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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Jody Grind - One Step On

Jody Grind may seem like a strange name for a band in the late 1960s during the psychedelic scene. They were a part of the underground scene in London. Now I remember hearing some of Jody Grind’s music 10 years ago both on Internet Radio and on a Podcast, and then I lost sight of them. It wasn’t until I remember five years ago buying Mark Powell’s book, Prophets and Sages: An Illustrated Guide to Underground and Progressive Rock 1967-1975.

His book made me opened my eyes and I championed the book here on Music from the Other Side of the Room where it was more to just the big names of the Progressive Rock movement. And he is a great expert when it comes to the underground scene and through looking the overlooked and underrated bands in which I would called them “Hidden Treasures” that Long John Silver had completely forgotten while on the shores through their telescopes.

But let’s get to Jody Grind. The band released their debut album in 1969 on the Transatlantic Records label and now reissued by Esoteric Recordings this year, the band which was launched out of the brainstorming mind of Tim Hinkley (Bo Street Runners) wanted to follow in the inspirations between the late Keith Emerson, Vincent Crane, and Steve Winwood. The band considered Ivan Zagni on Guitar, Barry Wilson on Drums, Louis Cennamo on Bass Guitar (Paint it Black, Rock & Roll Man) and David Palmer (Jethro Tull) handling the horn arrangements.

Recorded at Morgan Studios in the Summer of that year, it’s hard to understand why the album itself never charted well and while they were well received by the Music Press in the U.K, in my opinion, they just weren’t ready for Hinkley mind-blowing work he brought to Jody Grind. Rock n’ Roll Man is Hinkley’s tribute to his hero Chuck Berry. The song is like a rolling adventure done in the style of Johnny B. Goode with the fast 12-bar blues rock that Zagni takes it into the mountains with a maximum sound.

Night Today begins with a walking jazz turned soulful awakening between Tim’s Organ, Louis’ Bass, along with the clean melodic chords by Ivan and Barry’s gentle laid-back drumming. Tim heads down into the R&B groove throughout his Organ in the styles of Graham Bond. He just hits the notes on the keys as the members follow his route. It’s a nights out into the streets of Soul-Jazz Rock.

The cannon blast of Little Message brings Palmer’s brass arrangements and blistering roars into the highway as Hinkley and Zagni take the center stage and almost having a ride into the thunderstorms of electricity. It’s a real stunning track that comes to mind between Chicago and The Nice. The opening 18-minute title track that the two of them wrote together is a great introduction and a magnum opus.

I got to admit Zagni plays well throughout his guitar improvisation. It is a cross of Jimi Hendrix, Tony Iommi, Martin Barre, and Frank Zappa. And then once they cover The Rolling Stones Paint It Black which closes the suite and after the ecstatic drum solo by Barry, it is a brilliant take of the song and full sonic force that the horn section adds the powers that be.

USA is a crunchy blues rock done in the styles of Traffic’s Mr. Fantasy-era. It is a dooming and haunting composition that you can imagine during the time period of what the States was going through. The two bonus tracks on the album contain an alternate version of Night Today and a single version of Rock n’ Roll Man.

The 16-page booklet contains liner notes about the history of the band done by Mark Powell along with psychedelic artwork which was the gatefold sleeve done by John Courage. While the artwork contains Hinkley paying homage to Arthur Brown wearing a wizard’s cape and hat by casting a spell in a dark-blue background, the music industry is not an easy place to be.

One Step On is a lost treasure and mind-blowing yet explosive album I’ve listened to. I have to give Esoteric a big amount of credit for reissuing this unearthed gem. The band would later do a follow-up which was their last album which will be reviewed either this year or in 2017 entitled, Far Canal. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Keep Progressive Rock Alive

(The first issue of Prog Magazine, 2009)

Today’s news can’t be any good. I received a bit of surprise when I read online that TeamRock which was home to publications such as Classic Rock Magazine, Metal Hammer, and one of my favorites Prog Magazine, the people who worked their butts off on their articles, reviews, and interviews with these amazing bands, artists, and some who were up-and-coming, were laid-off. To me, it’s a hard blow, because for me these were the magazines I would sometimes pick up either at Barnes and Noble or on eBay at times. And they showed what was happening both old and new.

