What!? No blog entries for over a month!? And it isn't because I've been too busy I've just been too miserable to do much of anything. I can, after what I have to live with every day, say that I pretty much give up on life as much as I give up on any and all hope for the political situation in this country. Let me rephrase that. I would give up on life if I was really stupid and since one of these albums is basically telling you to kill yourself and the other says "Push On And Follow Through" I agree with Spy in their brilliant "The Best That We Can Do."
I have a lot of respect for Dutch 60s bands of all kinds, but mainly the pop psych/full on psychedelic ones and I wish I had a better Dutch collection because there are many great ones that have gone from my collection that I should have kept. Of course, things would change with time. My favorite Dutch band is Machine who only made one album in 1970 which sounds like the Hell and mayhem of Arnhem 1944 brought to life in seriously heavy psych/hard prog. Also, if I were pressed I'd probably say that Kayak are the most underrated band of them all and they made some of the best melodic progressive music ever. Machine never took off. In fact, they were gone before they really had a chance to make it. Kayak had some huge success in Holland and even got a hit here with the remixed version of "I Want You To Be Mine." It would be Kayak who I'd say had the best understanding of English and Gloria who were the worst not just at that, but the worst of them all.
-Gloria: Holland's Worst and How Did They Get A Hit!?-
Gloria, or as they are sometimes referred to Robert Long and Unit Gloria, are the most obnoxious band I've ever heard from anywhere bar the horrible equally sick Norwegian metal band Return. In fact, Gloria predated the worst excesses of right wing Christian metal/rock lyrics in their sickeningly pious hits which were a big deal in The Netherlands at the time. I know what I say is going to offend some people, but facts are facts. Reality is reality. Gloria were a band without any real imagination they just had bombast.
In fact, during their successful period they hardly wrote any songs. It was Englishman Bobby Graham who wrote for them their huge hit "The Last Seven Days-" a song as horrific and disturbing as Bloodrock or a nightmare of a talentless pop version of Black Sabbath if they weren't Black Sabbath and were fanatical about spreading the Christian word. What the song deals with is environmental holocaust and the end of the world brought on by (you guessed it) God's wrath for the people of the earth living in sin and not by his word. The 80 piece choir certainly doesn't help and this kind of shlock pop with sick lyrics is the kind of thing I've heard in really horrible nightmares and would not like to ever have anything to do with. Gloria would follow this non-song up with more pretentious Christian based and conservative garbage and for a brief period they were hugely successful which is shocking.
Of course the tide would turn- Robert Long which is obviously a pseudonym for some unpronounceable Dutch name would leave the band and they would go progressive. I haven't heard the good stuff by Unit Gloria with horrible Robert Long out of the band, but even the band's successful album MEA SEMPER GLORIA VIVET ("MAY MY FAME LAST FOREVER") isn't easy to track down. It really should be avoided at all costs I just wish that somebody would put the radically different first track "Brink Of Disaster" on a compilation. You think you're in for a masterpiece and that cover looks pretty classy too- you'd better beware! I got burned on this one twice.
After "Brink Of Disaster" this goes way over the brink and makes you wish someone had done away with this band before they could get into a studio. Maybe a tree could have fallen down on their car in a storm and that would have been the end of them, but that is even for this way too extreme. It just doesn't make any sense to me that bands like this had hits at such a creative high point especially in a great music country like Holland. Around the same time there were such great bands as Sandy Coast, Zen, Earth and Fire, Shocking Blue, and many more where those came from. If you want grim that's more than listenable go for Sandy Coast and their amazing Dutch hit "Capital Punishment (Death By Hanging)" which is a lot more musical than the title of the song implies.
In fact, Sandy Coast and most of the best bands weren't exactly upbeat and we must remember that just like the Germans the Dutch kids then were growing up in the aftermath of WWII. Some of the bloodiest battles were fought in Holland some of the worst carnage ensued, but that doesn't excuse Gloria. The songs seem to delight in death and disaster and the Holier Than Thou stance is particularly nauseating. Is this the work of a Dutch George W. Bush on depressants!? I think I've nailed it. Let me also warn you that Robert Long has an appalling voice that destroys everything and his tendency towards histrionic bellowing in a low moan is really something you don't want to hear. No more time to waste on this one. It gets the condemnation I only thrash out to the worst of them all and this is the worst garbage ever to have come out of not just Holland, but all of Europe. I'll take Italian progressive mania over this and that's harsher than harsh!
-SPY- THE BEST POMP ROCK/PROGRESSIVE/POWER POP BAND OF THEM ALL? I MAY JUST SAY YES! (NO PUN INTENDED)-
My tune has changed a lot about New Jersey. When I was in high school it was a pretty backwards state although it was beautiful, but I overlooked the beauty and the good things and just looked at how rotten most of the other kids were I had to deal with (and they really were awful). Now, in Princeton alone things are very different, but back when Spy were around free range, organic, and tasty could only be found in music like theirs and not in the food we could get. I would have to put in for New Jersey it is called the Garden State for a reason- it surely is one of the most beautiful states you can live in, but let's get right to the music here- New Jersey has produced some of the best bands to come out of America and the World and Spy may have been an absolute peak.
