Monday, July 30, 2012


First things first, I should say before I even begin this blog MY SINCERE APOLOGIES to BIFF BYFORD/SAXON. I lumped his lyrics in with Iron Maiden's sickening right wing fanatic fascist shite when I made a huge mistake. If Mr. Byford or anyone in Saxon has seen my blogs then I hope they see this one and know that I've seen the light about his words to the song "Power And The Glory." Many Saxon lyrics deal with history. Biff is obsessed with it and even though they haven't done anything musically of merit for a long time he continues to write staggeringly about true real life events that are still of importance centuries later. "Power And The Glory" I took as a war mongering song like Iron Maiden, but this is a very different Charge Of The Light Brigade from the one in the sickening "The Trooper." Unlike 'The Trooper" which is stupid enough to glorify it "Power And The Glory" deals with a soldier confident they will win the battle to the disillusionment of "The General Says We'll Win The War Just Sacrifice 10,000 More" to from a soldier who is eager to fight and sees victory to "I'm A Soldier Of Fortune I'm Trained And I'm Ready To Die." He dies and the song ends. The Charge Of The Light Brigade was one of the worst military disasters in history and Byford/Saxon deal with it very well. This blog is about psychedelic rock and not heavy metal,  but I wanted to get this in here and also to say if you get a chance do check out a few early Saxon records- you may like them if you like Judas Priest and UFO whom I love.
                                -Ache And The Magic Green Man-
Another error I made that I've been making for ages is to say that Ache is pronounced not like a pain, but like ash or AACH. Although they took their name from Acheron the river in Hell along with the Styx the name of the band is pronounced like as it says Ache. Forming in Denmark in the late 60s out of the remnants of various beat groups Ache quickly showed themselves to be one of the most adventurous bands of the amazing Danish psychedelic/progressive underground music scene in the the late 60s/early 70s with their staggering debut epic DE HOMINE URBANO (The Urban Man). This contained a side long track each with the heavy instrumental psychedelic title track taking up all of Side One and the equally challenging Beatles inspired "Little Things" (as in "Every Little Thing") all of Side Two. It made them very popular in Denmark where their British influenced but also very Northern European sound was completely unlike anything that come before it.
    The original line up and musical style of Ache is very far removed from the equally brilliant symphonic period that gave us PICTURES FROM CYCLUS 7 in 1976. In 1971 or late 1970 when they made GREEN MAN they had a whole different approach (more heavy psychedelic than heavy progressive) to their music and a very different line up. The original Ache which recorded and performed was made up of Finn Olaffson (Guitar/vocals), his brother Torsten (Bass/vocals/lyrics), Englishman Glenn Fischer (Drums, percussion), and together with F. Olaffson the one mainstay in the group keyboard player Peter Mellin. This line up became a huge sensation in Northern Europe and toured many times and off the album in question GREEN MAN they even got a continental European surprise hit in the spooky Procol Harum influenced psychedelic ballad "Shadow Of A Gypsy."
    GREEN MAN is one of the most impressive and exciting psych into prog crossover albums ever made, a masterpiece that belongs in every even half-serious collection and an album that together with awesome bands like Hair, Culpeper's Orchard, Old Man & The Sea, and many others would make Denmark a contender for best European country along with Holland and Germany (and Sweden too). What makes the likes of Ache and Hair so different is their wholly unique sound that doesn't bother with conventional song structures or anything trite or musically compromised. With GREEN MAN it's a dark looking dark sounding album that takes no prisoners- you may have to be in a Gothic mood for some of this and it isn't for the timid!
  An album based around Ache's attempt to create a rock theatre and some other vague concepts GREEN MAN is Ache's heaviest album- there is no surrender on this one. That said, it isn't knock-you-over-the-head bludgeoning all the time and the overall vibe is like (swallow your pride David Gilmour and Roger Waters and Pink Floyd fans) early Pink Floyd if they hadn't been a band who would fast turn into one of the most boring and nastiest bands in the entire world. I don't like Pink Floyd after Syd Barrett left other than an album here or there and a song here or there. I really can't stand DARK SIDE OF THE MOON and it is such bullshit compared to this album. I have read comparisons between Peter Mellin and other keyboard players of the time and none of them make any sense. We lost the most talented member of the later Floyd when Richard Wright died and I am a little shocked that he isn't who Mellin is compared to. Honestly though, Peter Mellin's keyboards are more about atmosphere and dynamics as is the playing of the entire group on this album. The vocals sound very distant much of the time, very druggy and psychedelic as does the music. Here's a run through song by song of this masterful album:
                          -SONGS OF A GREEN MAN-
"Equatorial Rain" is a very unnerving experience to listen to- a sort of damaged trip and descent into the darkest kind of psychedelic rock there is. The beginning with its bizarre guitar effects and freaky vocals has me thinking of stocky, beefy, very masculine naked men such as soldiers starring backside facing out into a vast space- a vast galaxy that is the entire world- perhaps a return to the very beginnings of thought process and that of Man acknowledging the creation of some outer reaches of a galaxy/universe. The song then abruptly shifts into a heavy organ solo and then a music hall piano and stronger less distant vocals. The lyrics to the entire song are completely strange- some of the most crazy flights of fantasy I've ever heard and not really making sense if you don't pay close attention. The music is both otherworldly and exotic whilst also sounding quite classically inspired with British influences. I wouldn't be able to draw any comparisons to another band here! You'll have to hear this for yourself to believe it, but let me say it's Ache at their most original and also creepiest.
"Sweet Jolly Joyce" is a whole different thing altogether- a more hard rock oriented track that again brings to mind Pink Floyd and other British bands. The vocal reminds me of a more rock less progressive King Crimson, but also a bit lower pitched and the music is thrashing crashing heavy psych featuring powerful organ riffs from Peter Mellin. Again lyrically this is pretty dark and ominous helping to along with 'Equatorial Rain" create an eerie atmospheric sound. I could draw some comparisons with German bands here, but the sound is more British than Teutonic. The lyrics deal with a very vivacious girl who is also very cruel, selfish, and doesn't give a damn who she hurts. The song ends with her death and people instead of mourning her hated her behaviors so much that they celebrate. Yes, it isn't light stuff at all!
