вторник, 30 июня 2009 г.

суббота, 23 мая 2009 г.

The Free Design

The commercial failure of the Free Design remains one of the most baffling mysteries in the annals of pop music -- with their exquisitely celestial harmonies, lighter-than-air melodies and blissful arrangements, the group's records were on par with the work of superstar contemporaries like the Beach Boys, the Association and the Cowsills, yet none of their singles even cracked the Hot 100. The Free Design originally comprised siblings Chris, Bruce and Sandy Dedrick, natives of Delevan, New York whose father Art served as a trombonist and arranger with Vaughn Monroe; when Chris moved to New York City in 1966 to attend the Manhattan School of Music, he recruited Bruce (now living on Long Island) and Sandy (a teacher in Queens) to form a folk group, and soon the trio emerged as a popular attraction on the Greenwich Village coffeehouse circuit.

In time Chris began composing original material for the Free Design to perform, and with the assistance of their father, the siblings cut a demo, ultimately signing with producer Enoch Light's audiophile label Project 3. The title track from their 1967 debut LP Kites Are Fun was also their first single, cracking the Top 40 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart but reaching only number 114 on the pop chart -- somewhat amazingly, it was the Free Design's biggest hit. Another Dedrick sister, Ellen, joined the group after graduating high school, making her debut on 1968's You Could Be Born Again. "2002--A Hit Song," from 1969's Heaven/Earth, satirically addressed the Free Design's continuing inability to make a commercial impact, but still the group's chart woes continued, and with their next effort, 1970's Songs for Very Important People, they targeted a new audience -- children.

Stars/Time/Bubbles/Love, also released in 1970, returned the Free Design to their adult constituency; after issuing One by One two years later, the group was dropped by Project 3, at which time they relocated from New York to Canada. There Chris Dedrick recorded a solo album, Be Free, which went unreleased; signing to the Ambrotype label, the Free Design recorded one final LP, 1973's There Is a Song, before disbanding in 1975. In the years to follow, Chris remained the most musically active sibling, forming the choral ensemble Star Scape Singers as well as arranging and composing for the Canadian Brass. He also won a series of Gemini Awards for his scores for Canadian film and television productions. By the 1990s, hipster favorites including Cornelius, Pizzicato 5 and Louis Philippe were regularly citing the Free Design as a key influence, resulting in the 1998 release of Kites Are Fun: The Best of the Free Design. The new millennium saw the Free Design convene for another album -- 2001's Cosmic Peekaboo -- which gathered Sandy, Chris, and Bruce Dedrick back together again.

Chris Dedrick (guitar, trumpet, vocals, recorder)
Sandy Dedrick (keyboards, vocals)
Ellen Dedrick (vocals, percussion, 1968-1972)
Bruce Dedrick (guitar, vocals, trombone, 1966-71, 2001)



The Free Design - There Is A Song - 1972 (US) Pop Rock, Vocals, Jazz Pop, Folk Rock

There Is a Song was the last Free Design record the group made until 2001's Cosmic Peekaboo. It was recorded during a time of change for the group and the Dedrick family, as the group had parted with its label, Project 3, and Chris Dedrick moved to Canada. The album was released on the tiny New York label Ambrotype and was even easier to ignore than their other releases. Luckily for fans of the band, Light in the Attic rescued it from its fate and put the album out on CD, because it is definitely worth hearing. The group moved away from the big arrangements and orchestras of its past releases; most of the album is anchored musically by simple acoustic guitars and colored in subtly by just a few horns and strings. Their rich vocal harmonies hadn't changed at all, however, as Chris and sisters Ellen and Sandra sound as innocent and star-struck as ever. Despite its obscurity, the album holds some of the group's finest compositions and performances, like the relentlessly upbeat "Canada in Springtime," the sweetly spiritual "Peter, Paul and Mary," the bouncy "I Wanna Be There," and the breathtakingly clear-and-cool title track. The Dedricks fell in with a philosophy professor named Arthur Mills while in Canada, and many of the songs have a trippy, deeply felt intellectual point of view that comes from his teachings. As Chris says in the liner notes, they were exploring new definitions of love, freeing themselves from previously held notions of love, and opening themselves up to the possibilities of love and life. Songs like "The Symbols Ring," "Love Does Not Die," and "There Is a Song" delve into these issues, but manage to escape being pedantic or clunky by being so wonderfully melodic and beautiful. In fact, the entire record is beautiful, and while it doesn't have any jaw-dropping moments like "Kites are Fun," "Bubbles," or "My Brother Woody," the album may be the group's most fully realized and rewarding endeavor.

A1 Canada in Springtime 2:27
A2 Kum Ba Yah 3:15
A3 Peter, Paul and Mary 4:12
A4 Pineapple Crabapple 3:08
A5 The Symbols Ring 3:46
B1 Stay 2:53
B2 I Wanna Be There 3:17
B3 There Is a Song 3:01
B4 A Child Is Born 3:18
B5 Love Does Not Die 3:42
B6 Chorale 1:12
B7 Fugue 2:03

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The Free Design - One by One - 1971 (US) Pop Rock, Vocals, Jazz Pop

This 1971 record would be the last one the band would record for Project 3, and while it may lack some of the great songs that marked their earlier records, it's still marked by charm. Sounding more like the Carpenters than the Association, the band indulge in some covers and light funk, and end up making a record that occasionally betters either of those. On par for a Free Design record, they serve up music and arrangements that are as light and breezy as you can imagine, but the lyrics are often bitter and pointed -- often attributed to the band's frustration at their lack of success. Musically, the harmonies and tight arrangements are in fine form. The opening and title track, "One by One" soars, while "Felt So Good" shows the markings of a new decade with it's less crystallized production, happy, laid-back guitar, and punching horns. Brass sections make repeat appearances on the record, with "Like to Love" aflutter with spirited horn arrangements and hip-swinging ultra-light funk, and their cover of "Light My Fire" uses muted horns and ends up evoking the sounds of some proto-quiet storm radio broadcasts. The high point of the record is the impossibly simple light rock of "Friendly Man," with its orchestral flourishes, country-rock guitar, heavenly harmonies, and the chorus of "friendly man/friendly person." When the tambourine kicks in and the big sing-along refrain follows it's endemic of everything that is great about the band. Another high point of the record is the mid-paced piano ballad "Going Back." The album ends thunderously with "Friends." It's a grandiose affair with a big buildup (a multitude of electric guitar squeals) and a heavy air of drama that almost seems to point out that the band knew they were at the end of their tenure as undervalued pop songwriters.

