Issue #16 Extra!: Reissues & Archives

Haystacks Balboa - "Detoxified"
Spirit - "1984"
Hans Reichel & Eroc - "The Return of Onkel Boskopp"
Outer Limits - "Misty Moon"
Elka Atanasova - "Winds of the Rhodopes"
Jorge Reyes - Ek Tunkul
VA - "A Bead to A Small Mouth"
Gualberto - "Sin Comentario"
David Garland - "Control Songs"
Grobschnitt - "Grobschnitt"
Herbe Rouge - "Herbe Rouge"
Sensitiva Immagine -"E Tutto Comincio Cosi..."
Edgar Froese - "Ages"
Ash Ra Tempel - "The Best of the Private Tapes"

Ash Ra Tempel - "The Best of the Private Tapes"

(Purple Pyramid CLP-0299-2, 1998, 2CD)

Ash Ra Tempel is one of the core founder bands of the German space rock movement along with Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. But the group has suffered from less stateside notoriety as those previous bands. For those of you uninitiated (including myself), The band is guitarist Manual Gottsching's brainchild with varying personnel. The core musical concepts center on electric guitars with foundation synths in endless improvs across this sampler two disc set. The Best of includes representative tracks from the monster six disc set previously available only from mail order. There are excerpts of longer tracks (which retain the essence of the main piece extracted from), plus one special bonus track not included on the larger set. Gottsching's guitar playing is very emotive, not unlike a less effects drenched Andy Latimer (Camel) or Edgar Froese on a more restrained day. The odd track, Der Lauf der Giraffen appears to be dramatic departure from expectations with nice fuzzy solo backed by a real band. Some techno influences can directly be traced back to a few tracks such as the mostly sequenced Disk two is characterized by continuing modern updates to the sound as the band evolved from the seventies through the eighties with more predominance toward newer keyboard gear and less guitar playing. Excellent informative liner notes are provided which give a concise career overview for novice discoverers. The Cleopatra label has done well to bring a band of this European stature to a wider, more appreciative audience. Suffice it to say, I'm now a member of the converted and hope we may yet see a stateside live performance. - Jeff Melton

REISSUES

Haystacks Balboa - "Detoxified"

(Audio Archives AACD024, 1970/1997, CD)

This one came out around 1970, a one-off by a New York based band whose members weren't even listed on the LP jacket, and were never heard from again, so far as this writer knows. For some unknown reason the CD reissue has been retitled (original album was s/t) and given new artwork. The lineup, a five-piece is apparently one or two guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards (organ, piano, harpsichord), with at least two members sharing vocals. The material is split between more typical hard rock, with typical influences of the day (early Heep, Sabbath, Grand Funk and Mountain come to mind), acoustic ballads, and longer multi-part suites, the latter of which show some definite qualifications as early progressive rock. Even some theatrical Arthur Brown like stuff going on in "Auburn Queen", a lengthy track with a great instrumental section which closed side one of the original LP. "The Children of Heaven" is one of the shorter hard-rockers with an unusual chord progression and instrumental break featuring great organ and guitar solos with harpsichord backing. But it's the nine minute, four-part "Ode To The Silken Men" that shines the brightest of all. While this may not be a long lost prog classic, it certainly is a fine snapshot of one piece of the developing progressive scene. - Peter Thelen

Spirit - "1984"

(Head discs, 1997, CD)

Be warned, this is not an authorized release - not even close. What we have here is (a) one track ("1984") recorded live in Bremen in 1969 (no further details...), (b) the entire original 1973 demo version of "Potatoland", rejected by Epic (13 studio tracks in all) and (c) the better part of a live show from Boston, May 15 1970 featuring live versions of the following tracks (regardless what the tray insert may say): "Fresh Garbage," "Jealous," "The Guitar Lesson," "It Shall Be," "Poor Richard," "Groundhog," "I'm Truckin'," "New Dope In Town," "Drum Solo" and "Mechanical World". While the legitimate release of the original Potatoland demos is long overdue (and implied therein is some cleanup and proper mastering), this boot is a satisfactory collector artifact, although the sound quality is no cleaner than tapes of the same demo that have been circulating for nearly 25 years. The live material from the "Boston Tea Party 1970" broadcast has also been around on cassette for about as long as one can remember, and sadly the versions here don't sound any closer to the original source recordings than what has circulated before. In the '69/'70 period numerous Spirit shows were recorded off soundboard to open reel, yet hardly any have surfaced as boots. What happened to all these tapes? Overall, this disc is recommended only to the hardcore Spirit fan who already has everything. - Peter Thelen

