Monday, May 27, 2013

Not The Way Moses Would Have Intended It- Light Formation Give Us The Masterful "The Story Of Moses" Dutch Style German Only Release

Back in the early 70s concept albums were a big deal following the huge successes of "Rock Operas" like The Who's overrated beginning-of-the-end-for-their-musical-quality TOMMY and the way, way, worse JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. TOMMY still had some great songs on it, but overall it showed The Who sounding pale in comparison to the frightening and revolutionary record that inspired it: S.F SORROW by The Pretty Things. I also don't like that one so much anymore- just too creepy as The Pretties were getting vengeful and violent lyrically and that kind of does in both S.F SORROW and its even rawer followup PARACHUTE for me. So you're probably thinking I hate concept albums... Wrong. No way. A concept album just works better if there is a loose theme that comes after the music and not before it. King Crimson mastered the art of making an album that was more like listening to instead of looking at a really good movie on IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING, The Moody Blues were nonpareil geniuses at it, Procol Harum pushed the whole thing over the cliff with their first three albums and classic singles like "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" and all 3 of those bands had an immense influence on young bands in Europe who were seeking to "Europeanize" as I call it the British progressive/psychedelic sound. Other British bands followed, but every time The Bible came up it was usually a catastrophe. Plus made it work for THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS which is still underrated and obscure, but Salamander couldn't disguise their lack of inspiration and talent on the really bad THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. There had to be an exception. That would lead me to Light Formation. There's a lot to say here and I don't know just how much time I'm gonna need to rave about this near perfect album so I'll begin with a little introduction for you.
              -Light Formation: Musical Brilliance From A Town More Famous For Cheese!-
             The town of Gouda in Holland is probably better known for its beloved cheese than for Light Formation which is really sad. The band are probably the only band from Gouda, but what they came up with has more in common with a feast of heavenly proportions than something that has become commonplace in every supermarket and every quality food store for more discerning types who want "Real Gouda." In Holland there had been a lot more activity in the 60s on the music scene than the million and one beat groups in Germany. Germany as I stated in my last blog really happened in 1969, but this kind of late birth of predominantly heavy psychedelic rock had a more positive effect for Germany than the End-Of-The-60s confusion that took control of The Netherlands.
    Bands were heading in a lot of different directions and a high quality country for music that was always pushing everything beyond what anyone could imagine it sounding like was becoming fractured. Even some of the best Dutch bands had an off year in 1969 or 1970 with apt examples the really overblown SHIPWRECK by Sandy Coast and the hodgepodge of good and horrible ELECTRIC BABY by The Motions. In 1970 some interesting bands started to appear again such as the amazing Machine whose album is one of the best heavy hard psych rock/hard prog albums there is and sometime around the end of the 60s the mysterious Light Formation were beginning to happen.    
     I don't know very much about the band's history, but the bizarre outcome of their very Moody Blues/Procol Harum derived light yet intense progressive one off THE STORY OF MOSES is particularly shocking. After scoring a hit in The Netherlands with the wonderful song "The Nuisances" lifted from the album the record wasn't available to the Dutch following who would have loved it so much. Instead, THE STORY OF MOSES was only released in Germany as one of the earliest titles on the highly prized "Green" Brain label. This meant instant obscurity and a swift end to what could have easily been a long and highly lucrative career. The album has for a long time been one of the rarest and most expensive of all European progressive rock records and the craziest thing of all may be that unlike certain ones that I've heard and thought were only good this one is great!
  -Moses Would Have Been Dead As If Struck By Lightning By The Story Of Moses Dutch Style-
       THE STORY OF THE MOSES looks really, really beautiful from the cover and definitely has the vibe of a classy conceptual progressive album, but Moses would have been dead if he'd heard the album or else completely astounded. He wouldn't have known it was about him to start with and thanks to the whacked out lyrics that Henk Van Rookhuyzen wrote for the record this album is as far removed from The Old Testament Jewish prophet Moses as you can get. The lyrics all sound like Keith Reed who wrote great texts for Procol Harum if he'd been on acid whilst Procol were in a symphonic melancholic mood. I've played the album quite a few times and along with the plot disappearing even more each time the music gets better with every play. Light were formidable and they numbered music composer/keyboard player/vocalist Adri Vergeer, acoustic guitarist Gerard Steenbergen, bass player Joop Slootjes, sax/flute player Hans De Bruin, and drummer/vocalist Sjaco Van Der Speld. Guest musicians were the great electric guitar of Hans Hollestelle, another bass player in Guus Willems, and the brief narrations are done by Marian Shatteleyn and Robbie Dale.
                                 -The Brilliant Album In Depth-
      If the names are cumbersome then by even more of a contrast to the concept of the album the music is most certainly not. The Netherlands had only Machine's one off as a progressive masterpiece and the long-running Kayak as really top-of-the-line progressive acts along with Light Formation, but the front cover slips up and just says "Light." Clearly somebody did not want this band to make it and it may have been Moses having a heart attack in heaven. It's not that Moses is made an ass of- that doesn't happen till the clunky Brit Robbie Dale does his worst Graeme Edge impersonations at the end which only adds to the offbeat wondrous mysteriousness of the album it is more so that a strict concept is not followed. Light Formation like their name can be referred to almost as a sonic light show of changing colors and moods. A kind of "Painting By Sound" or "Movie For The Ears."
      The vocals are very much more German sounding than Dutch and also with their softly sung intonations can be compared to some of the mellower tracks on Swedish and Danish ultra-rarities or even more aptly France's Jupiter Sunset. Even the Russian moods of Jupiter Sunset (the lyrics were by Aphrodite's Child text master Boris Bergman on Jupiter Sunset) come into play here as classical music and more classical music is the main influence. You'll hear Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Rachmaninoff come through Vergeer's keyboards. However, there isn't any cloning or copying just a beautiful Neo Classical meeting of Baroque and earlier styles that make for a beautiful yet also very exciting atmosphere. The vocals are excellent and sweetly sung and the strong mood that permeates through nearly all 6 tracks is like sitting by a warm fire on a cold night or walking through a forest just as the sun is rising and all the flowers are opening with all kinds of mythical characters coming out to see you.
      The only thing I would change about THE STORY OF MOSES is that I would have Robbie Dale taken out as his annoyingly poncy English drivel at the end of the album is really stupid. He's great for pitching in to help out their beautiful song "The Nuisances," but really that narrative shouting sounds more like an angry cheap Biblical B Movie than the brilliant music that comes beforehand and holds up against him well enough to make this album near perfect with just one error- the narrator.      
