/Unzen sees Richard himself channeling the styles of the Frippertronics with a sonic-spacey craftsmanship as he takes the listener towards to the Abyss.

And then both Manrig and Alberti appear for an outstanding off-the-wall groove as more improvisations and mind-blowing drum work sees the four of them delve into a Space Jazz Rock adventure with a fusion global atmosphere. The closing track, Parting Waves is a somber finale. Here I can feel the vibrations of Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell-era with E-Bow Bass, 12-string guitar layers. And then ending with the sounds of waves, spoken dialogue, and gulls crying out in the background.

Pinhas, Cleveland, Manrig, and Alberti are a perfect collaboration when it to taking a spiritual voyage with Mu. With the electronics and experimental genre followed by Jazz and World Music, I hope that Barry and Richard can continue to do more in the near future for more adventures into the passages of time. If you love bands/artists like David Bowie, Stanley Clarke, Tangerine Dream, and Brian Eno, then dive into the voyages of Mu.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Gunhill - Nightheat/One Over the Eight

John Lawton is a very busy man. From his work with Lucifer’s Friend, Uriah Heep, and the Les Humphries Singers, he’s been around from day one and he is often overlooked and never get recognition's he deserves in the history of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. One of the band’s he formed which would be later known as the John Lawton Band (JLB) is Gunhill.

Formed in January of 1994 and taking their name from a little village in the south of England of Sussex, the band received word-of-mouth from their performance in the UK and did a lot of gigs because of their popularity and did covers from the realms of Deep Purple, Spooky Tooth, The Beatles, Bill Withers, and Whitesnake. That and the release of the 2-CD set reissued and distributed by the Cherry Red label and remastered by Mike Piertini shows the history of the band’s music.

It contains their debut album which is hard to find and out of print released in 1997 entitled, Nightheat and One over the Eight which was originally released on cassette and was a fan club only release in 1995. There are some okay moments on the fan club release of One over the Eight and shows Lawton at his best including four centerpieces that sees Gunhill at their best.

The group do some of their original compositions and some of the covers they do on the 1995 release. Riki Robyns shredding wailing cry and clean guitar pieces on Ain’t No Sunshine sees Lawton doing his soulful arrangements in their take of a melodic rock approach as Riki channels John’s voice near the very end. But Riki delves into the styles of K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton as the cover of Spooky Tooth’s Better By You, Better Than Me sees Gunhill not just paying tribute to Judas Priest, but paying homage of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s.

But it’s their take of Whitesnake’s Walking in the Shadow of the Blues which opens the fan club release of the track that sees Riki playing the booming militant guitar introduction between the rhythm and lead sections channeling Ritchie Blackmore and Gunhill paying homage to Rainbow’s Man on the Silver Mountain while showing their tribute to the sound of Motown in a soulful waltz of Every Little Bit Hurts.

The bonus track, River of Dreams which is the 11th track, at first I felt that Lawton is showing the styles of John Lennon’s Post-Beatles sound, and then the kick of guitars, organ, and it’s a very interesting combination as Lawton himself sings about going through the memories and as the tides go fast, it’s a reflection to see through while we might be gone, the legacy will keep going.

Their debut album released 19 years ago entitled, Nightheat, was released in the mid-to-late ‘90s was ahead of it’s time. It has the heavier and melodic followed by some of the covers on here, could have been released in the early part of the 21st century of the mid 2000’s.

The opener, Don’t Stop Believing has this ‘80s Arena Rock vibe that could have been a hit single, but it has some incantations. There are some selective highlights on Nightheat that I enjoyed on here. You have the passionate and poignant touches of When a Man Loves a Woman, Wall of Silence and Waiting for the Heartache, followed by the driven acoustically ride tuned upwards of looking forward on Don’t Look Back, and one of the Bad Company’s tribute (Post-Rodgers era) for Clearwater Highway are excellent for Lawton and the band to show their soft and hard rock side.

I have to give Glass Onyon a huge amount of credit for getting me into John Lawton’s music from the realms of Lucifer’s Friend. And my take of Gunhill’s music, is that it didn’t grabbed my taste. But there is some amazing takes on here that will make you want to enjoy. What I was a little disappointed about on the 2-CD reissue, is that there is no history about the band’s music with liner notes and that was a big bummer.

All in all, Gunhill’s reissue shows more than just Lawton’s work with Uriah Heep and Lucifer’s Friend. It shows his melodic, hard, and bluesy rock side with Gunhill's music. So I recommend checking this out who admires his music and passion for what he's accomplished.