Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Healthy Slice Of Mayan Quiche, Vikings, and Psychedelic Heaven Popol Ace and Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera

Reflecting is important and beginning anew even more important after an end to something comes about. The end of a 21 year and longer relationship came about earlier this week unexpectedly and shockingly when a tried and tested best friend became an enemy that I will never have anything to do with again. I will not go into detail as I don't wish to waste my time or the time of anyone reading this, but when a lie is told to demonically suit the selfish interests that can demolish the person on the receiving end and then more lies follow once the accusation flies and gets out in the open I will firmly state that downright lying can hurt as much as a sharp physical wound. This time the lies about my own person and who I am made me so angry that I will no longer consider this fool a friend of mine, but a sycophantic disease carrying loser who is dead and gone in my life. No more long drives to see him. No more phone calls. No more connections. I'm really mad.
    It happens to all of us and what I suggest you do is just to calmly withdraw and go find something or someone you know you can trust. Some people will always be there to bring you up when you fall down. Whilst I am not enamored of every bloke in the Rifles Regiment of Britain I love quite a few of them as I do my wonderful German soldier mate Hans and talking with soldiers and listening to great music has really been a help to me and I fancy myself a kind of musical warrior/soldier myself who isn't a soldier. That's the way it's always gonna be. You keep up the fight and you don't give it up because people tell you you're worthless or "weak minded" or whatever their bullshit happens to be. I don't particularly feel comfortable on the telephone until I can ease into a conversation. I can be an idiot at first, but then if the talking starts I become more relaxed, more willing to discuss things at length. One thing I'll discuss here is that music is the key to my happiness and tends to be something very inspirational sans any religious connotations. So now that this bridge is yet another one decimated, rotted, and destroyed I simply went to that old fashioned remedy of music and thank Heavens I have a loving mother and father who put up with me and my always changeable moods from both a great person to a totally vexing one.
     We all have faults. No one is perfect. However, if you get the best of people together in a band magic can really be pulled off and miracles too. That's where Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera come in. I would go right out and say that their one album under that name and with Dave Terry who is Elmer Gantry at the front is probably not just a once in a lifetime masterpiece, but the best British psychedelic rock album ever made. I have been loving them since I was 16 and a half and found a British original for $15 in the basement of a porn shop disguised as a record store in darkest Poughkepsie NY.
                  -From Triumph To Disaster and Back To Making The Hurt Heal-
     That basement had a lot of amazing records and went to Hell when I made the fatal error of telling an arch rival record dealer of its existence. Sure enough I go back and it was all picked over except for the rarest Klaatu record in 95. In 1997 it was a nightmare and a memory so painful that I will NEVER DISCUSS IT. I was a horrible person then, but as horrible as I was I paid in full for the bad behavior and destructive lifestyle I was leading at the start of my 20s. I'd been done wrong by life and took it out on the people who cared about me and I won't be doing any more of that. My life had been written off by me when I was 21, but at 22/23/24 I made a best friend in a man named Ras from Denmark which is a country of mainly wonderful people except for one horrifically nasty and pathologically lying record dealer I know not the name of nor do I care. Ras worked in a great store sadly long since out of business in Manhattan called Second Coming and Ras provided me with a healing experience as did the store's inventory. I also made best friends with a Siberian acquaintance turned great supporter of me who I wish very well in whatever he does now so many years later. This was before the days of the Internet and I marvel at how different the world was then, how less selfish and cold everything/everyone seemed. I wouldn't have imagined that Popol Vuh Norway/Popol Ace (Same band) could be true in their condemnations of most people as being self-loving egotistical bastards and as for the songs they wrote about love I was just beginning to learn of that emotion's true meaning. As time has gone on I have been in love many times, but first loves tend to come into view when I listen to the two albums I'm discussing here.
              -Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera Welcome To The Brilliant Show-
        Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera were the first British band to totally knock me out and blow my mind into fragments reassembling it to see that the British and Europeans beat the shit out of the American psych I was mainly into. Not all American psych is useless or inferior, but most of it is what I started with not what would rule as majestic and powerful over time. I've heard some people start with British and European stuff and then they bite into American "garage psych" and that changes their tune. Poor losers and fools is all I can say as I went through the opposite musical metamorphosis. I started off with American bands. I started with garage rock and garage psych and when I heard Kak for the first time the garage was a dusty old cobwebbed place full of nothing. As soon as The Zombies and Kak had blown my mind something had to come along that I could actually call my own and not just dream about having the way I dreamed then of having an original of Kak. Kak may well be the best American album, but unfortunately I've had it 3 times now and the pressing is really as poor as can be. Another problem with American records. Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera came along just when I least expected it and I was hit really between the eyes with a big revelation when I heard it. In America it came out on Epic the same label as Kak and suffered from an almost as bad pressing job so go for the much rarer much more expensive British pressing which also looks a whole lot nicer. I had certainly never heard anything as varied and different, as exotic, as quintessentially English as Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera and I still get a magical "room full of sun filtering in" warm vibe when I hear the album.
     Formed in Coventry and going down to London to be an in group on the Swinging scene there Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera comprised Elmer Gantry (Dave Terry real name: Lead vocals, rhythm guitar), John Ford (bass, a few other instruments, vocals), Richard "Hud" Hudson (drums, sitar, vocals), and last but certainly not least Colin Forster (lead guitar). The band played all the most happening discotheques and clubs and were very much a Mod band who got very ambitious when they gained valuable time in the studio. Songs like "Mother Writes," "Dream Starts" with its distorted vocals and Love style brass arrangements, "Air" with sitars aplenty, and the freaky "Reactions Of A Young Man" are Proto Progressive in nature and also can serve as a primer a year earlier of what The Koobas delved into to a certain extent. "Long Nights Of Summer" and "What's The Point Of Leaving" are beautiful melodic pop psych and should have been major hits. You even get an uproarious comedy number in the trad jazz gone to spastic nutso land  full on freak out of Elmer/Dave in his histrionic reworking of Oscar Brown Jr's "But I Was Cool." "Mary Jane" is a druggy song with a strong funky groove to it and great vocals similar to The Koobas and you can really see the variable sounds created here on a one off brilliant masterwork coexist in harmony with each other- important.   