   The same way you just laugh at Graeme Edge you just laugh at Robbie Dale and this is really much more Moody Blues than Moses. I don't know what Moses is supposed to be doing during the songs here, but he seems to have been cast aside as too cumbersome to deal with him directly. That is a wise move. The thickly regimented, contrived, mannered nature of most concept albums is thrown out by Light Formation and instead it is the moods, voices, instruments, and songs that are the main thing here. Even though there are only 6 tracks there is no ego-tripping or self-indulgence during any of it. The only real problem with Light Formation's album is finding a copy. This is the kind of record I searched ages and ages and ages to get my hands on a copy of and were it devoid of some of its crackle my $150 investment in it would have been an even more unbelievably good deal- a Mint one of this is easily $500! Unfortunately, all the interest in the album does little good for the band who made it. I always feel really bad about that part of collecting rare music that is also very good and very valuable. What went into this album was a whole lot of heart and a whole lot of love. There is something about THE STORY OF MOSES that I feel could bring disparate and once firmly not loving of each other people together. My vision is that of Germany and Russia solving all their differences and becoming best friends while Moses is up in the sky dancing around in a kilt! Crazy imagination, but here's a sample lyric:
        "Frogs Are Jumping Up/And Are Moving Over You" (From "The Nuisances")
What the Hell!? If you think that Elonkorjuu from Finland sound weird then you must hear this. This album is so strange and freaky lyrically that I can imagine someone like myself who is a little nervous about concept albums and rock operas instantly feeling really good when playing it for the fact that despite everything working against them Light Formation are an amazing bunch of musicians who sing with very pleasant and melodic vocal harmonies that make for a wonderful spin each time! If you can't find the album then by all means try to track it down or at least find a CD of it. It will be well worth your time and money.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sitting Bull Invite You To Trip Away Into The Best Record In The World And An Overlooked Masterpiece!

Well, I'll admit that I've been acquiring and playing a whole lot of records from Europe, America, and some from Canada a lot more than the usual British top faves now as England has been a source of much anger and misery for me the last several months. I still have my REAL FRIENDS- old standbys who never have once let me down, but from what I can see in a microcosm view of Britain is that my friends are pissed off with the way the country is going and the younger generation is producing some pretty scary results when it comes to kids in the Army who are violent, bigoted, and downright horrendously nasty. No harsh generalizations, though. I'm sure that Europe has its issues too, but it's been seeming more and more attractive to me as I go on my quest for where to find the best people and the best music. I now have 4 great friends in Germany whom I love very much and I also like Americans more than I ever think I have.
    England is huge- you can't not say that. I would always point to where an American band that some dealer hyped over on me came from when they said it was 100 percent American- not at all they were imitating or else influenced by a band from the UK or Europe and trying to turn it into something American. Don't forget that the only truly indigenous influences back in the 60s all the way light years passed then have either been blues artists, soul, R&B, early rock & roll most of that black too, or for white bands just the mightily marvelous Beach Boys/Four Seasons. American psych can be some of the best music in the world or it can be something that is a passing interest to me- I heard it and dug it ages ago and now it isn't as cool as something from England or Europe. Where there is a huge difference in technique, influence, and execution of a musical idea is between the UK and Europe. Unlike America there has always been a heavy classical and traditional folk/folkloric leaning towards a lot of European music from countries such as Germany and Holland. Many of the top German rarities may have been initially UK influenced, but they took those influences and threw it into their classical/folk traditions and so it comes out completely different sounding. The German bands who lean towards American West Coast influences always throw a whole lot of Germanic vibes into their sound and there you have some of the best music ever made- like Sitting Bull.
              -Sitting Bull: An Amazing Band With An Amazingly Rare One Off Album-
    Sitting Bull is band of which almost nothing is known about. They recorded one masterful record and a few singles and then were gone. I don't have their meager biography in front of me just their album TRIP AWAY itself and the album gives no information on who is in the band. The only information like that I can give is that they were a quartet of hippy looking guys who wrote, sung, and played all their own material on the classic one off release from 1971. With a name like Sitting Bull and a cover of four relaxed long haired guys in an idyllic setting in a field this would have to be an American band right? Wrong. Sitting Bull came from Germany and although they have heavy influences from England (Led Zeppelin. Cream, and the myriad of great pastoral/folk rock bands) and America (Quicksilver Messenger Service and late 60s acid rock in general) thanks to thickly accented vocals and an accent on heavy Teutonic vibes they have a very German sound that only occasionally strays into country rock zones.
             -A Detailed Rave On The Brilliance Of Sitting Bull's TRIP AWAY-
    This could be the best German album. It certainly is up there and even on repeated plays it never fails to knock me out completely. There are 10 tracks including the over 10 minute corker "Trip Away" which starts the album and of the 10 tracks not one is a loser. They rock and they can relax. There can be a loud intensity or a quiet intensity. This is amazing music from four very gifted musicians one of whom is a very unique vocalist. The harmonies help out a lot, but the singer's rather dazed/druggy, quavery (a lot of vibrato) vocals that sound like he is stoned out of his mind are way preferable to any American or British stoned yowling (yeah I think Stonewall, Salem Mass, and Douglas Fir from the States completely S.U.C.K and are disgusting!). I would have loved this band in high school and I love them now. That means they transcend a whole long time period and a lot more than that. This is music that ages like wine or some kind of heady brew that gets better with age and not stale with it. It gets better all the time. Some of the songs are really astonishingly atmospheric like "Indian Fate" which is a total killer about how ashamed we should be for what we did to the Native people of our country and I agree with that wholeheartedly. Other songs weave a storyline about the lifestyle of young people in the 60s and 70s sadly through to today who get very drug dependent. "Trip Away" is surprising for a long track in that the lyrics and the structure are more important to this group than any long drawn out soloing or "jams." A message of living life off the land and peacefully rolls out like fields and mountain ranges full of beautiful animals and flowers. The playing is concise, to-the-point, and really explosive when it comes in, but the song is built around more of an easily moving carefree and open structure than a whole bunch of hot air. By the end of the song everything breaks out into wild hard rock, but the forcefulness never becomes sloppy or overindulgent. The vocals wail with a power no Bay Area group ever had- not even Blue Cheer. Listen to this and you'll never need to listen to Jefferson Airplane again.
   At first this album of heavy acid rock and stoned folk rock may take some more time for other people than it did for me, but I soon found myself loving the more laidback stuff nearly as much as the heavy psychedelic tracks. "Every Time " "Too Many Stops," "For Me For You," and "Hopeless Love" together with "Indian Fate" and a few others have a spooky harmony-led psychedelic folk rock vibe that isn't too far from that of the later post Jeff Lynne Idle Race or other great UK bands, but there's still enough Germanic roughness here to not make for one of those "If Only English Had Been Their First Language" albums where the roughness becomes crude. There aren't too many of those for me as I love thick accented vocals, but there certainly are a few (Virus do nothing for me except make me wish they'd sung all their music in German if their English was that bad and their lyrics that pretentious). Some people who don't like German rock and may want to give this a try will be too narrow minded to appreciate Sitting Bull, but as always if you have an open mind and love really inventive music from anywhere this album is essential.