I became a writer/blogger back eight years ago thanks to reading the magazines such as Classic Rock Magazine and Commerical Music Forum when I was taking back at Houston Community College in my degree in Jazz Studies. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. The course I took which was I have to write five concert reviews and I had a great time and that was where I knew where I would build up.

The blog site wouldn’t have gotten started if it wasn’t not just Houston Community College, but magazines such as Classic Rock Magazine and Prog Magazine which launched back in 2009. I admired writers including Geoff Barton, Malcolm Dome, Natasha Scharf, Jerry Ewing, Dave Ling, Jo Kendall, and my favorite Sid Smith. Who I consider the mastermind expert of King Crimson. I was originally going to consider him, the Sherlock Holmes of King Crimson, but that would be too much.

Prog Magazine was the magazine that introduced me to bands such as; Panic Room, Magenta, Blood Ceremony, ASTRA, Iamthemorning, Within Temptation, Purson, Pure Reason Revolution, and Crippled Black Phoenix to name a few. Not to mention Steven Wilson's debut as a solo artist with Insurgentes. And with the Progressive Music Awards and labels including MoonJune Records, Rise Above Records, and of course opening more of my eyes to the Cherry Red label, Esoteric Recordings which has been my favorite reissue label, it pushed opened the doors to Esoteric Antenna and Reactive.

I appeared in the magazine where I did a few things including asking a question for Carl Palmer, my top ten albums of 1974 in which I picked Gentle Giant's The Power and the Glory, and one of my top Kate Bush songs including the song Kite. It wasn't until I was asked by the magazine on Facebook to pick one of my favorite albums and I was spellbound at first. but I had to keep my fanboy distance away and it was hard to pick a favorite album, I picked one of my favorites from the Rock Progressivo Italiano scene of the 1970s which was Metamorfosi's second album based on Dante's The Divine Comedy or The Seven Deadly Sins of Hell, Inferno.

We need this music to keep the wheels and machine going to come and inspire newer generations who are going through their parents collection and delving into early Genesis, ELP, King Crimson, Yes, Rush, and Pink Floyd that showed it will opened their eyes of real good music.  I still support up-and-coming bands and newer bands now. With admires of the Aaron Clift Experiment, Proud Peasant, Bent Knee, Knifeworld, Worhol, Sanguine Hum, The Fierce and the Dead, and La Coscienza Di Zeno. I still support the music whether people like it or not.

Progressive Rock still makes the lava flow when a volcano erupts at the right moments from the synthesizers, mellotrons, mind-blowing drums, bass, and guitar work. The music industry is sometimes cruel. It’s hard for them to make it and not make it to the big time. But I’m a little off-topic. Let me close it up.

Prog has been inside me for 11 years. Please show your massive support and buying the magazines as I’ve mentioned from Classic Rock Magazine, The Blues, and Metal Hammer to name a few. I will keep the music alive and show my support to the genre until the day I die. As Stan “The Man” Lee said, With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility.

Here’s this website to show your support with crowd-funding done by Orange Goblin's Ben Ward.

Friday, December 16, 2016

9.30 Fly - 9.30 Fly

This is a hidden lost treasure of both in the genres between Progressive and Folk music in the early 1970s. Originally released on the Ember label in 1972, 9.30 Fly brought these two sounds of music in a rare gem that is going through the looking glass and seeing what mysterious beauty lies beneath in the magical mirror. With the help of Esoteric Recordings reissuing this unearthed gem, I delved at the chance to sink into the waters of 9.30 Fly.

The origins of the band’s music came through The Arthur Hinge Speed Band. They were known for their flash and their antics while receiving the awards in Gloucester at the Slough Arts Festival. Mike Wainwright, who wasn’t a musician, decided it was to write original music. Someone gave him an acoustic guitar, a Bob Dylan songbook, and he was a songwriter. The Hinge band faded away as 9.30 Fly was born.

The band considered Lyn Oakey on Guitar, Gary Chairman on Bass, Mike Clark on Drums, Mike Wainwright on Vocals, and Barbara Wainwright on Vocals. The band worked during their rehearsals in a village outside at Cheltenham and with influences raging between Yes, Beatles, and Family, the band were signed to Ember Records which was home to Blonde on Blonde’s last two albums, Blue Beard, and Davey Payne and the Medium Wave to name a few.