               -The All Important Question Of Music And The Essential Ingredients--
      The lyrics on Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera are far more intelligent than nearly any American record I can think of and a lot of my distaste for American stuff of the lesser variety comes down to bad playing and bad lyrics. Even a band like Graffiti who try so hard for the kind of wide reaching Moody Blues vibe are second rate runners up when you really think about it. Graffiti were plagued by horrendously bad lyrics and this was not uncommon. Just listen to The Litter for Christs Sake this is really lame stuff "Action Woman" and a million and one cover versions trying to be Mod!!!!! The Litter were my number one band in the beginning, but time has not been kind to Distortions or either of their other two albums with the pick of a poor pack going to the Proto Metal Emerge on a real label (Probe). I'm not going to say there aren't American albums that are essential to your collection there are a lot of them, but they tend to be the undervalued ones. I personally prefer American stuff of the more pop psych/melodic psych variety as I feel that's what we do best, but for heavier ones there's a few really good bands who are very much in the minority. The Litter were at least better than the band that talented guitarist Tom "Zippy" Caplan formed Lightning who suffered from horrible vocals and too much Americana.
      Oh geez, God damn The Band for what they did to music! Everything was about cliches when the half Canadians/half Yanks came on the scene with all their nonsense about Dixie and hot chicks. America would have to grow musically before it could become something to take seriously and that happened full on with the advent of Pomp and AOR. Take out Kansas and keep everything else in we mastered AOR/Pomp Rock and bands like Boston, Journey, Styx, Survivor, and New England are some of the best music ever created. Steve Perry is a perfect example of the underdog saving the day. He wasn't particularly handsome, but with a voice made out of gold he delivered and wrote good lyrics too. Steve wasn't happy with stardom and eventually the introverted Journey front man caved under all the pressure and screamed out for his sanity and his private life not to be invaded all the time. Success is a double edged sword to be sure.
                   -The Best Can Sometimes Come Before A Commercial Success-
     Many musicians have been subject to the pressures of record companies and management going back to the 60s and Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera weren't handled properly and also were very young and gullible when they made their big punch out of the window of musical history that would later be completely shattered to fragments by The Koobas and then the British/European progressive onslaught. Two of the four would go onto huge success, but this would come as sidemen in The Strawbs where the material was inferior and so was Dave Cousins. The Strawbs peaked too soon with a young Sandy Denny and try as I might I can't get Dave Cousins and all his overdramatic folky pretentiousness or the demonic folk diva that Denny became in Fairport Convention. If you want folkrock stick with the bands that stress rock or twisted arrangements/vocals over folk. Go buy the first Earth Opera album that is how folk psych/progressive folk should be done. Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera show no signs of what was to come in The Strawbs thankfully and are very much a psychedelic/progressive rock band with the accent on rocking out or more subtle, reflective moods  that predate the wonderful Dog That Bit People. With more of a push and more support in general they may have lasted longer and not become Velvet Opera the band who made Ride A Hustler's Dream which is more folk/blues rock although I should add is pretty good for prog/folk psych too. Nothing good came to these boys. They tried from 1967 on through 1970 and it just wasn't getting heard or praised or anything of that sort which they should have had. I'm not a huge fan of Paul Brett except as a brilliant folk guitar innovator with some nice songs here and there, but even he could rock as he proved on Velvet Opera's new look Ride A Hustler's Dream which isn't anywhere as good as the first album, but it certainly has some great tracks.
               -The Quiche is Particularly Lovely Made By Vikings! Norway's Popol Vuh/Ace-
     Popol Ace began life in Norway in 1972 on their album debut as Popol Vuh of Norway not the boring German Popol Vuh. If ever a band deserved to be huge worldwide and are progressive rock Gods look no further. Jahn Teigen was such a formidable vocalist that he was the first pick to replace Peter Gabriel in Genesis and it's pretty astonishing he turned them down. Add to that the huge talents of Arne Schulze (guitar), Pete Knutsen (guitar/keyboards), Terje Methi (bass), and Thor Andreassen (drums) who also were great at harmony vocals and this is a band with killer songs, great production work from the whole band as a team, and possibly the best progressive record ever made in Quiche Maya. This album came out under the name Popol Ace as their first release under the new name with a superior cover of the band as Vikings on a Fjord and I would recommend forking out for that version as it is there that you can hear how far they improved from their first album to Quiche Maya.
    The eponymous debut by Popol Vuh (Norway) is a great album and flautist Pjokken Eide adds some nice colourings to the selections, but lyrically and musically it isn't perfect. The two songs on the Popol Ace album speak volumes as to the huge step forward the group made. "Hunchback" was probably together with the amazing closing epic "Medicine" the high point of their debut with great lyrics and very creative musicianship. "All We Have Is The Past" was a lesser track also about mortality, but a little unrealized with a great middle and only OK majority of the song. There were some rough edges and some mistakes that needed to be adjusted, but I would definitely say that you need to get all their albums with Jahn Teigen at the forefront. Popol Vuh/Ace made some major changes between first and second releases and came up with Quiche Maya- an album of staggering beauty, fearsome power, and amazing voyages into the ultimate progressive wonderland.