I read about Spy back when I was 14 years old. They were written up in a rave review in a magazine I read at the time which gave a pretty good introduction to the best AOR/Pomp Rock bands of them all and I'd put nearly all of the ones the guy (can't remember the name of the journalist) raved about up there. He was so enthralled with Spy that I bought the album and I was head over heels in love with that amazing first track "Crimson Queen." Since then and over a long period without hearing this band except on YouTube I listened to the whole album last night and this just takes me straight into some kind of better world where people share and care about other people and things that matter.
How New Jersey's Spy came together was as a supergroup of sorts. Guitarist/lead vocalist David Nelson went way back and had just before Spy been Roy Albrighton's replacement in Nektar when that band moved to New Brunswick NJ. Unfortunately, Nektar wasn't the right band for David's songs and I think he saved his best ones up for Spy. He has a very different approach to singing and writing and playing than Nektar knew how to integrate and had their attempt at a "pop period" worked it probably wouldn't have changed their cult status into huge sales which is what David Nelson and the rest of Spy so much deserved. The band's main lead vocalist John Vislocky had been in ultra collectable progressive band Mirthandir who only managed one tiny private pressing called FOR YOU THE OLD WOMEN, but some progressive fans rate this album which I haven't heard really high. The rest of the band had just as many chops and just as many great ideas and ability. Dave Lebolt is a great writer and keyboard player, Danny Seidenberg plays incredible violin and viola, Michael Visceglia is a great bass player, and finally Bob Goldman is a fantastic drummer able to handle the complexities of many of these songs like an old hand.
So what stopped this band from hitting #1? I think it was being signed to the wrong label- Kirshner. The only other act on Kirshner was fake progressive wank-off Kansas and their big successes were past them in 1980. There could be a good reason why Visceglia trashes the music industry on "Easy Street" as Kirshner could have been pulling the carpet out from under Spy as they were making their album. The record business was particularly savage when AOR/Pomp Rock bands were making classic albums and quite a few great bands suffered from what had been brewing since way back in the 1960s- the "We Had A Hit With That One Now Let's Sign This One" leading into "Not Commercial Enough Fuck Off." The reason for high priced collector's items is often worldwide just rarity, but in also a lot of cases you have to hear how good the music is. Spy don't go for much money, but their album doesn't often turn up.
What Spy do on their album is create a mood for each song and write very pleasant melodies with vocals somewhere between Kayak's Edward Reekers and Uriah Heep great David Byron in the case of John Vislocky. He tends to sing very high, but very soothing. Definitely not an idiotic Steve Walsh tantrum thrower or anything approaching the pseudo prog hard rock of Kansas. David Nelson also sings lead with a really down to earth and gentle approach that is so tasteful it's hard to put into words what he does on the heartbreaking yet great message song "The Best That We Can Do" about the tragic suicide of a best friend and how we need to live life while it's there and not destroy it.
Spy are a band with a great heart. I feel the same way about New England and having many years ago been in touch with their amazing John Fannon I can say my faith in him/New England was more than justified by a great person. John Fannon's melancholic songs have a less Beatles influenced counterpart in Spy and while New England made it with a huge hit then had very bad luck despite even better material Spy never had even one hit. You won't believe that when you hear songs such as "Crimson Queen," "Ruby Twilight," and the breathtaking "Anytime Anyplace" which features the most progressive and complex structure I've heard yet in a pomp rock track by an American band. Spy are amazing and the fact that six guys made a great team is really impressive. Sometimes a band with only 3 guys like Triumph only have one person who has a real vision (Rik Emmett), but in Spy a democratic writing approach pays off. David Nelson and Dave Lebolt get most of the songs, but Danny Seidenberg and John Vislocky get things cooking on "Anytime Anyplace" and Michael Visceglia tears out the music industry on the heartfelt "Easy Street."
If Spy had been on a real label then the pick hit is obviously "Crimson Queen," but I can't believe that even Kirshner couldn't make the song a huge hit. It has a complex structure that is very progressive, but it also is pop at heart and full of brilliant vocals and catchy melodies. Spy are for music lovers who think. They aren't some stupid band with blind flash and pretentious noodling and squirming like Kansas and it probably was their death knell to be signed to Kirshner. Let me also say I don't think this album got pressed in huge quantities and every copy I've had has been a demonstration copy. It looks like sometimes the good guys don't win! Oftentimes the good guys lose. That's what "The Best That We Can Do" is about and having had a best friend back in high school who killed himself I can really sympathize with David Nelson's very sad and very beautiful song. The violin is a nice touch and Nelson comes up with some great riffs and brilliant vocals. You can't find one track on here that isn't outstanding. For power pop/pomp up there with "Crimson Queen" listen to "Love's There" and the album's great closer "When I find Love." For progressive influences done perfectly there's "Can't Complain" and the lovely ballad "Feeling Shining Through." It's really criminal that Spy didn't succeed commercially, but we have an album here that is the best ever made for the kind of music they play and it belongs in your collection along with all your multi hundred $$$$ hugely expensive ones. Find this album at once- you need it.
If anyone from Spy would like to contact me my new email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Yeah, I lost all my friends and all my contacts when I was hacked and things have not been good. However, listening to Spy last night my life was saved by "The Best That We Can Do" and the whole album. I would never have attempted suicide anyway, but that song really speaks volumes against it and the whole record restored my faith in myself during what is a horrible period for me. Thank you isn't the words. Brilliant!