Recorded at Rockfield Studios in February 1972 and with Mike Smith of the Amen Corner in the production level along in the countryside at Monmouthshire which is a part of south east Wales, the band worked hard and fast to complete the album. While the album is now considered a cult classic and ahead of its time, this album itself deserves some light at the end of the tunnel.

You have the opener, Life and Times with flamenco guitar sections, galloping beats, and both Mike and Barbara singing into the skies above. It has this Ennio Morricone drive that you can close your eyes and imagine the Spaghetti Western genre is making a comeback as the son of the Man with No Name is honoring his father’s legacy to give him his last wish.

September comes to mind of Country-Folk music with some of the 12-bar chords with a straightforward style of sound that was very different from the other tracks. Elsewhere, the riding and thunderous drums and electric keyboards followed by Oakey’s stargazing guitar work into the stars and makes the ship excited for Mr. 509. It changes into a moody and watery atmosphere before dynamic rhythm sections from the guitar and melodic moments from the keyboards.

Charman’s bass creates this walking bluesy-jazz melody as Barbara helps her out to lay down the tempo in a slowed-down groove on Summer Days before going into a pumping style as Lyn and Barbara share the same melody on their instruments with fuzz-tone style and clean Rhodes techniques. I love how they always twist and turn with 9.30 Fly’s work.

Brooklyn Thoughts reminded me of Uriah Heep’s Lady in Black and Barbara’s voice resembling Annie Haslam as it a prog-folk journey into the streets of New York set to the tones of the Mellotron. It gives you chills down to the spine and hair on the back of your necks going up from this chilling composition of what is happening beyond the faces of the people in the city.

The 8-minute finale, Time of War which deals with the First World War and the subject of Jingoism of patriotic extremism, is a very difficult subject matter, the music itself is a chilling situation of what is happening in the what was happening in that time period that there is a dark side to the war itself. Lyn’s guitars just paint the picture of hell, brutality, and nightmarish views.

He lays it down the subject through his Guitar and it’s an eye-opener as the music changes into the styles of Blonde on Blonde’s Rebirth-era. Mike’s voice at times brings to mind of Roy Orbison and the echoing effects on his arrangements give power and emotion. It then changes into a militant vocalization in the styles of Celtic Folk between Mike and Barbara themselves near the end of the piece.

It’s a surreal ending, but knowing that the battle is far from over. The two bonus tracks contains the West Coast sound a-la Gordon Lightfoot textures of Song for L.A. and the first version of September. When the album was released in 1972, it didn’t do well and the band broke up. Mike and Barbara parted company. Mike now lives in California and retired from the industry while Barbara is now a coaching and guidance consultancy in California also.

The 16-page booklet contains liner notes by Sid Smith who wrote about the history about the band and includes interviews with both Mike and Barbara about the making of the album and the history of the band. It’s a very good reissue that Esoteric had done and I highly recommend checking out this album if you admire the Ember Records label and delving into the obscure gems of the progressive rock-era.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Greg Lake 1947-2016

Greg Lake was the driving force between his work with King Crimson, ELP, and as a solo artist. We lost not just a musician, but an amazing vocalist that hit those notes between those two bands. I remember hearing Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s music back when I was in Johnston Middle School which is now the Meyerland Performing & Visual Arts Middle School. I’ve heard tracks like From the Beginning, Lucky Man, and Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression (Part 2) on Classic Rock 93.7 The Arrow back in the late ‘90s.

I can remember the day getting some Hanukkah money and my Mom driving me to Blockbuster Music. I remember buying Queen’s sole self-titled debut album, Ted Nugent’s Great Gonzos!:The Best of Ted Nugent, and ELP’s Brain Salad Surgery. It was the cover that just took me by surprise done by the late great H.R. Giger who would make a big name for himself thanks to the 1979 sci-fi classic, Alien.

From those giant notes of Jerusalem, to the 29-minute dystopian sci-fi epic of Karn Evil 9, I was hooked on the edge of my seat and playing it again, and again, and again. I always imagine those songs as a movie inside my head. Cut to 2000 when I bought King Crimson’s 1969 debut album, In The Court of the Crimson King. By this time, I didn’t know the term, Progressive Rock. But listening to Crimson’s music, I was spellbound.