A1 One by One 3:47
A2 Felt so Good 2:53
A3 Friendly Man 3:32
A4 Light My Fire 4:38
A5 Like to Love 2:06
B1 You Are My Sunshine 5:15
B2 Go Lean on a River 3:04
B3 Going Back 2:43
B4 Love Me 3:17
B5 Friends (Thank You All) 6:45

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The Free Design - Sing for Very Important People - 1970 (US) Sunshine Pop, Vocals

The Free Design always sounded a bit like a pop group for children, and they made the leap there themselves on their wonderful 1970 album Free Design Sing for Very Important People. Inspired by Peter, Paul & Mary's Peter, Paul and Mommy album and the fact that all of the Dedricks were parents by then, the record collects some of their kid-friendly previously released songs like "Kites Are Fun," "Bubbles," and "Daniel Dolphin" and adds some songs written and recorded for the project. The tunes they came up with are among their best; "Don't Cry, Baby" is harmonically rich and lyrically charming, "Ronda Go 'Round" sounds like a song angels might make up to keep themselves happy while floating through the heavens, and "Love You" is a bubbling a cappella delight. They also cover a few songs, turning in a sweet version of "Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?," a reverent and solemn "Children's Waltz," a chamber jazz take on "Scarlet Tree," and a loping "Little Cowboy" (which was written Art Dedrick, the siblings' father). The Free Design's almost unbearably light and sweet feel, their flowing harmonies, and their lyrical and musical childlike sense of wonder make the record a smashing success artistically. It's too bad not many kids got a chance to hear it at the time -- the world might have turned out to be a much mellower place. At least we can spin it for our very important people now.

A1 Don't Cry, Baby 3:04
A2 Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street 2:12
A3 Children's Waltz 4:15
A4 Scarlet Tree 2:10
A5 Little Cowboy 3:50
B1 Love You 2:25
B2 Ronda Go 'Round 2:33
B3 Bubbles 2:15
B4 Daniel Dolphin 3:27
B5 Kites Are Fun 2:34
B6 Lullaby 1:28

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The Free Design - Stars/Time/Bubbles/Love - 1970 (US) Sunshine Pop, Vocals, Jazz Pop

On the Free Design's 1970 record, Stars/Time/Bubbles/Love, not much has changed with the Dedrick clan. The group's amazing vocal harmonies are still very much in evidence, the lush arrangements are still fuller than Grizzly Adams' beard, and the songs, like the cute and silly "Kije's Ouija" and the finger-snappingly groovy "Keep Off Your Frown" (which sounds like an unlikely cross between Oscar Brown, Jr. and the Zombies), are still lighthearted and fun. Most of the songs sound like they exist in the the Dedricks' own strange little world of harmony and childlike innocence; the only one that sounds influenced by the times is "I'm a Yogi," which has sitars, a mild psychedelic break, and groovy lyrics. It sounds more like Yogi Bear than the Maharishi, but then that is the charm of the Free Design. The record is filled with some of the band's best work: the bouncy, perky "Bubbles" (a song later covered by Dressy Bessy on the Powerpuff Girls soundtrack record); the sweet "Butterflies Are Free," which features the Dedrick sisters on lead vocals; the brash (for them) "That's All, People," which sounds like a lost Jimmy Webb track, with great vocal interplay among the siblings; and the strangely bossy Christmas tune "Close Your Mouth (It's Christmas)." The only track that falls short is their cover of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," which is the rare Free Design effort that sounds like run-of-the-mill elevator music. Pretty much any Free Design recording is going to be a treasure for fans of intelligent, witty, and above all, sophisticated sunshine pop. Stars/Time/Bubbles/Love is no exception.

A1 Bubbles 2:15
A2 Tomorrow is the First Day of the Rest of My Life 3:40
A3 Kije's Ouija 3:12
A4 Butterflies Are Free 2:42
A5 Stay Off Your Frown 2:43
B1 Starlight 2:53
B2 Time and Love 2:50
B3 I'm a Yogi 4:19
B4 Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head 3:00
B5 Howdjadoo 1:55
B6 That's All People 2:29

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The Free Design - Heaven/Earth - 1969 (US) Psychedelic Pop, Sunshine Pop, Vocals, Jazz Pop

1969's Heaven/Earth is the Free Design's third album. It carries on the tradition of excellence the group's first two albums had firmly established. It was also very much of a piece with the rest of their output -- no big changes. The record is overflowing with beauty and weirdness and lush arrangements with plenty of groovy touches that instantly date the record but also give it a hipness that is lacking in other MOR vocal group records. However, the true genius of the band is the fresh clear voices of the Dedrick siblings and the way Chris Dedrick arranged them. Tunes like the swinging "Now Is the Time," the witty and alarmingly cynical "2002 - A Hit Song," and the quietly inventive version of "If I Was a Carpenter" have sublime and unusual vocal harmonies that soar and swoop like psychedelic eagles, always surprising and often breathtaking. Some of the other tracks here worth mention are the sweet samba of "My Very Own Angel, Girls Alone," which features Sandy and Ellen harmonizing over a full big-band arrangement, and the moody and quite amazing "Dorian Benediction," which manages to sound like the Electric Prunes with Miles Davis sitting in and the hippest monks on earth chanting along. Heaven/Earth is worth a listen by anyone who likes vocal harmony and the sweet, innocent sounds of sunshine pop.

