Firstly, allow one to apologise for the lack of action upon this here bloggage in the past few months. Time is never the kindest of masters and, indeed, it has left Jeffman at a loss as to how he can keep the HFoS banner flying while he’s so busy with other writing projects.
The result being, he can’t. As such, Head Full of Snow will return in the Autumn with a promise of more of the same nonsense, plus a thoroughly good seeing to of that previously mentioned pile of Esoteric releases.
news, psych-folk, psych-pop, psychedelic rock
Right. Now I’ve a spare minute or two, time to get some reviews in. First up, a 2fer from folk rock practitioners Decameron.
Largely forgotten since their heyday, Decameron – name derived from the Boccaccio writings, not the shiny-foreheaded git currently residing at 10 Downing Street – were a Cheltenham-formed folk rock combo that released four albums during the 1970s and were, for a while, managed by none other than Jasper Carrott.
Their debut album, Say Hello to the Band, was originally released in 1973 and is an enjoyable, if mostly unremarkable slice of folk rock, fashioned in very much the same vein as HFoS favourites, Lindisfarne.
album reviews, folk, folk rock, prog rock
Gadzooks! Has it really been over a month since the last posting on HFoS?
I suggest somebody pulls their finger out and gets a proverbial wriggle on… That would be me then.
Just to let you know, HFoS hasn’t died, nor the bloke what does the writing. It will, in fact, return shortly. Largely because this backlog of Esoteric reissues in need of review, isn’t getting any smaller.
folk rock, music vid, news
Having effectively been forced out of the Soft Machine fold, drummer and vocalist Robert Wyatt sallied forth regardless, first releasing the solo album End of an Ear, before forming the quite delectable Matching Mole.
Taking their name from the French for Soft Machine (Machine Molle), the band recorded two albums, both released in 1972, before Wyatt’s plummet from a fourth floor window put an end to his rock drumming career, as well as Matching Mole.
Sporting a magnificent cover, whose inspiration lies in the artwork of the Cultural Revolution, Little Red Record was the second of these albums and what a little smasher it is.
Everything is right about this package, from the aforementioned cover to the band line-up, through to the compositions and luxuriant instances of Fender Rhodes electric piano. As the late Billy Dainty once said, you can never have too much Fender Rhodes.
album reviews, jazz rock, prog rock
By Christmas Eve, 1977, professional Geordies Lindisfarne had been through the rigors of line-up changes, dissolution and the inevitable reformation, all within the space of eight short years.
The rough ‘n’ ready combo, often derided for their Rent-a-Geordie posturing, may have been past their creative prime by the time Magic in the Air - a live recording of the culminating event in a short run of Christmas concerts – was released, but the fact remains that their first three albums, Nicely Out of Tune, Fog on the Tyne and Dingly Dell, were compelling and enjoyable slices of hairier-than-thou folk rock.
Thankfully, on Magic in the Air – which brings the original line-up back together – the band knows which side their musical bread is buttered and draws all but one of its songs from those first three albums, resulting in a crowd-pleasing set that returns them to their early 70s heyday.
album reviews, folk rock
Jeffman, writer of this here HFoS blog, has developed a temporary fault. Normal service will be resumed, once we’ve found the manual and figured out how to reboot him. This may take a week or two.
In the second of this week’s “two-for-one” review slots, Esoteric graces us with two more reissues, set for release at the end of the month. This time around it’s Isotope guitarist and constant factor, Gary Boyle, with his two solo albums, The Dancer and Electric Glide, which first saw the light of day in 1977 and 1978 respectively.
Now, if you’d visited HFoS a year or so back, you would’ve found a place of seething hostility, so far as the the jazz-rock was concerned. It was a musical pariah, persecuted by the very same pen that writes these words now. A lot can happen in a year though, and whereas at one time, anything hitting the HFoS Towers’ doormat intent on jazz-fusion would’ve received short shrift and a thorough kicking on the car park, nowadays the sinewy grooves of bands such as Soft Machine, Mahavishnu Orchestra and the aforementioned Isotope have been welcomed into our collective bosom, nurtured and – dare I say it – thoroughly enjoyed.
The Dancer fits into this newfound appreciation of all things fusion, somewhat perfectly.
