Folllow Me on Twitter

Friday, September 30, 2016

Van Der Graaf Generator - Do Not Disturb

Receiving the Lifetime Achievement Awards at this year’s Prog Awards, and as I’ve always mentioned with supporters including Mark E. Smith of The Fall, John Lydon, and the late great David Bowie, Van Der Graaf Generator’s music is still challenging. Either you like it or you don’t. This blogger has always admired and supported their music since discovering them on the Prog Archives website 11 years ago. This year, they have released their 13th album on the Esoteric Antenna label entitled, Do Not Disturb.

It is a raw, throttling, sinister, and jaw-dropping album I’ve listened to. One of the things that I love about their new album that while it has the classic Van Der Graaf Generator album, I almost get this feeling that while it might be their last album that they have finally come full circle. I went ahead and bought this album on The Laser’s Edge website last week, and let me say, this is a perfect album and recommended to get show that while as a trio, it shows that they have the goods.

Opener, Aloft brings layered-clean guitar melodies up into the skies from a flight of fancy. Then the music goes through different feels in the song. It’s calm, mid-tempo, and heavy. Alfa Berlina starts with traffic noises, backwards tape, and then echoing reverb of Peter Hammill’s voice as if it was recorded deep in the darker tunnels inside a cave.

The lyrics on here tell the story of the band’s journey they were for 49 years and next year marks the 50th anniversary of their formation. There is the evil vocals that Hammill delves into and I can imagine I can close my eyes and imagine this is almost done in the styles of A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers from the Pawn Hearts album. Shikata Ga Nai is this eerie Accordion instrumental with a Free-Jazz avant-garde composition as it segues into (Oh No! I Must Have Said) Yes.

It’s one of my favorites on the album because of not just some of the heavy riffs on here, but it’s almost a small return of Peter Hammill’s character, Rikki Nadir. Not only that, Peter is channeling the styles of Alice Cooper with the double-tracking vocals. Then it turns into a walking jazzy rhythm thanks to Hugh’s bass lines, laid back tempo from Guy Evans, and Hammill’s guitar goes from Bluesy to a snarling Fripp-sque beast!

This composition is Heavy Jazz-Rock with effects that will make you ear levels go up. Room 1210 is almost like a one-man haunting rock opera. It tells the story of a haunting room number of a hotel that feels very much like the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s The Shining. But it tells a short story of this man’s life being isolated from the world, but then his life is in danger and being caught of his own shadow. And then becoming one of the damned human race at the very end.

Brought to Book is a reminiscent of a roller-coaster ride between H to He Who Am the Only One-era with brushing drums and done the styles of The Emperor in his War Room while Almost the Words is a doing turned riveting rhythm section for the keyboards going a spacey voyage. The closer Go is an emotional mourning farewell as if to say thank you to the fans who have been there from day one and inspiring younger generations for years and years to come.

With Hugh Banton’s ominous church-organ setting almost inside a gothic cathedral and Hammill singing the goodbyes as the last line “There’s the thing for all you know/It’s time to go.” You probably might need some Kleenex for this chilling ending and knowing that it’s time to move on.

For me, I have enjoyed Do Not Disturb and it could be Van Der Graaf Generator’s message to say thank you for the journey that we’ve been on and through all the good and bad times, you have supported us. As I’ve mentioned before earlier in my review, if this is the band’s last album, then the band have finally come full circle.

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.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Emmett Elvin - Assault on the Tyranny of Reason

Emmett Elvin is name you’ll probably recognize. He’s best known for his work with Chrome Hoof, Guapo, and Knifeworld. He doesn’t just play the keyboards, but he can also play Guitar, Bass, Percussion, Recorders, and he can do vocals. He has two albums including one of which it has a collection of material he assembled in his home studio from 1998 to 2005 entitled, Emmettronica. This year, he’s released his third studio album on the Bad Elephant Music label entitled, Assault on the Tyranny of Reason.