       Repackaged with all the best songs as Popol Ace's debut it really is something to go out and fork out for.  There are two hard rock/jazzy prog tracks both of which show maturity and forcefulness unmatched in "Queen Of All Queens" about a horrible girl who uses everybody and ends up with not one friend in the world and the equally pissed off lyrically unfathomable "Milk-White Satin-Dressed Departure" about how relationships can be a major turn off for the person left to clean it all up when its over and long since dead. Most of the other songs are experiments in romance which would make the album unique for them as they tended towards more metaphysical matter/fantasy lyrics on their amazing follow up as Stolen From Time. "Dark Nights" is a melodic song about the hard adjustment to the darkness that comes and steals the day, but songs like "Yesterday" and "Between You And Me" are romantically based dramatic progressive symphonic rock at the absolute peak of that kind of music's powers. The lush waves of mellotron recall the wonderful British band Spring and Arne Schulze plays superb guitar that is understated, soaring, and melodic like a dream jam session in 1973 between George Harrison and a very young Michael Schenker.
     Stick with those who love you seems to be the motto of Popol Vuh during this phase of their career and also live for yourself, your dreams, and your ambitions. It's hard to believe in the relationship that ended for me ending at all let alone in such an ugly way, but when people are lied to and the truth comes out there is no way to escape it. Thankfully the week is over and it brought me a lot of great wonderful brilliant music including Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera and Popol Ace. Music is a great thing sometimes and can also be a bad thing. It becomes a bad thing when some nefarious freaks use it as a way of stirring up violence, sickness, deformity, and hate messages, but we all know that's not really music it's just rubbish. I'm staying me. If people can't live with my eccentricities or special desires, my hopes and my dreams then even if I thought I knew them I never knew them and I throw them in the garbage- its an easy thing to end when you can make the simple fact a reality that you never knew that person at all. Be tolerant and don't be shy of following your own visions and fantasies. I hope one day a better less judgmental world becomes something I can have helped to create.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Wishful Thinking's Hiroshima Album Music From Heaven And Hell And A Classic Waiting To Be DIscovered

Two of the things I thank God (or whoever I believe in) that I wasn't alive to be a part of were the mass slaughters of World War 1 and World War 2 especially the latter with the horrendous advent/use of the Atomic Bomb in Hiroshima and the brutal destruction/bombing of Dresden. Both wars didn't need to have been fought, but we never seem to learn as I can't think of one war in history I would call "A Good War." Hiroshima was a nightmarish thing and a totally cowardly sick thing to do and that's coming from somebody who has NO SYMPATHY for the Japanese in the war otherwise. Brutality meets brutality it's the same old "Eye For An Eye" rubbish that we have today. So it goes on that thousands die and as an after effect thousands more die in some stupid war about as outmoded as the whole idea of any kind of "Crusade."
     What a downer note to begin a blog on!!!!! However, with a record as brilliant yet as unremittingly depressing as some of Hiroshima by Wishful Thinking from Birmingham is that's to be expected. Mind you, not all of this record is horrific it's just 3 songs that delve into the death and destruction themes, but what people say about Wishful Thinking's 1971 masterpiece I do find horrific. I don't know why this album is hated by so many people at least online where you'll find almost no positive writings on it and only scathing trashings of it. A real shame as Wishful Thinking deserve a whole lot more praise and respect and this album is undoubtedly a masterpiece.
     Back in the 1960s around 1965 or so Wishful Thinking were founded in Birmingham, but already by the time of their not anywhere as good (and typically higher thought of!) first album Live Vol. 1 there had been line up changes which found the band fronted by New Zealand native Kevin Scott who possessed a remarkably clear and beautiful voice. Wishful Thinking would like any good band grow and change with the times, but they never wrote any of their own material to my knowledge. In 1969 The Move who were at that time one of England's top bands were going through a weird phase where Carl Wayne was polarized against the rest of the band and they recorded two softer than usual songs by a budding songwriter named Dave Morgan. The two songs were "This Time Tomorrow" (Wishful Thinking do this song on Hiroshima and are much more suited to it than the hard rock band par excellance The Move) and "Something" both of which were really good songs that didn't fit The Move. Of course the inevitable would happen and they would sack Carl Wayne who went onto a mostly cabaret circuit solo career and that also was inevitable.
       Dave Morgan got together enough songs for two albums- a solo outing released also in the US by Ampex that was simply titled Morgan and Wishful Thinking's Hiroshima which remarkably also saw a US release on Ampex in a way inferior cover with pretty lame sound quality to boot. Both in the US (Not surprising) and Britain (What drug were people on to pass this band up!!?) the album sunk without trace and their only huge success was the massive charting of the title track in Germany- a country still trying to come to grips with the war.
     Wishful Thinking by 1971 comprised Kevin Scott (lead vocals), Jimmy Page lookalike John Franklin (lead guitar, vocals), Tony Collier (Bass, vocals), and Brian Allen (drums, vocals) with Franklin the musical genius in the band. There's a lot to dig into here and the sound is very reminiscent of The Bee Gees at their most downcast meets some heavy moves of everything from The Sweet to The Koobas to The Move to King Crimson in the brilliant mellotron passages. There's some songs on here that are among the best tracks ever recorded and over half this album is totally brilliant. 
