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Cressida - Asylum



Click on the album cover to hear a sample


Comments:

Cressida's Asylum is a wonderful example of early British symphonic progressive rock. This 1971 release mixes catchy Paul McCartney-esque vocals with adventurously colorful instrumental passages. The new listener will probably notice singer Angus Cullen, whose voice comes close to McCartney's(not totally, but close). His vocal melodies are some of the finest I've heard in 70s English prog, and the subtle British storytelling style in the lyrics is amusing to listen to. The instrumental sections are equally good, and tend to be typical of early 70s prog rock. A fair amount of the music is driven by Hammond organ(dirty, and mellow), piano, bass, guitar, and drums; a small orchestral band also adds violins, and other orchestral instruments(cellos, trumpets, timpanis, etc) to the arrangements. Most of the first side of the LP seems to deal with the title of the album, "Asylum", and ends with a short filler track. That filler track features one of weirdest topics for a rock songs that I've heard. The second side of the LP features a couple more short filler tracks, and a high-quality epic. One of the short tracks, on Side B, turns a bit cheesy when the singer starts to yell "Survivor!!!!", in a 70s broadway sort of way, but after those few scary seconds the band returns to their classic sound. Overall, Asylum is a classic.

Compositions: 10/10
Vocals(in English): 9.5/10
Recording Quality: 9/10


Elton Dean/Mark Hewins - Bar Torque


Comments:

Bar Torque is a duo project consisting of Elton Dean(of Soft Machine fame) and guitarist Mark Hewins. Both musicians decided to record improvised jam-sessions featuring Elton's alto sax melodies and Mark's midi-guitar explorations. "Midi guitar" technology seems to stir negative feelings out of many musicians(especially these days due to newsgroup spammer, Jarl Sigurd). But Mark's use of midi-guitar technology is really incredible and advanced. In fact, I would have guessed that many of the ambient atmospheres/tones on this album came from keyboards or the sampling library for a movie soundtrack. The CD has three tracks total(24, 13, and 14 minutes). Elton's sax improvisations fall somewhere within his Cantebury jazz education, and mellower smooth-jazz common today. The music is rather relaxing, yet the level of dissonance, and experimentation(some sections are influenced by Indonesian Gamelan or feature Mark's more avant guitar techniques), distances their form of jazz from more commercial forms of modern jazz. Overall, this is an interesting CD is you're into Elton Dean, avant and improv-jazz, and ambient music.

Website
Moon June Records

England - Garden Shed



Click on the album cover to hear a sample


Comments:
Are you a fan of albums like Close To The Edge and Selling England By The Pound, and wish that Yes and Genesis released at least one more album in those styles? Well, England might be a band to check out. These guys not only managed to write music similar to Yes and early Genesis back in 1977, but the quality of that music reaches the level of those two, once mighty, bands. There isn't a weak track on here, and the two epics are worth the price of the CD alone. The band comes close to plagiarizing well-known Yes and Genesis melodies, and riffs, every once in a while, but the majority of Garden Shed sounds original. A fun album!

Compositions: 10/10
Vocals(in English): 9.5/10
Recording Quality: 9/10


Fantasy - Paint A Picture



Click on the album cover to hear a sample


Comments:
Before reading my short review of this album, I have to admit being a bit biased. I really love this style of early English progressive rock. Although the musicians are not virtuosos, and the tracks are not terribly complex the music here is so warm, sincere, and melodic that you immediately fall for the colorful sounds coming out of your speakers. 1973's Paint A Picture is Fantasy's only official release(the second album, which was rejected by Polydor in the 70s, was released on CD in 1992). Some of the music on Paint A Picture reminds me of David Bowie's "Space Oddity". Not that the tracks here sound like Bowie's classic song, but the orchestration is very similar. Especially with the use of acoustic guitar, and mellotron. The band also knew when to pick up the pace in a song with an aggressive instrumental section or two, but the overall atmosphere is relaxed. This classic will appeal to fans of Spring, Earth And Fire, Pentacle, and PFM's Per Un Amico.