The 4 part suite that follows doesn't let up from the dark and threatening vibe of the first two tracks. Instead it is a 4 part suite of pure darkness and can at times instill terror in the listener. Mostly playing it is full of heavy guitars, keyboards (mainly organ), and brilliantly played bass/drums/percussion. There is a really vicious atmosphere to the whole thing with freaky vocals coming in and a sound that recalls what it may be like to go into a graveyard late at night and converse with spirits of lost ages there. It isn't at all pleasant yet it is so exciting that it's very enjoyable. The suite ends with a terrifying scream.
"Shadow Of A Gypsy" is by contrast a very beautiful song that conjures up a late 60s vibe and some particularly inventive lyrics and instrumental work. I already am sold on this album and I had unfortunately heard Ache's music backwards with my introduction to them the equally masterful yet very different PICTURES FROM CYCLUS 7. By 1976 the musical climate had changed and so had Ache- opting for a more pop/progressive/heavy progressive sound whilst here there are a few pop influences, but of a very different kind. The vocals and music on this track are beautiful and strangely also bring to mind the Greek bands Axis and Aphrodite's Child. There's some Germanic olde world mysteriousness here that can make me feel like I'm sitting under a tree watching a German/European past come into the present and a field of scattered very old antiques and furniture. I know that may sound really bizarre- but you listen to this album and tell me your head hasn't been tampered with a bit by the experience! It's heavy prog/psych man! "Shadow Of A Gypsy" would somehow give Ache their one hit. It did great for them in their native Denmark and was released as a single in many European countries gaining airplay and raves everywhere it was played. It's a shame that Ache couldn't follow up on this little bit of success they had and a bit surprising that later on PICTURES FROM... wouldn't be a huge success for them.
Side Two is a completely different musical experience than Side One. The dark and frightening vibes that faded out with "Shadow Of A Gypsy" are now just the first 3 songs on Side One and the title track is joyous sounding. Poppy harmonies, a very cheerful atmosphere, and some great energy make "Green Man" the song a great pop psych track with definite 60s influences. When I think of "Green Man" I don't think of that scary vampire in a graveyard on the front cover I think of soldiers- they are green men aren't they? Well, they are green camouflaged men and we all know that people can't be green unless they are so full of jealousy in a fictitious movie that they drop dead. I don't know where this whole green man and green girl and green people thing comes from, but it's probably just Ache being a lot more lighthearted than on Side One of the album. This is the most joyful, happy track they'd ever recorded and I love its happiness and optimism. The rest of the side goes first into a spacy atmospheric very impressive instrumental entitled "Acheron" which is where the band name came from and the final track is one of the most important on the album even if it is a cover version. "We Can Work It Out/Working" is an amazingly different take on the Beatles classic with intense guitar and organ interplay, psyched vocals (without effects though mind you), powerful almost Latin percussion/drums, and some very driving bass from Torsten Olaffson. The song is entirely rearranged, a more hard rock version which never loses the emotional impact of the original it just takes it into an entirely different place. Ache are very impressive musicians, but when they jam as they do on this track they jam like early Kin Ping Meh- a German band who released the best album ever made by that great country in their 2nd album aptly named No2 and which also includes a stunning Beatles cover in their reinvention of "Come Together." The Beatles were and are the very most important band ever formed. They will outlive everything else that came before and after them or at least have the richness of history that goes with the greatest composers of all time and if you can truly get something out of their music by covering it and do it your own way there is no problem with that. Ache, all of the great inventive bands grew up on The Beatles. It all had started with American rock & roll and R&B and then when we went into oblivion in the early 60s the beast that would be British rock took over almost completely. American bands would arguably not become truly exciting in their own right until The Beatles helped create psychedelia and we followed, but don't forget that Europe is not just an interesting place for music- more importantly Northern Europe is brilliant. I would also like to say that the cold climate may have helped the Canadians create a lot of great bands and artists which were far more exciting than ANY AND ALL AMERICAN GARAGE ROCK BULLSHIT. While American garage bands did lame cover versions some American psych/pop/progressive bands would do great covers and originals. The Canadians also could do interesting takes on Beatles songs including an excellent take on this same song by Claire Lepage And Compagnie who made but one record and on that one record is heavy pop psych greatness for the record books. Getting back to Ache "We Can Work It Out/Working" keeps the variety of the album alive and the jam will send you reeling into psychedelic paradise. I would strongly urge you to find this album- it won't be easy and it may be a little bit pricey- but it's worth it as this is a very creative record by a band who broke every rule ever made in the book of rock. Rock on Ache and keep on digging deeper cos when you do the music is some of the best ever recorded.

Friday, July 13, 2012


The mail has been a nightmare. It took a total of 10 working days and 12 days total (excruciating) for a package containing the records of my heart's desire to come and my dad had to go pick them up early this morning at the PO. Don't blame the individual mailmen/PO personnel, blame this on the slowness of European mail and the shorthandedness of the US Postal Service in a time of financial crisis and decay. And still 4 more records are held up.... I feel like I am constantly at war against something or somebody. I feel like a soldier, a career soldier who just has to go on fighting and fighting till he wins the definitive battle and reaches the true peak of pleasure- awareness.
When I hear something I've had to fight for and it lets me down it is the biggest blow in the world, but when it's as good as these two it is like a soldier winning a fight after thinking he'd lose it. I'll say no more except that here are two very unusual records and two of the best ever. Listen closely to the pictures.
