=  OCTOBER 2008  =

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Written by:

TEA 2 compilation
  Formerly Fat Harry

Simon Lewis


Phil McMullen

Nu & Apa Neagra

Jeff Penczak


Steve Palmer

Blitzing the Ballroom
  Breaking Point


Robbie Basho
  Fotheringay 2
  Book of Shadows
  Nathan Moomaw



(CDR from Terrascope Online)


A good compilation CD will often evoke something of the character and even the mood of the compiler, I always think. This is patently nonsense, I hear you say, since it’s entirely the musical contributions that make it what it is: the compiler is merely working with what he or she has been given. But that isn’t necessarily always the case: sequencing is important, of course, but also there seems to be an unwritten rule which dictates that the nature of the tracks you are given to work with always seem to gravitate towards a particular theme, an atmosphere if you will, something which just happens to be in the air at that time. This is perhaps why cover CDs on glossy magazines are usually hit and miss affairs, why promotional CDs put out by record labels are sometimes rather sonically monochromatic – and why showcase compilations such as this, a real “cabinet of curiosities” put together in an unhurried fashion purely for the love of it, often take on something of the mantle of the compiler.


Volume 2 of Terrascope Audio Entertainment’s occasional series of compilation CDs has once again been put together by the Terrascope’s reviewer-in-chief Simon Lewis, and one can’t help but get the impression that here is a man who is very content with his lot. From laid-back and relaxed to the fun-filled and energetic, the songs on here are redolent of life itself.


Opening with the haunting whale-call of Insect Factory’s gorgeous ambient instrumental ‘010207’ (an edited version of a number – quite literally, given the title – which first appeared on a limited edition Japanese tour disc a couple of years ago), the album eases us into a contemplative mood with Jamie Thomson’s Basho-esque acoustic guitar filigrees, a piece entitled ‘From The First Spark to the Last Drop’. The never less than utterly enchanting former Saint Joan singer / songwriter, and now increasingly sought-after solo performer, Ellen Mary McGee then sings her way through the traditional ‘Lord Franklin’, accompanied by some lovely violin work from Krisztina Hidasi.


Night falls. Curtains are pulled, incense is lit and something rather stronger than wine is poured reverentially into frosted glasses. Mike Tamburo / Matt McDowell bring us the instrumental drone of ‘All Good Things are Dark Continent’ – you can almost hear the sound of crickets outside as the music folds itself around you. Another veteran of last June’s Terrastock 7 festival, Jesse Poe’s Tanakh bring us ‘Coming Through’, recorded in Tuscany during the Winter of 2007. For those used to hearing Jesse’s more plaintive refrains, this is a surprisingly up-tempo number with a memorable, driving beat. Great stuff. Alan Davidson’s Kitchen Cynics then lull us into a state of blissful restfulness with an astutely observed Scottish folk melody ‘The Mountainside’, with a gloriously unexpected electric guitar break mid-way through.


Come daybreak, and the legend that is nick nicely casts his gaze across ‘London South’, with electrostatic washes of psychedelic swirls brushing the cityscape like mist on an autumn morning. This is a gloriously constructed song, all the right sounds happening at all the right moments: very much a number at the centre of this compilation.


Mason Jones is another name familiar to most if not all Terrascope readers: a San Francisco based musician, artist, and writer Numinous Eye is his free-form noisy, psychedelic rock guitar-drum duo. ‘A Bit of Pink Noise’ fits that bill rather neatly, and is the second song on this compilation recorded live in Japan in 2007 (the other being Insect Factory – do please pay attention!), and features Mike Shoun on drums.


Lunch is spent in the beguiling company of Stephen Connolly’s Pothole Skinny, and their ‘Chana’ – an absolutely gorgeous twin guitar and cello (I think) instrumental, which gradually grows into a dust-storm of coruscating static buzz. This is followed rather fittingly by Je Suis France, whose ‘Time Rings / Time Eraser’ works backwards from static buzz into melodic acoustic guitar filigrees and then gradually dissolves into puddles of feedback. I love this.


