Monday, 27 March 2017

Red Devils from 1974, Austria

An odd mix of early 60s proto-rock with harmony vocals, like bad Beatles imitations everywhere, with later rock pop songs that presents us with the usual conundrum of an expensive and sought-after rarity that turns out to be dross.  The first track, which sadly is also the best one:

The remainder of the album would best be reserved for those who are nostalgic for late 50s pop rock... and not even of a high quality...

Saturday, 25 March 2017

United Jazz + Rock Ensemble - Na Endlich! Live in Concert (VAR - 1992)

A glance at the line-up for the United Jazz + Rock Ensemble is bound to set expectations high. Group members include jazz luminaries such as Albert Mangelsdorff, Charlie Mariano, Ian Carr, Jon Hiseman, Kenny Wheeler, Volker Kriegel and Wolfgang Dauner.  One knock on this overall very good recording is that, with so many leading jazz players, there is no clear group leader for the ensemble. Those who favor rock over jazz may also find this group leaning too heavily in the other direction; the jazz fans among you won't mind. 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Japanese School Band's two albums from 1976 and 1978 [review only]

Sometimes I can't post albums because they have been officially released to CD (I get a warning if the artist complains) and sometimes because the vinyl is rare and the ripper doesn't want me to share.  Sadly for this band, both forces are at work to divert the full enjoyment away from your ears.  But there are so many good tracks on both their albums I had to make a post for them.

For the prog fan, the first album, 1976's Our Best Songs Now, is definitely the best one with fusion in the mix, not just pop-rock songs.  The latter though are highly well written and without the sickliness cum overproduction of bad 70s pop.  This is the one that is rare and LP only, and can be found here, surprisingly.  The first track, Gypsy Mutant Dance, shows the fusionary vision:

On the other hand, the best track for sure you will agree is B2's On a Day, which is just glorious absolutely beautiful seventies funky rock mixed with the high emotions and splendid beauty that was such a hallmark of that innocent era.   The funky beginning augments the generic lyrics but the music just carries you on and on in varied sounds and rhythms making it almost dizzying until you get to the chorus:

our lives are a dream that may vanish in the night
open your eyes you will say, 
hey I can see those faces crying, 
I have lost my fear of leaving

Have a listen:

Now, after listening to this song probably hundreds of times, I know enough about songwriting and lyrics to be able to say I suspect the original chorus was: "I have lost my fear of dying" but that it was changed as being too pessimistic/too uncommercial.  What is equally of note here is that half way through, the band decides (in an even more uncommercial decision), to tack on a progressive instrumental as a bridge, before returning to the song!

In their subsequent album1978's Semi Final (not in the discogs database, although it came out on CD, check here), the band went far and deep into the 70s pop department where they presumably got lost between the girdle belts and the teddies lingerie.  My favourite track, perhaps the best one, is the dancey third song, with the premonitory USB stick reference:

The tenth track (translated as Homeless Traveler) present us with a bit of fusion as an afterthought:

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Vindication - Vindication (USA - 1973)

It's Sunday and perhaps the prog heathens among us could use a little religion. This bit of Xian symphonic rock might fit the bill.  No sermons.  No kneeing.  Praying is optional.

And, since Sunday is a day of rest, I will send you elsewhere for a review.  Praise the Lord, this is good stuff!

Friday, 17 March 2017

Fusion Transfusion from Switzerland, 1984 [review only]

Shockingly good fusion in the truest sense of the word blending together all the streams of human musical invention, the warmth and rhythms of jazz with the intelligence of classical composition and the excitement of modern popular music, it's incredible that something so good can be so affordably excellent as you can see from the discogs page.

Valley of the Giants uses flute and strings to create an atmosphere of anxious tension before the classic Mahavishnu electric guitar arpeggios in diminished chords patterns the dialectic between powerful forces, like evil versus good, like Trump versus 7 billion other humans, dissonance at war with beautiful music:

It just amazes me how these composers add the string touches with such ingeniousness to add color to the whole.  To me, the basic fusion composition would be so similar to an Asia Minor or perhaps Alain Markusfeld by the numbers guitar track without that extra ornamentation that just knocks it out of the ballpark right against the lobe of my external ear.  Ouch.

Notice that the composers are flautist Philippe Racine and guitarist Wolfgang Paul (who wrote the above).  Strangely enough neither produced much more music than this stunning masterwork.  What a shame!

For a taste of Racine's work, consider the track a bit embarrassingly titled (nonetheless brilliantly composed) but highly atmospheric, Moondance:

Notice that it was recorded live in 1981 but not released for three years (thank god it was!!) and that the orchestra here is from Basel.