A1 My Very Own Angel 3:00
A2 Now Is the Time 2:14
A3 If I Were a Carpenter 3:17
A4 You Be You and I'll Be Me 2:34
A5 Girls Alone 3:55
A6 2002 - A Hit Song 2:34
B1 Summertime 3:36
B2 Where Do I Go (From "Hair") 2:14
B3 Hurry Sundown 3:04
B4 Memories 3:39
B5 Dorian Benediction 4:27

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The Free Design - You Could Be Born Again - 1968 (US) Psychedelic Pop, Sunshine Pop, Vocals

The Free Design's second album offers fewer original songs than its predecessor, but a sound every bit as fresh and original as that earlier album. Chris Dedrick provides the title track, an upbeat, uplifting piece, not as hauntingly beautiful as "Kites Are Fun," but pretty in its own right, and followed by the ethereal "A Leaf Has Veins." The quartet also takes the risk of inviting comparisons with their West Coast rivals, the Mamas & the Papas, turning in a swinging rendition of "California Dreamin'," as well as gorgeous, ornate covers of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" and Bonner & Gordon's "Happy Together," though perhaps the best moment here is their harmonized cover of Duke Ellington's "I Like the Sunrise" from "The Iberian Suite." The overall tone of You Could Be Born Again is more subdued and sophisticated than the group's debut, but it is also a more elaborate album musically, with a larger array of support musicians. The originals -- of which the prettiest examples are "I Found Love," "Daniel Dolphin," and "Ivy on a Windy Day" -- mesh nicely with the covers into a beguiling whole with a slightly spacy, psychedelic tone beneath its quiet elegance.

A1 You Could Be Born Again 2:38
A2 A Leaf Has Veins 2:30
A3 California Dreamin' 2:25
A4 The Windows of the World 2:33
A5 Eleanor Rigby 2:44
A6 Quartet No. 6 in D Minor 2:40
B1 I Like the Sunrise 3:37
B2 I Found Love 2:42
B3 Daniel Dolphin 3:27
B4 Happy Together 2:54
B5 Ivy on a Windy Day 2:39
B6 An Elegy 3:22

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The Free Design - Kites Are Fun - 1967 (US) Psychedelic Pop, Sunshine Pop, Vocals

This 1971 record would be the last one the band would record for Project 3, and while it may lack some of the great songs that marked their earlier records, it's still marked by charm. Sounding more like the Carpenters than the Association, the band indulge in some covers and light funk, and end up making a record that occasionally betters either of those. On par for a Free Design record, they serve up music and arrangements that are as light and breezy as you can imagine, but the lyrics are often bitter and pointed -- often attributed to the band's frustration at their lack of success. Musically, the harmonies and tight arrangements are in fine form. The opening and title track, "One by One" soars, while "Felt So Good" shows the markings of a new decade with it's less crystallized production, happy, laid-back guitar, and punching horns. Brass sections make repeat appearances on the record, with "Like to Love" aflutter with spirited horn arrangements and hip-swinging ultra-light funk, and their cover of "Light My Fire" uses muted horns and ends up evoking the sounds of some proto-quiet storm radio broadcasts. The high point of the record is the impossibly simple light rock of "Friendly Man," with its orchestral flourishes, country-rock guitar, heavenly harmonies, and the chorus of "friendly man/friendly person." When the tambourine kicks in and the big sing-along refrain follows it's endemic of everything that is great about the band. Another high point of the record is the mid-paced piano ballad "Going Back." The album ends thunderously with "Friends." It's a grandiose affair with a big buildup (a multitude of electric guitar squeals) and a heavy air of drama that almost seems to point out that the band knew they were at the end of their tenure as undervalued pop songwriters.

A1 Kites Are Fun 2:38
A2 Make the Madness Stop 3:09
A3 When Love Is Young 2:55
A4 The Proper Ornaments 2:49
A5 My Brother Woody 2:38
A6 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) 2:52
B1 Don't Turn Away 3:59
B2 Umbrellas 2:28
B3 Michelle 3:13
B4 Never Tell the World 2:32
B5 A Man and a Woman 3:04
B6 Stay Another Season 4:35

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среда, 7 января 2009 г.

RON ASHETON, 1949 - 2009

It's a sad day for rock and roll. Legendary Stooges' guitarist Ron Asheton was found dead in his home today at the too-young age of 60. Iggy Pop's flailing, half-naked gyrations might've drawn the crowds, but The Stooges wouldn't have rocked nearly as hard without the distinct churn of Asheton's guitar.

Cervello – Melos – 1973 (IT) progressive rock

Nothing short of an incredible, but little known gem of Italian prog. If you like the sound of OSANNA's "Palepoli", then you need this album. In fact, CERVELLO featured guitarist Corrado Rustici, still in his teens at that time, who was the brother of OSANNA guitarist Danilo Rustici, so the OSANNA comparisons can't be avoided. And like OSANNA, CERVELLO consisted of saxes, flutes, bass, drums, and of course, vocals. The saxes and flutes are tamer (none of the flutes here are TULL-like, unlike OSANNA). Corrado Rustici's guitar work is in the vein of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA's John McLaughlin (which should come as no surprise as McLaughlin was one of Corrado's guitar heroes). 
The original LP comes with a gimmick cover on the Ricordi label, in which Si-Wan Records in Korea nicely replecated to CD size when they reissued it on CD (I believe the current CD reissue on BMG/Ricordi is packaged the same way as Si-Wan). 
Regardless, this is an absolute must for those who enjoy Italian prog.