The moment I’ve listened to 21st Century Schizoid Man when I was 15 years old, I was blown away. It was like a cannon blast waiting to happen. From Robert Fripp’s heavy guitar roar, the blaring and shrieking sounds of Ian McDonald’s sax, and Lake singing through a megaphone (Leslie speaker), it had everything. While he was brilliant on both as a Bassist and Guitarist as you can hear his solos on both Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression (Part 2), Tarkus (Battlefield), and the folky side of him on From the Beginning and Lucky Man in which he wrote when he was 12 years old.

Listen to Epitaph, you can imagine the aftermath of the battle and the sacrifices that they went through as Lake sings through Pete Sinfield’s lyrics; “Confusion will be my Epitaph/As I crawl a cracked and broken path/If we make it/We can all sit back and laugh.” He sings beautifully and gentle. You could feel that you are in the studio watching this band ready to make it.

I went back and listened to the albums, Brain Salad Surgery, In The Court of the Crimson King, Trilogy, and In The Wake of Poseidon. Not only that but he was also a big supporter of bands when it came to ELP’s label Manticore Records and he brought Premiata Forneria Marconi and Stray Dog to name a few to get them some recognition. He also produced Spontaneous Combustion’s sole self-titled debut album released in 1972 which is reissued by Esoteric Recordings four years ago.

2016 has been a rough and difficult year in Music. The grim reaper himself has always knocked on the doors of amazing musicians and letting them know it’s time. Losing people including David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Sandy Pearlman (Blue Oyster Cult’s producer), Prince, Keith Emerson, and now Greg Lake. It’s a tragic loss.

But we have the music, the legacy, and the memories. The song in the 1979 film, The Muppet Movie in the opening scene as Kermit the Frog sings in The Rainbow Connection, “What’s so amazing/That keeps us stargazing/And what do we think we might see.

Greg was a stargazer and what a Lucky man he was. Rest In Peace, Greg. Be at peace now and let’s hope you are enjoying an amazing jam session with Keith Emerson up in heaven. Heaven’s just got bigger.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Progress - Tulejää

Estonia is home to composer Arvo Part. It is a country near the south of Lativa and it located near Northern Europe, the Baltic Sea, and the Gulf of Finland. One of the bands to come out of Estonia is a quintet called Progress. Formed in 2009, their music is song-orientated with some heavy/prog momentum. After the release of their 2014 debut album, Pillipuhujad (Hornblowers), the band decided to take a long-hiatus break.

This year, they’ve released their second album entitled, Tulejää (Fire-Ice) on the label, Strangiato Records. It is a very good album that I’ve listened to. And for me with their influences between early Beardfish, Rush, and early Wigwam, but it’s more than just from the three powerful bands. With six centerpieces on the album, I was not just on the edge of my seat, but listening to this twice, I know that this is a band I will keep my eyes on.

The band considers; Mattis Kirsipuu on Drums and Percussion, Johan Nestor on Bass Guitar, Mattis Kuppart on Guitar, Ragnar Kaasik on Vocals and Sax, and Kristen Kutner on Keyboards and Guitar. Kristen plays lead on two of the tracks. Opener, Hirmul on suured silmadi features this whirling organ introduction whilst going into a dynamic showstopping rhythm a-la Rush style as Rangar brings his vocals through time and space.

And then Kuppart himself goes into this spacey section on his guitar as Mattis’ drums help him out in the chilling section in which brings this rising finale as it segues into Janu. Guitars delve in rhythmic vibes with this complexity between Van Der Graaf Generator and The Beatles Abbey Road-era with stop and go sections that give it the twists and turns on the composition.

Drums make it sound like a roaring Tidal Wave on Rahutus. It reminded me of a mellowing jazz-psych pop orientated piece at first. But then, the switch turns on with a cosmic bluesy delay/reverb effect and the tune reminiscent of Black Sabbath’s Rat Salad. Kristen goes from the keyboards to guitar in his lead sections with Kuu. There’s these clean-tone sections.

And from there, it goes from that to a ‘60s psychedelia eruption of the garage-rock genre and believe me, Progress has some amazing twists and turns in their sound with a holy shit momentum! Musta lipu all is with Alice Cooper heavy riffs done in the style of Alex Lifeson with a ‘70s Glam Rock touch. Kagnar brings a beauty to his vocal arrangement and near in the song, he lets out a mighty scream that took me not just by surprise but almost saying “Wow!”