Hans Reichel & Eroc - "The Return of Onkel Boskopp"

(Repertoire REP 4688-WY, 1982/97, CD)

Careful. This is HANS Reichel; not to be confused with another German experimentalist - ACHIM Reichel. The Reichel featured here is known for constructing home made string instruments, and performing solo. Here he is flanked by former Grobschnitt percussion man, Eroc. For the most part Reichel offers up a beautiful multi-layered guitar style, like an avant version of Michael Rother. Or a more melodic Fred Frith. Like Frith though, he succumbs to buffoonery, adding silly vocal noises and deliberately out-of-tune violin that is neither funny nor interesting to an old curmudgeon like I am. But fortunately it isn't overdone. Originally I had expected a guitar-only approach. But that can't be, as he covers a much wider spectrum of instruments: from raunchy distorted guitar, to bass, synth, samplers and violin. If all these sounds were produced by guitar only then give the guy a medal! Percussion work is rather thin on the ground, barring a drum machine here and there, so dominant a performer is Reichel. Soundwise "The Return..." is practically in a genre of its own. A certain whimsy and bizarre personality pervade it, sometimes bringing to mind Eno's "Taking Tiger Mountain". That kind of crossover between oddball rock that can't get its footing, with a concurrent futuristic yearning and a dash of the traditional, especially in some of the dance forms like waltz and such. The mind tends to get a bit dazed bouncing around between styles. Latin beats and even circus music don't go untouched. I may be completely stumped, but it's a successfully done boundary breaker to be sure! - Mike Ezzo

Outer Limits - "Misty Moon"

(Musea FGBG 4241.AR, 1985/97, CD)

Musea continues to unearth the most unknown and rare albums from the annals of obscure progrock history. Outer Limits were a pretty original Japanese band from one of the darkest times in prog history, the mid-80's. While the keyboardist Shusei Tsukamoto, drummer Nobuykuki Sakurai and violinst Takashi Kawaguchi form the core of the ensemble, the band is regularly augmented by bass, guitars, and additional keyboards as necessary. The use of violin here is pretty remarkable. Kawaguchi is a very nimble, fast, and accurate player, showing a real aptitude for classical sonata motifs. In fact, the entire band has a penchant for that type of purely classically-oriented symphonic rock. And when it works, it works beautifully. The instrumental opener "Prelude" has some truly beautiful and sensitive moments in it, despite the banal and dated mid-80's cheezoid drum and pop-bass sounds which horribly plagued so much music from this era. When compared to other Japanese bands of the era (Fromage anyone?) Outer Limits certainly had the potential, and they often succeeded, in rising above their peers. But there are some truly embarrassing moments here as well. The lead vocal of "Misty Moon" (sung in English, but with a very unnatural accent) reeks of third-rate Duran Duran clone when the rest of the music is on another higher plane altogether. Moments of neo-prog slip thru the cracks here and there, but somehow Outer Limits achieve a sound which is deeply structured, richly symphonic, and has a dose of fusion in places also. Although there are a few really rough spots which will be next to impossible not to skip through, there are some very well-done passages which deserve to be heard. "Misty Moon" is a textbook hit and miss record. - Dan Casey

Elka Atanasova - "Winds of the Rhodopes"

(Si Wan, 1991/97, CD)