        -Sitting Bull Is A Significant Rarity And An Album Matched By Almost None-
     I can't tell you exactly how small a pressing by German CBS TRIP AWAY was, but it must have been hardly any copies at all over 500 as this is one of the rarest and also can be one of the priciest German records. A legend even before a lot of other records were legendary it is one tough album to track down. Never around and almost never offered that can only mean two things: CBS should be ashamed of themselves for their total lack of promotion for Sitting Bull and this album may take you ages to find especially below $500 and it would be worth every penny of that. Sitting Bull may have come out with their countercultural vibes a few years after that was no longer fashionable in America or England, but it was more than fashionable still in Germany- in fact just beginning there. They hadn't had Altamont (Horrible) or Kent State (even worse) to destroy their dream of a better life for people to live and in truth were only just starting. In the 1960s Germany had missed out for the most part on psychedelic music and their beat bands had lasted way longer than it was reasonable for them to do so. However, in 1969 right when it was ending for us the first rumblings were being made. By 1971 when this perfect gem of an album came out Germany was producing more great music than almost any other country in The World! Unlike before when the top draws had always been British bands who couldn't make it in England the homegrown German scene spread all across the country and thousands of kids were living the Utopian beautiful 1960s dream we had long since lost out on. Whereas the Scandinavian countries and The Netherlands had been overflowing with great music in the 1960s and continued it on into the 70s with a mix of brilliance and boredom Germany took off and Sitting Bull sound like a band who already are coming from some other place out there where you dream of finding it. I don't think any other record is this perfect, this beautiful. It comes across as a real work of handcrafted love and that's how music should be. The lyrics are excellent throughout even when I can't make out quite a few of them. I dream of music like this, but when I actually hear it that is what has made over 20 years of collecting and loving older music forms pay off- get this album and you'll be tripping too- and not with any of the dangers or stupidity of drug use. TRIP AWAY should blow you away and I wish Sitting Bull if they all are still with us could come back and make some more of the great music they made on their only album which is a perfect miesterwork. This is what psychedelic rock is meant to sound like when its also going toward a more rural/laidback vibe of natural beauty and stateliness. One amazing album it truly is and I would be really happy to see a quality reissue for the collectors who either can't afford or can't locate the original and be as lucky as I am to own it as one of the best records in my collection. This record must be heard and must be heard by all- you won't find anything more brilliant out there that may take you as long as this one may take you to find. "Trip Away And See."


Monday, May 13, 2013

Norway's Popol Vuh/Popol Ace A Band That Shoud Have Been Huge Now A Rare Collector's Progressive Rock Perfection

It's amazing to me how many great bands came out of Scandinavia in the 1960s and 1970s. Even in the 80s there were a lot of brilliant bands for what they did such as Sweden's Treat and more commercially successful Europe, Norway's Da Vinci, and Denmark's Skagarack. There were horrible bands too and one of them called Return who sing about nothing but death and violence gave me a very bad idea of Norwegian music. I don't know why, but Norway is the darkest of all the Scandinavian countries when it comes to the lyrical subject matter and Popol Vuh (not to be confused with the better known and boring German band)/Popol Ace are no exception.

                  -Disgusting Winters May Lead To Delicious Music-
  The long winters may have something to do with it, but there's certainly more than meets the eye (a Europe song title) to how intelligent this band is. They should have made it and their lead singer Jahn Teigen was all set to replace Peter Gabriel in Genesis when he turned them down. I'm sure that at the same time that he isn't too happy about that he most have known it just never would have lasted more than one album with them. I wish they'd made that one album! With an original line up of 6 Viking-looking guys from the Oslo area the band were called Popol Vuh at first and I wonder how there came to be two bands at the same time with that name. Their lyrical texts from the start of their career right through to their best and last album with Teigen are very dark and depressed. You imagine bleak winters and long periods of darkness, but there is something there to keep you warm. The music, especially Jahn Teigen's passionate vocals don't sound cold. The rest of the band comprised guitarist Arne Schulze, keyboard player/guitarist Pete Knutsen, bass player Terje Mehti, drummer Thor Andreassen, and flautist Pjokken Eide who only lasted for their first album. I became aware of them at a time when I was big into the Finnish progressive/melodic heavy metal band Stratovarius and I think that had something to do with my initial interest. Later in life I'd be slamming this poor band although I hadn't lost the love I had and have for Stratovarius. Thanks to YouTube and getting more mature I made the plunge into making a big push to get Popol Vuh/Popol Ace for my birthday and it really has paid off with a lot of listening pleasure. The winters in Norway/Scandinavia may be bleak, depressing, and miserable, but don't let that spoil the music for you! And now let's get onto that brilliant creation of music known as symphonic progressive rock!
           -The Self Titled First Album From 1972: A Good Start To A Great Career-
Popol Vuh/Popol Ace like all bands had to begin with a debut album. In 1972 the most heavily influential progressive bands were King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Emerson Lake And Palmer, Jethro Tull, and the Moody Blues. It would be nearly impossible for 6 Norwegians to sound like such highly British identified bands so they set about putting their own stamp on their influences. Not mellowed out as much as The Moody Blues they still were a big influence along with King Crimson as the first album is saturated in lush soaring mellotrons. That may be the best thing about the album with Teigen's powerful, charismatic vocals another main strength. The texts are very depressing to most of the songs with Side One's two main showstoppers the hard, powerful jazzy prog of "Hunchback" and a really sad song in "All We Have Is The Past." Unfortunately, their lyrics of inequality and environmental destruction ring just as true today as they did in 1972. This is music from people who spent a lot of time thinking, reading, writing, and digesting the sometimes indigestible world around them. Rather than sing of ancient Viking folklore they sing of a homeless hunchback who leads a miserable life with a spoken conclusion that he believes that:
      "When I Die And I Leave This World Of Horror My Coffin's Gonna Be Bigger/So I'll Cause More Trouble To The Digger/And On The Top Of My Grave A Heap So High/I'll Be One Step Ahead Towards The Sky"
    Yeah, it's pretty bleak stuff, but it means he believes he will go to Heaven and that Hell is made by mankind. If that is someone's only consolation then it is really, really sad. I would say there's enough warmth and emotion in Popol Vuh's music to save them, however, and that furthermore they are a band who play thought provoking music with excellent top quality musicianship. Unlike the worst British progressive bands who went off the rails into horrible proto fusion muck even the jazz influences in the music and especially Jahn's vocals work brilliantly rather than are a catastrophic nightmare.
