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.