Party time! Mooch is the nom de plume of Terrascope writer Steve Palmer (guitars, bass, synths, flutes and “ethnic things”, plus guests as needed) and ‘Ice Cream Song’ is a liberally coated sugar-cube of English toy-shop psychedelia, with such memorable lines as “You’ve got some Fruit & Nut and I’ve got a Curly Wurly”. The only possible way to follow this is with the Nipple Spiders and their ‘Hedonism’, a title which speaks for itself really. Front-room ambience at its most warped and chaotic.


To ease us into the night, the Anvil Salute bring us ‘It is Voice As Beats Us’, a gentle instrumental featuring guitars, keyboards and tom-toms. And to close, another Terrastock 7 veteran: the invariably magnificent United Bible Studies with their ‘The Standing Stone’. Lush, complex, diverse and above all very musical, this is Terrascopic music encapsulated.


The compilation is strictly limited in number, the deluxe version of which comes complete with inserts and a button-down knitted bag: and not just a plain knit either, but complex, individual and multi-coloured, hand made by the lovely Cara Lewis. Copies will be available at the Terrastock Tea Party in London on October 11th – we’ll do some via mail order afterwards if they don’t all sell out on the night. (Phil McMullen)




(LP from Shagrat Records – contact nwcprods@hotmail.com )


Formerly Fat Harry were formed in Croydon, Surrey in 1969 by three ex-pats from the Berkeley, California folk scene (honestly, you couldn’t make it up...) plus a succession of English drummers, and were signed to the original Pink Floyd management team, former vicar’s sons Peter Jenner and Andrew King, who as the self-styled “Dukes of the Underground” together were running Blackhill Enterprises. Their sound contains more than just echoes of the free-flowing electric folk-psych of Country Joe and the Fish (unsurprisingly, given that FFH bassist Bruce Barthol had formerly been a member of that seminal acid-rock outfit – he had landed in the UK on a one-year deferment from the draft) but was also wildly idiosyncratic, featuring not only blues, folk and psychedelia but also complex jazz signatures and extensive free music improvisation – often all within the same song.


The absolute apogee of their sound, and often of their live set, was the ‘Mariachi Riff’ (sometimes informally known as “the Mexican hat song” by their fans), a wonderfully expressive, free flowing epic jam based, as the title suggests, loosely around a tequila-drenched riff, which the high-flying twin guitars used as a springboard for extended exploration off into the realms of blues, jazz and beyond. It was a riff which enchanted the then-young psychedelic acolyte Mr. Colin Hill at the Bath Festival (held at nearby Shepton Mallet) in June 1970 to such an extent that he spent the best part of the next ten years in search of a copy, only to lose it again in the innards of a wayward tape machine – the story is related in hugely entertaining detail in the sleeve notes to this fabulous LP release on Nigel Cross’s Shagrat Records imprint, the first side of which is fittingly taken up with a twenty four and a half minute long ‘Mariachi Riff’.


The second side is no less interesting, with two studies in free music from the band – ‘Homage to Bill’ recorded live in the studios in London in 1969, and the shorter 'Two' recorded live in Zurich, Switzerland also in 1969. Taken together with Hux Records’ 2007 CD release ‘Goodbye for Good: The Lost Recordings 1969-72’ - an album which includes a shorter, sharper version of ‘Mariachi Riff’ incidentally - the Formerly Fat Harry story is now thankfully reasonably complete – or at least, a great deal more representative of this very special band than their sole LP for Harvest Records ever suggested, a laid-back and introspective LP which failed to capture the breadth and sparkle of their live performances. This album’s been a long time coming, but FFH sake – was it ever worth the wait... (Phil McMullen)





    Having performed live for the first time as part of an exhibition of work by Riceboy Sleeps, Hammock decided to record the music from the performance in a studio setting. Recorded “Live” as they were performed at the concert, the music is emotional and powerful, consisting of vast beat-less soundscapes that soar and glide around the room, both relaxing and stimulating the listener.


    Over the course of the album, a sense of stillness becomes apparent, a spiritual ambience that permeates the music, the aural equivalent of a Zen garden, a place to get lost (and found) in divine solitude. There is not much more to say: fans of the Ambience of Eno will find much to love, whilst those with other taste may find that this is the album that makes sense of minimalist music, a revelation in sound that drifts into your heart.