    Dave Morgan's songwriting tends towards the moody and intellectual, but also he can get suicide-victim-to-be (I hope he wasn't really) depressing with two real standouts for down and destroyed. "Hiroshima" isn't one of them despite all the ingredients needed to be one. Kevin Scott's sweet and soaring vocals actually together with the mellotron and John Franklin's mellow guitar combine with Move like thick heavy bass and King Crimson style atmospheric drumming for a song too epic and well meaning to have you sobbing with the record on. It's "Ever Since I Can Remember" that is the first sign of a truly disturbed person in the songwriting department where the lyric is about a tree that will outlive mankind and how everything has to die eventually. Its a beautiful melody and song in The Bee Gees vein, but the lyrics are merciless in their bitter sentiments. As much as I love the melodic structure and the vocal harmonies and as much as I love the song if I listened to it too much I think I'd be in a seriously dismal state of mind for a few months. "Ever Since I Can Remember" doesn't stray from the solid quality melodic pop psych of the majority of the songs on the album, but "1984" is another matter all together. Take Van Der Graaf Generator at their scariest, Syd era Floyd gone into a paranoid drug induced nightmare, and Black Sabbath's creepiest moments throughout their entire career and you have "1984." This is pretty hard to listen to. The vocals are really frightening as are the horrific images in the lyrics and melodic sense is thrown down the loo. I'd rather not listen to this track even though musically its pretty good for creepy psychedelic stuff and I'd rather not listen to "Ever Since I Can Remember" sometimes because I'm not often in the mood to think about losing everything I love and then my own life. Who would be!?
       With two forgivable mistakes the other 9 tracks on this album are astonishing and as perfect as perfect can be. Wishful Thinking prove themselves to be formidable musicians and Kevin Scott sings confidently on top of the harmonies with a solid clear voice that really hits the spot. There's a load of mellotron/synth effects on this album with no credits shown for keyboards strangely, but John Franklin's sharp and clever guitar is what really makes you sit up and take notice. Just listen to his backwards tape Beatles Revolver era solo in "She Belongs To The Night" with the driving rhythms and strong vocals- this is a great song!
      I do not agree with the stupid reviews which call this a weak pop record and I know a whole lot more than most people seem to know about music so I get the final say which I know sounds very arrogant, but I do have the advantage of not having a tin ear! There's a lot of up in the mix rocking guitars and also lyrics which even during the mistakes sound like Dave Morgan was a very sympathetic and intelligent person. He obviously cared a whole lot about people and I get the impression that he was probably a Clifford T. Ward like genius who never got a chance. The big difference is that Clifford was a solo artist and he also didn't write in the rock idiom. Clifford T. Ward is not even a reference here musically, but since I've mentioned him I will state firmly that he is the most underrated tragic genius in the World and this Dave Morgan guy's take on things would have made Clifford proud if he heard him at the time. Clifford T. Ward never really got much of a chance, but he loved music to the point that he kept his cult following and wrote, sang, and recorded till he finally succumbed to his horrible prolonged MS which took his life in 2001 after 15 years. I believe that Dave Morgan didn't have the kind of strong will that Roy Wood and Clifford T. Ward had without even knowing him, but the problem here is also what makes this album so great- it's a very Mod influenced underground progressive pop psych album at a time when most of the songs in the charts sounded far removed from the 60s. Wishful Thinking didn't stand a chance and they never had any chart success in England or the States. That's a real shame.
    I've played this album enough times to have my favourites and the best song on the whole album is "The United States Of Europe '79" which I'll go right out and call the best kind of pop psych in the world with rocking guitars, strong vocals, precise harmonies, and a crisp tight post Beatles and Move sound. If you love the early Bee Gees then this album should be a close runner up to The World Of Oz for you although what album is as good as The World Of Oz except for the few like Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera which surpass it!? The World Of Oz also came from Birmingham, but even they did better in a commercial sense than Wishful Thinking largely because they could write their own material. Wishful Thinking found the perfect writer in Dave Morgan and "The United States Of Europe '79" proves just how good the two could be together especially when they opted for rocking it up. "Mary Goodbye" is a great putdown song that does more than just put girls down. It jumps right out at you with complex mood/time changes and great vocals. "She Belongs To The Night" sounds like a potential second Open Mind record with strong vocals and brilliant guitar. I don't see what there is to complain about for over half the album, well over half of it. I would go right out and say that the UK B&C original press with the creepy, striking cover photo of the band beneath a red sky is an essential record to have in your collection.
     In the early 1970s and in the 1960s even more so anything and everything was possible. There were some really bad things that happened, but I would love to go back then, back to England before Maggie Thatcher began its long drawn out destruction and Reagan did the same to America. Whether we are soldiers or musicians or just the people who make up the backbone of our nations we all want the same two things everywhere- a healthy good long duration to our life and peace. That's the best way to end this entry. I don't think I need to say anything more.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Fourmyula Green B. Holiday Poppsych Paradise And A Good Bye To All That Message In This Blog

Guess I'd better give you the breaking news before I go into my rave about this fave. The last deal was a disaster and a week ago tonight I went so off the rails as a result that I'm still in a state of shock over how out of control I became. Records are great, but when they lead to things like constant friction in the family and uncertainty about my future then it's time for some things to go. I'm not saying I'm giving up- that will never happen. I'm merely saying that I plan on doing everything even inhumanly (for me!) possible and making a big effort to go from addiction back to obsession.
   I've always had a passion for one subject at one time and oftentimes not two. It began with video games which isn't surprising as I was the perfect young age little boy to get big into them when they first came out. That was my major interest for a long period of time. I went from that to botany and from botany to the occult and from the occult to my admittedly it-always-was-there passion for music. I've been a music buff since I was 12. I started out in the 99 cent and metal sections which again was typical as "metal" was just beginning to go wrong in 1988 and there were loads of great bands to listen to who nowadays would never get called metal. It was fun.