He brought along some helping hands including Sarah Anderson (Chrome Hoof) on Violin and Viola, Anna Tam (Mediaeval Baebes) on Cello, Chloe Herington (Knifeworld) on Bassoon, and Alex Thomas (Chrome Hoof) on Drums to name a few. Including guest artists Kavus Torabi on Guitar and the mastering/mixing done by Mark Cawthra. When I first listened to Assault on the Tyranny of Reason, I can hear combinations between Rock In Opposition, Electronic, Folk, and Experimental music.

From the moment you hear Dozy Phantoms, Emmett takes us through this Salvador Dali-sque painting background carnival filled with the cross between the Residents and King Crimson’s THRAK-era before Kavus himself channels his guitar between Devo’s Bob Mothersbaugh, Carlos Alomar, and Adrian Belew to create this haywire yet chaotic effect on his guitar. With the orientations of Chamber Music and Minimalism traditional sounds, he creates these textures that can give chills and goosebumps that can be unexpected.

Heartburster starts off at first with an eerie cavernous composition featuring string and cello sections that feels something straight out of a Tim Burton film for the first 2 minutes and 46 seconds before it signals for liftoff and into space as the transporting rhythmic guitars come into place while the ambient/atmospheric AllWeAreIsLove is a love letter to the Berlin Trilogy of David Bowie’s Low period.

Emmett Elvin is not Leopold Stokowski, but he wants the team to follow him like a conductor and see where the pieces of the puzzle would land and they match it up well to know they got the tempo and beats in the correct order. It’s exampled on Dysnomia-Full Moon. I get the feeling that Elvin along with Anna and Sarah helping on the strings followed by Chloe along with Phillip’s Church Organ, its this cross between Camille Saint-Saens and Alban Berg with a dodcaphonic melody.

The Plankton Suite you can close your eyes and imagine the elements of Canterbury and Zeuhl music combined into one as if Egg and Magma had worked together to create this intense introduction conducted by Terry Riley. It them moves into the midsection with some Twilight Zone-sque mysterious background before the chaotic burst of the dooming Rhodes come barging in and then ending with a nightmarish lullaby scenario.

I was blown away from the moment I put my headphones on for the Assault on the Tyranny of Reason. I’ll admit, it’s not an easy album to listen to, but I always have a love of Tonal and Minimal Music from the 20th Century. And of course the Rock In Opposition movement with an Experimental twist. Emmett shows he’s more than just a keyboardist from Chrome Hoof, Guapo, and Knifeworld, but it shows he can do other things and make it sinister, raw, powerful, and shows it right into the listener's ear.

He combines all these ideas and compositions and put them all together in a Smoothie shake by adding a dosage of wasabi and tabasco sauce to create something that is enigmatic and with industrial strength you can close your eyes and imagine the whole album being performed at a theater for a ballet that will take people by surprise. I can’t wait to hear more from Emmett Elvin and what he will have in store next. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I'm A Freak Baby: A Journey Through the British Heavy Psych and Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-72

This is a killer four hour 3-CD set filled with some heavy psychedelic and proto hard-rock heavy metal voyages from the underground scene that you might want to play this very, very loud. You have some of these bands from that era including some of the big names that would later become successful including Uriah Heep, Fleetwood Mac, and Deep Purple to name a few along with heavy nuggets with The Move, Chicken Shack, and Jerusalem.

Not to mention one of my favorite scenes of the music genre of the Ladbroke Grove scene from The Deviants, Pink Fairies, Hawkwind, and the Edgar Broughton Band that were raw, in your face, and just delving into uncharted territories that will make your skin crawl. The 34-page booklet contains notes by David Wells and the bands contained with historical notes about them.

I just couldn’t get enough of this amazing box set that Grapefruit have unleashed this year. It sounds like an eruptive volcano waiting to burst at the right moment to let the lava come out with blaring guitars, thumping drums, and dooming bass lines. You have some amazing highlights on here including Iron Claw’s Skullcrusher is one of my favorite tracks. There’s some essence of High Tide’s Sea Shanties-era while the roaring punches of Second Hand’s Rhubarb! Which deals with the situation between reality and fantasy was all right there and giving you the situation about television, sins, and dementia with some prog attitude.