Back in the early nineties, when the Bulgarian Woman's Choir was making the rounds, a diminutive but fire breathing 19-year-old violinist from the same country released this promising debut work. How Si Wan stumbled upon "Winds of the Rhodopes" I know not as it sits well outside their normally conservative domain of 70's European reissues (where, just like those zillions of reissues coming out of Japan ten years ago, Italy rules supreme). This album, her only one that I know of, presents Elka's violin in a context that is equal parts jazz-rock fusion a la Jeff Beck, and native influences, backed up by drums, keyboards, and two performers of Bulgarian and Turkish string instruments. As with any Dixie Dregs recording you must be prepared for some style jumping. But the way Elka blends Balkan folk elements into the jazz-rock matrix is flawless. Her violin's blistering strings wail, cry and moan, taking no prisoners. Exemplary is "Humble Bees and Scorpions", where she takes Rimsky- Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" as a motif; likewise "Paganinski Overdrive Horo(r)" is a Paganini-esque barn burner with guitar and violin in perfect unison. If you have ever heard some Bulgarian traditional music then you'll see clearly where she is drawing upon her native musical customs. Not as note-for-note authentic as Ivo Papasov; thus more eclectic and malleable. Especially on the two quiet pieces, her serene vocal melts seamlessly into the background texture, without that irritating vibrato that makes Papasov's singer unbearable. Elka's playing exudes poise and a well-rounded demeanor; virtuosity on the one hand, but tempered by melancholy and a melodic sensitivity promising great appeal to non- specialists. This one was a real gem and it would be a shame to see it get overlooked. Dixie Dregs fans in particular would eat it up. A tad early though for reissue, when the original, on the German Erdenklang label, is still readily available from Backroads Music, and elsewhere. But anyway here is another place where you can get it. - Mike Ezzo

Jorge Reyes - Ek Tunkul

(Spalax 14977, 1987/97, CD)

I must have been sleeping at "Best-of-'97" voting time as this old favorite managed to slip right out from under my nose. "Ek Tunkul" was Jorge Reyes' very first (and best) solo recording from back in 1987, three albums before he went native. Ten years later it gets digital release. Liner notes on the reissue are extensive, containing historical information, examples of poetry and songs, precise instrumentation for each track, a bio of Reyes, even a glossary of terms concerning the music and the indigenous instruments used. There are even three bonuses. So far so good. Where I get confused however is in the cover presentation: gone is the colorful exotic painting depicting an ancient Aztec landscape. In its place is a monochromatic design featuring a portrait of an unidentified Hispanic woman, with the title in bold letters "Authentic Precolombian Music - Ek Tunkul". Nowhere (except in micro-print at the bottom of the back cover) does Reyes' name even appear! Why the deception, Spalax? When I first saw it I thought the dealer from whom I purchased it had made a mistake. Furthermore, even a non-expert could soon figure that this is NOT authentic pre-Columbian music at all, but rather a fascinating amalgam of mid-70's Tangerine Dream, with native Mexican percussion, electric guitar, and a vocal treatment that echoes classic Popul Vuh, forming a sound that is totally original and unprecedented. Neither overtly technofied, nor verbatim ethnic, this work traverses that bridge between the traditional and modern - a testament to the man's talents that while a kajillion people occupy a similar genre, no one sounds remotely like Jorge. What a treat to finally have this on CD. Just be careful if you see it in person; you wont find the composer's name. It's a long way from Chac Mool, and I give it an unhesitating seal of approval. - Mike Ezzo

VA - "A Bead to A Small Mouth"

(Barooni BAR001, 1989/1997, CD)

Each track on this compilation integrates spoken text and sound manipulation, with results both mysterious and captivating. On "A New Dress" Nurse with Wound layers shifting, hypnotic metallic tones behind a crematorium worker's disturbing account of how he suffered at the hands of the Miami police as a result of his mentally disturbed wife's false accusations. Particularly unsettling is his description of highway patrolmen burning frogs with cigarettes. Graeme Revell (of SPK) and Anthony Mannix's eerie, cryptic "A Concise History of the Machine" and "The Skull" occupy a strange twilight territory suggestive of a Poe/Kafka collaboration recited by Robert Ashley during a sleep deprivation experiment. The poetic, dreamlike "A Concise History of the Machine" is particularly provocative in that its epigrammatic text inquires into the varieties of significance technology holds for humanity, while other industrial artists appropriate machine sounds and imagery in a less analytical fashion. "Chapter and Verse" by Mother Tongue does not rely on the literal meaning of it text (which is slight), but its echoing, percussive sculpted sound is not without interest. Zoviet-France's "White Dusk" eradicates any distinction between text and music, collaging verbal fragments in a jarring, arrhythmic fashion suggesting the patience-straining extremes of academic musique concrete. The Revell/Mannix tracks alone merit the price of admission; it's unfortunate that Revell's Hollywood soundtrack success has taken him from the arena of such fascinating experimentation. - Michael Draine