- Antonio Spagnolo / 6 & 12 string acoustic guitar, bass, pedal, recorder, vocals 
- Giulio D'Ambrosio / electric sax (contralto & tenor), flute, vocals 
- Corrado Rustici / guitar, recorder, flute, vibraphone, vocals 
- Gianluigi Di Franco / lead vocals, flute, small percussion 
- Remigio Esposito / drums, vibraphone

1. Canto Del Capro (6:30) 
2. Trittico (7:14) 
3. Euterpe (4:27) 
4. Scinsicne (T.R.M) (5:39) 
5. Melos (4:55) 
6. Galassia (5:45) 
7. Affresco (1:11

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Pulsar – Pollen – 1975 (FRA) space rock

Incredible, if not a bit underrated debut from this French prog band. The music here tends to be mellow, but a bit more experimental than their following albums. This is their only album where they sing in French (their following albums, they sing so unintelligibly, you can't tell if they're singing in English or French, or both - but of course, those are great albums too). The only English you here here is some spoken dialog. The keyboard setup is basically the Solina string synths, the ARP 2600 synthesizer, and piano. Oddly the Mellotron isn't present here (but is on their following two albums). Mainly mellow prog, this is great stuff, and a classic debut.

- Victor Bosch / drums, percussion 
- Gilbert Gandil / guitars, vocals 
- Roland Richard / flute, strings 
- Jacques Roman / keyboards, synths 
- Philippe Roman / bass, vocals 
- Carmel Williams / voice (3)

1. Pulsar (3:00) 
2. Apaisement (7:30) 
3. Puzzle / Omen (8:00) 
4. Le cheval de Syllogie (7:00) 
5. Pollen (13:05)

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Pulsar – The Strands Of The Future – 1976 (FRA) space rock/progressive rock

Pulsar's second album, 'The Strands of the Future', is one of the definite and undisputable masterpieces of French prog, and together with their next recording 'Halloween', incarnates the band's peak in terms of inspired writing and skillful performing. Their style keeps on being somewhat inspired in 73-75 era Pink Floyd, but there are also obvious references to Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre's electronic excursions (powerful presence of multiple layers of synths and mellotrons), and also some compelling pastoral passages of flute and acoustic guitar in the 3-minute coda. All this complex sonic whole is perfectly manifested in the top-notch 22-minute namesake suite. In fact, this very suite might as well be referred to as the definite Pulsar song, since it not only encapsulates the various recurring musical flavors that make up the band's style, but it also takes those flavors to a magnificent level - the motifs and arrangements are masterfully crafted under the progressive banner at its most essential. The guitar solos that go reappearing here and there stand somewhere between Hackett's hypnotic vibe and Fripp's free flooding dissonances, most of the times creating interesting dialogues with the synth leads, but securing a starring role everytime they come to the fore. The brief sung section is mesmeric, and so are the synth lines and layers that are displayed through all remaining sections, spacey, symphonic and places in between. You can tell that this is your typical poetically passionate French prog, but not in the sense of Ange/Mona Lisa (theatrical, cynical), bue in a more melancholy, introspective mood, something like a psychological travel into the deepest and most obscure realms of the individual self, which explains why Pulsar's sound tends to be so inescrutable and tetric so recurrently. This suite may as well be worth the whole album... but there are still other good things to enjoy, the other three remaining tracks that occupied side B ofthe vynil. 'Flight' is a brief instrumental that alternates jazzy colours in the opening and closing sections, with a nice, languid interlude in between. 'Windows' is a dense symphonic ballad, which allows the band to explore in its own "Pinkfloydness". A special metnion has to go to the delicate flute lines that create surrounding colors around Gandil's lead voice. The stunning closing number 'Fool's Failure' (its final section is a clear homage to that of PF's 'Welcome to the Machine') is yet another particular highlight in Pulsar's discography: 'Fool's Failure' recaptures partially the somber magic of the namesake suite, giving this recording a "full circle structure", so to speak. Gandil's chanting gets somewhat Hammillian at times, albeit focusing on the melancholic timber and not goig to as many places as Hammill himself (well, the point was not emulting him, right?).

- Victor Bosch / drums, percussion 
- Gilbert Gandil / guitars, vocals
- Roland Richard / flute, strings 
- Jacques Roman / organ, Mellotron, bass, synthesizers

1. The strands of the future (22:08) 
2. Flight (2:37) 
3. Windows (8:47) 
4. Fool's failure (10:17)

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Pulsar – Halloween – 1977 (FRA) progressive rock

After their spaced-out debut, Pulsar released their second album Strands Of The Future that sounded drastically different, presenting a very Genesis-based symphonic prog that would actually pave the way (and in a way pre-face) for future neo-prog groups of the 80’s and give Ange a run for its money in terms of national sales. With their third album Halloween (recorded in Switzerland), Pulsar reached their artistic peak, even earning a release on an international CBS label. 
The album is made from two multi-movement suites sung in English (reminiscent of future Fish ambiances in Marillion), but I must say that the “romantic” (both in the literal and visual sense) artwork always looked suspicious and actually still repel me a bit even nowadays and the storyline seems rather thin and derived from more famous children storytelling. Sound-wise Pulsar still retains the Floyd soundscapes that was their trademark, but the Genesis influence was more notable than on their previous two albums. Although there are lots of delightful moments, Pulsar’s sense of writing long epics still leaves some (lots at times) space for improvements: ideas succeed to ideas but are not leading into one another. Those two epics seem a bit too much like a collage of the different shorter tracks (9 in all, ranging from 1 min 30 to 9 min+) without a succession of chords that the greater groups would’ve managed.
And while Pulsar had everything to gain with the promotion of this album, their CBS label (where they had a three-record deal) suddenly decided for obscure reasons not to promote it, cutting Pulsar’s wings, as they were about to soar towards unsuspected heights. But this was 77, the French public being one of the first markets for the advent of punk music with the Mont-De-Marsan in 76 being the first international punk festival. This maybe explaining that, but as much as Pulsar is hailed as a superb prog group, I never thought of them as likely to break the big leagues simply because although musically good, they were never great virtuosi and songwriters. I will round up the rating to the upper unit, but this is more academic than really heartfelt.

