I first became aware of Sigmund Snopek III through a book I had called THE INTERNATIONAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HARD ROCK AND HEAVY METAL which mentioned his band Snopek and said they made music as strange as the guy's name. But I never heard Snopek. In fact, I still haven't heard much of this talented musician's work, but it would be hard to top his first appearance as the chief songwriter, keyboard player, and leader of the band Bloomsbury People not from somewhere exotic in England or you may think by his name Germany, but from Wisconsin In America.
The adds for this revolutionary sextet in 1970 Rolling Stone magazines said "They're Not What's Happening They're What's Going To Happen!" and that couldn't be more true but for the fact that what the songs were written about: decay, depression, loss of innocence, the decline of America, and complete oblivion, were hitting America in a big, nasty way back in 1970.
-Altamont And Kent State: The Destruction Of A Beautiful Dream-
Two events shook America and made the world scorn us even more in the end of 1969 and in 1970 when this album was released. First there was the slaughter of the 60s counterculture both literally and in the sense of everything it was a dream of by the fat pig white men known as the Hell's Angels at the Altamont Festival in California with one of my least listened to bands of the 1960s (OK, I love the Rolling Stones, but I never listen to them because after Brian Jones died they became pretty boring- or after Mick Taylor started losing interest) held accountable. The 60s were always a turbulent time, remember there were all the assassinations and Vietnam, but before Altamont there had been the victory for the counterculture and flower power at Woodstock and there had always been a ray of hope even when things were dreadful. Altamont closed the decade with the depressing, miserable truth that it had all gone down the tubes- you couldn't even have a peaceful music festival and it demolished the dream of Woodstock for many. I swear that the same thing should be done to the Hell's Angels that should be done to the N.R.A, KKK, and all the right wing Republicans and Tea Party slime bags- take all their power away from them and make them live like the people they are persecuting. Yeah, I'm still sore about it and I wasn't even born yet!
As if everything going to Hell at Altamont wasn't enough Nixon's America was really getting bad and had just got a whole lot worse when 4 students were killed by the idiotic Ohio National Guard at Kent State in 1970. The dream was decimated. It really had come to an end now, all that was hoped for, all that was a dream, all that was attained by the good people known as the Counterculture and the Hippies. However, soon there were vibes of new and exciting music coming from medium-length to long-haired hordes who weren't gonna give up our fight. They would approach it in a different manner, but like it to be admitted or not Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, Uriah Heep, were children of the 60s who just rewrote the way their dream was to be approached. Sure, the lyrics were all full of a lot of depression, fear, and hopelessness, but the music was vibrant, it was alive, and it was something more- it was Progressive. Yes, the 1960s had ended miserably and as I have stated a million times (at least!) the American Music scene was dire in the charts, but this new music that was "underground" was really something to rave about- to be excited for.
The question is could a band possibly straddle the line between Pop and Heavy Progressive? That would be answered by several bands, including Bloomsbury People....
-Bloomsbury People: A Dark, Menacing, Yet A Very Beautiful Masterpiece-
Bloomsbury People belong to a group of bands at the beginning of the 1970s in America who could both be really heavy and really brilliant melodically, but they more than anybody else I can think of did something few American bands could ever achieve- they were/are Progressive. For some reason proper progressive rock like we know from England and Europe was overlooked or painfully poor by American bands and yet here were a 6 man band who got to the height of creativeness in progressive rock before even many fabled British bands- Bloomsbury People. You can hear Yes in these short songs, but more importantly there is a strange hybrid of Sabbath gloom and doom especially in the crazed lyric writing, late psychedelic flourishes like a cross between Capitol label bands Food and SRC, and pop. Jon Wyderka's voice is very strongly rooted in that genre, but he has such an astonishing ability to go from crooning to snarling to at the end of the record wailing his head off and Dennis Lanting's searing guitar work is so impressively SRC/Iommi esque (and let's pray for Tony Iommi to get cancer free soon) that this album is one of the best ever. Add in great twin keyboards, some really clever arrangements, and 6 guys who play like they have confidence in breaking every rule and taking over the world and even the most frightening moments of this record are made highly, strongly, concocted and very much something I can listen to a lot.
Sigmund Snopek III is a pretty strange moniker, but I don't see how the band's main songwriter could have concocted this name and what is even stranger is how he perfectly knows how to write lyrics as out there in a doom ladened way as Sabbath's or as abstractly strange as Jon Anderson and how he can create such brilliant songs of stark contrasts. The songs on this album reflect the darkness and despair of 1970 in a much better way than the likes of Coven, Bloodrock (THE WORST!), the most uninspired songs of Black Widow, and a lot of other worthless bands just out there to be a fake shocking sickness. I actually think this is from the heart. There is so much creepiness here and so much beauty combined. You have perfect heavy pop psych in songs like "Witch Helen," "Have You Seen Them Cry?," "The Resurrection," the bizarre Megaphone/fuzztoned vocal led "Lake Of Sand" and the Black Sabbath meets freaky pop of "Golden Lion" which is a terrifying song when the Iommi-esque slow passages come in (think a pop version of the song "Black Sabbath-" yes that one) and then there is all out progressive genius in the closing track "Suite Classical #3" (or the title is something like that).
Bloomsbury People were just what the Doctor ordered for America, but no one took the prescription. This album bit the dust. It did not sell as they had hoped and so it could be just another dream that was left to rot, but I say no to that. This album has life in its grooves, life you can't take out by poor record sales or the public's ignorance. Most more than likely the distribution and marketing weren't good enough. Many bands in the UK and Europe suffered horrible issues with the record labels and management and those albums are some of the most brilliant and expensive in the world. While our beautiful dream of the 1960s love vibe may have been rotting away music was solving a lot of that pain, consoling us even when it scared us. This record is pretty scary. The lyrics are nihilistic and full of hopelessness, they are questioning and the answers start at the end not the beginning. Quite a few bands tried to merge Progressive with Pop, and strangely some of the American bands were just as good at that game or at least just as interesting as the British and Europeans. You really can't forget the Canadians who took this thing to stellar heights with Life, Madrigal, the Beatles/Uriah Heep hybrid Steel River and their ilk. Yes, music was living! There are cheerier progressive pop psych records out there than this like the ultimate masterpiece RESTLESS NIGHT by Octopus the British band, but for American bands there are 3 bands I know of who got it perfectly done: Blackwell, Blackstone (From New Jersey and featuring future Bruce Springsteen drummer/session genius Max Weinberg), and Bloomsbury People. I hated this record the first few times I heard it, and I can't imagine why I hated it so much. Too much to take in? I wasn't sophisticated enough? Not really able to appreciate a progressive sound from the States? Who knows, but I know one thing for sure: I love this record and no collection is complete without it. Find it, treasure it, and keep your faith in musical magic because it just so happens that when a lot of things died at the end of 1969 beginning of 1970 while the American charts tried to hide it from us music was very much alive. Music got really exciting in the 1970s. It had been wonderful in the 1960s. Music is something that gives me the strength to carry on. So don't even look at what was in the charts which was even worse than before The Beatles- look at what was in the brilliance of progressive, psychedelic, and true finally honed pop- Rock was still fighting and still living. It may have changed a bit, but as long as there are albums as awesome as this out there music will live and so will the dreams we have of a better, more sympathetic world free from cruelty and oppression.