Scotland’s own Writing on the Wall’s accordion intro starts off like something straight out of the seas and drinking rum until dawn on a pirate ship before getting into the horror movie settings with a screaming terror with a fearsome and sinister sound for the Bogeyman. Ladbroke Grove’s The Deviants bring the styles of The Fugs with a shuffling garage-rock late ‘60s proto-punk blues on I’m Coming Home as both Edgar Broughton Band and Stack Waddy channel Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band on Love in the Rain and Bring it to Jerome.

The heavily guitar riffs from Tony McPhee would see an influence on Iggy and the Stooges Raw Power-era with The Groundhogs on Cherry Red as the Pink Fairies would be a call psychedelic-punk freak-out taking their name from radical Jerry Rubin’s book Do It which the Rollins Band would later cover in 1987. But you will find some more nuggets and secret treasures that you might want to take note of.

Blonde on Blonde’s staggering Heart Without a Home, the extreme bass riff and fuzztone guitars with a vicious sound of The Mickey Finn’s Garden of my Mind, the essence of early Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin can come in handy with the heavy blues rock of Don Nix’s Going Down done by Chicken Shack, The Move’s early beginnings of Glam Rock with thunderous riffs can get you on the dance floor with the Brontosaurus, and essences of Amon Duul II can be heard with Barnabus’ Apocalypse followed by the styles of Doom/ Stoner Metal of Jerusalem's Primitive Man which was produced by Deep Purple's Ian Gillan.

This is an energetic 3-CD set I enjoyed from beginning to end. I almost headbanged throughout the entire set and I have to admit now that Grapefruit Records know their compilations very well when it comes to finding treasures deep beneath the sand or in the salty ocean. If you admire the Doom Metal, Proto-Punk, Psych-Prog, and Proto-Metal sounds, then I highly recommend you get I’m a Freak Baby: A Journey Through the British Heavy Psych and Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-72.

Dwiki Dharmawan - Pasar Klewer

For me being a champion of a label, something always comes in the mail from MoonJune Records. I get excited to see what lies ahead for my ears to the sounds of; Progressive, Jazz, World Music, and Avant-Garde. It’s like being a kid at a Candy Store and picking what kind you want. And hearing the music coming at you is like a breath of fresh air. The great Albert Einstein once said, “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”

That and Dwiki Dharmawan’s follow-up to So Far, So Close released last year on his international debut on MoonJune Records was for me in my opinion, a powerful release, shows that Dwiki’s got more magical tricks up his sleeve with the release of Pasar Klewer. I have to give Leonardo Pavkovic a huge amount of credit for getting me into Indonesian groups/artists such as Simakdialog, I Know You Well Miss Clara, Sri Hanuraga, and Dewa Budjana.

And with Dharmawan’s music, I feel more challenges that have flown around me and it’s an amazing challenge that has landed on my lap. Amazing moments that have just come around the corner And it proves that Dwiki himself is not just a brilliant pianist and keyboardist, but with an acoustic-driven set throughout the entire 2-CD set, it’s the teamwork and support system that is exampled on here.

With the stimulating opening 12-minute title track, it gives Dwiki’s amazing piano driven techniques. Followed by the staggering and hypnotic virtuoso improvisations done by Mark Wingfield’s guitar through the voyages of time and flying through space, I love how it changes through different motions as Dharmawan, Stavi and Sirkis delve into the intense sections of the Bebop essence of jazz with John Coltrane’s spiritual journey before Yaron’s upright bass hammers down the rhythm and then going up a notch at the end.

Almost as if you are watching the trio really going into town and creating thunderous climatic roars between them. Italian vocalist Boris Savoldelli vocals comes in as he channels the styles of Robert Wyatt’s Forest which was taken from his eight studio album in 2003 entitled, Cuckooland. Savoldelli gives it a different take of the warmth beautiful ballad while Nicolas Meier’s Glissantar lends a help.