- Victor Bosch / drums, percussion, vibes 
- Gilbert Gandil / guitars, vocals
- Michel Masson / bass guitar 
- Roland Richard / flute, clarinet, acoustic piano, strings 
- Jacques Roman / keyboards, Mellotron, synthesizers, 
Guest musicians:
- Xavier Dubuc / congas 
- Sylvia Ekström / child voice (1a) 
- Jean-Louis Rebut / voice (2e) 
- Jean Ristori / cello

1. Halloween part I: (20:30) 
a) Halloween song (1:20) 
b) Tired answers (9:30) 
c) Colours of childhood (6:00) 
d) Sorrow in my dreams (3:40) 
2. Halloween part II: (18:40) 
a) Lone fantasy (4:50) 
b) Dawn over darkness (6:10) 
c) Misty garden of passion (2:15) 
d) Fear of frost (3:35) 
e) Time (1:50)

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Corte Dei Miracoli - Corte Dei Miracoli – 1976 (IT) progressive rock

One of the more underrated Italian progressives, at least to these ears. Kind of like a lower-key version of Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, with more understated (but still excellent) vocals. No guitar (save for a guest appearance by Nico di Palo of the New Trolls on the opening track), but the same dense, dual-keyboard action as Banco. And as it was probably their first experience with a high-tech, multi-track recording facility, the drummer saw fit to fill up all the free tracks with every percussion instrument he could lay his hand on (tons of temple block and bongo fills on this album!). Some folks actually complain about this, me I find it gives this album a distinction that is totally its own. Absolutely worth having.

- Alessio Feltri / keyboards 
- Riccardo Zegna / keyboards 
- Graziano Zippo / vocal 
- Flavio Scogna / drums, percussions 
- Gabliele Siri / bass 
Guest musician: 
- Vittorio De Scalzi / guitar

1. ...E Verrà L'Uomo (7:00) 
2. Verso Il sole (6:34) 
3 .Una Storia Fiabesca (6:52) 
4. Il Rituale Notturno (7:12) 
5. I Due Amanti (13:40)

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Quella Vecchia Locanda – Quella Vecchia Locanda– 1972 (IT) progressive rock

The first release from QUELLA VECCHIA LOCANDA and in my opinion one of the all time Italian prog greats. This excellent debut album has a strong PFM-like attitude with loads of violin and classical themes. Songs are delicate and exceptionally well performed with warm precision. Imagine great 70's sounding keyboard work layered with flute, violin and great guitar work and you have got QVL. As you listen to this album four toes will be tapping and you hands will be moving as this music captivates your motor reflexes. QVL draw on some pretty heavy classical interludes to build their music on. Along the way we are treated to many thematic mood swings and tempo changes. This album has many standout tracks which combine the classical underground 70's Italian sound with a solid blend of tranquility and beauty. Vocals are very expressive and are full of harmonic textures.

- Massimo Roselli / piano, organ, Mellotron, Moog, electric sitar, cembalo, vocals 
- Giorgio Giorgi / lead vocals, flute, piccolo 
- Patrik Traina / drums 
- Romualdo Coletta / bass, frequency generator 
- Raimondo Maria Cocco / electric & acoustic & 12 string guitars, vocals 
- Donald Lax / electric & acoustic violin

1. Prologo (4:59) 
2. Un Villaggio,Un'illsione (3:54) 
3. Realta (4:13) 
4. Immagini Sfuocate (2:59) 
5. Il Cieco (4:11) 
6. Dialogo (3:41) 
7. Verso La Locanda (5:15) 
8. Sogno, Risveglio E... (5:15)

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Quella Vecchia Locanda – Il Tempo Della Gioia – 1974 (IT) progressive rock

"Tempo Della Gioia" is a prog album with stronger classical influences than what is usually expected. In fact, instruments like violin, flute, classical guitar, piano, and harpsichord dominate over electric guitar, bass, and drums(which do appear sometimes). QUELLA VECCHIA LOCANDA were also influenced by early jazz, and tend to mix it with classical on some of the later pieces (very unique I must say). The vocals are excellent, and typical of most 70's Italian prog bands. They are never harsh or overbearing, but rather soft, warm, and melodic. Anyway, this album is a classic!

- Claudio Gilice / violin 
- Giorgio Giorgi / vocals, flute, piccolo 
- Massima Giorgi / bass, contrabass, vocals 
- Massimo Roselli / vocals, keyboards 
- Patrick Fraina / vocals, drums 
- Raimondo Cocco / vocals, clarinet, guitar

1. Villa Doria Pamphili (5:27) 
2. A Forma Di (4:07) 
3. Il Tempo Della Gioia (6:15) 
4. Un Giorno, un Amico (9:39) 
5. È Accaduto una Notte (8:16)

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Delirium – Dolce Acqua – 1971 (IT) progressive rock

DELIRIUM's "Dolce Acqua" is a wild concaution of Jazz, Prog, World and Psychedelic influences yet always retains that Characteristically 70's Italian influence. Musically this album explores a wide range of impressions with some great flute, piano and percussive passages... lots of gentle syncopation. Vocals are deep and full of emotion. Songs are quite rhythmic and heavily centered on a the melodic aspect... even some orchestration. This album unveils many highs for this music lover with its wide spectrum of bright and bouncy colors and sounds. Although 70's sounding throughout, "Dolce Acqua" leans much more on the Jazz-prog arena than many of the heavy Ital-Prog albums of its era and most certainly that of their second album. One of the most remarkable aspects of this album for me lies in its sound reproduction which comes to life in the CD re-mastered version. Sonically this album offers great wide speaker separation and clear definition making the performers sound as if they are in your living room. Might be one of the best recorded albums of 1971... Captivating and then some!!- Ivano Fossati / lead vocals, acoustic & electric flute, acoustic guitar, recorder, harmonica - Marcello Reale / bass, vocals 
- Peppino Di Santo / drums, percussion, timpani, vocals 
- Ettore Vigo / piano, organ, electric piano, celesta, vibraphone, cembalo, prepared piano, harmonium 
- Mimmo Di Martino / acoustic guitar, vocals