      One of the major strengths of this first album is the amazing musicianship and huge amount of energy put into the performances. It's almost impossible to think that they'd get so good they'd make this look pale in comparison to their first (and last) real album as Popol Ace the 1975 meisterwork STOLEN FROM TIME. In 1972 their music was split between grandiose classic progressive tracks and hard rocking material like "Joy And Pleasure" and the amazing epic closing track "Medicine" which must be heard by any serious music fan. There are moments of extremely sad mourning of things passing away into darkness and death like "All We Have Is The Past" where Teigen sounds like he is literally about to start crying its so sad and emotional, but then "Medicine" closes the album with a miracle cure- music can bring you down, but music is the ultimate medicine! This may not be a concept album per say, but it flows together like one. You even get a really King Crimson "Epitaph" like dark dreamy prog brilliant song in "For Eternity-" a song stuffed with Flamenco guitar and mellotron. This is definitely a great start to a great career, but a very, very rare record. It won't cost half as much as lot of other albums from the same era, but it might be even harder to track down a copy.

                               -A Prelude To STOLEN FROM TIME-
    The one issue on the first album was just how important to the group was Pjokken Eide. His flute performances were great, but he seemed almost superfluous in the band's vast sound. The answer was he wasn't that important I guess as he was gone from the band by the time they made their second album under the Popol Vuh banner QUICHE MAYA. This album changed the approach quite a bit with more emphasis on the romantic, but the major change would come when they started to generate a lot of interest in Europe. It wouldn't last very long and that is not just tragic it is something whoever was writing the script (And we all know by now he goes by the name of Lucifer, Satan, Beelzebub George W. Bush, Adolph Hitler. and a whole host of other names including Bastard, Asshole, and Merciless Idiot!) should have been shot for doing to them. Some of the bad decisions would ultimately have to be blamed on Popol Ace, but that was really after Genesis diverted Jahn's attention and he ended up without a band. I have not heard the followup without him to STOLEN FROM TIME CURLY SOUNDS, but I have heard that it isn't a patch on what they did with him in the line up. STOLEN FROM TIME should have made this band famous, but the seeds for their brilliance after the name change were being planted on QUICHE MAYA which like all their albums is virtually impossible to find. I've only had it once and it was the very first thing I owned by the group.  I was shocked that there was another Popol Vuh and it was something totally new to me.
    STOLEN FROM TIME made the process to mature and grow and make astonishingly beautiful progressive music come to a brilliant peak seldom equaled so let's get on to that magical album right now!
          -STOLEN FROM TIME is Stolen From The Memory Of Most Now Revered By Me-
     Recording studios weren't that high tech in Norway in the early 70s and by 1975 Popol Vuh now Popol Ace to avoid confusion with the German group were looking to go a lot further and push a lot harder to get noticed all across Europe. They didn't sound German, but they recorded some of STOLEN FROM TIME in Germany. They didn't sound the least bit British, but they recorded much of the album in England. It clearly was making the move to make the big time and that is what the first track "Bury Me Dead" is all about. You'd expect a really bleak and dismal song from that title, but the song is about trying to make it big in the music world and all the uncertainty that goes along with it. Jahn Teigen is super here and the playing is so tight and lively that you can almost dance to it! It really is a very bouncy little number despite the strange and unrepresentative song title. I suppose it translates into "The music industry is cutthroat" or something along those lines.
    There are a lot of different things going on in STOLEN FROM TIME and one of the things I love most about the album is the more romantic sound of a lot of the songs and the general mellowing of the group. Now Camel and Kayak, even the little known more-pop-than-progressive British band Kestrel can be brought in as comparisons. So can Genesis and it would be Genesis that would unintentionally or intentionally tear the band apart when they tried to get Jahn Teigen to replace Peter Gabriel. I don't think I need to go any further into how that panned out, but there will always be a lot of early Genesis fans who think Phil Collins demolished Genesis. I wouldn't agree on the earlier albums with him at all. Genesis tended to write rambling epics, but Popol Ace are more concise. When they solo or jam it's in the context of a tight song structure and best of all there is more room for different keyboards and vocal tricks on STOLEN FROM TIME. "Today Another Day" is a beautiful song with great vocals and really impressive arrangements from the rest of the band. Teigen never contributed much to the writing aspect, but the songs were so wide-angled because he had an unbelievable range that could go anywhere from sweetly sung to nearly screaming. Lake, the German band, would come along a few years later and fine tune what had begun with Canada's 25e Regiment and was taken further on by Popol Ace. They would enjoy success in Europe, but the nagging question is always how to break into the US market. I think there is a reason Lake had a cult following here in the States, but they should have been huge. Popol Ace should have had a contract in America with a big label, a huge amount of money poured into them, and acclaim worldwide. I can't believe that isn't how things went for them.
  Throughout music history there have been great bands that have gone nowhere. Listen to tracks like the sure fire hit "Jester" and then explain to me how this band are not only obscure, but virtually impossible to locate! "Jester" continues the progressive pop of "Today Another Day" with some highly energetic music and sprightly vocals. Lyrically, Popol Ace are almost impossible to match with words that are better than those of many bands and artists where English is their first language! There aren't any embarrassing moments where they pronounce things wrong which is more than I can say for a lot of bands. The heaviest track on Side One is the closing track "Mr. Bigalow" which features bizarre tripped out lyrics and wailing vocals from Teigen. The rest of the in total 5 tracks on the side are very melodic and very inspiring progressive pop and Teigen pitches in with the gentle ballad "Soft Shoe Dancer." "Today Another Day" may be my favorite track, but it's not an easy choice.
       Side Two is all romance and the need for love barring the closing epic "Suicide" and the first song on the side "Sweet Tune" couldn't be more aptly named. It really is a beautiful song. In Scandinavia there is a sound that is unique to that part of Northern Europe and Popol Ace have that sound. I would recommend also the great reissue with two bonus tracks of another amazing band Denmark's equally ill-fated The Old Man & The Sea. They were fucked over unbelievably by their label Sonet who only made 500 copies of the album all of which have 4 or 5 skips in them! Thank you Tommy Hansen for putting the record straight in the reissue insert interview! The question can only be "How Do You Do Any More To Succeed?" It seems that these great bands like Popol Ace are always getting ignored until their local fan base brings them back to reform for reunion gigs and as good as that must feel it would be appreciated I am sure more by the band if the publicity hadn't been a disaster at the time. There are a lot of songs on this album that should have been massive hits and I'd especially say "I Can See Tears" is a really beautiful romantic ballad that features some of the best arrangements I've heard on a progressive record. "Suicide" is a very questionable lyric until you realize how brilliant it is to tell the story of someone who is stupid enough to kill themselves from the point of view of their subconscious getting so warped as to talk that person into taking their life over the most trivial things in the world. It's almost funny, but there is something also very dark in Teigen's clever way of singing the words.