                            -Megaton: A Band Of 1971 A Band of Complete Magic-
 Megaton is an album that you either seem to love or hate with unfortunately a lot of people/dealers/collectors spilling out bad press and bad vibes about it. The album also did not sell well at the time although the hopes for a hit were really high when after all the lead singer/co-composer of the studio project was Jimmy Bilsbury from Lancashire England who was fresh off a US huge hit with his band The Magic Lanterns. On that song ("Shame Shame") and on the album that followed it in the States on Atlantic Bilsbury proved himself to be a very powerful vocalist, but he was clearly at odds with the straightforward yet very class act British pop the band were playing. Seeking a change of direction he went to Germany and teamed up with the infamous Les Humphries- an ex US army SGT who had his own band and who managed to record some pretty out there stuff with a group consisting of 3 Germans and one Italian. Before Bilsbury's arrival they'd recorded as Kannibal Komix and then as Apocalypse, but neither of these projects sold well. It was the usual problem- too much talent and not any marketing sense on part of the label (Ariola). Bilsbury came along and they got together and magic happened. Megaton was recorded and except for a release in the United States it was pretty much an international release and you can tell a huge amount of money and time was sunk into the production.
    Megaton like Duffy played a strange kind of sound- hard rock pop psych. Bilsbury equated hard rock with over the top screams and powerful bluesy soulful vocals like Paul Rodgers or Stevie Winwood whilst the band added very German harmonies and amazing musicianship. On a few tracks Bilsbury plays piano. Now, hard rock pop psych may sound like a contradiction in terms, but there was a lot of it around in the early 1970s  and it began with The Koobas in 1969. The correct way to describe it is to say that the melodic aspects of 1960s psych are kept and in addition to that there is the heavy vibe of classic hard rock added to it. It's a magical sound. Megaton clearly were of this breed and clearly amongst the best. Tracks such as the killer opener "Out Of Your Own Little World" are really powerful with strong vocals, funny accented harmonies, and some amazing guitar pyrotechnics. After beginning like a cross between Free and The Koobas it goes into a long guitar break and then back to the almost glam hard hitting guitars/vocals. The rest of Side One gets much further out there and over the top with the second track on the album "Niagara" a heavy mixture of overt Led Zeppelin influences, Latin/African percussion, crazed vocals, and bizarre lyrics. It's hard to believe that people can love something as horrendous as Morgen or Stonewall (yeah, a shit record with a big reputation of being one of the American Holy Grail hard rockers which by the way is a genre which does not exist) and hate this, but that's American collectors/dealers for you. They don't understand this kind of music. They just haven't a clue. Also, I would probably say that if you are into the more cosmic German bands this one will fly right past you. I never could stand that stuff. German I equate with rocking not plodding nothingy nonsense. "Niagara" is very German with a British hard rock influence which makes me think of John Lawton's early period of Lucifer's Friend or the other Lucifer's connected bands like Electric Food who covered "Whole Lotta Love." "Wanna Be A Hero" is a song clearly stemming from Vietnam and the previous destruction ridden nightmare of World War 2. The vocals are completely over the top and manic with a lot of screams thrown in, sinister intonations, and the lyrics are some of the angriest anti war angst you'll ever come across. However, like all things Megaton there is a sense of humour and none of it is depressing. "Fairy Tale Song" alludes to Lewis Carroll in a weird way as it is Bilsbury's craziest vocal on the record and one of the heaviest tracks. It's very funny with really nothing else like it at all. The music is very different and Megaton sound pretty exotic with their weird blend of different styles/approaches to hard rock. "Coo Cooki Choo" closes the side and is one of the best tracks on Side One with some great vocals, an unusual song structure, and lots of drug references (thankfully just to smoking hash and lighting incense- a legal drug). It's one of my very favourite tracks on the album-a  really catchy uplifting song and something again very different.
     Side Two differs from Side One a bit in that the pop psych vibes are more present and there is less of the hard rock onslaught of Side One. That doesn't mean it's lightweight at all, just that Megaton can really surprise you. The harmonies come out more and on the opener "Carry It On At The End" everything from Reggae to Afro/Cuban and Latin percussion is used tastily with lots of great vocals/vocal harmonies. Bilsbury has a very appealingly bluesy voice that thankfully can also be melodic when need be.  "Woman I'm Gonna Make You Mine" beats the shit out of Status Quo for boogie rock with some great harmonies, strong vocals, and a really sassy vibe to it all. It doesn't sound like Led Zeppelin- it's much poppier. "Man In An Aeroplane" is where the scratch on my copy which is otherwise great does a tiny bit of damage (really miniscule), but I think it's the weakest track on the album. It doesn't have a whole lot of energy and is decent, but not great. Thankfully the last two tracks on the album "Life Was Easy Yesterday" and "Tomorrow Never Comes My Way" are very different in a good way and two of the best on the record. The former is amazing melodic rock/pop with a great vocal sound and the latter a song that takes The Band and turns it into something good. A really strong ending to a very underrated record. I don't understand why so many people don't get Megaton. I'll admit the vocals are pretty damned crazy, but a lot better than quite a few other bands I can think of and the music is really different, really special. For me it's quite a relief from the uselessness of much of what was going on in America at a time I am glad I was not born in time to remember and one further thing about this record- DO NOT buy a Mexican or Peruvian press go straight for the German Decca as it has the best sound.
