Rarely, if ever, do I write about an album as soon as I've heard it so this may be a first. Eyes Of Blue were/are a Welsh underground progressive/psychedelic/blues rock crossover band from the late 60s whose second album IN FIELDS OF ARDATH is so good that Quincy Jones wrote the liner notes after none other than Graham Bond had done so for them on the predecessor CROSSROADS OF TIME.
Unfortunately, too freaky and strange was this band for mainstream success even back in the 60s so they remained a secret pleasure to club goers then and now are highly prized collectors albums that almost never turn up. Even when most really great records that became impossible were possible back in the 90s I saw IN FIELDS OF ARDATH once and never saw CROSSROADS OF TIME until 2004!!!!! What that basically tells you is that despite being as innovative and bizarre as King Crimson and sounding a bit like early Genesis gone into ultra neoclassical moods Mercury Records fucked this band's career up just as was and always will be common practice for record companies. They also made sure at the same time as Eyes Of Blue that the magnificent first Magna Carta album got buried alive before anyone could grab it. Mercury, as an American founded label, was part of Philips in the UK and no parent company has a worse track record for ruining careers except RCA Victor. Magna Carta went to Vertigo and enjoyed a worldwide release with their even more fantastic follow up SEASONS which belongs in every collection (as does everything by Magna Carta!!!), but Eyes Of Blue were deemed to a gloomier fate when the small and short lived Pegasus label put out their last of 3 masterful albums under the new band name Big Sleep and album title BLUEBELL WOOD in 1971. They coulda been contenders!
I was upset about getting some duplicate copies of records in a wonderful deal with a great Montreal store that is better than any stores in America and so before we could reach "Ben Freaking Out Again" (really it must stop!) level again my faithful doggie father went out and bought me the copy of ARDATH that was on hold for me at the Princeton Record Exchange (also a great store). I've been having strange and rather irksome dreams and visions lately that are like acid trips and when I put this record on my mind flew into crazy places and I knew I had the perfect start of an entry. My mind upon hearing "Merry Go Round" which begins the album IN FIELDS OF ARDATH and is almost 10 minutes long concentrated heavily on this bizarre creation with Gary Pickford-Hopkins' superb vocals augmented by lavish baroque vocal harmonies and some of the most daring music in the history of rock. I envision all kinds of things: soldiers, Christmas, trees dancing around in a high wind, exotic flowers and herbal remedies I mean this really is out of this world!!!!
Apparently the lyrics on the album all stem from the occult and the supernatural and are as good an argument as any that some kind of other world exists. Short stay labelmates the American band Coven, Deep Purple, Black Widow, Black Sabbath, and the latter days of Jason Crest showed a change happening fast in the speedy evolution of rock. The more innocent psychedelic pop was turning into long progressive and heavy workouts and the later psychedelic music took on dark shades and mysterious colourings. It was happening so rapidly that all of a sudden music was out of the embryonic stages of growth and moving onward into the year 1970 it was all either you were in country rock aka The Band or Byrds later period, progressive underground rock, hard rock, or the maturing days of pop where more exciting bands like Vanity Fare took the place of some of the least good music of the British Invasion, but were staying firmly in the tradition of British pop. American music went into a quandary. Canada went for a long period of splendid creations as did Europe. America just never could keep up. Coven stand alone as the pinnacle of American underground music and make no mistake their music was at the time of WITCHCRAFT DESTROYS MINDS AND REAPS SOULS firmly rooted in British folk and Jefferson Airplane but better than Jefferson Airplane psychedelic rock. There's only one Jinx Dawson and there's only one Grace Slick so trouble was about to happen and boy did we get hit with it when garbage flooded the radio and then bands as dull and null and void as Kansas became rock stars. Kansas never were a truly progressive band and ample proof is they couldn't tackle something as bizarre as Coven or South Wales band in question Eyes Of Blue and it was the bloody mid 70s!!!!! What I'm essentially stating is IN FIELDS OF ARDATH had roots in African, jazz, classical, rhythm and blues and whilst all but classical and African are American music forms we didn't have a band nor really was there another band quite as strange as Eyes Of Blue. I remember all those times of occult communication and I still get it.