   Throughout my school and post school years it's been all about music, hockey players, and soldiers. I admit to having a penchant for uniformed men and it's not just the uniform. When you put on a uniform that's as blatant as when I put on my ruffled shirt and floral apparel in high school, had long hair, and went "Go Fuck Yourself Go To Hell" to the 90s generation. The truth about soldiers and hockey players is I feel some kind of warmth being generated by men and boys who risk their lives or risk serious injury. War is a tragedy. It never can be anything else, but fighting is another matter. I like a good argument. I don't support the kind of fights that lead to death and injury, but aggression never hurt a man to have on his side. Unfortunately, I seem to have for the last 4 or so years been ignoring the disciplined aspect of my heroes and following in the wake of my long since or recently dead musician heroes who died of overdoses/overindulgence. The frightening similarity has dawned on me now. Records won't kill me, but to keep on going with the kind of suicidal destructive behavior I've been exhibiting could well kill me if I don't stop it at once. I'm getting 13 or something like that monster great records from Europe, England, and one from New Zealand and I will not only show a whole lot more patience than before I am in true Robert Graves WW1 fashion after this is done giving a "GOODBYE TO ALL THAT." I shall go away from the bad part of my record addiction and get back into listening and soaking up the good vibrations that come from a saner lifestyle. You'll be hearing a lot from me, but the blatantly poor excuses and off-the-rails addictive tendencies have to be stopped at once.
         Music was at a real high in the 60s and early 70s as The Beatles had made anything possible. I'm not big on early beat music before psychedelia came into play around 1966 and I really start in 1967. Beat is OK, but like garage rock the sleeve wearing of influences and numerous cover versions are a real turn off for me. In the psychedelic era cover versions had more punch, more energy, more go-for-the-throat interesting arrangements than the standard beat group who would just run through the latest top 40 hits.
    There was something known as Freakbeat and also Mod Soul and that's where things get tasty and the transition from beat into Freakbeat and Mod soul is where The Fourmyula began. The name may be unfamiliar to you if you aren't a serious collector or from New Zealand where they came from, but these boys had a whole lot more to offer than almost any bands from Australia and make American psych sound like complete rubbish. I will have their first album which is the self titled one in a while- it will take some time to come from New Zealand, but I know the music well enough to say that the combination of perfect toytown psychedelic pop at its finest and crunching soulful Freakbeat make for a brilliant debut.
    The Fourmyula got almost instantly huge in NZ, but it wasn't too surprising that they didn't get far elsewhere. It was enough to raise a grin, but having played their second album Green B. Holiday enough times to get blown away by it every time I can firmly say that they should have had a worldwide record deal and been huge everywhere. My opinion of The Zombies' masterwork Oddesey and Oracle has soured a bit because they unwisely included on it Chris White's gruesome tale of the carnage and horrors suffered in World War 1 "Butcher's Tale" whose title tells you everything you need to cringe about whenever this track comes on. It doesn't belong on such a beautiful record and really kind of does in Side Two making for a rather lopsided affair. Green B. Holiday not only matches the best material on Oddesey And Oracle it way surpasses it.
    Looking for an album of perfection from outside the UK that equals the best of the best such as Kaleidoscope's Faintly Blowing and The Koobas one off work of genius? Look no further than The Fourmyula. What this quintet achieved on their second album, which by the way is a concept album/song cycle of sorts, is absolutely staggering in its power and majesty. From the opening title track through to the melancholy World Of Oz/Bee Gees alike masterpiece "Home" that closes the album the way Queen closed their albums with amazing tracks like "Bohemian Rhapsody" this is the best poppsych record ever recorded from anywhere. Strong words I know, but this may be EVEN BETTER THAN THE KOOBAS!!!! I don't know if that's possible, but I think it certainly equals them.
     You can begin with the vocals. The lead voice is always sympathetic and deliciously uses oh-so-English phrasing that recalls Angel Pavement, Octopus. and the kind of instantaneous rush you'd get from McCartney and Ray Davis when you hear them. He sings with a lot of feeling and sounds completely into the songs and their changeable subject matter which creates a parallel between this album and The Kinks at their very best. Like Ray and brother Dave he's never overbearing and is more into the story telling aspect of the songs than in the "Let Me See How Much I Can Throw My Weight Around" kind of nonsense so prevalent in most American psych.
   There are references throughout Green B. Holiday to old fashioned Victorian 19th century values/lifestyles and to the kind of people who have a tendency to get knocked down because they are a bit eccentric. It's an album of people you never forget, adventures you don't expect to happen, and daily life for people of both the working class and better side of the upper class. There's joy and unrestrained sadness too. I think of the early Bee Gees, but this is even better. The music is very focused and perfectly augments the lead voice and stunning harmonies with both power and restraint when need be. Musically The Fourmyula can more than back up their vocal abilities. You get everything from baroque Left Banke/Zombies/Bee Gees alike meticulous arranging to rockers like "My Mamma George" and "Fun" where the band blast you right clear out of your mind. Every song could be mentioned as a perfect masterpiece, but since Green B. Holiday is conceived as a kind of conceptual thing I can think of no better way to write about it than as a whole. Some of the album is so ambitious you can hear Klaatu and The Moody Blues in it and some is much more straight rocking. They would later try to become an American influenced hard rock band and that was a fatal error. Their later releases are still acceptable albums, but the first two are the two to get as there is none of the nonsense that came into play which always happens when a band loses sight of their identity and tries too hard to accommodate changing times.
    A good comparison would be how Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera went from absolute perfection with their first album to the huge upheaval in line up and sound when they lost Elmer and became Velvet Opera. The folksier/rootsier music on Ride A Hustler's Dream doesn't match the excitement of their debut. Unfortunately for The Fourmyula they can't blame their less impressive third album Creation on a line up change they can blame it on the sad fact that they had gone off to England in search of international success and come back dazed by how much things were changing with the advent of harder heavier rock. That's not to say that they didn't rock before. They could knock you out like the best of them on their debut and Green B. Holiday and it would really have to be the American bug that bit them that you can blame. A lot of bands from other countries have gone wrong imitating American bands, but an American influence not an imitation can in the case of bands like Dog That Bit People and quite a few others be brilliant.