1. Preludio (Paura) (3:39)2. Movimneto I (Egoismo) (4:31)3. Movimento II (Dubbio) (3:26)
4. To Satchmo, Bird and Other Unforgettable Friends (Dolore) (5:38)
5. Sequenza I e II (Ipocrisia - Verità ) (3:36)
6. Johnnie Sayre (Il perdono) (4:48)
7. Favola o storia del Lago di Kriss (Libertà) (4:22)
8. Dolce acqua (Speranza) (5:49)
9. Jesahel (4:05)

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Delirium –Viaggio negli arcipelaghi delTempo – 1974 (IT) progressive rock

Third and final album by this Italian prog band. This album has been a little more difficult to review than some other prog albums, but here goes. At times they remind me a little of JETHRO TULL, especially the flute. Aside from the flute, musically they don't remind me of TULL. Sometimes they explore a more folk-y style, like the opening cut, but then they start going in to lengthy prog passages, dominated by Hammond organ and piano (with some electric piano). Vocals are in Italian, and they tend to be harsh (reminding me of LOCANDA DELLE FATE's Leonardo Sasso with a hoarse voice) and needs getting a little used to. Strings are used from time to time as well. But the one thing bothering me is the keyboardist is credited to using Mellotron but I sure don't notice any. Still, this album is worth having if you're in to the Italian prog scene.

- Pino Di Santo / drums, percussion, vocals 
- Martin Frederick Grice / flute, saxs, vocals, keyboards 
- Marcello Reale / guitar, bass, vocals 
- Ettore Vigo / piano, moog, organ, vibraphon, Mellotron, vocals 
- Mimmo Di Martino / guitar, vocals

1. Il Dono (4:17) 
2. Viaggio Negli Arcipelaghi Del Tempo (4:45) 
3. Fuga N.1 (7:40) 
4. Dio Del Silenzio (2:55) 
5. La Battaglia Degli Eterni Piani (6:42) 
6. Un Uomo (2:06) 
7. Viaggio N.2 (4:33) 
8. Ancora Un'alba (2:33)

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Samadhi – Samadhi – 1974 (IT) progressive rock

A somewhat slicker take on Italian prog, but still quite good. This one is pretty low on most people's lists, but I was very pleasantly surprised by it. I think the vocals are actually really great, as are the string arrangements, though they are admittedly a bit more conventional and a bit saccharine (not as much as Hunka Munka though). There are also some grooving horn arrangements, quite a rarity for Italian prog, especially for 1974.

- Luciano Regoli / vocals 
- Nanni Civitenga / guitar 
- Aldo Bellanova / bass, acoustic guitar 
- Stefano Sabatini / keyboards 
- Sabdro Conti / drums 
- Ruggero Stefani / percussion 
- Stevo Saradzic / flute, sax

1. Uomo Stanco (4:05) 
2. Un Milion d'Anni Fa (4:47) 
3. L'Angelo (3:11) 
4. Passaggio di via Arpino (5:55) 
5. Fantasia (3:38) 
6. Silenzio (5:10) 
7. L'ultima Spiaggia (8:25)

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Circus 2000 – An Escape From A Box – 1972 (IT) progressive rock

The Italian progressive rockers CIRCUS 2000 offered up an attention-grabbing profusion of moody progressive rock enchantment. This gatefold LP reproduction strikingly remasters the original recording for more sonic value and lucidity than ever before.
"An Escape From A Box" was originally released in 1972 on the RiFi label and was subsequently re-released in the vinyl and CD formats by Akarma Records in 1999.
The progressive rock elements are strong although the influences of jazz fusion exist with reference to the guitar work of Marcello Quartarone. Lead singer Silvana Aliotta sounded like Lulu with a European accent. By adding her fluttering butterfly voice to the mix with strong classical and operatic overtones, their sound took on a distinct exclusivity. Her voice was flexible and she could have easily been on the cutting edge of the opera circuit rather than on the cusp of groundbreaking progressive rock. She had a lot of range, which gave her fellow musicians tremendous freedom to experiment and play extended compositions.
Side 2 clearly demonstrated the band’s ability to create full-length pieces that convincingly stretched their musical wingspan in an impressive fashion.

- Silvana Aliotta / lead vocal, percussion 
- Marcello Quartarone / electric & acoustic guitar, vocal 
- Gianni Bianco / bass, vocal 
- Franco Lo Previte / drums

1 Hey Man 6:15
2 You Aren't Listening 4:58
3 Our Father 6:12
4 Need 8:36
5 When the Sun Refuses to Shine 7:42

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Bubu – Anabelas – 1978 (Argentina) progressive rock

BUBU's "Anabelas" is one of the most complete prog albums to have come out of Argentina in the 1970s. "Anabelas" consists of three long epic compositions, and features mostly instrumental music that sounds like a cross of early KING CRIMSON, MAGMA and ÄNGLAGARD. BUBU was quite a large band and actually with a wide range of talent and instrumentation. Along with the traditional rock set-up (guitar, bass, and drums), the band featured a violinist, flutist, saxophonist, and pianist. Each composition is filled with intense interaction between the musicians, dozens of melodic surprises, and unexpected tempo changes. Their music is complex, energetic, and diabolical in a KING CRIMSON-ish sort of way. Very surprising is that there is no noodling and very little soling to be found here and although does offer a pretty trippy and wild musical experience, never gets too out of control or becoming un-accessible for the listener. Without a question this is an awesome recording and a necessity in anyone’s progressive rock collection. Absolutely brilliant progressive rock...!