                  -The Epitaph Of Popol Ace And The Rebirth-
   I think that Popol Ace were well-educated. I guess the one area in which they weren't that well off was in knowing how to deal with the ruthless record industry. Back after STOLEN FROM TIME was released Genesis had lost Peter Gabriel very suddenly and the only singer they thought was good enough was Jahn Teigen. While that may have been flattering it focused his attention in all the wrong ways and by the time he was ready to rejoin Popol Ace after giving the thumbs down to Genesis it was over and that is really a shame. The rest of the band would virtually disappear, but Jahn Teigen went onto a successful career in Norway as a cabaret singer which is really sad. There have been quite a few ill-fated bands, but the band the world should miss the most or one of the bands to be missed the most is Popol Vuh/Popol Ace. They made brilliant music when they were around and for me they are the perfect prog band. Most of the other top melodic progressive bands are from the same part of the world. It doesn't seem to be a world that can make the right bands at the right time make it, but there is always the rebirth of a great band. Popol Ace are back performing again. Catch them I would if I were in Norway. I'd love to meet such an intelligent and rewarding group! The rejuvenation doesn't even have to be a band getting back together to play again- it can be the band getting the attention they deserve and at the very least a top placing in the world of collector's records. That's good enough for many, but I think that Popol Ace should seriously consider writing and recording again with Jahn Teigen just to make somebody such as me who is too young to have been there to experience just how great an experience it must have been to share a part of such musical magic. My highest praise to this band- find their music at the very earliest opportunity or convenience!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Copperpenny come close to the masterful level Crosstown Bus are a long time fave- Both Revealed Here In Full

I was always curious about Canada. It goes back way before my several-year-period of following ice hockey and getting attached to a lot of players who by now must surely have moved on to saner, quieter lives. I got into Canadian bands with 25e Regiment (pronounced "25th Regiment) and their rare masterpiece ECOLOGY which could have led to huge success if they had followed it up. I was obsessed, completely immersed in ECOLOGY and since it still sounds amazing to me now and since it is the longest kept record in my collection well I don't think I need to groove you any further about what a groove it is. Then it was Klaatu and their brilliant music and it just took off in a big way after them.
                          -The Long Standing Love For Montreal And Canada-
   I've been to Montreal more times than any other place in a foreign country in the world- even more times than England if I'm right. I still feel that Canadians and Canadian bands are both underrated and brilliant music and people. They get put down all the time by Americans of the over-patriotic queasily nationalistic kind who are the avid tea party fox news fools, but a lot of good Americans go up there like me and have a great time. I have been treated very respectfully up north and find it very heartwarming the reception I've gotten from the people up there. For quite some time I had best friends who are Canadians and though we are no longer in touch I think of them a lot. Montreal is amazing. You can essentially go to Europe in a car. I feel like I'm in a completely different land up there and you know what? I am.
                           -Dodgy Business And Narrow Minds-
     Now let's get to the music which is the main thing here. If you were a Canadian band in the 60s, 70s, or 80s and you signed out of your own country not America the chances are you were digging your own commercial grave. That is why there are so many rare and obscure Canadian records that no one's ever heard of here who had hits up North and huge national success. It's almost as bad as it is for the Germans and just like German music Canadian music is a taste that I've acquired amidst much consternation from other collectors/dealers. Some people will even think this write up is nuts. Well, too bad for them.
                       -Copperpenny- A Classy Canadian Band-
     Unlike Germany some Canadian artists and bands signed out of America and made it, but I'd argue that the best got screwed over up in Canada. Copperpenny is a perfect example of that. They actually signed the deal for their first release out of America and were buried alive here. It was probably too far out and too commercial at the same time for narrow minded American radio. Not much was done by RCA to promote ANY bands on their label so it could be blamed on them for Copperpenny's fast descent into the bargain bin in 1970 when their self titled debut was released. That was not the case in Canada. Formed in the late 60s in Kitchener Ontario (a mainly Canadian German community) and recording all the way up to the mid/late 70s they had many successes in their own country including some of the most memorable hit singles to come out in Canada. While the albums tended to get ignored the singles did brilliantly for them and this probably culminated in 1973 when they came up with one of the best soft pop tracks ever laid down in "You're Still The One-" a song right up there with "Precious And Few" by the American band Climax Featuring Sonny Geraci who attained a huge hit with their classic here.
                             -Their First Album Revealed-
     Where things get most interesting with Copperpenny is their first album which was released in America and Canada in 1970 by dreadful RCA. RCA signed up several excellent Canadian bands including the also brilliant Cat, but just like Cat Copperpenny went nowhere here. The album sold well in Canada, in fact very well thank you. At the time of their debut the band centered around the talents of Rich Wamil (vocals lead and backup, keyboards, bass, guitar, trumpet,) Laverne McDonald (lead guitar, vocals lead and backup), Ken Hollis (lead vocals), Bert Hamer (drums, percussion, backup vocals), and Paul Reibling (bass and backup vocals). Their stunning five part harmonies and the unique combination of Hollis's soaring Vanity Fare like tenor and Rich Wamil's soulful bassy baritone are just the start. On the 9 tracks featured here 2 are dark and foreboding epics including the ultimate bad acid trip psychedelic nightmare turned psychedelic masterpiece "Stop The World' and a dreamy, creepy track about mortality/the life cycle of death and rebirth called "Castles Of Sand." The texts to their songs whether they are long tracks or short pop catchy tracks are uniformly excellent and the performances are top level professional from all 5 of Copperpenny. My copy has serous h20 damage to the record so alas I still don't have a clean one of this album, but how many records am I gonna write about right after the day I get them and first listen to them? Not a whole lot.
      Something about the between-songs crackle is kind of nice if I think of it in a weird way, but thankfully the songs themselves here play great and Jack Richardson's production job is amazing. The first track on the album is the two part "I've Been Hurt Before/Ritchie's Party" and it tips you off that this is going to be a really good one to listen to. I love Ken Hollis and Rich Wamil. They sing brilliantly and especially Hollis with a voice that may melt your heart. He sings "I've Been Hurt Before" and most of the other material. Rich Wamil aptly sings "Ritchie's Party" and rocks out on it too. There are straightforward arrangements less than big baroque ones on Copperpenny's 1st and this album therefore should really appeal to British pop and American baroque pop fans.
