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.