               -A Rave About England's Brilliant Duffy Just In Case You're Interested-
It doesn't get any better than this album. That would simply be impossible after hearing it. There are equals, but nothing can surpass it. From Toytown popsike to sinister hard acid rock these guys are a band who definitely were never gonna top this one. And they didn't top it at all. Their England only followup to a European only first had its moments, but is nowhere near as good. That album is called SCRUFFY DUFFY. It doesn't impress me with its more progressive leaning less psychedelic sound. In fact, I'm shocked that some of the tracks on JUST IN CASE YOU'RE INTERESTED haven't been put out on a classic British psych compilation. How Rubble missed "Matchmaker," "Amie," "Long Lost Friend," "Tell Me," and "It's My Life" especially the knock out psych of "Matchmaker" is a real mystery. If you love The Koobas as much as I do and wish there was a second album then here it is- this is that good! Duffy clearly had chops. There is more guitar on here than SCRUFFY and the keyboards are more creative too. Stewart "The Queen" Reffold sings with a very pleasant yet rocky raspy voice that recalls Stu Leathwood of The Koobas and early Rod Stewart. One of the biggest differences here are the outstanding harmony vocals which often are phased and very psychedelic sounding. Some of this album is straight out of classic 1968/1969 British psych, but if you like your Sabbath, Uriah Heep, and Deep Purple then you'll be in hard rock paradise when you hear the really powerful "Judgement Day." "Judgement Day" is one of the heaviest tracks on the record and features some really sinister lyrics. It's hard to tell if Duffy are Christian in a weird way and that also comes through on their inferior follow up, but I would probably guess they are non religious and just an intelligent band. Stewart Reffold sings with a very dark voice on this track that strongly recalls Ozzy and how few singers can attempt Ozzy and pull it off makes his strongly Sabbbathy vocals very impressive. He also can sound like David Coverdale at his best or the aforementioned Rod Stewart on hard hitting rockers like "Rock Solid" which could have been a hit and the revenge with gun against unfaithful wife/girlfriend sinister hard psych rocker "Riverside."
     In addition to the amazing original material there is the best ever take on "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" which at nearly 6 minutes is a really powerful reworking. The only cover they'd ever do in their all to brief career, and an amazing one. There isn't one song on this album that doesn't merit maximum rating. It is a very special record especially in that 1960s pop psych and 70s hard rock/acid rock meet in a perfect way that never sounds disjointed. The lyrics are very good and insightful with again a marked improvement to their follow up album which isn't worth buying really. Like so many other bands before and so many since Duffy had made the perfect album and where was there to go after that but down? It isn't 80s Colin Blunstone sell out down which is the worst schlock (nothing sucks more than the album he made with Keats), but SCRUFFY DUFFY doesn't have this kind of magic. Speaking of Blunstone The Man With The Golden Voice you can even hear some Oddesey and Oracle traces on here not vocally just in the very intelligent loving approach to the music on the record. Nobody has harmonies this good. Not The Zombies not even the Godlike Hollies who there are some strong resemblances at times. The only band I can think of who'd be on the same level are The Beach Boys and that is quite a mouthful for me to say about this band! I love The Koobas and I wish they hadn't had such bad luck, but Duffy's luck was none better. They could easily have quit with JUST IN CASE YOU'RE INTERESTED and since what followed it isn't anywhere close in quality I kind of wish they had. To my knowledge none of the group resurfaced in other outfits after Duffy, but they made one of the best records ever recorded. There is nothing that isn't the absolute peak of British psych/hard rock on this album. A real masterpiece.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Kal Swan if you see this where are you? What have you been up to? Will you ever sing and record music again? These are all questions that only Kal can answer and since I've not been able to contact him directly or do much research I can give you as many facts as I have about this Metal Vocal God, but I can't tell you much more than what matters the most- the music.
                               -Tytan- The Early Days and Rough Justice Indeed!-
OK, so a lot of you won't know who Kal Swan is unless you're a die hard follower of British hard rock. You won't recognize Tytan or maybe you do if you are reading this blog and have seen my rants on heavy metal/hard rock/New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Kal's first professional band that I know of was Tytan back in 1981-1982. Swan is one of those rare exceptions in metal. A voice that is genuinely powerful and majestic, not a helium pitched screamer or an overstuffed cookie monster. There was a time when metal could have class and Tytan together with Diamond Head and Dark Star were the classiest of them all. Formed by ex Angel Witch bass player/keyboardist/backup singer Kevin "Skidz" Riddles, Kal, and guitarist Stevie Gibbs who along with Riddles has reformed the band sadly without Kal it was clear from the beginning that Tytan weren't going to be a run of the mill metal band or a power trio type sound like Angel Witch. They were helped out a great deal in the beginning from Angel Witch's rising popularity and guitarist/lead singer Dave Dufort's support, but they were a band doomed to meet an untimely end with just enough in the tank to record some astonishing music.
      Music has always been something that can be twisted into a lie. It doesn't matter what era, what kind of music, how far back nor how far forward you want to go. Iron Maiden are lying through their teeth and they always were lying through their teeth. Why some anti hate group hasn't slaughtered them literally I don't know and fuck all those fake connections Bruce Dickinson makes to Williams Shakespeare and Blake he's a complete loser in the clothes of a rock and roll champion which he most certainly is not. Back in the days of classical music or jazz it probably was a better time to be a professional musician. You were successful because you were hugely talented and had a natural gift for music. We all know the classics of both- Beethoven, Bach, Schubert, Mozart, Wagner, Stravinsky, Vivaldi, Debussy to name but a few and for jazz Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, early John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and only a few who slipped by huge success such as the tenor sax genius Wardell Gray. Music changes with each generation and with each new change and revolution come hangers on, liars, and the real deal. While rock progressed fast from the Beatles onward it would always hit a brick wall at a certain point and nothing good would register in the charts. Kal Swan and Tytan were a real heavy metal band at a time when metal was a valid musical form in England that had breathed freshness into a dying music scene.
    The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal by definition would be music much more melodic, much more powerful, much more extravagant and well-crafted than any other metal that was around.
Tytan played a blend of melodic hard rock, bashing over the top metal, and driving blues based hard hitting solid metal all with brilliant musicianship and Kal Swan's refreshingly deep, bassy, bluesy, soaring, hugely well-rounded and wide-angled vocals/lyrics. They were a rare exception- a band who could write, perform, and pull off a shocking hybrid of all hard heavy music that had gone before and that was yet to come. Kal's voice and the excellent singles they released, their amazing live shows, and an album sadly long after their demise are what we have to remember this short lived group for. Tytan were tipped for huge things, but line up changes and management issues typical of the era led to Swan splitting in late 1982/early 1983 for Los Angeles where he'd form Lion (more on them later). The band didn't exist, but to remember them 12 tracks were put out on a tribute album to their music compiled by the band and the Metal Masters label in 1985 entitled appropriately ROUGH JUSTICE.