   "Stop," the second track on Side One is a reworking of one of their earliest Canadian chart smashes "Stop Wait A Minute" and one of the best songs ever written by anybody. Copperpenny had a lot of great material in them and there are no covers allowed here. If you wish Vanity Fare or White Plains wrote more challenging material and at the same time were outdoing themselves for pop brilliance this is the album to have. I love White Plains, but not all their material was as amazing as Vanity Fare who may be my favorite straightforward British pop/rock group of the same era that Copperpenny recorded in. I always wish that harmony pop bands would go just that one step further and rock out or write something really bizarre- Copperpenny do that. "Stop" is the pop/rock side of their sound and you won't find a more beautiful voice than Ken Hollis. Then they clobber you with a spine tingling track at the end of each side. This is a band who can effortlessly go from pop to progressive to heavy psychedelic rock. They can beat the living shit out of Jefferson Airplane, but I'll admit I don't think that's hard to do. I hate most American west coast big name groups and just the same way think the worst Canadians are the ones who made it really big down here. Blood Sweat And Tears I can live without thank you. However, the success of great bands like The Guess Who and The Band opened the door to bands like Copperpenny gaining a recording contract only to have their fortunes change on them in a really bad scenario of broken promises and poor promotion. Listen to songs here like "It's A Happy Day," the perfect pop soul of "Just A Sweet Little Thing," the sad yet bouncy "That Was The Game," and "It's A Rainy Day" and you like me will find that Copperpenny should have been huge in America and worldwide.
                     -Copperpenny Get Way Out There And Show A Progressive Side-
    If you are about to start moaning about them as an out and out pop group then the two long closing tracks on each side prove you way wrong. "Castles Of Sand" is really a pretty freaky, haunting song with beautiful sad baroque vocals and dreamy uncertain mood changing music. The whole text is about how man comes from dust to return to dust to be reborn again as a baby playing with "the sands of you and I-" pretty deep stuff. "Stop The World" is the ultimate bad acid trip song- a warning and a 9 minute epic of paranoid psychedelic magic-making. Hollis can sing both the really pop stuff and the really out there stuff brilliantly and I think it's a bit of a shame that Copperpenny went out and out pop after this album. Quality pop definitely, but they just as easily could have gone progressive. "Stop The World" has made compilations and briefly had this album going crazy with collectors on the strength of the most unrepresentative track. "Stop The World" sounds like they purposefully wanted to close this album out with a huge epic attack on the ears and ill-advised drug use at the same time. The trip you're on starts ominously enough, but some of what goes on in this track reminds me of the far out German bands like Virus!!!!!! Wild!!!! Laverne McDonald plays some scathing fuzz guitar and Hollis gets really dark sounding- a pop psych Arthur Brown or Jim Morrison in tenor instead of baritone range. I've got to find a better copy of this album eventually as I love this record a lot you can tell! I'd give this a really high rating and you definitely should go after it. It will be easier to find than the other band dealt with here- Crosstown Bus.
               -Crosstown Bus Are One Of The Most Overlooked Bands From Canada-
      Crosstown Bus came out of Vancouver and were arch rivals in the late 60s with 49th Parallel and my good friend Doran Beattie hates them not just for that, but for how the band's leader Jeff Boyne was brought into the band post 49th Parallel Painter became Hammersmith. His stay was short before the group booted him out, but that is where I'm afraid Doran and I will have to differ. Jeff Boyne was a very talented man, but definitely the wrong guy for Hammersmith. His abilities as a songwriter, guitar player, and singer were the driving force behind Crosstown Bus and this album has always been near the top of my Canadian list with much jeering at me for it. Well too goddamned bad for you narrow minded record dealers!! I don't have a clue as to why this album is hated by a lot of people as there is nothing to hate and a lot to love.
      Crosstown Bus may have been popular in Vancouver and to a certain extent Canada, but their 1971 one-off HIGH GRASS is really hard to find and especially really rare in good condition like almost all Canadian albums. For pop psych it's a monster. I love to love bands that record dealers love to hate. I don't do it as a perverse thing where it isn't based on the merits of the music and is based just on loving a band no one else seems to like- I do it because the music is of a really high quality that is overlooked in the face of vastly inferior hype jobs. Crosstown Bus came out in 1971 with an album that sounds closer to 1968 and I love the British/Canadian/late 60s amalgam of styles that is to be found on HIGH GRASS. There are two fuzz guitar blasters in the form of two covers of obscure songs "Pretty Millie" by Canadian band Houston and "Rochester River" by Rockin' Foo, an American group. Both of these songs are done much better here than the originals.
                    -Crosstown Bus HIGH GRASS In Full-
   Crosstown Bus have a sound that is a group production not just one guy so while Jeff Boyne is the main writer and has a very special, very strong voice he isn't the entire reason why this album is so good. The band line up is Boyne (lead vocals, guitar, congas), Rob Sommerville (organ, congas, vocals), Frank Ludwig (piano, guitar, organ, vocals), Brian Anderson (bass, vocals), and Mike Killeen (drums and vocals). They didn't last very long after recording HIGH GRASS, but what an amazing album it is! I love British influenced bands and as a commonwealth country Canada could turn out some real winners who also had a very Canadian sound. That would be the case here. I love the moodiness of some songs like "Overcoats" and the title track. Then I love the bright sunlight-through-the-window vibe of other ones like "In Ten Years Time" and "Too Many Mornings." There also is in the closing track a great version of the Van Morrison classic "Caravan." I love Van Morrison's voice and I love his music even though I've heard he's a really disgusting person. I don't want to find that out. He doesn't sound disgusting to me, but a big voice like his could definitely be a big ego trip. Jeff Boyne sings in a similar range to Van Morrison and other deep voiced melodic and strong singers, but he has a quavery vibrato that is closer to the late Robin Gibb or on "Overcoats" a mellower Family's Roger Chapman. While Robin Gibb and Van Morrison had/have serious personality issues you don't get a sense that Jeff Boyne is on an ego trip. He doesn't once over sing even at his most dramatic which also brings to mind not just vocally, but musically the Swedish band Blond.
