venerdì, dicembre 30, 2011

Public Foot the Roman - Public Foot the Roman (1973 prog jazz prog uk)

Public Foot the Roman - Public Foot the Roman
I probably shouldn't admit it, but the truth of the matter is I bought this album based entirely on the bizarro band name, the label (Capitol's short-lived Sovereign imprint had some interesting acts on its roster), and the interesting Hipgnosis cover (a bunch of folks standing in the middle of a Chelsea's soccer stadium looking up at what appears to be a UFO). These guys actually had an interesting background. Irish-born singer/guitarist Sean Byrne had been a member the California-based The Count Five who had a classic one-shot single with 'Psychotic Reaction'. When that band fell apart Byrne eventually returned to Ireland where in the early 1970s he ended up as a member of Public Foot the Roman along with lead guitarist Greg Knowles, drummer Jaime Lane, keyboardist Dag Small, and bassist Ward (guess he couldn't afford a last name). Produced by Derek Lawrence who handled a bunch of the Wishbone Ash catalog, 1973's oddly titled "Public Foot the Roman" was kind of an odd hybrid of AOR and progressive moves - occasionally blended together in the same song ('When You Lay It Down'). With Byrne responsible for all eight tracks on the surface that wouldn't sound particularly promising (I can see folks thinking along the lines of a second tier Genesis or Gentle Giant). The fact of the matter is that while there wasn't a great deal of originality here, the band played with considerable energy and with one of two exceptions (the country-tinged 'King for a Day'), this album was a lot of fun to hear. Byrne, Lane, and Small all handled lea vocals, though Byrne seemed to be the most prominent of the three. All of them had decent if slightly anonymous voices that managed to cover the band's entire catalog. For his part Knowles was a truly overlooked guitarist who turned in some first-rate performances on this overlooked set.. That said, the band's secret weapon (well I guess he really wasn't much of a secret) was keyboardist Small who managed to salvage virtually everything he touched. - 'Land Owner' opened the album with a fairly conventional slice of AOR. The highlight came in the form of a nice Byrne and Knowles double lead guitar solo that sounded like it had been borrowed from an early Allman Brothers track. Small kicked in some nice Supertramp-styled keyboards. rating: *** stars - In contrast to the first track, 'When You Lay It Down' found the band diving headlong into progressive rock. Mind you the results were still fairly mainstream with a recognizable and enjoyable melody and some tasty lead guitar and keyboards from Knowles and Small. The album also showcased some very nice harmony vocal work from the band. rating: **** stars - Completely unlike the rest of their catalog 'King for a Day' sounded like a cross between Commander Cody and early UK pub-rockers like Brinsley Schwartz. Once you got over the initial shock, the song kind of grew on you with Knowles turning in a simply blistering Telecaster solo. Very commercial, you could just hear progressive and rock fans scratching their heads trying to figure how someone slipped a pub-rock song on their turntables. rating: *** stars - Probably because it had the highest 'progressive' content and bowed in non-too-subtle aural homage to Yes and other English progressive bands, 'Judas Returns' (along with "Decline and Fall') was one of the two PFTR songs that folks typically acknowledge off the album. If you liked Yes at their most commercial and didn't mind some really dumb lyrics (c'mon, they were from Cambridge, so you couldn't be blamed for expecting something a bit more substantial ("men in shields control our days ..."), then you probably weren't going to have a problem with this one and to be honest, it grew on you after a couple of spins. Unfortunately, just as the Knowles - Small jam was really beginning to kick into gear the song faded out. Shame. rating: **** stars - 'Don't Bite the Hand' started side two off with some more Allman Brothers-styled twin lead guitar opening into a rollicking, fairly straightforward slice of AOR. The guitars saved the song from falling in the also-ran category. rating: *** stars - 'One (On My Mind)' was another atypical performance. With pretty melody and layered harmonies this one sounded a bit like something out of the Crosby, Stills, and Nash catalog (something Crosby might have penned). Small turned in some beautiful keyboards. rating: *** stars - The album's longest and most complex composition, 'Decline and Fall' was another Yes-influenced number that gave Small an opportunity to showcase his impressive array of keyboard talents. Twisting and turning through a series of entertaining segments, the song actually became more focused as it went along and served to showcase some really nice keyboard and guitar interplay by the members. Such jamming normally doesn;t do a great deal for me, but this was one of the exceptions. Very nice. rating: *** stars No, it isn't a lost classic, but it's far better than you would have expected judging by some of the lukewarm reviews. Shame they didn't get a second shot at it. "Public Foot the Roman" track listing: (side 1) 1.) Land Owner (Sean Byrne) - 4:38 2.) When You Lay It Down (Sean Byrne) - 5:40 3.) King for a Day (Sean Byrne) - 3:39 4.) Judas Returns (Sean Byrne) - 6:00 (side 2) 1.) Don't Bite the Hand (Sean Byrne) - 5:05 2.) One (On My Mind) (Sean Byrne) - 4:54 3.) Decline and Fall (Sean Byrne) - 8:31 From RYM (RDten1)