                  -Kal Swan Roars Into His First Battle- Rough Justice-
   One of the most famous albums of the entire New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and now one of the rarest and most sought after (albeit an awful pressing job) is Tytan's ROUGH JUSTICE- an album once ignored by all including silly me back then when it was a common $10 album! The title is very fitting of what happened to Tytan's career. I really wish I could polish a knife and kill some stupid war mongering metal assholes when I hear the anti Nuclear War opening track "Blind Men And Fools" and yes that is how frightening, how powerful this song is. It's Tytan's most famous together with the amazing Side Two first track "The Watcher" and hardly surprisingly. "Blind Men And Fools" is true metal- it's heavy, bludgeoning, emotional, and full of menacing power. With Queen like harmony vocals and Kal's belting deep voice soaring on top of the full blast toughness of the music this is a God like metal song- may just be the best ever. The rest of the album is really in all honesty just as amazing. Swan sounds like Kal Swan and he does also try a few things he'd never do again such as some borderline thrash/speed like the uproarious rape track (I'm not advocating such a horrible thing the song is just so tasteless that it makes me crack up) "Cold Bitch" which is a disaster and some more convincing songs ("Don't Play Their Way," "Far Cry"). I'm glad that Swan would later abandon the overt metal of some of ROUGH JUSTICE, but as overt metal goes this is awesome. On the best tracks like "Forever Gone," "Money For Love," "The Watcher," "Blind Men And Fools," "Women On The Frontline," and the melodic splendor of the beautiful yet still hard hitting final track "Far Side Of Destiny" it's enough to just break down and have a good cry over how this band never went anywhere. Yes, it's nearly that sad. Really, though, I feel more anger than sadness and my mind keeps going back to damned Iron Maiden and how such a hate driven, Proto Fascist, and war mongering bunch of poseurs could make it and Tytan fall right through the cracks. Tytan also beat the shit out of Maiden live with the kind of force and power only the best of metal can have. Both live and on the record it's not just Swan we have to thank for the brilliance of Tytan's music it's all involved especially Kevin Riddles who is a fantastic musician and the impressive Randy Rhoades influenced guitar work of Stevie Gibbs. Gibbs even sings the beginning and end lead in a haunting choir boy like voice on the epic metal in a shorter song of "Sadman." Tytan were special, but with work getting harder to find, a lack of major label interest, and the ever changing line ups Swan left the band for L.A and that was the end pretty much. It could be said that his lyrics on the album are a bit on the vicious side, but as with what followed Swan is about cold hard dirty and evil reality and love two things most metal is afraid to face.
                          -The Dangerous And Fatal Power Of Lion-
After moving to L.A in late 1982/early 1983 it would take Kal awhile to get a band together and get it off the ground. Lion, a very different sort of band from Tytan, came together finally with the line up of virtuoso guitarist Doug Aldrich, brilliant bassist Jerry Best, powerful drummer Mark Edwards, and Kal Swan. This band were bent on not making the mistakes of Tytan regarding record labels and the 3 Americans complimented Kal perfectly. Working out of L.A in the mid to late 80s was a tough time for a serious melodic metal/hard rock band as most of the other L.A bands in fact all of them were nothing like Lion. The airbrushed decadence of Dokken (a great band), Ratt, Autograph, and later on the rubbish of Winger and the decent pop metal of Warrant were as far from the realistic world Lion created as you could be. Lion signed with a major label in 1985 Scotti Brothers, but not major enough. Scotti Brothers were more concerned with hit making AOR machine Survivor than Lion. Still, Lion wrote and performed the theme to the hugely popular TV series The Transformers and issued their first album in 1986 entitled DANGEROUS ATTRACTION.
    DANGEROUS ATTRACTION is a group effort. They produced it as they would the follow up and had complete control over the music. It is a very different sound from Tytan! Lion are best described as a band who played music that is both polished, artistically enlightened, basic, energizing, and menacing. There are no more Satanic references and only one politically charged track would emerge from the band that being the terrifying anti war anthem "Forgotten Sons" (forget Marillion/Fish's song what a bunch of losers) on their also very frightening second album TROUBLE IN ANGEL CITY. The songs that make up DANGEROUS ATTRACTION all stem from what sounds like horribly bad luck and hurt feelings in human relationships. Kal's wailing, plaintive, powerful, soaring voice is matched by some fine harmonies and great bluesy guitars from Aldrich. Songs like "Fatal Attraction" are such a breath of true fresh air when I hear them. The music is blues based- thank God for that! Finally a metal band who can combine blues where its all meant to come from with just enough neo Classical bombast in the solos. The riffs are killer and the hooks really are something extraordinary- just listen to songs like "Powerlove" and the 7 minute epic "In The Name Of Love." Clearly Kal Swan is a cross between Diamond Head's Sean Harris and early David Coverdale whilst staying truly himself Kal Swan. That is high praise. There are few who I would say equal Sean Harris, but he and Kal Swan are the two contenders for best metal/hard rock voice since the golden days of Ozzy led Sabbath, UFO, Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, and Judas Priest. Lion may have been more overtly melodic and a little more radio friendly than Tytan, but the Take No Prisoners assault remains a powerful hard rock blast that will have you completely blown away. I would not call DANGEROUS ATTRACTION an album for teenaged girls to listen to or any of Swan's music. Clearly from his lyrics Kal Swan has a deep hatred for the opposite sex. The fact that for the most part I share that and that I'm very masculine and not a typical homosexual though our one difference is our sexuality makes Kal almost comforting- like a brother I haven't seen in a really long time. Kal is a beautiful looking guy, but he's also a pretty moody and dark one too from what I can tell through his music.
