= January 2019 =  
 the Bevis Frond
 Paul Roland and Mick Crossley



( LP/CD from Fire Records )

One of life's small pleasures is the release of a new album by The Bevis Frond and it seems to my ears that this particular album is one of the most pleasurable collection that the band has released, a wonderfully coherent album that contains the perfect blend of quality tunes and great guitar work all backed by a band working in harmony.

   Opening track “Enjoy” has a fine, meaty guitar riff and some very honest Lyrics wondering if it is all worthwhile (it is) and hoping we will enjoy the album (we do), all topped off with a fabulous solo that is contrasted by the gentler title track, a lost West Coast vibe running through it as it charms your ears. After the garage rush of “Pheromones” side one closes with the magnificent “Lead One” a tune destined to be a Bevis classic with a chiming riff, melodic hooks and plenty of solo action for those who crave the sound of an electric guitar unleashed.

     Over on side two you can find a collection of shorter tunes, the blistering “In The Leaves” giving way to the softer and nostalgic “Little Orchestras” a tune with great lyrics and softly rippling guitar that floats you away before “Growing” rocks you out again, another rip-roaring Bevis tune that sticks in your head delightfully.

   Whilst Nick Saloman's lyrics have always been personal, this album seems even more so, the words maybe more accepting of life, a recognition of getting older as demonstrated on the beautiful “Venom Drain” a song you can get lost in, the words quite possibly applying to your life too.

    On to side three, a collection of seven shorter tunes that is quintessential Bevis, the perfect mix ranging from the humorous psych-pop happiness of “Gig Bag” to the guitar frenzy of “Old Wives Tale” and the fabulous “When You Cast Me Out” an album highlight for me, the side rounded off by the moody psych of “And Relax” a tune that drags you into its murky guitar infested waters.

   Of course it wouldn't be a Frond album without a long freak out somewhere and side four does not disappoint containing just three tracks beginning with “The Steeple Doesn't Reach the Sky” where Nick warms up the old axe before we are teased and delighted by the lovely “Mad Love”, a soft and lovely song that contrasts the final song perfectly as we finally reach the thirteen minute “You're On Your Own”, the band joined by Bari Watts for one final blow, a glorious early seventies style romp that every fan will love, the first half consisting of some down beat lyrics over a moody riff, laced with guitar before the guitars just take over completely, singing the emotions of the song, howling and dancing in equal measure, just let it wash over you and revel in the experience.

   I have been listening to the songs of Mr Saloman for a long time now and seems a travesty that he is not recognised as one of our finest songwriters/guitarists; this album being one of his finest. (Simon Lewis)




(LP/CD/DL on KScope Records)


Allow Yourself is the sixth full-length studio album by the Italian band Nosound, now relocated to the UK.  There are scant few recording artists I know where I can I say I like every album they’ve made, even among my favorites, but Nosound is one of those ultra-rare bands.  Would Allow Yourself maintain the streak?  Stay tuned.


Led by the brilliant polymath Giancarlo Erra, Nosound’s sound (didja like that one?) incorporates post-rock, prog, and other styles in which lovers of artists like Sigur Ros and Radiohead will find much to treasure.  Its trademarks are melancholy electronic soundscapes and Erra’s emotional vocals.


Allow Yourself follows 2016’s “Scintilla” in reining in some of the tendency towards longer tracks in the past to more bite-sized pieces.  But with Allow Yourself, Giancarlo continues to evolve his writing style.  He says, “The title Allow Yourself reflects this need for change, freeing myself from past stories and influences.”  Erra chose to incorporate elements of electronica and downsize the sometimes Floydian scope guitars and track lengths.  I’ll admit all of this gave me pause at first, because I quite loved the sound of the past albums, but I completely respect the artist’s need to change.