With the help of an assorted band of musicians, including Zoe Kronberger, who also appeared on the final Isotope album, Deep End, Gary Boyle delivers a sultry collection of sounds that, as Sid Smith notes in the accompanying booklet, could easily be a continuation of that record. Nice!
album reviews, jazz rock, prog rock
It’s been such a long time since I last reviewed anything at HFoS, I think I’ve forgotten how to do it. Hold on, it’s coming back to me… Listen to album. Write some words. Get drunk. That sounds about right. I don’t think I even have to do it in that order.
So first up for 2012 and, incidentally, the 300th post on Head Full of Snow, are these soon to be released Terry Riley reissues from Esoteric.
Not to be mistaken with sugar-coated R&B producer Teddy Ruxpin, the albums In C and A Rainbow in Curved Air, are the fruits of the American composer, who, while sporting a Mick Miller haircut, championed, influenced and became a fundamental part of the – then burgeoning – minimalist music scene. Think of a bunch of Beatniks sat around in a New York basement, smoking the contents of a herbal teabag and trying to get a tune out of a chair leg. That’s (possibly) how this movement started.
album reviews, avant-garde, prog rock
Back again. Yes, despite the best efforts of an aircraft hangar’s worth of booze and a blossoming addiction to Mike Oldfield’s ‘On Horseback’, HFoS has made it through yet another Christmas.
King Crimson react to the news HFoS survived another Christmas
This year I’ve resolved to beat the post-seasonal hangover by remaining drunk, which, thus far, has proved to be an agreeable tactic… Pay no heed if my eyes glaze over or I lose my train of thought mid
As is customary this time of year, I will be making one or two rash promises, none of which I have any intention of adhering to. So we might as well get those out of the way first.
2012 will see a new look website and a raft of new features, as well as the return of some old ones.
There, pretty much the same as last year, minus the enthusiasm.
music vid, news, prog rock, progressive folk
Hell’s teeth! It’s that time of year again. When I make a host of rash promises for what the new year at HFoS may bring, before buggering off to imbibe the Christmas spirit for a month or so.
This year, I’ll dispense with anything that could be held against me at a later date and, instead, leave you with the latest mixtape: The HFoS Prog Rock Xmas Stocking Filler.
Granted, it’s not particularly festive, nor exclusively prog-orientated, but it’s the best you’ll get from me this side of 2012.
mixtapes, prog rock, progressive folk, psych-pop, psychedelic rock
The constraints of time have decreed that there will only be the one HFoS Selection Pack this year; an amalgamation of three as opposed to the usual singular entities. Time has also put paid to the promised King Crimson reviews, but fear not, they will arrive – like a forgetful Santa – in the new year.
So what festive fare have I picked randomly from the ether for you spend your Our Price vouchers on this year? Read on, my fine fellows and fellowettes:
Rick Wakeman – Journey to the Centre of the Earth
As it’s Christmas, something supremely daft is in order and they don’t come much dafter than this live recording. A man in a cape, with enough electric pianos, organs, Moogs, Mellotrons and what-have-yous to cause an energy crisis on a small Mediterranean island. The London Symphony Orchestra. The English Chamber Choir. Narration from the preposterously eyebrowed David Hemmings (following Billy Dainty’s scheduling conflict). An audience anticipating something with the subtlety of a broken bottle to the throat… What the deuce were they all thinking?
album reviews, folk rock, prog rock, psych-folk, psych-pop, psychedelic rock
Although it’s widely accepted that Billy Dainty invented prog rock in 1968, while on a works beano to Cleethorpes, there were many bands around at the time that also played their part in authoring the blueprint for what would later become this much derided genre.
One such purveyor of proto-prog goodness was keyboardist and singer, Norman Haines, who fronted Birmingham band Locomotive – which, following his departure, became The Dog That Bit People – and went on to form The Norman Haines Band. As was often the case with bands from my hometown (for every Move or Traffic, there’s twenty Worlds of Oz) none of these incarnations found the success they sought and were pretty much forgotten to the purple haze of time. Good news for rare vinyl collectors, bad news for the rest of us.
Fortunately, Esoteric has completed the harvesting of these three lost gems, with the recent reissue of the Haines Band’s Den of Iniquity. First up though, is Locomotive’s 1970 album, We Are Everything You See.
album reviews, prog rock, psychedelic rock
Out-bloody-rageous! Not only the title of a track on Soft Machine’s Third album, but also a fair summation of Jon Anderson’s 1976 solo excursion to the inner reaches of his own mind, Olias of Sunhillow. In both concept and execution it layers on the degrees of ostentatiousness with a whopping great trowel, the size of which would’ve given Percy Thrower a crippling hernia had he attempted to brandish it.