Full marks must be given to songs like "Death On Legs," "Armed And Dangerous," "After The Fire," and the aurally savage blasting hard rock of the closing track "Shout It Out." What music!. In general unlike what would follow DANGEROUS ATTRACTION is a very listener friendly album, but not the follow up...
       TROUBLE IN ANGEL CITY is probably the scariest record in my collection and a record full of pain, anguish, and loss. We all know how scared we are when we hear those storm effects at the beginning of "Black Sabbath" by Black Sabbath and that's how the record begins. "Come On" is about going mad over lost love and losing grip of reality. Kal roars and wails with soul, heavy keyboards augment the song, Doug Aldrich flies off into the stratosphere, and this is one epic melodic hard rock anthem like Diamond Head meets a really lavish Pomp keyboard sound. The album took till 1989- a full 3 years after its predecessor to come out and it was soon all over for Lion as they had lost their major label deal and the whole thing was another screw over just as they'd hoped to avoid. Also, ominously like the cut-offs/violent endings in the album's lyrics while touring after the album either Best or Edwards was seriously wounded in a bad road accident which brought Lion to their end. TROUBLE IN ANGEL CITY is an album full of bad memories for me. Still I love it. I'm not a masochist so I must hear the true soul and purity of this sad, depressed, and mourning kind of loss all channeled through the most unlikely music form of all- heavy metal. The question of this record is IS THIS HEAVY METAL? I could say an affirmative Yes or a very strong No, so it would have to be called melodic metal or where that music meets melodic hard rock. The band had grown even more as musicians and their production job is earth-shattering, but you won't find songs more bitter or full of sadness than the pained loss of "Can't Stop The Rain" and the anger over betrayal in "Love Is A Lie." Two of the album's highlights are on Side Two the hard hitting street guy against the system of "Stranger In The City" which is filled with the kind of alienation that occurs throughout the album and the truly heavy metal horrific End-Of-The-World anti war closing epic "Forgotten Sons." Tytan could be really scary, but this album is both that and it's a depressed work of dark genius. There are almost no cheerful moments here unlike the young fresh faced optimism of the debut. Soon Lion would break up almost under worse circumstances than Tytan, but both Swan and Aldrich got together again in Bad Moon Rising- a band that showed some serious maturity.
      Despite ignorance by the American buying public Lion had done very well in Japan and when Kal Swan was putting some ideas together for a Lion comeback it was no surprise that Doug Aldrich would be heavily involved in the band. The two complimented each other so well in Lion and they'd only get better in Bad Moon Rising.
    Essentially a logical progression and more mature vision of Lion Bad Moon Rising's timing in the States/England was horrible. This wouldn't stop them from making great music, though, and for me their first two of 3 records the eponymous first and the more ominous second BLOOD capture Kal Swan at his absolute zenith. Kal could probably have waltzed through anything, but he and Aldrich devoted all their hard work and time into melodic metal perfection. The first album featured some new tricks- the epic yet more mature "Dark Side Of Babylon," the hard hitting blues rock of "Built For Speed" with a guest appearance from Michael Schenker, and the beautiful nearly tear jerking ballad "Without Your Love."  From opening track "Hands On Heaven"through this band never should have missed out, but by 1991 their brand of heavy metal was fast becoming not what would be considered metal at all. I became so angry with new non music that in 1992 I just stopped listening to anything current. Perhaps Bad Moon Rising were going through a 70s metal revival and this is why both their first album and BLOOD are so endearing. They are warm. I think of soldiers. Stalwart and iron clad never giving up on their fighting spirit and generosity, but all soldiers both literal and figurative end their fight at some time and Kal and Aldrich ended it rather on a sudden note. They recorded a none too impressive third try at breaking through the lines in a furious storm of speedy grungy nothing music with OPIUM FOR THE MASSES in 1995 and then it all ended with them not even on speaking terms I don't think. I'm not exactly sure what went on, but Swan and Aldrich disappeared from each other's lives and Swan just disappeared. Judging from the cries against gang violence brought on by poverty in the really intense "Blood On The Streets" and environmental destruction/political lying/the growing homeless problem in "Devil's Son (While Our Children Cry)" Swan may have headed for something more political than musical, but he vanished! Where is he? Especially where is he when we need him? Thanks largely to the nightmare that Iron Maiden began and which Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera, Anthrax, the disgusting Exodus, Nuclear Assault, Testament, and Helloween followed real heavy metal was killed off almost completely. All we have are memories of when the music form had credibility and one of the songs on BLOOD is a fitting epitaph to a lost dream- "Remember Me." For anything on BLOOD that I think is a bit over the top like Aldrich's sobbing guitar in "Tears In The Dark" or everything brilliant about it such as "Servants Of The Sun." "Dangerous Game," "Time Will Tell" really every track here is truly coming from musicians who have a great strong and honest heart. How sad that is just ended, that the dream just was over when it could have gone on indefinitely, but the music makes me brush the sadness off my face and feel like I am part of a small group who know of the genius that Kal Swan is. And while you're at it do check out Aldrich's guitar in Whitesnake now- he's still really good. As for Kal I end where I began- where are you you amazing wonderful vocalist and writing genius?


Sunday, July 1, 2012


Two of the longest favourite records of mine would hands down have to be Honeybus's masterful STORY and Fable's one album from 1973 on the Magnet label also from England. Both define British melodic psych/melodic rock and certainly both were bands who deserved much better than what they got.