[dist: Soleilmoon, PO Box 83296 Portland OR 97283 USA, www.soleilmoon.com]

Gualberto - "Sin Comentario"

(Lost Vinyl LV-018, 1977/96, CD)

Spanish guitarist Gualberto Garcia Perez offers up an instrumental album "without commentary" and lets the music do the talking. Gualberto first came into prominence with the group Smash, and followed with a variety of other projects including solo material and chamber music. On this album, he draws from several inspirational sources and appropriately plays several different instruments as well. With the exception of one song, all instruments on all tracks are performed and programmed by Gualberto. Interestingly, one track features him on sarod and sitar - not the most common of Spanish instruments. The flamenco influences are certainly there, but so also are those of Frank Zappa (check out the last track "Chaparron De Verano" for example) and some of the jazz masters as well. Most of the guitar work is on the electric and clearly that is Gualberto's specialty. He realizes a really wide variety of tones throughout the album. Some of the parts where he plays electric leads on top of traditional- sounding acoustic backdrops are quite nice with an interesting contrast between the long sustain of the electric and the staccato nature of the acoustic. This is an interesting album and should be of particular interest to fans of Spanish progressive rock bands. - Mike Grimes

David Garland - "Control Songs"

(Review Records RERE 95cd, CD)

David Garland is one of a rather small group of experimental singer/song writers. They are not cut from same bolt of cloth as, say, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell or James Taylor. Instead, Garland, along with the likes of Arthur Russell, Shelly Hirsch, Anna Homler, and a select few others, combine the experimental tradition that gave us the likes of John Cage, Morton Feldman, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Meredith Monk, Laurie Anderson, Glenn Branca and John Zorn. Not that Garland's music sounds like any of these, though both Monk and Zorn, along with downtown folks such as Christian Marclay and Guy Klucevseik help out. Using a song form and an essentially tonal idiom, his songs are quirky, if not totally bent. The lyric content includes political and social commentary, but is often personal, whimsical, and decidedly oblique and non-linear. The catchy, even lovely opening "I Am with You" with its "spliced voice" is worth the price of admission alone, but this re-issue includes six songs not available on the original album. Quirky but necessary listening. - Dean Suzuki

[Review Records, dist. by No Man's Land, Strassmanstr. 33, D-10249 Berlin, Gemany, fax: 49 30 429 1857]

Grobschnitt - "Grobschnitt"

(Repertoire PMS 7093-WP, 1972/98, CD)

Prog fans have been enjoying a renaissance of vintage prog re- issues. Albums that either never made it to CD or were transferred poorly to begin with are being released for your pleasure. Premier German proggers Grobschnitt are no exception. Their back catalog is being fixed up and reissued (with bonus tracks of course). Case in point, the first album. I had never heard this one, so it was a real treat. I believe that this is the only official release of this album, the previous CD was a bootleg. This one falls between Solar Music and Rockpommel's Land soundwise, not as lyric heavy, just lots of flat out killer prog. Grobschnitt in my opinion have two main features; the incredible guitar-work of Lupo (Gerd-Otto Khn) and the vocals of Stefan Danielak (no funny name). Lupo's playing is aggressive and tasteful, the guy just rocks. Stefan's vocals have a strong German sound, but he's a great singer nonetheless. I always think of Grobschnitt as a prog version of the Scorpions (the two bands at this time are not that dissimilar). This album isn't as lyrically silly as they were to become, thus the Solar Music comparison. Having never heard the original, I can only say the recording on this CD is excellent. Drummer Eroc (Joachim Ehrig) has remastered this gem, and written the very informative liner notes (English and German). PLUS! You get the unreleased Die Sinfonie live version (an extended version of Symphony brimming with solos), a 30 minute piece from 1971. Recommended highly. - Dane Carlson

Herbe Rouge - "Herbe Rouge"

(Legend Music LM 9009, 1978/1997, CD)