On Spirit of Peace which starts off with Atzmon’s eerie clarinet introduction that he starts alone as Daryono’s Kendang percussion creates a dancing joy before Dwiki joins in, Meier enters the page with the styles and wonders of the Flamenco. It’s a wonderful melodic structure between Nicolas and Dwiki as they go through the tempo like a mid-speeding rocket ready for take-off with some middle-eastern background groove and some intense scatting of Konnakol vocal percussion done by Sirkis himself.

Mark comes back into the picture again for another drive. This time on Sirkis’ composition, Life Itself. I love how he channels the styles of both Robert Fripp, Zappa, Steve Vai, and Roger Trigaux (Present, Univers Zero). He is not just out there, but nailing the frets as he bends and shreds through his instrument and the band are following his exact moments as the tempo goes up and up by knowing when the right moment is going to happen. 

And then Nicolas brings the glissantar back for one final moment as Dwiki’s piano moves into the summit for the sun to rise down with the calming yet emotional dignity with Purnama. This is one of the most powerful acoustic driven Jazz albums I’ve listened to. And Dwiki and his band mates show a lot of potential that they brought together as a team. 

I almost nearly wept the moment I put this on from start to finish of Pasar Klewer. Phenomenal, mind-blowing, and poignant, I can’t wait to see and hear what will Dwiki Dharmawan will think of next with more brainstorming ideas.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Bob Downes - Deep Down Heavy

I’ve always have this idea of a telescope of searching for more unsung treasure that has been overlooked and underrated whilst never getting some recognition they deserve. Back in May of this year, I wrote a review for one of the most mind-blowing albums that Esoteric Recordings put out six years ago as a reissue of Bob Downes’ Electric City. And I championed it and spoke of my admiration about the album.

One of the albums that is out there and filled with improvisation, poetry, and field recordings that were done outside of the studio and done in underground trains and on London Buses, was Bob’s third release on EMI’s offshoot label, Music For Pleasure (MFP) and reissued by Esoteric back in 2013. His third album entitled, Deep Down Heavy is very much like you as a listener, can close your eyes and following Downes and travelling to the streets of London in 1970 as if he is your guide along with his bandmates and being in awe of where they would head to next.

I can imagine Bob and his crew doing a line dance on the sidewalk to follow a marching beat from the bass riff, drums, and rhythm guitar as he sings his heart out and playing the Flute to keep the tempo going on Poplar Cheam in the night as you can hear cars driving the avenue and always to make sure to look both ways carefully and walk across the street.

The essence of the sound of ‘70s Soul/Funk/Blues 12-bar shuffle can get you into some twists and turns a-la James Brown touches to the mix, but with the essence of the ‘70s Blaxploitation score with a funky punch for Don’t Let Tomorrow Get You Down. But you can hear the streets as Bob travels to the parts of London.

Including riding on The Wrong Bus as he felt that the Bus was taking to Holborn, but it wasn’t and dropping a few quid for an amazing mandolin improvisation in the underground at Oxford Circus for a session fee on Jasmine. Robert Cockburn’s poetry on Hollow Moment starts off with a silence as Cockburn adds the tale before the heartbeat effect increases before ending it an abrupt silence.

Then you have Bob’s softer side. He goes into the ballad and tiny bits of a bossa-nova groove with some spellbinding flute exercises delving We All Enter In as Circus Rising closes the album is Downes himself singing round and round through as Laurie Allen’s drumming is almost watching Bob’s every move as he both sings and plays his sax and flute towards the end as if he saying goodbye to the listener as he heads down towards the underground station.

I have to admit for the first listen, I didn’t catch me. But it wasn’t until the second and third listen, I started to understand why it remains of an oddity of its release on a budget label. I’ll admit, it’s not an easy album to listen, but Bob himself is a visionary of both Jazz, Jazz Rock, and Free-Jazz. He can take the listener wherever he takes him.