  Housed in a digipack sleeve that features the work of Riceboy Sleeps, the art makes sense in the presence of the music, whilst the Polaroid shot of creators Andrew Thompson and Marc Byrd, is a reminder of the human touch apparent in the creation of this fine, fine album. (Simon Lewis) (and seconded by Phil, who just bought this - courtesy of Sister Ray Records in London - and likewise absolutely loves it!)




(CD from www.lollipopshop.de)


    Formed in Romania in 2001, this sound project is a heady blend of improvised vocals, wyrd folk, spacey electronics and more traditional songs, the songs imbibed with a dizzying vitality that brings the music alive.


    After two atmospheric opening tunes, thing get serious with “The Man With Platinum Mouth”, a moody slice of psychedelia that slowly crystallises, the wind instruments creepy and very effective as they crawl across the song like a cold northern wind. Next up, “Over the Mountain” keeps the sonic landscape intact, choosing instead to take to the skies, a magnificent droning landscape revealed below. With guitar set to mangle, “Gallop in 2/4”, is a short wyrd folk frenzy that works best at high volume, or in the dark, or both!


    With a twisted, repeated vocal line, the excellent “Pneumatic Cobza Player” has the feel of Steve Reich remixing Syd Barrett, an engaging piece of music that has hidden depths as repeated listening reveals. Offering a mellower experience “The Shadow and the Iron Tree” is a drone-led slice of electronic effect and drifting vocal, sounding like an outtake from Vangelis/Aphrodite’s Child, the ethnic instrumentation buried deep inside the drone, only to be released on “Rusty Dulcimer”, a rattling ball of Kraut style kosmiche madness.


    At over seven minutes, the title track is also the longest track on the disc. It could well be the bands signature as well, with every element present, the instrumentation and vocals creating a chanted drone that is filled with a forest of sounds, so alive and organic that you can smell the damp earth below your feet.


    Finally the album ends with a remix (by Alan Holmes) of “Over the Mountain”, the piece turned into a rising joyous drone, taking you out on a high, wanting to hear the whole thing again. (Simon Lewis)




(LP/CD on Surreal But Kind Records www.bipolaroid.com )


One of the most welcome additions to the review pile just recently has been a second album from Bipolaroid. Their debut, ‘Transparent Make-Believe’, came out way back in 2003, and was spectacularly well received, especially hereabouts where a little psychedelic whimsy in the Tomorrow / Creation mould never goes amiss. After that, nothing. There was some worrying talk about over-enthusiastic American lawyers representing the owners of a certain photographic brand name threatening litigation – which to my mind is about as irrelevant as a chemical corporation accusing the band of having a name which sounds a bit too like the haemorrhoids their ointment claims to treat; then of course there was the fact that the band come from New Orleans, not known as the world’s safest place to live in recent years.


But, all is well: Bipolaroid are back with a  new album, singer/songwriter Ben Glover is as brilliant as ever and what I suspect (memory plays tricks sometimes) to be a new line-up of the band appears to be firing on all seven cylinders. And just to confuse matters, one of the finest songs on their new album – an argosy of lush swirling keyboards, breathy vocals and superbly soaring guitars – is entitled ‘Transparent Make-believe’. Elsewhere, on the jaunty ‘Cumbersome’ in particular, the Syd-era Floyd worship is in full sail, the carefully observed Syd-esque drawled, druggy enunciations brilliantly emulated.


Curiously enough for what is a vocals-led album the highlight for me at least is the instrumental ‘The Golden Era’ which, a little like the opening track ‘Day in the Life of a Raincloud’, is a rollicking good progressive psych-rock romp with billowing clouds of Mellotron fills. Beautifully complex and yet enduringly catchy, it’s a minor masterpiece all in itself.  