           -More On Crosstown Bus And Don't Pass Up The Brilliance Of Canada-
     There isn't a note I'd change here. There isn't a word or phrase or twiddle of the engineer that I would change here either and the "live" sound of five very good musicians augmented with tasteful Beatlesesque string and horn arrangements make this a top Canadian masterpiece. Every song is great. "Too Many Mornings" has a very Beatles circa 1966/1967 sound and to counteract that "Overcoats" and the title track sound very much more of a progressive dramatic kind of pop that is more like that of other UK bands. I don't know what there isn't to like here. The cover art is very psychedelic, but although this album isn't a psychedelic trip out it's got a strong late 60s vibe to it and there is nothing to complain about. I've always been able to pick up on whether a band or album is real or if they waste my time going through the motions of something they most certainly are not. This album is no fake out like The Frederic or any number of overhyped American non-psych "psych" records. Even bands as great as British North American Act were always getting blown off by a lot of American dealers, but I never came across that one which now fetches over $500! I hope that somebody can also appreciate Crosstown Bus as they come across as an honest and very talented group who focused on great songs in an era that was veering off into a lot of self-indulgence. They didn't try to keep up with the times and the quality of 1966-1968 in 1971 I find very appealing in their songs. "Pass This Way Again," and "Renie" are both songs that convey polar opposite time frames and polar opposite kinds of bands, but the album never becomes disjointed. "Pass This Way Again" is moving into the early 70s, but "Renie" is a good 1966 beat meets 1966 bubblegum pop song. "In Ten Years Time" is catchy and evocative. The whole album flows together beautifully and I really don't see what there is that some people find to adamantly hate about such a wonderful record. I guess you'll have to make up your own mind if you are lucky enough to find a copy of HIGH GRASS. I'd say give this a few spins and it should make you be the one laughing at narrow minded dealers and collectors not them laughing at the fact that you have an open mind. As for me, this may make my top 5 and I'll leave the rest up to whether it makes your top 5 or your top 10. I like to think that I know a whole lot more than most other dealers/collectors and what makes me happiest is that I know I do know a lot more than they do. Just keep an open mind and don't let other opinions influence your own. Canada is a country you shouldn't overlook. Overlook Canada and to me that's overlooking half the world. Especially for the musical part of things.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Best Birthday Ever, Observations On Life, Love, and Europe, And Much Praise For Warm Music From Cold Climates

Last Sunday (April 28th) I turned 37 years old and I'm looking forward to a fresh, new start to my life. It will take a lot of discipline, but I'm for the first time in a really long time confident about my future. A lot of that may stem from having the best Birthday ever of my whole life- so brilliant it was better than any Christmas I can think of too.
 It was hard to get to my day of commemoration intact, but I got there. Nothing is easy in life and if it all is a big nothing for someone hard as this may be to believe I'd rather be me than someone who is bland, selfish, uninteresting, and uninterested in anything but themselves and their square ordinary life. I've had a lot of hard times and a lot of good times in my life. Looking back I tend to try to and mainly remember the happy periods and happy days, but I can remember the worst ones too. Sometimes I live in the past or just become a dreamer too much, but that is a very small facet of who I am.
      When I came up with my list of records for my birthday I went really far into rare big ticket records from cold climates- Germany, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden and a Canadian record was a last minute surprise when my best Quebecois friend Denis said he had it and he'd sell it to me. Denis and I have known each other forever and been friends for a really long time. I've been to all 4 locations his store has been in in Montreal and I love going to that beautiful city. The closest I've been to Northern Europe is Montreal and Scotland where the weather can be brutal. The one time I went to Montreal in October it was freezing yet still so good. What I love about Canadian and Scandinavian bands is how different they are from the rest of the music from other places. I'll freely admit I'm a bit of a paradox when it comes to American bands as I think many of the best come from southern California (mainly Los Angeles), but press me hard enough and I'll come up with a whole lot from colder places too. America is a huge country with a huge amount of music, but it was the first country to become totally polarized between great music and the worst shit ever to come out in the world. In general a lot of really rare American records aren't that rare and are not worth listening to. I will give an example of that. Morgen is not very rare as someone always has one for sale and is both horrendous and not at all psychedelic. That was New York. The Frederic is neither rare (a dealer always has it for some ludicrous price) nor is it even listenable. Instead it is as I have described it previously- a really bad lounge Frat act snot nosed supper club band from Grand Rapids Michigan. I don't know why a lot of our cold climate bands suck! There are huge exceptions of course especially as in that Ohio produced a lot of really brilliant bands and press me to say the worst American band and it's always gonna be Bloodrock and sick in the head Southern bands like them in general so it is not simple.
     American music of the best kind usually is made by bands who either are heavily leaning towards Anglo/European influences or who are good at what we're really good at- pop psych. I'd probably put Brian Wilson and his brilliant music in my top 5, but even he doesn't give me the same kind of healing spirit I get from Europe. Bands like Popol Ace from Norway, Blond from Sweden, Stratovarius from Finland, and the also Finland first album masterpiece by Tasavallan Presidentti along with the best Canadian records are so warm sounding and inviting I have a huge soft spot for them and love that kind of music. Some people complain about the Germans and Scandinavians. They complain about the vocals and about the music being "oppressive," but dealers like that are shallow thinking nobodies whose opinion doesn't mean one thing to me. I will readily admit that the German psychedelic/progressive bands grew to be a favourite kind of music over a long period, but I've not looked back since I started collecting the best they have which is a lot of bands. Scandinavia I always had a soft spot for and let me not leave out Dutch bands some of whom are astonishingly good. A German band like Virus won't be for everyone, but you surely won't get an illness if you listen to their best of their two albums THOUGHTS. I don't mind dark lyrics if they are good. English was not the first language for European bands, but in the northern part of Europe most bands sang in very good English and wrote very interesting although oftentimes somewhat downtrodden texts. My two best phone friends now are German soldiers and when Denis is around we talk often sometimes. I always love going to Montreal and no trip is complete without visiting him. We've made a tradition too of going out to dinner together. Never believe what people say about Canadians- Americans really are just jealous and you won't get slammed in Quebec if your French isn't perfect. I always try to use the little that I know, but my experience has been mainly very kind people up there. I've also never met a single Scandinavian I haven't loved. I also like Russians, but they never have had a chance to make really good music because their poor country is one tragedy after another. I had a Siberian best friend a long time ago and we'd always hang out with each other and I got him huge into one of my favourite bands for almost my whole life- Europe who of course came from Sweden. The culture is rich and detailed in Europe. It is a sense of huge pride and sadness in many countries none more so than Germany. I love Europe, I love Canada, but I find that the love emotion for people overrules the hate emotion more for me as long as they are good people who try to do something worthwhile in the world.
     Getting back to my birthday I did great the previous day at the one record store that is really worth my while to go to and I had the best visit there in quite some time. We drove back listening to the great Canadian band Klaatu's MAGENTALANE and Klaatu are a band that loom large in my musical history.  I knew I'd be getting some great music for my birthday the next day, but just how brilliant I didn't know until that beautiful morning in a so far beautiful spring.