lunedì, dicembre 19, 2011

Out of Darkness - Out of Darkness (1970 uk hard rock prog)

Out of Darkness - Out of Darkness
none too consistent, but very good overall, guitar driven bluesy prog hard rock, with Christian lyrics, and mixed with some softer rock. Grades - 1 A-, 3 B+'s, 2 B's, 3 B-'s, 2 C+'s, and a C. 
From RYM (tymeshifter)

martedì, dicembre 13, 2011

Ark - Voyages (1978 us psych xstian)

Ark - Voyages
Very good, but not extraordinary album. It's a Christian hard rock LP, with a mix of vocal and instrumental material, and featuring good guitar. I think I'll reserve final judgement until after I listen a few more times, but as of now, atleast half the LP is worth a solid B or better.
From RYM (tymeshifter)

mercoledì, dicembre 07, 2011

Phylter - Phylter (1979 Bel prog)

Phylter - Phylter

PHYLTER is an almost unknown Belgium band born in the late 70’s in the borderline that divides Classical Symphonic from Neo Prog, a school that we’ll be adding soon with the name of Neo Symphonic for those bands previous to the birth of Neo but already having some elements of this 80’s sub-genre.The band was formed by Patrick Philips (Organ, Fender Rhodes Piano, Acoustic Piano, Eko Piano, Strings, Synthesizer, Vocals), Marc Van Bortel (Lead Guitar, Vocals), Paul Van Bortel (Bass Guitar, Vocals) and Christian Zaman in the DrumsFor their first and only self titled release in1978 and upgraded to CD the year 1993 by the French Spalax label they counted with Jean-Marie Aerts playing rhythm Guitar ad guest.Despite the almost absolute lack of information, “Phylter” is easy to find in almost any good online music store and it’s a pleasant surprise, their main influence is the 4 men era GENESIS blended with special skills with CAMEL and PINK FLOYD atmospheres plus a bit of fusion.The album is mainly instrumental and the vocals in very good English are simply delightful but their highest point is Patrick Phillippe, an incredible keyboardist from who there’s also rare info.The album has all the ingredients that would make it desirable for any Prog collection, strong and dramatic changes and beautiful melodies, specially in the closer, the excellent 15 minutes epic “Down and Mood for Change”.Honestly can’t understand why they vanished so soon when their material is absolutely strong, if there’s a chance get their album, it’s worth.

lunedì, dicembre 05, 2011

Froggie Beaver - From the Pond (1973 us prog folk)