The new direction is most evident in the first handful of tracks “Ego Drip,” with its looping vocals, “Shelter,” and its electronic beats, and “Don’t You Dare,” with elements of trip-hop.  After that, Erra seems to have gotten most of the experimenting out of his system, and the remaining eight tracks of the album are mainly a return to the legacy Nosound.  Again, I value Erra’s desire to grow, but I’ll admit once the album returned to the melancholy sound textures and dreamy soundscapes I felt like an old friend had come home.  Many of the songs on Allow Yourself end abruptly, suggesting perhaps it wasn’t all that easy to make changes to Nosound’s style.


“My Drug” begins with a piano-based lamenting from Erra with vocals that almost need no language to convey their longing, before slowly building.  Album highlight “Miracle” is one of the album’s moodiest, most haunting tracks, with meandering synths and some very tasteful cello blended in.


“This Night” begins again with a plaintive piano and Erra’s trademark echoing vocals.  His singing is always remarkable at conveying an emotional longing, a reaching out to someone out there who often doesn’t reach back.  Again, the track builds and builds, Sigur Ros style, as synths and strings weave around each other and a drum beat ratchets up the tension, before finally backing off at the end and a return to the solitary piano theme.


“At Peace” is almost a companion piece to “This Night,” similar in style and rising and falling dramatic intensity, the difference being the major chords and lyrics denoting a sense of personal serenity.  In true Nosound style, it’s all emotion hanging out there.  “Saviour” is a beautiful piece, mostly built around live strings, with more reaching out from Erra “If I fall down…will you help me…will you save me…will you heal me…will you love me?”  “Weights” returns to the epic electronic soundscapes, keyboard figures, and Erra’s stirring emotions, with another post-rock buildup.


Allow Yourself does indeed keep Nosound’s perfect streak intact for me, due mainly to largely returning to form after the initial experimental tracks.  Giancarlo Erra is a true artist who has sculpted another fine work.


(Mark Feingold)





(LP/CD from Dark Companion Records  ) 

For over 40 years Paul Roland has been releasing albums full of tales concerning Victorian villains, eccentric Edwardian inventors and gothic supernatural tales, which he has decorated with exquisite baroque psych and pop music instrumentation, he has been compared to Robyn Hitchcock and is considered by none other than Frank Zappa to “write nice melodies and has a very particular personality, but is far too intellectual for me”!

Based on the fairy tales of the brothers Grimm, ‘Grimm’, released in 2011 is one of the strongest albums in Paul Roland’s quite extensive catalogue. Paul has long considered this album to be one of his favourites, but it was an album on which he played all the instruments himself, which he felt lent it a kind of demo quality. Here it sees a re–imagining; it now has much more of a personality, this has been achieved by bringing in guitarist Mick Crossley (Flyte Reaction, ex- Woronzow Records) to add the parts that Paul felt were missing and it works to great effect, what Mick has done has elevated the songs without overpowering them, he has added plenty of tasty, sympathetic guitar lines where he felt that they were needed, and he plays with plenty of taste, never too showy, draping the songs with his fluid playing.

The album starts with “Nevermore”, a short introductory song of longing, Mick’s presence being immediately felt, it has fine organ and gentle female backing vocals which frame the song well, “If the sun refuse to shine”, is the tale of a king who takes to his bed, hoping for a cure to his malaise. Mick invests this tune with crunchy Leslie guitar lines, the song contains some nice Vernon Elliott type woodwind. “A long time ago”, an early highlight which sees Mick dropping tiny pearls of liquid electric notes all over the show, a peach of a song with terrific lyrics concerning a crooked old house with deformed doors, leaning windows and skewed stairs. This song alone is worth the cost of admission, I absolutely adore it. “Rapunzel”, the longest song on the album has a sparseness of sound reflecting its simple fairy tale structure, its message being don’t stray too far from the path.
“What will become of me”, a calliope type tune with plenty of synth, acoustic guitar, exposed nerve guitar and female backing vocals by Rosie Eade “Lowly weeps the king”, a ghostly madrigal is well placed here, Rosie’s fine backing vocals and restrained stinging lead guitar fills. “Maleen”, sees Mick investing the tune with plenty of slide guitar, very much in the style of Jesse Ed Davies, whose playing elevated Gene Clark’s ‘No Other’ so much, achieving a similar feel here. “The Devil’s Bride”, stately peels of churchlike organ introduce this macabre tale of marriage, with its imagining of a flesh eating wedding feast, which consists of a sole guest- the bride herself. “The way of the world”, sees more fine slide guitar playing by Mick, here Paul reminds me a little of Al Stewart. “Once upon a time”, is another gem, an acid folk style song. It concerns a malcontent King and his three daughters; it has some great percussion, vocals by Rosie and terrific lead guitar throughout. The record ends with “Nevermore (Reprise)”, which Mick imbues with some tasty backwards guitar lines. It all adds up to a fine album and one which I can’t recommend highly enough.