You have to admit the rhythm is ready for take-off with a punching sound while Progress have amazing potential from their craftsmanship as musicians. With a bass vamp done by Johan Nestor on the closing title track, you can imagine Kristen taking his keyboard and making reminisce of the mellotron. The piece takes you into the warmth and freezing places of hell as Kuppart keeps his guitar sounding like a train chugging into higher measures as it benefits from Agitation Free and Aphrodite’s Child.

Progress’ second album, Tulejää will get you to take notice of their music and the band themselves. It’s a journey into mysterious locations that will keep you guessing of where the quintet will go into. If you love the bands from the golden-era of prog, doom, and bits of glam, I highly recommend you check this out.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Anakdota - Overloading

Formed in 2013, this spectacular quintet from Israel, have released their debut album this year on the Fading Records label which is a part of AltrOck Productions. The band is called Anakdota. I’ve heard some of their samples on the AltrOck bandcamp website and I had my eye-brows go up at the exact moment when I heard some of the tracks. I went ahead and bought the album straight away from The Laser’s Edge website and my take of listening to the entire album, it was almost like finding a lost diamond in the Sierra Madre.

The band considers; Ray Livnat on Vocals, Ayala Fossfeld on Vocals, Erez Aviram on Piano and Keyboards, Guy Bernfeld on Bass Guitar, and Yogev Gabay on Drums. Their music is very intense and complex at the same time while the lyrics are storied to be told through music with a diverse composition. The seven highlights throughout the entire album will show much they need a gigantic stamp of approval that Anakdota badly need. 

Erez’s speeding piano, has this increasing rate through the Keith Emerson touches with a concerto followed by a switch from an allegro tempo to a waltz on Girl Next Door. Late is one of my favorite tracks on here. You have Ray acting almost in the style of the Master of Ceremonies as the rhythm is done in the styles of a Circus inside a gigantic merry-go-round as the music is this cross between The Blue Ship, William D. Drake, and a bit of the Diablo Swing Orchestra.

Ray has amazing operatic vocals as Yogev and Erez go straight near the end into the styles between Canterbury and Italian Prog-Rock in which the synths reminded me almost of Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso.  Opener, One More Day starts off with the drums sounding in the styles of the metronome going at 150 beats per minute as mid-fast tempos give those drums sounding like an electronic punch.

With the piano and bass in the melody that starts things off, the lyrics deal with trying to get away from the lies and hopefully one day it might come a time that you have to reveal with who you really are and finally getting ready to tell the truth. In the midsection, there’s Yogev handling his snare and making it sound very militant as Guy’s bass features reverb chords, and more of Erez’s piano jazz concerto with a classical twist!

Erez is stealing the show through his keyboards. Again with the essence of David Sinclair, Keith Emerson, and Vince Guaraldi, at times you can imagine him filling in Vince’s place and making the Peanuts gang brought back to life and honoring Schulz’s legacy. And not just he’s an amazing keyboardist, but bit by bit, whether the band goes, he follows with them to see what will happen next.

Ayala’s vocals are one of the best in the stronghold that keeps the rope tight in Anakdota’s sound. With Mourning, the lyrical styles are in the realms of Stephen Sondheim. In the lyrics, it deals with someone that you love and care about has moved on into the afterlife as Ayala’s character in the song is trying to figure out how she’ll move on, but the memories will be there with her.

And it continues with Staying Up Late. The character now is suffering through the realms of depression and for her struggling is hard for her to move forward. As a listener, you can feel her pain and sadness inside her.

But Ray’s vocals as the spirit of the loss loved one, comes into the scenery and comforting her as to say to her that no matter what happens to her, he will be there. Ray is in the vibe of his Danny Elfman-sque vocals on the title track. With wacky time changes, the melody has some art punk vibes that comes to mind of The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo and something straight out of a scenery from the realms of Tim Burton.

End of the Show, which closes the album, is a mini operatic duet between Ayala and Ray as they share vocals before the uplifting last 3-minutes of the piece kicks into the styles of Caravan’s In the Land of Grey and Pink-era thanks to Erez channeling the fuzztone styles of David Sinclair’s organ before Guy’s incredible Bass solo and the vocals close off the song on a high note.

This is now one of my favorite debuts I’ve listened to. And the quintet bring everything to the table. Anakdota’s Overloading is a mind-blowing fulfillment. And I hope they will continue to do more and Fading Records have scored as I’ve always say, another home run with up-and-coming bands and this is one of them.