There are songs on this album that don't have the joyful aura of "Merry Go Round" and despite the jubilant passages even that song has moody reflective ones bringing to mind another highly complex band which is the early period of Greek psych/progressive group Axis. Basically, classical music was becoming very influential in rock and so was a dark undercurrent that Deep Purple got heavily into with the addition of superman singer Ian Gillan and bass player extraordinaire Roger Glover. "The Light We See" follows from "Merry Go Round" with more strong vocals and Raymond Williams plays brilliant guitar throughout the song and the whole album. Phil Ryan proved to be a stunning keyboard player and Ritchie Francis is almost as good on the bass as Glover. Drums are played by John Weathers who is very impressive and actually he became a long term member of Gentle Giant not too much later and stayed with them until they broke up in 1980. Unfortunately, Gentle Giant appear lucky compared to Eyes Of Blue. There are songs on this album like "Door" that are so crazily uncommercial and inventive that it may sound to some of you "incongruous" which I say is actually you may be narrow minded.
Listening to each and every magical track on this album last night my mind raced around and is still spinning from my first spin of the turntable on IN FIELDS OF ARDATH. As I think heavily about how to somehow record my musical ideas I also think about fleetingness. What would have happened if Bruce Dickinson's scary bout with cancer have been deadly and we'd lost one of the now longest running heavy bands Iron Maiden? Will Bruce and Rob Halford and Ozzy last much longer? Unanswerable questions lead to a predicament and the truth must be acknowledged: all the bands with clout and longevity are getting older and older and we have not enough sufficient talent to take over from them. Back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s the span of a career was oftentimes all-too-brief. A masterpiece or two or three and the bands that made those incredible albums were gone. Listening to Eyes Of Blue is like taking a serious risk- this is dangerous sounding music!!!!!! The more you concentrate on the nearly frantic changes of mood, vocal and instrumental acrobatics, and imagery the more into the dark spirit world you journey. This album makes me think of all the bizarre visions I had as a child and continue to have. I know I have ideas and dreams that are going to be a huge risk not just for the receiving end of that risk, but also for me. I don't like not having physical contact with attractive males and yet I hate it with most women and in my somewhat isolating mindset about the opposite sex I find most females overbearing and hard to have anything to do with. I certainly don't think of anything feminine when listening to Eyes Of Blue and Jinx is a vixen and a witch so that makes her one of the few I'd love to have in my life.
I have since childhood been infatuated with uniforms. They for over half my life have symbolized sexuality, lust, love, and deviating from that straight and narrow path to a far more sinful one. Personally, I hate stale perfume and stale religions. Satanism is almost if not as stale as Christianity and if we were not still disallowed to practice it in the open I would hate it. Truth is, the occult and supernatural are separate from religion. I'm a spiritualist, but as for believing in God or any of that I may not even be an agnostic I may be an atheist. Soldiers I at first was terrified to confront and that was a simple matter of fact that if I came out any sooner from my shell repeated in my head was the question "What the F*ck will happen to me?" I ended up not caring. I jumped right in. That was the best decision of my life. Intuitive, inquisitive, highly sensual, openly able to discuss anything if need be they turn out to be the best thing I ever found besides my music. When I first heard IN FIELDS OF ARDATH my mind did the same triple take on every fantastical vision and dream and desire I had/have to the point where I was freaked by it. "Door" is gonna freak anyone. The "door" opens into death and reincarnation and there appears to be some kind of acid maligned menace lurking behind that lyrical subject as this is one of the freakiest songs I've ever heard like The Beach Boys on a bad trip meets Procol Harum and Deep Purple in a head on collision of heavy progressive mania. For an American band the only band we had anywhere close to this album is Gypsy. Gypsy's albums and some other albums showed that some Americans took notice. Thing is, if you have unmarketable and marketable as Sonny Geraci and Climax who I think are solid AM radio pop something usually will last, but the span of most American good bands was as bad as anywhere else. Too much great music and too many mouths to feed lead to breakup after breakup after breakup. Styx were together a long time before tensions between Dennis DeYoung and Tommy Shaw made it obvious that the split was coming and the split came. Styx are a great band both before and during Tommy Shaw's stay, but oddly enough the kid who came into the band as an unknown was so influential in their change of style that Dennis got jealous and the usual political scenario happened. Despite how many times I play a great record or band the fact is that most good and great bands don't last long enough.
Evolution is something that should be never ending, but the 90s put an end to the evolution of rock until later years when thanks to all the destruction of American music culture and its evil worldwide effects the great bands who once could have been huge went underground. Nowadays if you would like to hear great music you have to go to the independent level. I know what a hard uphill slog it is for bands, but Eyes Of Blue were unfairly screwed over. The first album should have sold a lot and is a great record, but IN FIELDS OF ARDATH is so good that I end this long entry by saying that if things had worked out like Genesis Eyes Of Blue would have gone onto make more records and enough of them until they were huge. As things unfortunately turned out it was not like that and they went under fast. Every track is a masterpiece. You will have to search hard, but start with Eyes Of Blue and continue with Beggars Opera and a whole lot of other contenders.