                                      -Honeybus Share Their Story-
  Honeybus can trace their beginnings right back to the very beginning of British rock in early 1960s, but Honeybus proper were formed by ex Yum Yum Band/Sunlighters genius Pete Dello as a songwriting outlet originally in 1967. Dello had been around since the start of the 60s playing hard driving no nonsense rock and roll, but he felt it was time for a different approach to music and was tired of touring. He had suffered a collapsed lung during a previous tour and did not look forward to doing much live work ever again. He formed the band with Ray Cane (Vocals/guitar), Colin Hare (Vocals/Bass/Guitar), and Pete Kircher (Drums/vocals) and all 4 were seasoned talented musicians when they put the band together. They are best known for the much loved ill-fated yet oftentimes covered pop brilliance of "Do I Still Figure In Your Life" and the equally brilliant one smash hit they had "I Can't Let Maggie Go." Their start in 1967 on Deram records was the exciting, fresh, and invigorating single "Delighted To See You" with the other side devoted to a loud atypical hard freakbeat rocker "The Breaking Up Scene." It was a good beginning, but the banners of everything at the BBC banned the single for the harmless line "Delighted To See You My Little Child/My Little One!" As singles followed and flopped Pete Dello was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the public's lack of appreciation. Miraculously, it was the huge success of "I Can't Let Maggie Go" which caused the split. The last thing Dello wanted was to be a pop star. He was only in this strictly for his songwriting craftsmanship and when tours and TV became a reality he pulled out in 1968 just as they were on the cusp of making it. To replace him in most bands would have been impossible, but this is where Honeybus are different from a lot of other bands. They had not just Dello, but Ray Cane could be a brilliant writer and so could Colin Hare. Both also had stunningly beautiful voices and with Scottish guitarist/vocalist Jim Kelly filling the vacant slot they had just enough time in their career in 1969/1970 to cut the early 1970 release STORY for Deram- the label they had begun with. As crazy as it may sound they managed to top their work with Pete Dello or at least to completely equal it!
         The album cover showed the band in their "Den" or "Pad" or "Living Space" whichever you prefer and the back featured a nice black and white picture of a book opening with the song titles and curiously the front and back covers only showed 3 band members. The music inside the cover which Deram did not do a thing to promote is beautiful tough melodic pop psych of the best Badfinger/Beatles/Honeybus and only Honeybus tradition. They were influenced by The Beatles and baroque pop very much, but harder rock and country rock influences were brought in together with finely honed power pop from Ray Cane's luxurious pen. Cane wrote nearly the entire album and proved himself to be a very talented multi-instrumentalist. He also took lead vocals on almost the whole record with some brilliant songs/lead vocals from Colin Hare who wrote the country tinged songs and Jim Kelly who had a great voice. Honeybus for me define British melodic rock of the very early 70s era and they have no one who can surpass them. It's easy to explain just why this big grower of a record is so appealing to listen to- it makes you feel satisfied and good. It makes you happy when you are miserable and you can just sit back and relax and let the music do the rest for you. At first listening back in what I refer to as "The Summer Of Bad Timing" in 1995 I hated it. I had been screwed with a bad copy graded "M-" and I just didn't understand it at all. For some reason, though, unlike with Arcadium or Dog That Bit People two masterpieces only awarded one play back then I gave Honeybus quite a few listens and wound up loving it. Since then my take on Honeybus has been to salute them with the highest ranking there can be. Other bands recorded just as satisfying albums like Octopus or The Parlour Band or Byzantium for instance, but all of these bands miraculously would meet the same fate- record-buying public apathy and record label skullduggery. While Octopus of Restless Night fame would have been glad to continue had things worked better for them and The Parlour Band would continue with a name change/completely different take STORY is what I call 'The Koobas/Oddesey And Oracle Scenario-" they were throwing the towel in and this was to be how they wanted us to remember them. It was all coming to an end for the band at this point as singles wouldn't chart and they were becoming just as disillusioned as Pete Dello had been right when they could have made it. Although Colin Hare would record a wonderful but way overpriced solo album MARCH HARE (On Penny Farthing) and they'd get back together with Pete Dello for some singles and a tragically shelved second album for Warner Bros. RECITAL Honeybus would never achieve success again together or apart. It must have hurt them terribly to record such beautiful and rewarding music and see nothing come of it and Pete Dello on his again wonderful again very overpriced solo album INTO YOUR EARS wrote a song full of cynicism for the British music industry "A Good Song."
     Where to begin with the songs? STORY begins with "Story-" a song which defines Honeybus's music. Ray Cane's gentle lilting voice, the strong harmonies in the chorus, and a rich tapestry created by lush string arrangements and a simple evocative piano riff are mainstays throughout the album. The lyrics are well written pop and the song is a pop masterpiece- absolutely perfect. "Black Mourning Band," Colin Hare's "Scarlet Lady," and "Fresher Than The Sweetness In Water" are more upbeat songs that are still wistfully reflective- a bit like a cross between Badfinger and The Kinks. Honeybus shared the melodic genius of both these bands, but while Badfinger or The Beatles are the obvious listener's take as a springboard The Kinks and particularly the songwriting genius are every bit as relevant as a comparison. The heaviest the album gets is Side Two's rollicking first track "Under The Silent Tree" with its driving guitars, strong vocals from Kelly, and Pete Kircher's precise right on time drumming. The softest tracks are the blissful Colin Hare songs "I Remember Caroline," "She's Out There" (sort of a melodic driving rock meets reflective soft rock) and Ray Cane's beautiful "He Was Columbus" all of which add to the variety and melodic power of this album. "How Long" is another song that jumps to mind with some of the best harmonies ever- painstakingly A Capella at the beginning and then a great lead vocal from Kelly, but the whole album is perfect. Honeybus had everything but one thing- a successful album after putting a lot of hard work into it. Really, there wasn't any promotion to undertake as the band had folded by the time of the release making for this to be a top rarity and a highly praised collector's item. There is but one Honeybus and they are a special group.