The 12-page booklet contains an interview with Bob Downes by Sid Smith, promos of the album, pictures of both Bob and Robert Cockburn in Downes’ flat in 1970. Esoteric know their reissues very well and for me, I had an amazing journey listening to the field recording and hypnotic essence of Jazz-Soul-Avant-Funk Rock of Bob Downes’ music. Just be prepared to go into the stations, the streets of London, and the Buses for Deep Down Heavy.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Gilli Smyth - Mother

This review of Music from the Other Side of the Room is a special dedication of the space whisperer, poet, singer, co-founder of Gong, and simply known as Shakti Yoni herself, Gilli Smyth. She passed away on August 22nd of this year at the age of 83. This year, Esoteric Recordings have reissued her first solo album released in 1978 entitled Mother.

Gilli left Gong in 1974, she co-founded with Daevid Allen at the end of 1967, as she was getting ready to start a family and prepare to spend time with her children including their preparation of the birth of their second son, Orlando Monday Allen. While she toured with the band and deep into pregnancy and returned during the summer of that year to record their fifth album and the third in the final chapter of the Radio Gnome trilogy, You. It came time for her to focus on being a mother than going on the road with Gong.

She had this clear vision of how her debut solo album should sound and with Daevid’s original mixing notes of how it should be sound which is evidential in the 16-page booklet, his technical and mixing ideas were right on target for Gilli’s vision of what the album is supposed to be sound. It is an amazing, atmospheric, whimsical, avant-garde, and spacey twist with Gilli’s vision of the spiritual and feminist political touches which goes straight back to the beginning of Gong’s second studio album, Camembert Electrique in 1971 during the sessions at the Chateau d'Herouville.

The 3/4 waltzy jazz-space rock featuring the fuzzy sound of Didier Malherbe’s Sax goes into the ultimate trip of a lifetime of whispering vocals from Gilli through echoing effects and walking bass line and Allen vocalizations shown through on Shakti Yoni. The emotional opener, I Am a Fool features Vera Blum’s violin riding into the solar system as Gilli takes her spoken-word poetic reminiscent's of Allen Ginsberg into toe.

It segues with a phone conversation from various people of who they are, and the voice of Orlando’s babbling comes into place as it segues of a surrealistic voyage of who they are and they head Back into the Womb. The down-home acoustic folky bluesy acoustic guitars from Pepe Milan and Joan Bibiloni, hears the people of sound effects with a political structure on Next Time Ragtime while the jazz-rock ambient meditation takes a leap into some tense moments as it builds up before ending with Taliesin Allen chanting “Liar, Liar Pants on Fire” five times as it fades off.

The usage of an onomatopoeia is evidential on the essences of a ticking clock in the style of a metronome and ominous effects between the wind instruments, bass, drums, and guitar creates this moody nightmarish technique. And then Didier himself, in the last minute of the composition, just hammers it down to create the tightness as it ascends as Gilli and the band close it off with a haunting finale on Time of the Goddess.

The Acid Avant-Folk closer with narrations of a story that she adapted from the Mabinogion which were compiled in the 12th and 13th century entitled, Taliesin, is not for the faint of the heart for bedtime stories to read to your children. It is one of the most chilling compositions but Gilli and the vocal arrangements done by Anna Camp, has touches of Gong and Medieval musical twists.

Mother is not an easy album to listen to. But it is a touching, stirring, and powerful albums I’ve listened to. Alongside the original mixing notes of Daevid’s instructions of the album’s mix, it includes photos of Gilli herself and liner notes done by Gong expert, Jonny Greene. I nearly cried throughout the entire album, not just the loss of Gilli, but how she took the ideas and made it a mind-blowing adventure into a creative wonder. And the abilities on here, it’s a wonder. And a must have for any Gong fan. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Gary Wright's Wonderwheel - Ring of Changes

In the words of Mark Twain from Chapter 25 of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, “There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy’s life when he was raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.” That’s what you want to do is to go on an exploration to find the lost and sunken pieces that never saw the light at the end of the tunnel. And for Gary Wright, it’s the gem that is finally getting the recognition it deserves of the lost album that is finally getting the release from the good people of Esoteric Recordings.