Compositions: 9/10
Vocals(in English): 9/10
Recording Quality: 9/10



Gracious! - Gracious!

Comments:
I heard someone say once that they considered Gracious! one of the best albums released in 1970. Well, after listening to this album they might have a point. Gracious! were quite influenced by King Crimson and the Beatles, but they took their influences to the next level. The band was seemed interested in mixing prog, hard rock, blues, jazz, baroque, classical, and even Zappa into a futuristic sound(well, futuristic for 1970). Both epics, which are worth the price of the CD, are made-up of shorter sections, and we find the band quickly weaving in and out of various genres and moods. The album, however, has some flaws that might bother some collectors. The fourth track, for example, features a classical duet between guitar and harpsichord. Although the music is beautiful, it doesn't really fit the style of the other tracks. Also, some sections on "Hell"(on side A) are silly in a style similar to Zappa's "America Drinks and Goes Home", and don't fit into the epic. Overall, these complaints are minor since rock musicians make compositional mistakes all the time, but I just want to point this out if you're looking to get this CD. In all, Gracious! is quite an advanced prog album for a 1970 release, but expect some flaws.

Compositions: 8/10
Vocals(in English): 8/10
Recording Quality: 8.5/10



Matching Mole - Little Red Record

Comments:
Matching Mole was Robert Wyatt's first project after leaving Soft Machine. The group released two albums with Little Red Record as their second effort. The music here sounds like a quirky combination of Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom, Brian Eno, with even a bit of King Crimson thrown in(Robert Fripp appears on a couple of tracks). The overall atmosphere is experimental and fun. Most of the album sounds like a group of prog musicians having a great time in a garage and in the studio. The music is complex, yet loose. Whether you enjoy this CD, or not, depends on your opinion of Robert Wyatt's voice. Many people have no problems with it, while others can't stand it. So I recommend this CD to people who are familiar with Soft Machine, and Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom. If you're not familiar with Robert Wyatt, check out Soft Machine's Third.

Compositions: 9/10
Vocals(in English): 9/10
Recording Quality: 8.5/10



Spring - Spring

Comments:
I'm pretty sure that alot of people are familiar with the mellotron hype surrounding this album. You've probably read statements like "Soaked in mellotron!", and "3 mellotrons on every track!". Well, don't fall for it. Although most of the tracks have mellotron, the band was actually well-rounded, and consisted of acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. Basically, don't expect anything similar to King Crimson's "Mars". Spring's music is mostly song-oriented with an early 70s proto-prog vibe, and emphasizes vocals. You could compare this band to Fantasy, but Fantasy are a bit more complex. That being said, Spring produced some great music. The first 5 tracks are high-quality if you enjoy early-70s rock. Most listeners will instantly notice the singer's unique, and charismatic, voice. I have to also mention that the bonus track from an unfinished 2nd album are high-quality. Overall, I recommend Spring to fans of early seventies English rock.

Compositions: 8/10
Vocals(in English): 9.5/10
Recording Quality: 9/10


Trader Horne - Morning Way



Click on the album cover to hear a sample


Comments:

What a wonderful album. 1970's Morning Way is the sole release by the prog-folk band Trader Horne. Trader Horne were part of the British modern folk movement of the early 70s. That era saw an emergence of bands that took to updating local traditional folk music with modern influences. In the case of Trader Horne, they practically started their own genre of music. I would call it a form of psychedelic folk music that occasionally flirts with classical music. The new listener will instantly notice beautifully mellow songs featuring acoustic guitars, pianos, violins, violas, harpsichords, glockenspiels, and gorgeous 60s-era vocal interplay between a male and female vocalist. The real emphasis here is on haunting English melodies that simply get better as the album unfolds. Incredibly, the lyrics, considering the era, are intelligent and hold a simple English charm. If you're looking for a gentle, acoustic, album to relax with you found it!

Compositions: 10/10
Vocals(in English): 10/10
Recording Quality: 10/10


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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