- Sergio Polizzi / violin 
- Cecilia Tenconi / flute, piccolo, bass flute 
- Win Fortsman / tenor sax, words 
- Petty Guelache / lead & backing vocals 
- Eduardo Rogatti / guitar 
- Eduardo "Fleke" Folino / bass 
- Eduardo "Polo" Corbella / drums, percussion 
- Daniel Andreoli / composition, arrangement

1. El Cortejo de un Día Amarillo (19:25) 
2. El Viaje de Anabelas (11:12) 
3. Sueños de Maniquí (9:16)

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Sahara – For All The Clowns – 1975 (GER) krautrock

Previously known as Subject Esq., it seems they changed name to Sahara to get out of a redundant contract with CBS. Personnel wise, the only difference in Sahara was a new keyboardist (Hennes Hering from Out Of Focus), and a full-time lead guitarist. With a proliferation of multi-instrumentalists, a mass of keyboards and various wind instruments, it was no surprise that the album SUNRISE should be quite different. In fact, it's an odd album! Two of the tracks on side 1 do develop the Subject Esq. sound on a more progressive and classical rock spiced front (they sandwich a duff country number, that's best forgotten). But it's the instrumental 27 minute "Sunrise" suite that's the most extraordinary, a winding excursion that ranges from Camel to The Cosmic Jokers, from Pink Floyd to Pulsar, from... you get the idea?! It's a cosmic fan's nirvana. Over a year and a half on, a few minor personnel changes, including Holger Brandt from Missing Link, and a much more distinctive sound developed. As witnessed on FOR ALL THE CLOWNS, really it was back to Subject Esq., with an overdose of progressive influences, notably Focus, Caravan and Yes, and a potpourri of other styles. The results were a very complex and sophisticated progressive, and an album that is still very fresh and surprising. It's a shame that after this Sahara disbanded.

Hennes Hering (keyboards)
Michael Hofmann (flute, woodwinds, Moog, Mellotron, vocals)
Alex Pittwohn (harmonica, tenor sax, vocals)
Harry Rosenkind (drums, percussion)
Stefan Wissnet (bass, vocals)
Nick Woodland (guitars)
Holger Brandt (drums)
Günther Moll (guitar, vocals, bass)

1. Flying Dancer 3:23 
2. The Source Part I & Part II 7:10 
3. For All The Clowns 10:59 
4. Prélude 1:05 
5. The Mountain King Part I & Part II 13:20 
6. Dream Queen 5:05 
7. Fool The Fortune 1:19

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Holger Czukay & Rolf Dammers – 1968 (GER) krautrock

Holger Czukay's first solo album was this experimental foray which fuses ambient, world music and an early form of sampling, a good 10 years before anybody else in the rock music field even started to get to grips with any of those ideas. Working with producer/engineer Rolf Dammers, this album was assembled from thousands of snippets recorded from short wave radio, a long standing obsession of Czukay's which he also incorporated into some of Can's later albums. For many years it was a real rarity, as only 1000 copies were printed and it was only released in Germany. The CD reissue includes a one-off recording of a brief jazz composition from German radio, which was Czukay's first broadcast work. 
The first piece, Boat-Woman-Song, opens with a flurry of tape loops which settle into an irregular but compelling rhythm. The piece unfolds gradually, with a pair of Vietnamese singers (recorded from a short wave broadcast) providing the main melodic development. One of Czukay's charcteristic minimal bass lines is added to the sound collage part way through, and gives the piece a real impetus until it fades away (along with the singers) a few minutes before the end. The piece gradually fades away, having mutated and developed in an unexpected but very subtle manner - as with a lot of the best minimal music, you're left wondering exactly how we got to 'here' from 'there'. The second piece, Canaxis, is altogether more abstract but equally fascinating. There is no focal point to grab the attention until about half way through, when what sounds like a Japanese koto plays a simple but haunting melody over the constantly evolving sound collage. The closing piece, Mellow Out, is a short composition for guitar, bass and sax which, despite being in a very different style to the rest of the album, fits the general mood nicely.
Canaxis has scarcely dated since it was released 36 years ago, and is an impressive album from one of the most intelligent and innovative musicians rock music has produced. Recommended.

- Holger Czukay / bass, tapes, editing, engineering 
- Rolf Dammers / co-producer, general support

1. Boat-Woman-Song (17:26)
2. Canaxis (19:37)
3. Mellow out (2:08) 

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City - Am Fenster – 1977 (DDR) hrautrock

Originating from what was at the time East Germany, City are virtually unknown to this day outside their native country. The band are rightly listed on this site as Prog related, that relationship being largely down to their one prog epic and best known song "Am Fenster". That song appears on this the band's first album released in 1978, supported by a further 5 songs. "Am fenster" (at the window) was originally released as a highly successful single, the album version being an expended version in 3 parts. The five songs which make up the first side of the original LP are well crafted but rather undistinguished blues/guitar rock. The lyrics are all in German although the sound is rather British; those looking for Krautrock need to look elsewhere. There are hints of bands such as Wishbone Ash (especially in "Nachts um halb eins") and Golden Earring ("Traudl" is more than a little like "Radar Love"). 
"Meister aller Klassen" (Master of all classes) is a slower guitar driven power ballad which tells the tale of an over ambitious motorcyclist. The appearance of flock like violin played by Georgi Gogow on "Der King vom Prenzlauer Berg" offers a pleasing additional dimension to the song.
It is though to "Am Fenster" that we look for the band's piece de resistance. This 17+ minute suite is made up in three contiguous parts, opening with the acoustic "Traum". Here, violin and acoustic guitar combine in a slightly folk influenced melody, the violin gradually swelling the sound in a manner similar to the middle section of Curved Air's "Vivaldi". The section ends abruptly as ticking clocks and chimes introduce the brief "Tagtraum". This simply acts as link to the main part of the suite, which is also titled "Am fenster". Here we find the first vocals of the track, but violin continues to dominate instrumentally. The track now finds a rhythm and a hook, the relentless violin acting as the catalyst for the development of the song into a hypnotic daydream (Tagtraum). While the song did find significant success in East and West Germany, and indeed in some other parts of Europe, it failed to find an audience in the lucrative markets of the English speaking countries. Such an injustice has befallen many bands who record in their native language, examples such as this merely emphasising how fine music is ignored simply because of the language used.
In all, this is something of a "Tarkus" with one superb side long number, and a collection of good but unremarkable supporting songs. Highly recommended simply for "Am fenster" though.