Many many thanks to the friends and contributors who are still willing to help me in this rarefied quest to find beautiful music completely forgotten by our fellow men/women... and look out for this one...

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Brilliant fusion from the former CCCP: Sunkar

An absolutely stunning fusion masterpiece, clearly completely unknown until now, which I'm happy to present to everyone.

Here in the eighties we must get accustomed to the electric piano's much thinner clavinova sound to replace the edgy classic rhodes of the seventies, a sound I've said before to me is the most beautiful tone sound I can imagine, especially with tons of vibrato, like Chick used to demonstrate to such good effect.

In some places, with the thick and heavy digital keyboards, it even reminds me of the ne plus ultra of Russian progressive, Horizont and their Summer in Town and Picture of a Boy.

Track B3 with its arpeggiated major sevenths that progress to another fusionized folk melody just blows me away:

From discogs some information. Very little on RYM too.

A perfect combo of fusion and progression, unlike the preceding Anor.  All hail the great Putin, and gravy fries with cheesecurds.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Anor's long sought-after Taste of Pomegranate from 1987

Surprisingly there is a review online from 2001 for this rarity:


Grigory "Grig" Pushen - bass 

Simon Mordukhayev - saxophones 

Natalie Nurmukhamedova - vocalizes 

Yury Benjaminov - guitars, sitar & Uzbek national string instruments 

Andrey Pertsev - drums 

B.Tashkhodjayev - Uzbek national bass instruments

A.Yakubov - keyboards

ANOR was formed by the talented composers Grig Pushen and Simon Mordukhayev in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, in the beginning of the 1980s. In the first half of the 1980s the band played only in Tashkent's various clubs. In 1985 Anor was invited to perform at the annual (and very popular in these years) festival of Jazz and Jazz-related music, called "Fergana Jazz". It's called so because it was held in the town of Fergana, which is one of the regional civic centres of Uzbekistan. Anor's performance at the "Fergana Jazz 1985" festival was very successful and the band become a winner of it, while a few of the band members were awarded as the best guitarist, bassist, etc. That happened mainly thanks to the enthusiasm and efforts of the Anor bandleader Grig Pushen who was one of the leading composers of Uzbekistan in the 1980s. Anor disbanded in the beginning of the 1990s, and then Grig has founded his own recording studio, which at the time was the most modern and respectable studio in the republic. Back to Anor, after the band's major success on "Fergana Jazz 1985" the famous Uzbekistani female singer Natalie Nurmukhamedova, whose popularity wasn't limited by the borders of the USSR (let alone the borders of her own republic), joined them. Another musician, who was famous all over the USSR, saxophonist Simon Mordukhayev become the 'staff' Anor member a few years ago. A very talented drummer Andrey Pertsev, one of the Anor's former members, also became a well known musician. It happened in the beginning of the 1990s, when he joined the legendary heavy metal band from Moscow called Black Coffee. During the first half of the 1990s Andrey was also a drummer for a couple of Russia's famous Thrash and Heavy-Metal bands. Thanks to his incredible musicianship, the further musical career of Andrey has been continued in Canada, where he and his family live since 1997. Yuri Bendjaminov is also one of the most well known Uzbekistani musicians. The only Anor LP was pressed by both the biggest (Moscow and Tashkent) factories-divisions of the "Melody" concern. "A Taste of Pomegranate" represents an extremely original and complex, intricate Jazz-Fusion (Progressive Jazz-Rock, to be precise), filled with unique, colourful Uzbek and other Eastern ornaments'and all of the essential progressive ingredients as well. In their messages to me, a lot of my friends in CIS and abroad, who are into a real Prog Fusion and have Anor's "A Taste of Pomegranate" LP, expressed their delight with the music of the band and the musicianship of all of the band members. Frankly, the majority of them said Anor is on a par with most of the famous Titans of the genre.

Unfortunately I cannot share their enthusiasm and for me it was a huge disappointment especially in comparison to the next instalment which will be Sunkar.

From rateyourmusic you can see the demand for this.  The review is ineptly overestimating:

80s smooth jazz crossed with Silk Road romanticism.  At the point where the "ethnic" and the bland intersect, the "avant garde" can briefly be seen.  Seasoned pros of the Soviet scene will find much to enjoy, but newcomers might deem Sato, who follow the same formula and are from the same Republic, more palatable.

As usual discogs has the Russian completely hidden from us (a search for Anor doesn't work), it can be found here in the database.  If you look at the sale price on the right hand side you will easily understand why it was such a disappointment to purchase, but here's track b1, which is 13 minutes long, and in my opinion the highest level of composition achieved:

And I'll throw in track b2 right after, which I found to be totally average (thereby giving the lie to the Rym reviewer):