If it’s subtlety you’re after, look elsewhere.
But then, nobody’s ever going to arrive at a mid-seventies album from the lead singer of Yes, expecting restraint and delicately nuanced, musical refinement. Nor would you want such a thing. It’s 1976. It’s Jon Anderson. It’s out-bloody-rageous!
Not outrageously good, nor, thankfully, outrageously bad. Olias of Sunhillow is just… outrageous. It’s also rather enjoyable, so long as the dosage is prescribed with a generous pinch of salt. Indeed, one might think that this album is a carefully constructed piss-take of the progressive rock genre. But it’s not. It’s 1976. It’s Jon Anderson. The man largely responsible for 1973′s Tales from Topographic Oceans, which is as daft as it is dull.
album reviews, prog rock
I was nowt but a month old when Jack Bruce took his short-lived band of musical desperadoes to the Manchester Trade Hall for the recording of Live ’75.
Formed to tour the 1974 album Out of the Storm, the Jack Bruce Band dig a little deeper for this particular show, incorporating, not only, that record, but also material from Song for a Tailor, Harmony Row and Cream’s Disraeli Gears.
Featuring jazz keyboardist Carla Bley; journeyman keyboardist Ronnie Leahy; late drummer with The Knack, Bruce Gary; and a post-Rolling Stones Mick Taylor, the Jack Bruce Band was a formidable assembly of musical talent, spearheaded by one of most respected bassists of the 60s and 70s. And the calibre of musicianship on display is more than evident throughout this superior live document of a troupe whose musical alignment was all too brief.
album reviews, jazz rock, prog rock
Remarkably for a man who, to this day, is considered by many to be little more than a one hit wonder, by 1977 Arthur Brown had recorded his sixth album (seventh if you count the “lost” Strangelands); the enigmatically titled Chisholm in my Bosom.
Now this isn’t, as you would be forgiven for thinking, a concept piece based around the character of Albert “Cheerful Charlie” Chisholm, malodorous Detective Sergeant and bane of Arthur Daley’s life. The title, in fact, is an arcane reference to the home of some “spiritual guru” type, with whom Brown was involved at the time of recording. As was the done thing in the 1970s.
While the UK music scene was being rent asunder by the amphetamine-fuelled fury of a legion of bronchial ‘erberts, the original shaman of overcooked shock had mellowed a tad, and whereas brief blasts of three-chord anarchy were all the rage, Arthur wasn’t about to be swayed by the musical disposition of a new generation of acne-festooned upstarts.
album reviews, prog rock
Between now and Christmas, HFoS intends to feature all seven King Crimson studio albums from the 1969-1974 period. A classic era for a band that, from day one, existed in a state of flux; the single constant being, of course, the thinking man’s guitar legend (and occasional Mellotron maestro) Robert Fripp.
With a timorous and unassuming bearing, it’s difficult to equate his appearance with the fearsome sound that King Crimson produced, beginning with the heart-stopping opening to ’21st Century Schizoid Man’, right through to the closer of 1974′s Red, the wonderfully eclectic and moving ‘Starless’.
1968′s The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles & Fripp, featuring Mike and Peter Giles – both of who would feature at some point or another in the ever-changing King Crimson line-up – came out a year before In the Court of the Crimson King, the KC debut, and couldn’t sound any more different to that album if it tried. What a difference a year makes, eh?
album reviews, prog rock, psych-pop
Call me a tenuous bandwagon-jumper, if you like. I readily hold my hands up.
Well, it is Halloween, so what better than a horrifying mix of prog, psych and folk to blow the cobwebs from your proverbial tombstones?
folk, mixtapes, prog rock, psychedelic rock
Take one sound engineer and producer, who had worked with not only The Beatles but also twiddled the nobs on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon. Add a songwriter and manager who’d provided words and music for the likes of Marianne Faithfull, The Tremeloes and Marmalade, as well as handling Kung-fu fighting one hit wonder, Carl Douglas. Give them a stir with whatever’s at hand, be it spoon, pen or screwdriver, and what have you got?
I’ll tell thee. The Alan Parsons Project is what you’ve got; a collaboration between the aforementioned sound engineer, Alan Parsons, and Eric Woolfson. Together, they would release 10 albums between 1976 and 1987 under the TAPP banner, the first of which, Tales of Mystery and Imagination: Edgar Allen Poe, is without a doubt the finest.