    The Fourmyula as you hear them on Green B. Holiday sound so English that they manage to knock out of the running quite a few British poppsych "classics" and some that I would call classics for sure. Forget Apple's mediocre An Apple A Day which will set you back 3000 to 4000 pounds Green B. Holiday blows the lid off them, blows the lid off the horrendous Fire's Magic Shoemaker, and yet they are still fairly obscure to British, European, and American audiences as they didn't make any impression outside of New Zealand. In fact, they fared much worse than the Australian band Masters Apprentices who went to England frustrated by the lack of exposure outside Down Under. Masters Apprentices made two albums in England, but unfortunately for The Fourmyula they unwisely abandoned the excitement of their first two releases when sticking with what they had they surely might have almost counted on a completely different outcome in England. I had never heard of The Fourmyula when I was first collecting right up through finding a trashed copy of their first album 8 years ago. I think that makes it obvious what a well-kept secret they are. I'm not like some people who like to keep something this good a secret- I wish I had a reissue label because an exact analogue mastered duplicate of Green B. Holiday would be my first release. I love this album as you are by now more than well aware. I will always love England to the point where I love anything that remotely captures the same magic vibes that came out of that very special country. I've been down on it before, but I keep going back to it and now have decided to stay. I'm thinking of taking my own little holiday and that is part of the whole Goodbye To All That train of thought I'm on. I need a rest. I need to be where The Fourmyula are on this album and it's a really nice place to be. I suggest you join them as soon as you can. This is the kind of magical album that can't be matched by many others.
    Goodbye to sickness and I'm ready for the hard work that goes into getting healthier. Till next time, Ben says goodnight and loves you all.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Tasavallan Presidentti's First Album From 1969- Finland's Best And Most Innovative Meisterwork!

I always knew the best album in the world would be from somewhere in Europe with my inclination leaning heavily towards Northern Europe. I've heard many masterpiece albums from all over the world and certainly some, like Tasavallan Presidentti's 1969 debut, are very expensive whilst some are still affordable. If I had to add it all up and had the time to come up with which country produced the most great music it would probably be either a country like Germany, England, or all the Scandinavian countries with also quite a few from America and Canada. As you can tell from that there is no one country that has a monopoly on the best albums ever recorded, but there definitely was a peak period and that was between 1967 and 1977- a full decade's worth of exciting, invigorating music.
                 -Europe, Reality, And Fantasy The Prelude To The Album Of My Dreams-
       I've not designed an album cover for almost a year now. I haven't been having any great ideas come to my head, but there have been times when albums I wish were real I've churned out week after week. I have other interests. I love hockey and hockey players and in general I'm a pretty friendly and giving person with a really rough and dark streak in there too. I guess hockey and music are like that. I, for  a long time, would be creating albums that reflected this and although none of them are real I have heard music that comes close to that kind of perfection that in the actual world couldn't exist because stylistically it just is too diverse. Tasavallan come closest on their first album. You have your Holy Grails- most of which are albums I can't afford and if I do have them it was pure luck or a reissue. With that comes the question of "How Much Would You Pay For One Album?" I've gone way down. I'm sick of $700 albums that have one or two odd moments that are disjointed. Hell, you can spend over $1,000 and get something as amazing as The Koobas or Elonkorjuu's HARVEST TIME or you can get something as musically unmusical and worthless as America's Lazy Smoke.
    In the 1960s music was growing as rapidly as the counterculture that sponsored it. There would be as many new bands with albums out as there would be boys setting fire to draft cards and heading up North to get away from the horror of Vietnam or newly turned on hippies with flowers and kaftans preaching the message of love. It was a remarkable time I wish I could have been a part of. I certainly did my best to recreate it when everybody hated me for it in high school, but one very intelligent kid can't make a whole revolution happen. I got a lot of attention both really negative and also sometimes very good for my beliefs, but I was just beginning my journey.
     Later on in life my mind darkened. It had been there a few times before, but I just at a certain point had had enough of trying to convince wholly wrong people that they were wholly wrong. You can't really get into the mind of a madman and make him into somebody who can see rationality and common sense. I was young enough in my teens to believe I could, but that died a long time ago although I'll still try and fail miserably at it. Sometimes a good kick in the head or a lamented death I laugh at is euthanasia when nothing else will successfully end somebody or a group of people who are violent, hate loving, and destructive. I'm not saying I became at odds with "Flowers and Love" I never did and I never will. I just have realized that at a certain point in your life you may harden and mature. For a long time I was uncomfortable with that. I was coming up with really dark musical and social ideas to express my frustration, but at least the frustration led to something artistically creative.
     Tasavallan Presidentti's eponymous debut album from 1969 is miles ahead of and miles away from their primitive pseudo avant garde fusion screaming and moaning that would follow the departure of British born vocalist/writer Frank Robson and it was Robson who was pushing the band to be a melodic sort of Finnish Procol Harum or a precursor to what it would take most bands everywhere a full two further years or so to reach. This album, though from all the way back in 1969, has dispensed with the flowery vibe that had been so prevalent in that era and is much more of an intellectual progressive sound with a more resigned, disillusioned, and melancholic vibe to it. After rambling much about personal dreams and travails I'll let my pen speak and it will speak of what may be the best progressive album ever made.
      -Tasavallan Presidentti From 1969 And Still Sounding Ahead Of Anything Else Then Or Now-
      It just doesn't get any closer to what I've heard in the best musical dreams and came up with as a dream record than this. Everything is sparkling great here. With Frank Robson responsible for nearly all the material on the album you'd think this album would have a very British sound to it, but you would be mistaken. Comprised not just of Robson of course, but also of virtuoso guitarist Jukka Tolonen, brothers Junnu and Vesa Aaltonen on flute/sax and drums, and bass guitarist/keyboard player Mans Groundstroem this is Finnish as can be or as Northern Europe as can be depending on how much you know about Finnish bands. Also, the early recording and release date of 1969 is really hard to believe. This album would later find soul mates in the music of Denmark's Old Man & The Sea, Norway's Popol Vuh (later Popol Ace), Culpeper's Orchard's best work (also a Danish band and also a band with an accent-less British vocalist), Belgium's Waterloo (who came out in 1970), Elonkorjuu, and a plethora of other bands of which the furthest from Northern Europe you'd hear music by would be from Germany, but these other bands all came out for the most part over a year later! Even Procol Harum and Traffic who had a huge impact on this album had more period flavor than Tasavallan Presidentti's first!