Ring of Changes is released this year from the label and is considered a lost gem of the 1970s era of rock music. After the release of the controversial album between Spooky Tooth’s collaboration with musique concrete artist Pierre Henry of the Ceremony album in 1969 on the Island label, Wright left the band to pursue a solo career in January of 1970 after the band broke-up. He signed a deal with the A&M label and released his debut album, Extraction in the Spring of that year.

He worked with people including Alan White (Yes), Klaus Voorman, and Spooky Tooth’s Mike Kellie. And then he had the opportunity to work with the late great George Harrison to work on the 1970 classic, All Things Must Pass. When his second album, Footprint was released in 1971, it didn’t do well. He then decided to form a band with the people he worked with including Mick Jones of Foreigner on Guitar, Bryson Graham on Drums, and Tom Duffey on Bass.

He called it Wonderwheel. The Ring of Changes album was recorded at Apple Studios on Saville Row. Listening to this album, you can almost close your eyes and be at the sessions and just imagine the magic that Wright and his fellow bandmates were creating magic during the recording of the album. It’s powerful, raw, strong, bluesy, and heavy at the same time.

Everything was going according to plan. When they sent the tapes to A&M Records, the label decided to shelve it. They felt it wasn’t up to his first two albums. The music industry can be treacherous at times when they would say ‘no’ and would shelve a piece of music right out of the blue. And now with the Esoteric release of the lost album finally released this year, it is for me, one of the must have albums to buy.

You have the raw riffs between Mick Jones and roaring/melodic vocals from Wright himself as his Organ takes into deeper, heavenly, and potential sections of the opener, Lovetaker. It is a great introduction to start the album off with a cannonball ready to go off for a dosage of Hard and Blues/Soul Rock. The encouraging riding rhythm gets you going as it demonstrates with Something For Us All.

It’s got the vibrations that between Jones, Duffey, and Graham show that while they have Gary’s back 100%, it could have been a killer single for FM radio to delve in for the ride of their lifetime. But it’s George Harrison’s sliding guitar that comes into place for a killer Bluesy ride and it shows that he’s not just a Beatle anymore, but lending a helping hand for Gary before going into a mourning singing of saying farewell in the bit of Carole King’s Tapestry-era and Badfinger with Goodbye Sunday.

I love how Wright takes the style of Church, Gospel, and Blues and rolled it into one as he takes the listener up to the heavens with some sliding guitar sections on the romantic side to be in love with the woman that you need to be with For a Woman. You can Gary’s pleading in his voice and his almost begging and crying whilst on his knees to be with the woman who will be with him the rest of his life and start a new family and be a better father figure for their kids.

He goes into a heavier rockin’ mode in the styles between Led Zeppelin and early UFO and styles of Jimmy Page-sque riffs really gets down and have a raunchy feel by Workin’ on a River while strolling down into the Mississippi for an Acoustical bluegrass-folk R&B vibe to Set On You. The three bonus tracks on the album contains two singles and a session track.

There’s also a 16-page booklet about the making of the album and the formation of Wonderwheel. It includes liner notes by Mark Powell and an interview with Gary Wright himself about what happened to the shelved project and finally getting the recognition it is deserving about the e-mails he received on when he was going to release the album, Ring of Changes.

The booklet contains single 45RPM promo pictures and with Gary’s performing also. All put aside, this is again, the album that I have enjoyed not just because it’s released, but it’s like opening up a door that is dusted for 40 some odd years and finally clearing and remodeling it up a bit and releasing the energy it has with its voltage and electricity to get you ready of Gary Wright and Wonderwheel’s exploration toward the Ring of Changes.