Froggie Beaver - From the Pond
So here's another one that would have been all but forgotten, were it not to Austrian record collector Hans Pokora who included it in one of his Record Collector Dreams books. A lost progressive classic from Nebraska? We'll I'll admit I was skeptical. First off it turns out these guys were in fact from Nebraska. Guitarist John Fischer, drummer Tom Jackson (replaced by Rick Brown), keyboardist Ed Stasko, and lead vocalist John Troia were in fact cornhuskers who played music on a part time basis. Originally determined to showcase their own material, their efforts were met with indifference which led them to focus on top-40 tunes. They were apparently a pretty good cover band since their performance saw a loyal regional following when they played local clubs such as Omaha's Aquarius Lounge and The Club at Westroads Mall. That in turn gave them an opportunity to incorporate original material in their repertoire and by 1973 they'd made enough money to record this surprisingly impressive album at Omaha's Sound Recorders Studios. Produced by David Sandler, 1972's "From the Pond" was apparently a self-financed vanity project released on the band's own Froggie Beaver label. Interestingly various references I've seen categorize the album as progressive. Technically I guess that's correct since 'Lovely Lady and 'Road To Tomorrow' embed fairly complex musical structures, including some swirling ELP-styled keyboards. That said, be forewarned that if you're looking for hard core progressive moves this probably won't punch your ticket. With Fischer responsible for the majority of the seven tracks (Stasko and Troia co-wrote 'Lovely Lady'), most of the album sported a highly commercial sheen. In fact songs such as 'Buy Back My Life' and the pretty ballads 'Come To Believe' and 'Just for You' would have sounded great on top-40 radio. To be honest the entire album was pretty catchy. Fischer was quite an accomplished guitarist (check out the atypical slice of Pink Floyd-influenced psych 'Away from Home'), while Troia had a likeable voice that could have made a car dealership jingle entertaining. Fisher was also a decent singer. - 'Road To Tomorrow' opened the album with a promising atmospheric instrumental that highlighted Fisher's finger picking talents. Unfortunately, clocking in at less than a minute, it simply didn't have enough time to develop into anything. rating: *** stars - Kicked along by Stasko's Uriah Heep-styled organ flourishes (including an extended solo), 'Lovely Lady' was a decent rocker. Edited down this one would have made a decent single. rating: *** stars - Showcasing Fisher's attractive voice, 'Buy Back My Life' found the band abandoning any effort to hide their commercial orientation. Perhaps the album's most pop-oriented track, this n one would have sounded perfect on mid-1970s radio. rating: **** stars - 'Come To Believe' was a pretty, but rather anonymous singer/songwriter ballad. Easy to image Dan Fogelberg covering this maudlin slice of navel gazing. rating: ** stars - Unlike the saccharin 'Come To Believe', 'Away from Home' was an engaging, slightly acid-tinged ballad. Sporting a nice atmospheric melody, the track highlighted the band's surprisingly impressive group harmonies and a fantastic Fischer lead guitar solo. One of my favorite performances on the album. rating: **** stars - It didn't do much for me at first, but the acoustic ballad 'Just for You' was one of those songs that crept into your head and wouldn't go away. Yes, I'll admit to having found myself humming it ... Imagine a decent Billy Joel song and you'll have a feel for this one. rating: *** stars - The album ended with a short reprise of the instrumental 'Road To Tomorrow'. rating: *** stars Congrats to engineer Ron Ubel who gave the album crystal clear sound. Adding guitarist Steve Beedle to the lineup, the band toured in support of the album; but couldn't generate much interest in the collection (they even camped in front of a local radio station until the station agreed to add the album to their playlist). By 1974 they were history. There's also an earlier non-LP 45 which I've never heard, but is suppose to be quite impressive: 'Movin' On' b/w 'Nothing for Me Here' (Million catalog number 34). The collection has been reissued a couple of times. The Italian Arkama label released it on vinyl and CD with the single added as bonus material. Gear Fab released it on CD. 
From RYM (Rdten1)

sabato, dicembre 03, 2011

The Fallen Angels - It's a Long Way Down (68 us psych)

The Fallen Angels - It's a Long Way Down
I have read the reviews of this that existed at the time I am writing this. It truly saddens me to read some of the less than stellar reviews, because I know that in almost all cases, the reviewers expectations were heightened by the lofty (though well deserved) accolades posted by other reviewers. Approaching any album with such high hopes inevitably leads to disappointment, but especially so in this case. It is a great record, of course, but one that begs each individual listener to arrive at that conclusion them self. We see "psych masterpiece" bandied about in many of these blurbs - it may be, but it certainly isn't overtly obvious. Actually, not all tracks are even psychedelic. Some are merely mainstream vocal pop. Some tracks are imbued with folk flavor. But most are crafted in such a way as to implant a "seed" in your brain that will grow (kind of like The Alien) long after you've stopped listening, and leave you scratching your head and wondering where you heard the tune that refuses to leave your consciousness. As with their first album, most of these songs garner low grades by themselves. But in the context of the album, they swell to much larger consequence. Don't get your hopes too high, and give this an honest listen, or two, or many, and see if it doesn't meet your expectations, perhaps later rather than sooner. Grades - 1 A-, 2 B+'s, 3 B's, 1 B-, 1 C+, and 4 C's. 
From RYM (tymeshifter)

giovedì, dicembre 01, 2011

Morse Code Transmission - II (1972 prog canada)

Morse Code Transmission - II
Hard rock with strong prog flavor. An improvement over their debut. Grades - 3 B+'s, 1 B, and 5 B-'s, quite consistent. 
From RYM (tymeshifter)
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