This progressive group is of the sort that could only come from France in the 70s where a distinctive and idiosyncratic form of weirdness flourished. Like many of their progressive compatriots, Herbe Rouge purveyed a type of music characterized by angular and piquant melodies, and unusual chord progressions tinged with dissonance, but more importantly, unexpected turns and unlikely, but convincing goals. There are some other characteristic features, however, which set them apart from the pack. The group had a four-man horn section featuring saxes, clarinets, trumpet, and trombone. And while the horn arrangements are informed by jazz, it is a kind of contemporary big band style that does not rely on nostalgia or swing. One might suggest the likes of Zappa, Carla Bley or even the Willem Breuker Kollektif, but these only hint at what Herbe Rouge does with the horns. From time to time there are bits of French cabaret or music hall style, giving the music a humorous twist. Overall, the instrumentation is quite brilliant, including various bells, chimes, glockenspiels, marimbas, ocarinas, finger cymbals, and other colorful, if not unique touches. Even the occasional vocals are distinctive, ranging from spoken narratives to Captain Beefheart-like growls to Zappoid falsetto which contribute to the humorous effect, but also provide the music with elements of theater and drama. Legend Music has even managed to dig up a few bonus tracks, demos and jams. If you like your prog to be truly progressive, challenging, experimental and off the beaten track, you owe it to yourself to check out Herbe Rouge. - Dean Suzuki

[Legend Music, 16, rue Deguerry, 75011 Paris, France, ph: 1 48 06 24 49]

Sensitiva Immagine -"E Tutto Comincio Cosi..."

(Kaliphonia CH001, 1980/97, CD)

Here is one that Edison Records (RIP) of Japan spared no laudatory word on when it was first reissued by them back in the early 90's. Marquee's encyclopedia claims its origins as a cassette release from Italy 1980. But my ears tell me it ain't a day later than 1973! Perhaps we'll never know for sure, but recording quality is par for the independent production course: drums that sound like pillows, and everything is compressed to the breaking point. But on the up side this means we are spared the mountains of production sludge and syrupy reverb that would have poisoned it given an updated "remix". Thus, you are assured of vintage unadulterated lyrical Italian prog that they used to specialize in twenty-five years ago - taking the innovation of the British bands and transforming it, probably through all those centuries of opera they have in their blood, in exactly the same way as did PFM, et al. Style-wise there are few secrets kept. Typical Tony Banks chord progressions (circa "Selling England") and rhythm patterns straight out of "Nursery Cryme" pretty successfully reveal whom they were taking after. But when done with the Immagine touch of class and conviction you'll get no complaints from me. "E Tutto Comincio Cosi..." has what it takes to make you lament the passing of the 70's, deserving its place right alongside the old Banco and Le Orme albums. A lot of fans will want to jump on this reissue. - Mike Ezzo

Edgar Froese - "Ages"

(Virgin CDOVD 480, 1978/97, CD)

I know what you may be thinking: Froese's parent group hit the skids ten years ago. But have no fear as "Ages" is a 1978 classic- TD-era release. So where's all the rejoicing? I feel pretty silly myself. After all the hoopla over Klaus Schulze I expected equal fervor to greet Froese's long unavailable "Ages" album. Well it's been a year now and nary a squeak of fuss or fanfare has sounded. All around us privately produced records receive CD treatment, but it takes Virgin 15 years to reissue a world renown artist. Nor did they break a leg in the CD's production, the insert being nothing more than a reduced LP design, with nothing extra to satisfy the poor slob who doles out nearly 25 bucks for the privilege. Froese's career remains as hermetic as his visage is stoic. At least the entirety of the original double-LP comes to you intact. "Ages" was the fourth release on his own, in a string of self-made works which filled in the gaps of his already busy one-album-per- year group schedule. Stylistically we find him, as would be expected, somewhere between the "Encore" and "Cyclone" side of TD. Compared to earlier solo outings, you're looking at something more simplistic and rather tame - neither exuding the rich experimentation of "Aqua", nor blissfully moody as "Epsilon in Malaysian Pale" - but on the other hand exploring settings that we wouldn't find on a group project. "Pizarro and Atahualpa" cooks right along the Nile River valley, Mellotron providing the rhythm rather than melody. "Ode to Granny A" finds him in a poppier mode. And, something I have always loved about late-70's Tangerine Dream, there are drums throughout, provided by Klaus Krieger. Froese adds guitar here and there and you'd swear you are hearing out-takes from "Encore"! But largely it's a synths and drums affair. "Cyclone" this is not, but it's good enough for me, and if you follow similar great 70's works by Froese and his colleagues, then "Ages" is a must. - Mike Ezzo