(Andrew Young)



(LP/CD/DL on Svart Records)

Finland’s Superfjord brings their second album, full of lush prog and 70s style album rock.  The six tracks are all expansive workouts, on average clocking in at eight to ten minutes, with lots of space for the six-piece band led by singer, songwriter and guitarist Jussi Ristikaarto to stretch out in many different directions.  Reminding me a little of Gong, Frank Zappa, Utopia, and, dare I say, a smidge of Alan Parsons Project, the tracks feature lots of guitars, synthesizers, some saxophone and percussion.

Did somebody say percussion?  With many of the band members listed as either primary, secondary or tertiary percussionaires, the album can’t help but be loaded with interesting rhythmic possibilities.

Superfjord layers it on thick with overdubs, creating a veritable smorgasbord of sound.  On overdubbing, Ristikaarto says “It’s like constructing a mandala, or carving a sculpture…We’re surgeons.  Surgeons who every once in a while like to use a sledgehammer or a nuclear detonation.”

The songs are about 80% instrumental, 20% vocal.  That ratio is probably for the better, as the vocals tend to be repeating chants or mantras rather than traditional verse/choruses.  OK, vocals aren’t really their thing.  But these guys are all master musicians; the long instrumental passages are great tickets for passage for the mind on a trip through those super fjords.

Since the long tracks tend to transit different styles in a prog mishmash, Superfjord is at their best when they get into a flowing rhythmic groove and then segue into a heavier guitar-based section.  My favorite tracks are “No Rest for the Wicked” and closer “Rainha de Floresta.”  On “No Rest for the Wicked,” a bubbling synth rhythm gives way to a rock groove, with lots of twists and turns.  “Rainha de Floresta” (“Queen of the Forest” in Portuguese) casts many styles and tempos out there in the spin cycle, before settling and rocking to a galloping journey, ultimately landing on some distant shore, with birds chirping and waves gently crashing.  Why, I’m not sure, but it does sound good.

“All Will Be Golden” is one of those albums to put on, sink back, forget about time, and let Superfjord guide you where they will.  You’re in good hands.

(Mark Feingold)




(LP/CD/DL on Cherry Red Records)


This year will see the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, and the hype is already beginning.  There are two competing anniversary festivals, one on the site of the original fest, organized by the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, and the other run by the original organizers, 150 miles away at Watkins Glen NY (site of the 600,000 strong 1973 Watkins Glen festival).  We don’t know yet what’s cooking in the way of commemorative album or film releases, but you can bet there’ll be something grand.


When you think of Woodstock performances, there are five basic categories:  1) Artists who were already huge and further cemented their legend (Hendrix, The Who, et al); 2) Artists who were new and Woodstock helped rocket them to fame (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Santana); 3) Artists who were big but played unmemorable performances (Grateful Dead, Janis); 4) Artists who were established and muddling along when their incendiary Woodstock performances helped bump them up a peg or two in music hierarchy (Ten Years After, Sly & The Family Stone); and 5) Artists who were relatively unknown both before the festival and since.


It’s this last category that somewhat intrigues me, so I’ve decided to cover a couple of these “other” performers to see whether perhaps history and the unforgiving music biz might’ve given them a bum rap.  I’ll start with Sweetwater.