The wonder of this album isn’t so much its retro aesthetic – anyone interested in classic psychedelic pop will lap this up, and songs like ‘Jane Jubilee’ obviously owe a nod at least in the direction of Tomorrow and their ‘Three Jolly Little Dwarfs’, whilst ‘Spiralling Staircase’ and others mentioned above are all very Syd – but in glancing down at the credits. All songs written by Ben Glover. There’s not a cover, obscure or otherwise, amongst them. It’s so good to know people can still write, play and record genuinely great tripped-out psych pop records today without falling back on trying to prove how hip they are by including obscure John, David & The Mood B-sides. Fabulous. (Phil McMullen)



Various Artists – Blitzing The Ballroom

(CD on Psychic Circle)


Psychic Circle label head Nick Saloman once again turns the reins over to Jamie Romer, who programmed the label’s previous Progressive comp to assemble this (platform) boot-stompin’ collection of “20 UK Power Glam Incendiaries.” As befits the label’s philosophy of uncovering hidden gems previously unreleased on CD, Romer eschews the usual culprits (Slade, Gary Glitter, Sweet, et. al.) for the second-, third-, and fourth-tiered artists who dipped their toes in the multi-sequenced waters of glam and glitter rock. All of the selections (minus two) were released during Glam’s 1973-75 heyday, and they all are bejeweled in Glam’s beloved trappings of fist pumping, sing-along choruses, thunderous, brain-pounding backbeats, wall-of-sound guitars and raspy-voiced warblers.


Favorites include Tiger’s spot-on Slade imitation, ‘I’m An Animal,’ Abacus’ storming, brain tag-tugging ‘Indian Dancer,’ and Frenzy’s giddy clap along one-off, ‘Poser’ (the band would switch horses and join the burgeoning punk scene before recasting themselves as New Wavers, The Models – not the Aussie band). We also enjoyed Angel (not to be confused with the US heavy metal hair band), who were protégés of Andy Scott and Mick Tucker from The Sweet and here they pile drive their way through the Scott-penned stomper, ‘Little Boy Blue.” They were apparently very successful in Germany and Japan, with a repertoire that often consisted of Sweet castoffs. You wouldn’t think that glam and soul could co-exist in the same postal code, but Union Express, who were also more popular on the continent, do a smash-up job with The Contours’ ‘Do You Love Me?’ Romer is apparently a huge fan of Paul Ryder & Time Machine, having included ‘If You Ever Got To Heaven’ on the aforementioned Blow Your Cool prog comp, so he flips it over to the “plug” side for the more straightforward, Gary Glitter-styled fist pumper, ‘Are You Ready?’


Dutch rockers, Panther, are one of two non-UK bands in the set (we’ll get to the other, featuring Shania Twain’s hubby in a minute), and their poppy ‘One Man Band’ shows that the glam movement did occasionally spread its weeks across the Channel. Old Bullfrog’s lone single, ‘Glancy’ was named after their former lead singer (Mike Glancy), who had been replaced by the time they recorded it by Pete MacDonald, who brought a snarly, somewhat bluesy Alex Harvey-meets-Steve Marriott growl to the proceedings. The album’s true highlight is the unearthing of the rare single from Flies/T2/Neon Pearl frontman, Pete Dunton, who brings a touch of psychedelia to the movement with ‘Taking Time,’ featuring Pete on all the instruments sans the distinctive twangy guitar fills from  producer, Dave Edmunds.


Elsewhere, Giggles’ 1974 winner, ‘High School Girls’ presages Nick Gilder with its slick, cotton candy riffage and helium vocals, and the album ends on a high note with the rare single from Stephen, a pseudonym for future uber-producer, Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange and his then-wife, Stevie Vann. The South African native had a string of hits at home before coming to England and 'Right On Running Man' is a formative example of the knob twiddling maneuvers that would later grace power pumpers from AC/DC, The Cars, Graham Parker, The Boomtown Rats and his (estranged) wife, Shania Twain. (Jeff Penczak)



Various Artists – Breaking Point

(CD on Psychic Circle)


Psychic Circle label head, Nick Saloman returns with the second volume of ‘Nothing Comes Easy,’ “20 Hard-Edged Beat Diamonds” from the fertile 1963-66 UK Beat era. The set kicks off with a The Liverpool Five’s cracking version of the Boyce & Hart classic, ‘I’m Not Your Stepping Stone,’ a garagier interpretation that actually preceded The Monkees’ hit version released later in 1966. ‘Come Back Baby Now,’ the B-side of The Muldoons’ only release is a snappy composite of blues, jazz, and beat with groovy organ lines and snappy drums from ex-Pirate (as in, Johnny Kidd and…), Ken McKay that all suggest the band should have been more successful. Not much is known about the band, but I wonder if the Cregan songwriting credit refers to future Blossom Toes/Family/Rod Stewart guitarist, Jim Cregan?