    The album begins with "Introduction" and already after the first 30 seconds this is not 1969 music. When Robson's magic real opening track "You'll Be Back For More" comes in the power of his voice which is devoid of an English accent and the attack of the band sound much more like the early 1970s underground progressive bands with the key word here "Heavy" progressive. Robson sings in a soul and blues derived strong voice that is quite a bit like Gary Brooker's in Procol Harum, but he isn't ripping Brooker or any other singer off. The vocals are soulful, plaintive, expressive, and melodic. The same words could be used to describe the music which is full of subtle yearning and hard hitting underground rock. "Obsolete Machine" is a group composition and features more of the later early 70s vibe and darkness of the first track. Robson's vocals are superbly rich and melodic as is the music whose warmth matches the polar opposite eerie "world gone up in smoke" lyrical theme of the song. There are some pretty violent lines here, but like Elonkorjuu you'll barely notice them as the music is so uplifting to listen to.
     When I first heard Tasavallan's work with Frank Robson it was on the 1971 album which repackaged at least two of the songs on here and I thought the song "I Love You Teddy Bear" was from 1971! The track before it "Who's Free" like the first two songs is fantastic continuing the brilliance of this album and the spirit of progressive underground revolution herein, but "I Love You Teddy Bear" is something different altogether. You'd expect a children's song or a throwback to the toytown popsike vibe of 1967 from the title of the song and you get a hauntingly beautiful love song with no references at all to what the title suggests. The organ and flute swirl around Frank Robson's beautiful voice and Jukka Tolonen steps out of the spotlight for the song on the album that reminds me the most of Procol Harum and Aphrodite's Child. It's hard to think of a more perfect album than this and one of the things to add to the perfection of the vocals and music is the complete lack of one mistake for the whole album lyrically! "Crazy Thing" is split into two segments and is an interesting jazzy instrumental that doesn't last very long at all, in fact both here and on Side Two it lasts for under a minute. "Drinking" closes Side One with a hard rocking track with some real anger at society. Robson is going to live the way he wants, give the finger to social respectability, and rock out with a passionate hatred for any kind of conformity.
    It's no surprise that this album is rare and expensive. This as unlike 1969  as you can get, coming out of Finland which is a small country, and for a major label deal outside of that little wonderful country these guys had no chance of it. It wouldn't be any different in the 70s and that is a real shame. There are a lot of bands that could have turned American and British audiences on if they were given a chance, but for European bands it just rarely ever happened. You'd think some band would have made it big, but I'm not surprised at the same time that we were living in a boring and horrible world when it came to "Popular Music."             
    Everybody wanted to see the sunshine or else they wanted blood, guts, violence, and pain. As you can tell from what I'm saying there was no room for really exciting music when there was a small niche for progressive underground bands amidst the dreck of James Taylor and worthlessness of early heavy metal that wasn't the good early heavy metal like Black Sabbath it was rubbish. Black Sabbath managed to break through in a big way, but it was good luck. Even though Sabbath did well in America the place where the most was going on that was successful in America was still only England and that is a bit boring when the language sung for all lyrics is a first language. However, Jon Anderson, Peter Gabriel, and Greg Lake were the good news that England had great vocalists and Yes were undoubtedly with Genesis the most exciting band who were a huge hit.
     Frank Robson, though, is something different. The only tracks contained on this album where you hear an accent are the spoken experimental poem "The Ancient Mariner" and the no frills rock of "Roll Over Yourself" where Robson pretends to be a cowboy! Everything else is arch European and judging from his lyrics Frank Robson was sick and tired of English poncy stuck up stupidity and I'm not at all surprised that he didn't stay in England long when he wanted to find some sanity. We could have helped this band out earlier, but we gave them a contract for their last album MILKY WAY MOSES which was like their other Eero Raatinen fronted album LAMBERT LAND musically worthless. If you have the opinion that Tasavallan Presidentti are a boring jazz fusion nightmare then you really should spend as long as it takes to you to locate this wonderful album. The sound quality is great and the performances of all 5 of the band meld together into a cohesive whole that represents the best underground melodic heavy progressive album ever recorded. This is progressive rock minus the pomposity and boring lyrics of many bands that are in that category of music.
      Tasavallan Presidentti's first from 1969 is a landmark, a meisterwork, and is essential to your collection. Few other albums come close to this and I would actually go so far as to say that in a world of everything but perfection this is perfection. If you have an open mind it will be blown when you listen to this and also I would say that listening to Tasavallan's 1969 debut is a very nice, warm, and rejuvenating experience that is way above the stagnant nothing music of prissy British folk , James Taylor, and most of the other crap that was selling like hot cakes at the time. I'll go so far as to say that I like Sandy Denny's vocals in Fairport Convention and place them higher than many other British bands who eventually have become too commonplace for me, but their trad stance and her too feminine folk not enough anything remotely rock stance are made even more boring when I hear Frank Robson. There is no folk here. Instead, we get something a lot more interesting. The jazz influences are kept melodic and the whole album is just beautiful. If you love music you'll love this especially if you want something new, different, and unlike anything else. I give this the highest rating that I can give- a real dream come true.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Beatles In Full Regalia And A Little Entry This Time With A Lot To Say

It's been a rough period again. Bogged down in miserable circumstances, horrible weather, an endless record deal, and some really bad behavior on my part. I've decided that after this deal unless I owe for two other records in October and buy them then that it's all done with records for me. Right now as I write I'm nervous about getting an email from the guy I'm dealing with and who has had to put up with endless changes and some real stupidity from me. I'm looking back at when I was a happier person and music was more part of my life than records. I'm seeing the present and none too pleased and the future needs to be a whole lot better because there isn't a whole lot of time left if politicians keep fucking up our world with war and destruction and we continue to abuse the environment. Good people are angry and Mother Nature is even angrier.