   I got the best records ever made! I got 14 of them and only one would have a problem and 15 were mine in total if you count the one that came from France a day later- Jupiter Sunset which is a very significant record in my history. It was great to have it back and purged of the demons it had a long time ago developed a year after I owned it roughly. Most of what I got came from Northern Europe and you can't go wrong with a lot of the bands that came out of Scandinavia in the 60s and early to mid 70s. Two of the other best ones- in fact the very best ones along with the first album by Finland's Tasavallan Presidentti (President Of The Republic in English) came from Germany in Sitting Bull's TRIP AWAY and New Zealand in The Fourmyula's GREEN B. HOLIDAY. Sitting Bull is an amazing record- a mix of blazing heavy psychedelic rock and British influenced heavier edged to laid aback folkrock. There is no other album like it although the superb vocals sound like a Germanic take on some of the best British bands of the early 70s era like Asgard and Dog That Bit People or the later Idle Race. The Fourmyula's GREEN B. HOLIDAY also belongs in every collection- a pop psych masterpiece that can blow the lid off nearly every other monster album in that vein and is an equal to the best- The Koobas!
       One of the most interesting things is how much great music comes from countries with really cold climates where I'd love to visit during the warmer months, but couldn't stomach during the winters. Canada provided me with some of the best records at Siren and also on my birthday proper I got a heavy Canadian album I'd been looking for for 19 years- Blind Ravage. From Montreal, Blind Ravage is pretty, well, ravaging. It's an over the top hard garage psych/hard rock album with savage vocals and brilliant guitar work. We also drove back from Siren listening to one of my oldest favorites- Beatlesesque magic workers Klaatu from Toronto. Now I can go into detail about the amazing music from Scandinavia. I feel very successful in having got some classics from there and it only proved my point that Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland have something very special in the best of the music they've produced back before heavy metal did irreparable damage to all of those countries. Having said that one of the scant few bands that could be described as "Metal" (melodic metal, though, or Symphonic Metal) that I love are Finland's long running Stratovarius.
    You can't get better than them once Timo Koltipelto became their vocalist and they have not gone the way of a lot of bands and churned out a million repetitious copies of their old classics they are a band who keep going further ahead. However, for there to be Stratovarius in the 90s to now there had to be a whole lot of bands before them.
    Tasavallan Presidentti were Finland's first progressive group and recorded their groundbreaking, awesome first album in 1969 long before some of the other giants like Elonkorjuu got around to it. Having mentioned Elonkorjuu (the name translates into "Harvest") they obviously played Tasavallan's first a million times. I prefer, way prefer, Tasavallan Presidentti's self titled 1969 masterpiece when Jukka Tolonen hadn't completely crossed over to jazz and jazzy progressive rock taking the band with him. Also, very importantly, on their first album and a 1971 sort of compilation release on EMI they had the services of a brilliant British vocalist and writer in Frank Robson. Robson's soulful, melodic, and powerful voice is a huge help to getting the message across. It is largely thanks to the amazing variety of material, soaring vocals, and brilliant musicianship that this album is not only Finland's early progressive peak, but a peak for the genre in the world. The music has a warm vibe, like they were sitting around the fire coming up with great music because there was no way they were going to go out in the miserable cold.
     Having used the word "miserable" Scandinavian bands can make miserable great. The Norwegian progressive rockers who shared the same name as a horrible more famous German band Popol Vuh and then once signed in Germany Popol Ace never sounded like a particularly happy bunch. Famous in their homeland and forgotten everywhere else that is beyond unfortunate that is unforgivable. They couldn't get any attention outside of a small following in Europe until Genesis attempted to (get this!) snag lead vocalist Jahn Teigen to replace Peter Gabriel. Teigen had the job and refused. He said at the time that he wanted to stay in his own group because they'd be huge soon, but I think he knew that if he did take the too-good-to-be-true offer it wouldn't last long. Jahn has a super great voice- a very impressive range and the most important ingredient of them all a lot of sincerity-, but his thickly accented vocals are impossible to imagine in Genesis. Popol Vuh/Ace were a very downtrodden band. Their 1972 debut is full of depressed mellotron drenched melancholic progressive rock and a few hard rock numbers and while it doesn't capture them quite as brilliant as on their Popol Ace one proper release with Jahn STOLEN FROM TIME it is pretty damned great music. The lyrics are really sad and just seem to only look at deep issues and bad things in the world. Especially depressing is the song "All We Have Is The Past," but this achingly beautiful song captures a kind of sad progressive magic like The Moody Blues yet it has a very European sound to it. Guitarists Arne Shulze and the also keyboard playing Pete Knutsen are stellar musicians and this album also features some really cool flute passages from Pjokken Eide who wouldn't stay long. Pjokken's big Ian Anderson moment comes in the ominous, grandiose opener "Hunchback." The song concludes with a grim poem spoken by Teigen. Side Two is where the album's major musical highlight is in "For Eternity" where Love circa FOREVER CHANGES meets King Crimson and The Moody Blues, but the group would improve their sound enormously once they were down from a sextet to a five piece band.
     The peak for Popol Vuh/Popol Ace would come in the form of STOLEN FROM TIME which is the definition of melodic European progressive pop/rock and features a whole album's worth of amazing songs with great variety and energy from the whole band and Jahn is sounding almost God-Like on the record. He's gotten much more sure of himself you can tell and there is more beauty and less dark claustrophobia then on their first release. The brew that was steeping on the second album QUICHE MAYA is ready to drink here. Over the course of 3 years, two albums, and a name change it came together in absolute perfection. The first track "Bury Me Dead" is not really at all about death and is instead about the hardships of a rock band trying to make it to the top with a nice amount of humor thrown in. Other highlights are "Today Another Day" and "I Can See Tears"' among a whole lot more. The closing track "Suicide" is brilliant in that it doesn't depress you when they try to get inside somebody foolish enough to give into delusional thinking and kill themselves. The group were really all set to make it, but then it wasn't going to work out for this band. When Jahn Teigen left that was pretty much the end until recently when the whole band have reformed and I wish it could be different for them a second time around. It seems horribly unfair that they never made it at the time except in Norway and to a lesser extent Germany. They can stand up to the best of all British, American, and German progressive groups and that in and of itself should make them a legendary band to more than just the few who know their great music.
      I've never figured it all out. Germany, Canada, Netherlands, Scandinavian countries produce such great music with such a harsh climate at certain times of the year and in England it rains so much and is miserable so much of the time that I wonder if that has anything to do with why there is a huge amount of great music from there too. There is a big difference in the music, however. Canada has its own kind of music, its own kind of bands, its own kind of sound. The French Canadian bands tend to sound Dutch or German for some reason and the English Canadian bands can only be described as a uniquely Canadian take on whatever they do. Scandinavia is where some really amazing bands hail from and I got into a lot of them when I was much younger than now. I've never liked the winter. In fact, I hate it. That might make it even harder for you to know how much I love music that evokes the one joy of that time of year- the fireplace. Winter can be cozy. It can bring people closer together. Take my advice and hunt down some of these cold climate masterpiece records and share them with your friends- you may turn onto something really special in the process.