Created in conjunction with an army of session musicians and guest vocalists – Parsons and Woolfson pitching in where necessary – the 1976 debut is a masterly example of the much-derided concept album in action. Each track takes one of Edgar Allen Poe’s tales of the macabre and adapts it to a piece of prog rock loveliness. Granted, it loses something in its translation, ensuring little of the suspense or, indeed, the mystery that its source material provides, but who cares when there’s such a cracking selection of tunes on offer?
album reviews, prog rock
In 1966, before the term jazz-rock/fusion had been coined, you had your jazz camp and your rock camp; rarely did the twain meet, let alone sit around in a circle, crack open the super-strength chamomile tea and indulge in a full-on jam session.
Unless, of course, you were New York’s own The Free Spirits, whose sole album, Out of Sight and Sound, is widely regarded as one of the first jazz-rock excursions. Live at the Scene captures the band in February 1967, tearing up the then legendary NYC venue, Steve Paul’s The Scene. Well, perhaps not “tearing up”, but giving it a jolly good seeing to, nonetheless.
Fronted by jazz-rock stalwart and veteran guitarist, Larry Coryell (responsible for pushing the embryonic Spirits in a rock direction), the band was a celebrated live phenomenon, some of the unbridled energy and passion of which Live at the Scene attempts to convey. And if it’s a raw, Mr. Sheen-free document you’re after, of possibly the first fusion band engaging in some psychedelically-charged, sonic livestock-worrying, then this release could be right up your jazz-rock boulevard.
album reviews, jazz rock, psychedelic rock
In general Toytown songs should be at least one of the following: light, bouncy, jangly, slightly off-key or slightly out of whack – Marmalade Skies
Indeed, and although some of the songs on HFoS Goes to Toytown may stretch the boundaries of what the purist might define as “Toytown Psychedelia”, I believe the term “slightly out of whack” can be applied to all.
They also demonstrate, in varying degrees, a jaunty childlike innocence; a harking back to an imagined, rose-tinted past; and an occasional darkness associated with things lurking under the bed. All characteristics that further define the paisley-patterned pathways of Toytown.
mixtapes, psych-pop, psychedelic rock
As England shivers beneath an onslaught of unseasonably harsh weather, Sunbeam Records continues its ongoing mission to explore strange new (old) sounds, to seek out new (old) music and artistes, to boldly go where no reissue label has gone before. And with the autumnal battering the country is presently undergoing*, what better time to take a listen to this latest reissue, Bruce Janaway’s Puritanical Odes; what is a prime example of the miserable-bastard fest and musical sub-genre nowadays referred to as ‘downer folk’.
They don’t come much more arcane than this slice of 1977 acid folk. It began life as a private pressing of just 200 vinyl copies, which was then circulated among a selective audience. Far out!
Shot through with a lyrical bitterness that underlines Janaway’s apparent disgust with this mess of a world, through painfully crafted metaphor and the minimalist acid folk sound he employs, Puritanical Odes is six acoustic songs (entitled ‘Odes’ A to E and ‘Labour Pains’) performed on the 12-string guitar. There is no accompaniment other than the occasional haunting choral shriek and disconcerting bursts of erratic feedback.
acid-folk, album reviews, folk
For their second album, 1971′s Moving Waves, barmy Dutch proggers Focus decided to open the proceedings with a barnstorming festival of foolishness entitled ‘Hocus Pocus’. The rest, as they say, is history, with the aforementioned opener going on to be their most recognisable tune (though ‘House of the King’ and ‘Sylvia’ run it a close second and third), still gaining recognition as recently as 2010, when it popped up as the soundtrack to Nike’s World Cup ads.
Rightfully so too, as it’s a splendid seven minutes of Netherlandic nonsense, with a tongue lodged so firmly in its cheek, there’s a very real danger it might starve to death. The fact it’s a cracking good tune, to boot, only increases its appeal onehundredfold. If you’re reading this now – and how else would you know I just said that? – then there’s every chance you’re already acquainted with the rare delight that is ‘Hocus Pocus’; if not take a look at this bastard.
But that’s just one song on an album of six. Is this sum part greater than its whole? Is the brilliance bound to the buffoonery of one track? Does anybody actually care?
album reviews, prog rock