- Fritz Puppel / guitars
- Klaus Selmke / drums
- Georgi Gogow / bass, violin
- Toni Krahl / vocals

1. Es ist unheimlich heiß (4:30)
2. Der King vom Prenzlauer Berg (4:55)
3. Nachts um halb eins (3:55)
4. Traudl (3:15)
5. Meister aller Klassen (5:35)
6. Am Fenster (17:40)
I) Traum
II) Tagtraum
III) Am Fenster

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City - Der Tatowierte – 1979 (DDR) hrautrock

Unlike the A-side songs from their debut, the tracks here are all top-flight rock & roll, with “Der Tätowierte” (also the title of the Amiga edition of this LP) probably the high point. Also, the band are stretching out and becoming more exploratory, with “Aus der Ferne” being a wonderful ethno-folk experiment involving violin solos and sitar. But the absolute high point, in my opinion, of the band’s entire career (not merely this album) is “Bulgarien-Rock,” nine minutes of frenetic Guru Guru-like power-guitar intensity.

- Fritz Puppel / guitars
- Klaus Selmke / drums
- Georgi Gogow / bass, violin
- Toni Krahl / vocals

1. Aus der Ferne (5:15)
2. Bulgarien Rock (9:20)
3. Der Tätowierte (5:00)
4. Wenn ich mal was sagen will (1:26)
5. Nur die Nächte gehören uns (3:02)
6. Biggi (3:58)
7. Dizzy (3:30)
8. Der Optimist (5:08)
9. Wo ist das Glück (5:03)

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Brainstorm – Smile A While – 1972 (GER) krautrock

Brainstorm's debut offers an odd twist on jazz-rock, throwing in bits of Canterbury and Frank Zappa, as well as the Dutch band Supersister. The record starts off with the explosive energy of the instrumental "Das Schwein Trugt," a fast piece of complex prog-jazz. "Zwick Zwick" follows, beginning at an only slightly slower pace, with some wild flutes and clarinets over a choppy rhythm, and then halfway through the guitar, bass, and organ rip into the mix to add a furious energy to the piece. Though the album is mostly instrumental, a couple tracks offer quirky song structures, the very short "Watch Time Flow By" and a couple short sections in the long title track, while "Snakeskin Tango" has someone moaning in anguish and the middle section of "Bosco Biati Weiss Alles" contains strange wordless vocal drones. Through it all, Brainstorm has crafted top-notch music that combines the manic energy and flippancy of rock with the loose fluidity and chops of jazz, with dynamic arrangements, a sense of humor, and excellent musicianship. The CD also includes five bonus tracks that are in a similar vein to the album cuts, though these can be found on the From Fashion Pink to Brainstorm disc as well.

Rainer Bodensohn (flute)
Eddy von Overheidt (keyboards)
Enno Dernov (bass)
Roland Schaeffer (saxophone, guitar, vocals)
Jo Koinzer (drums)

1. Das Schwein Truegt (4:40) 
2. Zwick Zwick (4:40) 
3. Watch Time Flow By (1:29) 
4. Bosco Biati WeiB Alles (8:59) 
5. Snakeskin Tango (2:20) 
6. Smile A While (15:34) 
7. You Are What's Gonna Make It Last (live) (3:31) 
8. Don't Forget (live) (0:25) 
9. Thesen & Antithesen (live) (14:01) 
10. Einzug Der Elefanten (4:09) 
11. You Knock Me Out (3:03)

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Brainstorm - 2nd Smile – 1973 (GER) krautrock

The second record by Brainstorm, from 1973, reveals even more variety to this German group's take on Canterbury jazz-rock. The album starts off with a spacy keyboard drone, dripping water noises, and gentle acoustic guitars, and just when you think you have the track, "Hirnwind," pegged as a mellow folk number, it becomes hyperactive progressive jazz-rock, with propulsive rhythms and lots of furious electric guitar, organ, flute, and sax, with some goofy wordless vocals thrown in. Other tracks also have that abrupt unpredictability, as Brainstorm's compositional prowess is even more developed, especially on the complex songs of "My Way" and "Marilyn Monroe," which feature a lot of changeups and different moods and tempos. They also do an ultra-funky arrangement of Leon Thomas' "There Was a Time," a standout on the disc. Though this record is energetic, it doesn't quite achieve the same manic overdrive of some of the material on their debut, Smile a While. Second Smile presents a more mature group, though one that is still a lot of fun, especially on the vampy "Marilyn Monroe" and wild "Hirnwind," the two songs that bookended the original album. The only weak cut is the bonus track, "You're the One." This single is a remake of "You Are What's Gonna Make It Last" from Smile a While, but tries to pump it up with a more conventional rock sound that is less interesting than the rest of the album.

Rainer Bodensohn (flute)
Eddy von Overheidt (keyboards)
Enno Dernov (bass)
Roland Schaeffer (saxophone, guitar, vocals)
Jo Koinzer (drums)

1. Hirnwind (5:43) 
2. Herbst (3:40) 
3. My Way (8:12) 
4. Affenzahn (4:47) 
5. There Was A Time (7:09) 
6. Marilyn Monroe (8:32) 
7. Bonus: You're The One (2:50)

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