    An album I would strongly warn against buying and perhaps the worst record ever recorded by a British/British Commonwealth band is the Aussie duo Steve And Stevie's self titled atrocity on the private Toast label from 1968- a dour suicidal depressing/depressed Simon and Garfunkel wannabe by two guys who would later nearly equal Honeybus in their brilliant second incarnation Tin Tin. The musical parallel between Tin Tin and Honeybus is obvious in that Honeybus had started a nice little category of wistful, gentle, yet solid British rock and Tin Tin took it to a somewhat more psychedelic level, but Tin Tin had backing from the late Maurice Gibb whilst all Honeybus had was a disinterested label and probably at the time of recording STORY some not too happy thoughts about Pete Dello who had halted their big break. Honeybus as they were when they recorded STORY would have been glad to bask in success and adulation, but not Pete Dello. He had turned his back on the world of stardom and then regretted losing out on the following he so richly deserved. In later years both the Dello led Honeybus, the Ray Cane led Honeybus who made the album, and the solo work of Dello and Hare would receive huge praise from everyone who hears it, but sadly at the time it just wasn't to be. Tin Tin would have rather a similar fate to Honeybus after hitting it big with a song that combined the best of Honeybus with the best of the Bee Gees in "Toast And Marmalade For Tea" when their two masterful, brilliant albums sold a decent amount of copies, but for whatever reason they only achieved one further minor chart hit in "Is That The Way." Again commercial success would elude the somewhat Honeybus gone progressive Scottish masters Northwind, and the next band wouldn't do too much better commercially. That band is Fable.
                           -Peter Goalby's Beginning And Fable's Masterpiece-
    Fable were a band from Wolverhampton who formed in the early 70s and who were an early outfit for vocal God/songwriting genius Peter Goalby- a guy who I constantly wonder where he is and what he is doing now. This guy had a voice most people would die for. In fact, so good was his voice and so much of a talented writer he was that he would later achieve some notoriety in first Trapeze on their Running album (called Hold On and with a different cover in the States) and then as the lead vocalist for Uriah Heep between their ABOMINOG and EQUATOR albums. Goalby had a soulful, strong, passionate, very melodic voice and he also was a considerably talented songwriter. He wrote or co-wrote nearly every song on Fable's one record and just how this absolute gem of melodic British rock missed a major label airing is beyond me! Their keyboard player Paul Robbins would go on to engineer the amazing LIGHTNING TO THE NATIONS debut by Diamond Head! Clearly we have but one person to blame for the lack of exposure Fable suffered- the head of Magnet records one success the worthless Alvin Stardust. Pretty sad to have to share a label with almost only one other artist and have him be as bad as Gary Glitter. Think of what the world of rock missed out on when they missed out on Fable.
     Fable bear no resemblances at all to Diamond Head and if I were to say there is any trace of Uriah Heep here it's not the metal/hard AOR era that Goalby was in and instead it would be the most melodic of the John Lawton fronted period's material- he also the possessor of a magical voice. While John Lawton would get a little carried away in his first major band Lucifer's Friend Peter Goalby is both forcefully and softly singing in Fable. They are a little bit heavier than Honeybus, but again are a class melodic rock group. Filling out Fable is the previously mentioned second multi-instrumentalist/keyboard player/vocalist Paul Robbins, drummer Keith Tully, lead guitarist Mac Bailey, and bass player Peter Mackie. There's much diversity on Fable's record and quite an attractive mix of late 60s and early 70s influences ranging as far as from Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple if they hadn't sucked vocally in the harder rock tracks to Honeybus and The Parlour Band on the melodic softer material. There's some definite 60s influences in a very subtle manner and two beautiful ballads on Side One "Same Key" and "Speak Your Mind." The darkest song on the album is "Four Horsemen" which actually is a very beautiful haunting song with an apocalyptic lyric and the album closes with two funny upbeat cheerful songs "Google Eye Eye" about a guy addicted to masturbation (!) and "Old Queen" which is about an unstoppable ship that's fun to ride on. If you're looking for metal I'm afraid this won't be for you. You can spot Goalby's unique voice, but in a very different context. I personally feel that Uriah Heep as much as I love them didn't make enough use out of Peter Goalby's talents and I still just don't understand why both the first two albums with him in the band (ABOMINOG and HEAD FIRST) are littered with cover songs. As hard as it is to conceive Peter's jump from melodic balladeer to hard rock powerhouse on the best of his recordings with Uriah Heep there are a few songs here that are tough melodic hard rockers. The first track on the record "See My Face" rocks really hard with gritty guitars, churning organ, and powerful vocals from Peter while the first track on Side Two the Paul Robbins composition "Hard Life" is another tough rocker. Clearly Goalby and Fable are well rounded, but I can't believe how ignored their album has been by collectors and by the buying public at the time. Yeah, they weren't glam or proto Metal or whatever you expected, but they were one of the best bands ever to come from England and the ignorance is the same today as it was then. REISSUE IT! PUT IT OUT ON CD! BLAST IT OVER EVERY LOUDSPEAKER IN THE WORLD! My love for Fable isn't shared by a whole lot of other collectors who just turn their nose and tone deaf ears up at it when I mention it, but I turned Paul Major onto it a long time ago when Paul was a considerable record dealer. For all the differences Paul and I have/had for a long period of time he was both a really good friend and a very sympathetic person to me. He could occasionally be completely impossible, he was never prompt in the least bit about sending records to me, but Paul and I had a lot of good times talking on the phone together. Turning him onto Fable was something I couldn't do with any other record dealer. Do you have to be British? Well I'm not British and I understand British rock front back and any other way there is to zoom in on what it's all about. For me Fable just like Honeybus define just how good the British are at mixing sensitive melodies with quirkiness and great rock and roll. This album is a masterpiece, and if you don't like it you fit the kind of narrow minded fool described by Goalby in the funny put down song "Thick As A Plank." There's even a mandolin led track of cheerful British rock called "Madolin." A very eclectic, melodic, strong, sensitive, enjoyable record and one of the most overlooked. Find it and be rewarded by it.