We do know, however, that future Deep Purple members Rod Evans and Ian Paice were briefly in The MI5, whose lone single, ‘Only Time Will Tell’ evinces the smoother, slightly poppier side of the beat phenomenon. Lee Grant & The Capitols’ lone single gives the set its title, and the track has a nice Monkees-styled pop groove, as well as more than a passing whiff of the aforementioned Boyce & Hart ‘Stepping Stone’ riff! Trainspotters and historians may be more impressed with Hamilton King’s backing band, The Blues Messengers than his soulful contribution, ‘I Wanna Live.’ The Messengers’ ranks occasionally included future Brian Augur Trinity bassist, Dave Ambrose, future Them/Camel keyboardist, Pete Bardens, and a little known guitarist named Ray Davies! Sadly, none of them appeared on any of King’s singles.


Saloman also makes a few excursions to the continent for some Euro beat, with one of Sweden’s top 60s’ bands, Tages represented by the wailing siren of a footstomper, ‘Leaving Here.’ Like America’s Monks, The Dee-Tees were a service band, in this case a bunch of sailors from the HMS Eagle. The classic blues howler ‘Big Boss Man’ is given the lager-soaked treatment that befits a bunch of sailors on shore leave. Elsewhere, The Circles were one of the prolific (and sadly, recently deceased) bassist, Tony Dangerfield’s many projects. Members of The Circles also spent much of their time touring as Screaming Lord Sutch’s backing band (The Savages) and ‘Take Your Time’ is a catchy little pop number, while the hard-driving ‘I Can Tell’ by The Shakers is actually Liverpudlians Kingsize Taylor & The Dominoes in (contractual-obligation avoiding disguise). Lee Curtis (aka Peter Flannery) has a twangy, Elvis inflection that brings a smooth, bluesy vibe to ‘I’ve Got My Eyes On You,’ and his All Stars features ex-Beatle Pete Best on drums alongside some tasty guitar fills.


Many beat bands incorporated American soul tunes into their repertoire, an excellent example of which is Chris Kerry’s respectful take on the Herbie Hancock classic, ‘Watermelon Man.’ Like most 60s rock and roll, beat was predominantly a lad’s club with omnipresent “No Woman Allowed” shingles obliterating the landscape. However, Tiffany (aka Irene Green), ex-lead singer of the (rare) all-girl beat group, The Liverbirds proves she can go toe-to-toe with anybody on the soulful stomper, ‘Baby Don’t Look Down.’ Here she is backed by the all-male Thoughts, another of the many Liverpool bands included in the set. Kenny & The Wranglers’ ‘Who Do You Think I Am’ delivers a scorching, fist-pumping knockoff of the Isley’s ‘Shout,’ and the set wraps up with Dutch beat merchants, Los Cruches’ powerful rendition of the Spanish band, Los Brincos’ egregious cop of The Beatles’ ‘Another Girl’ entitled ‘I Try To Find.’ If you’re gonna, ahem, borrow, you might as well do it from the best! (Jeff Penczak)



Various Artists – Cosmarama

(CD on Psychic Circle)


Psychic Circle label head Nick Saloman takes over from Jamie Romer to programme volume two in the ‘Blow Your Cool’ Progressive rock series, with these “20 Top Prog/Psych Behemoths from the UK and Europe.” It should be noted that the set is liberally populated with Euro progsters, with half a dozen representatives from Holland and another half-dozen from Belgium and Germany. The set opens with the title track from the UK band, Distant Jim, who only released albums on the continent. They were a sort of supergroup whose family tree included members of Methuselah, Amazing Blondel, Junior’s Eyes and The Smoke. The unusual time signatures and syncopated beats are pure prog, highlighted by some firebreathing soloing from guitarist Les Nicol. Saloman, one of today’s premiere guitarists, is a sucker for flashy stringbenders, which may explain the inclusion of Belgian rockers, Carriage Company’s ‘In Your Room.’ Guitar licks abound, but besides a few organ flourishes, the track is more akin to heavy metal than prog.