                -The Beatles: The Band That Did The Impossible And Began Everything-
This is a cool down thing I'm doing now. Opening some doors, moving ahead, writing about positive subject matter not negativity. I begin where all music and good revolution begins- classical music was the start, jazz followed, so did Music Hall, blues, real rhythm and blues, and rock and roll came along, but to throw it all together and blow culture and also music into fragmentations it was The Beatles. They were the band I was brought up on. I was only derailed away from them when out of shock and trauma at John Lennon's getting killed by the despicable Mark David Chapman I couldn't listen to them for a whole decade. I took in a lot of other music during that long 1980 to 1990 period when I wasn't listening to them, but even Journey and Black Sabbath couldn't have happened without The Beatles. Nothing could have. As of now I'm not really too big into Sabbath anymore although they made some great records, but I love Journey and more melodic stuff as well as heavier bands that are less overtly depressing as Black Sabbath.
   If it hadn't been for Ozzy Osbourne the funny thing is I may have taken even longer to get back into The Beatles. Ozzy also sustained a horrible tragedy with the death of Randy Rhoades at only 23 years of age and Ozzy is really somebody I don't laugh at. I won't laugh at somebody that sad. I sympathize with him. Ozzy Osbourne was ousted from the already Too-Good-For-Metal-Yet-Metal Pioneers- Black Sabbath when his behavior got out of control, but unlike what could have happened to their lyrical melodic voiced Ozzy he has kept making music and now Sabbath are back. Ozzy brought heavy Beatles influences even into a few Black Sabbath songs especially the surprise romantic ballad "Changes," but on his first two solo records (BLIZZARD OF OZ AND DIARY OF A MADMAN) and the tear jerking surprise romanticism of "So Tired" the Lennon and McCartney influences became a huge part of his music. I always have believed "So Tired" to be written as an elegy to Lennon and if you think I'm crazy think about the song title. Sounds familiar now doesn't it!? I knew eventually I would be listening to The Fab Four again when I was big into Ozzy Osbourne. Of course his career would fall apart, but he has survived. Somehow he's managed that.
     The most amazing thing about The Beatles is how they were able to top themselves after hitting an absolute huge peak throughout their career. Their early records were joyous rock and roll with harmony vocals and hooks aplenty paving the way for Pilot and other melodic rock bands, but they would go on from there to create psychedelic music and evolve into the most sophisticated rock band of the Proto Progressive era. I don't have a clue as to how they happened- they just happened. Then after happening they helped with happenings and the whole counterculture they were the leaders of. They brought life and sparkling wit to the British side of the counterculture and inspired the most amazing bands of that era.
        When people think they are being "cool" by putting down The Beatles I'm always tempted to beat the living shit out of them. Of course you can't do that, but I think I've summed up how seriously I take their music and what they stand for. In the 90s everybody was so big on hate and bitching and complaining that popular music turned into bullshit. How did that happen? Everybody was acting like The Beatles and the 60s never happened. That was the stupid attitude then, but back to The Beatles.     
     They began life as the first self-contained rock band ever- the first band to play their own instruments and write their own songs. Somehow they went from "Love Me Do" and "8 Days A Week" to "I'm Only Sleeping," "I'll Follow The Sun," and songs as out there as "A Day In The Life." When other great British Invasion bands were still covering outside material The Beatles had long since thrown that out of the window. My favorite Beatles albums are the ones that are the heaviest on the lavish progressive/psychedelic side and the most flung into experimentation, but you'd be surprised that SGT PEPPER is something I consider more an "event" than an album and that I think has some of the highest highs, but I never was too big a fan of McCartney's sappy "She's Leaving Home." You essentially had four very different personalities that complimented each other and that was what led to the brilliant music they came up with. Paul McCartney had the most melodic and romantic personality, John Lennon was the abrasive revolutionary and genius, George Harrison was the most deep thinking and musically gifted of the four, and loveable Ringo Starr gave them a rocking beat with his solid drums. I would say I think when you can think the highest of what The Beatles achieved it would be from BEATLES FOR SALE on and I don't mean the cheapskate American versions of their albums. REVOLVER and RUBBER SOUL are my two faves. Right up there is ABBEY ROAD. I don't know how they came up with such amazing music. I just know that it heavily influenced the music of the most exciting eras for rock music to come. ABBEY ROAD was going to be thrown away, abandoned. McCartney and Lennon could barely be in the same room together and John Lennon was ready to pack it all in at that point. Paul knew that the album could be salvaged and melodic progressive pop/rock was born with that amazing record. The best bands of the 1970s era like Canada's Steel River (complete with McCartney obsessed lead singer/writer John Dudgeon) and Popol Vuh/Popol Ace along with the famous Yes and King Crimson all owed a huge debt to ABBEY ROAD and what had come just a little time before it. I can't figure out The Beatles. For not just me they are music's ultimate enigma. I don't know how George Harrison created so much that nobody had ever played before, but he most certainly accomplished that. I think that REVOLVER may be my most beloved record, but ABBEY ROAD is damned close. The Beatles stood for revolution- they also stood for love and harmony. We should get back to what they brought us. We can never overlook The Beatles. In fact, if we went back to thinking along their lines we'd be a lot better off than we are now. Go pull out the albums and/or CDS of their entire body of work and blow your mind.