Sweetwater was an LA-based eight-piece outfit.  They were somewhat unusual for their time, both for being so large, featuring such instruments as flutes and cellos, and also for being multi-racial and gender a la Sly’s brood. They blended folk-rock, psych, pop, classical and jazz featuring the lead vocals of Nancy “Nansi” Nevins.  Their sound comes across somewhere on the left side of the spectrum with Spanky and Our Gang’s sunshine pop on one end, It’s a Beautiful Day somewhere in between, and Jefferson Airplane on the far side.


They were scheduled to open the festival Friday night.  However, they were delayed arriving, and Richie Havens went on first, with Sweetwater after them.  During their set, a band member tells the crowd, “We were supposed to be on first today, but they gave us a police escort here driving, and the man had to stop and bust us all before he could escort us here, so it took a little while.  But we’re on now, and as the Maharishi said, in Indian (sic), “kick out the jams, folks.”


Their self-titled 1968 debut album was their sole release at the time of Woodstock.  It’s an eclectic affair showcasing folk, rock, psych, baroque, classical and jazz styles, as well as Nansi Nevins’ charismatic vocals and the band members’ instrumental talents.


Opener “Motherless Child” would likewise be their opener at Woodstock.  The negro spiritual dates back to the days of slavery in the US, with an early recording dating all the way back to the 1870s by the Fisk Jubilee Singers.  When Richie Havens completed his set and Sweetwater hadn’t yet arrived, he was ushered back on stage and told to keep going.  He improvised the now-iconic “Freedom,” based on “Motherless Child” and can be seen in the film, carried away with emotion caroming around the stage among crew and crowd alike before exiting still playing, to thunderous applause from the 400,000 throng.  Sweetwater had to follow that.  They opened with… “Motherless Child.”  The same song, played back-to-back by two artists.


Anyhoo, the rest of the album goes in different directions, with mostly originals.  “Here We Go Again” sounds like two songs, one sunshine pop and the other like Broadway show tune fare.  “For Pete’s Sake” (not the Monkees track) is an instrumental (bar the “da da da” vocals) and sounds like wonderful period movie background music with groovy harpsichord, flute and cello solos.  The ballad “Come Take a Walk” is more sunshine pop with a great vocal by Nevins and flute abounding.


“What’s Wrong” was a minor hit for Sweetwater.  With ensemble vocals and lyrics of social consciousness, it was a sign of the times.  The up-tempo “In a Rainbow” features nice vocals by Nevins and harmonies from the band, with psychedelic lyrics.  Speaking of psychedelic, “My Crystal Spider” is about an arachnid with eyes of mercury and a web of paisley, and contains some suitably trippy effects. 


“Rondeau” is another instrumental baroque piece, full of “la la la” vocals.  “Two Worlds” is springy up-tempo pop, while “Through an Old Storybook” is about reminiscing about simpler, happy childhood times.


On December 8, 1969, Nansi Nevins was severely injured in a car accident.  One of her vocal cords was damaged and she sustained brain damage, which affected her for years afterward.  Although she had recorded a couple of tracks for the second album “Just For You,” the album suffered both creatively and in performance, from her absence.  Sweetwater had lost its mojo.  After one more album, 1971’s “Melon,” the band called it a day.  Sweetwater reunited for Woodstock ’94 with three original members, including Nevins.  Plus, there was a made-for-TV movie about their story on VH-1 in 1999, called “Sweetwater:  A True Rock Story,” which featured Michelle Phillips as the older Nancy.  You can find it on YouTube.  The 2000 movie “Almost Famous,” about writer Cameron Crowe’s days as a teenager on tour covering rock bands features the fictitious band Stillwater, but it is not based on Sweetwater.


The Fates dealt Sweetwater a crushing blow with Nansi Nevins’ car wreck.  They didn’t make it onto either of the original Woodstock albums or the movie, and their post-Woodstock output was disappointing and short-lived.  (They finally surfaced with two tracks on the 2009 Rhino six-disc Woodstock 40 set).  But you will find their 1968 debut well worth your time, and they certainly deserve some love in the 50th anniversary remembrances.


(Mark Feingold)