Saloman flips Dutch band, The Tower’s oft-comped ‘Slow Motion Mind’ over for the dreamy B-side, ‘In Your Life,’ a wonderful, Procol Harum-ish floater. The Liverpudlian Back Street Band take liberties with the melody from Lennon’s ‘Come Together’ on their 1969 B-side, ‘Daybreak’ and Family completists may enjoy the Dutch supergroup (including members of Q65 and Focus), Big Wheel’s chugging, boogie bar blues rendition of ‘Old Songs New Songs,’ but I fail to hear the prog connection.


Holland’s Silence give us the hard rocking ‘Devil Woman,’ which takes a familiar Led Zep riff and morphs it into an enjoyable amalgam of Black Sabbath and Jethro Tull – imagine ‘Immigrant Song’ tagteaming with ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Locomotive Breath.’ Another prolific Dutch band, Ginger Ale check in with ‘Get Off My Life Woman,’ wherein Roek Williams’ credible Jim Morrison impersonation leaves this listener thinking “The Doors with horns.”


Pussy formed out of the ashes of Jerusalem, so I don’t think it’s the same outfit that released the Pussy Plays album. Like the Jerusalem album, ‘Feline Woman’ was produced by Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan, so once again you can expect more heavy metal than prog results. German heavy rockers, Electric Food’s family tree includes branches to Lucifer’s Friend and Uriah Heep, so you know what to expect from ‘I’ll Try.’ And although there are no women in the Dutch band, Mr. Albert Show, the vocalist on ‘Kings of Galaxy’ sounds like Suzi Quatro. Do with that information what you will! Castle Farm’s self-released ‘Hot Rod Queen’ is a stomping little rocker that successfully mines the Mott The Hoople oeuvre with a title that seems ripped straight off an old Marc Bolan album! And finally, and quite surprisingly, the Irish showband, Chips (from Sligo) turn in the most traditional prog track in the bunch with ‘Earth,’ which is full of swirling keyboards, multi-layered vocals, and astrological themes that all combined to remind me of the German prog/kraut band, Triumvirat. But other than that, despite the fact that many of the songs provide varying degrees of entertainment in their own right, prog purists should be cautioned that, to these ears, most of these tracks lean more towards the heavy, power blues end of the spectrum. (Jeff Penczak)




( CD from Black Rills records www.blackrills.ch )


Mention the word “Fantasy...” in the company of just about any Terrascopic music fan of a certain age and they’ll probably finish the sentence for you with the words “...Paint a Picture”. Something of an overlooked prog-rock classic drenched in melodic guitars, huge washes of swirly Mellotron and here and there some complex orchestration, Fantasy’s ‘Paint a Picture’ was originally released in 1973, although the band had got together down in Kent (where they were originally known as Chapel Farm, I believe) back in ’71. The extra two years of practising didn’t actually do them too many favours, however, as they remained some way from virtuoso musicians. They went on to record a second album called ‘Beyond the Beyond’ the following year, but Polydor had lost both interest and patience by then and it remained unreleased.


All this however is completely by the by, since the band in question here is another Fantasy altogether. The only surprising thing really is that there haven’t been more Fantasys (Fantasies?), since the name lends itself so well to psychedelic (or in this instance, progressive) rock. Fantasy USA hailed from Miami, and were active in and around the city during the late sixties. They played support to visiting bands such as the Doors, Steppenwolf and Iron Butterfly and were just starting to establish themselves when tragically, lead vocalist and driving force behind the band Billy Robbins was found dead. Undeterred, they replaced him with an exceptionally pretty 16 year old girl vocalist, as you do; and lasted just long enough for this album to be recorded and released before, as drummer Greg Kimple laconically notes, “egos, immaturity and questionable management fragmented the band”.  It’s an all too familiar story.


Which is a shame, since they were obviously a talented and creative bunch, as witnessed on the excellent instrumental ‘Stoned Cowboy’, which features some fine guitar work and imaginative use of studio effects. Singer Jamene Miller was obviously very much in the thrall of Janis Joplin, ‘Understand’ being her big soundalike moment, which she belts out with considerable gusto while the band hurry along behind her. Obviously after all this time I have no evidence whatsoever to base this on,  but I rather get the impression that Ms. Miller harboured hopes of her gig with Fantasy being a mere stepping stone to personal fame and fortune, whilst the band – who were, remember, already quite well established locally in their own right – had slightly different ideas. The opening track, ‘Happy’, is for example very much a vehicle for Jamene’s jazzy vocals. The second number (and very much the band’s defining moment) ‘Come’ then starts out the same way, Jamene becoming almost operatic in her enthusiastic vocal delivery, before there is a pause, a noticeable change of tack, and the band launch into a decidedly psychedelic instrumental piece with a searing (and really rather fine) guitar break from Vincent DeMeo. Personally, I love the tension this lends the album, and thoroughly recommend that you lend it your ears – don’t be put off by the oddly out of place opening track or occasional aberrations such as launching into a variation on Debussy’s ‘Clair de lune’ (“hey, we’re a prog-rock band! We need to show our classical music credentials, man!”) (Phil McMullen)




Robbie Basho – Bonn Ist Supreme

(CD from Bo’ Weavil 34a Kingsdown Road  London  N19 4LA  UK )


When the liner notes are written by some of the greatest contemporary guitarists (e.g., Jack Rose, James Blackshaw, Steffen Basho-Junghans, and Glenn Jones), then you know you’re holding something special in your hands. The fact that Basho died over 20 years ago and that this is the first official release of one of his live concerts (specifically, a crystal-clear cassette transfer of his November 24, 1980 performance at the Kulturforum in Bonn, Germany), then you know you are in for a special treat indeed. As one of the unheralded masters of the acoustic steel string guitar, Basho is not as well known as a John Fahey or Leo Kottke (or any of the aforementioned current masters who’ve contributed their praises to the liner notes), so hopefully this release will help introduce him to an audience beyond his fellow players. Our musical journey begins with the rolling ‘Redwood Ramble,’ named after the giant California trees, which proceeds south to the fancy finger-picking of the Mexican ‘Fandango.’ Like a patient guitar instructor, Basho informs his audience that his ‘(Variations on) Easter’ features “one of 35 different tunings for this style of music.” If the other 34 are as difficult to perform as this one sounds, it’s no wonder Basho has been hailed as one of the premier proponents of this style of playing.


As with many of the tracks, Basho introduces ‘Rocky Mountain Raga’ in German, illustrating his respect for his audience is as strong as his respect for his instrument, which he comically exclaims is “over 115 years old and is a little fussy!” The track “evokes images of the mountains in America or anywhere else” and it is to his credit and skill that his playing is so visual – perhaps the listener can envision him- or herself driving through a mountain pass, surrounded by majestic trees, as Basho tugs at your heartstrings with the same enthusiasm that he tugs at his guitar strings to create a relaxing, meditative mood.


Jones describes ‘Cathedrals et Fleur de Lis’ as “Robbie’s 12-string masterpiece,” and the cascading notes that he elicits from his guitar trickle around you like a waterfall enveloping the listener. This release is essential listening for fans of any and all of the aforementioned guitarists, and demonstrates how vibrant, colourful, and visionary an album of guitar solos can be when they’re played by a master. (Jeff Penczak)




Fotheringay – Fotheringay 2

(CD from Fledg’ling, 3o Stroud Green Road  London  N4 3ES England)


            Nearly four decades on from the original recording sessions in late 1970 for what was to be their sophomore album, the surviving members (Gerry Conway, Jerry Donahue, and Pat Donaldson) collected the master tapes which had been languishing in several locations during the ensuing years and cobbled together this lost masterpiece. Shelved ostensibly because Sandy Denny announced she was embarking on a solo career in the middle of the sessions, the album includes original versions of tracks that would later appear on her solo debut (‘Late November’ and ‘John The Gun’), as well as songs that cropped up on later compilations (e.g., ‘Gypsy Davey’ and Dave Cousins’ ‘Two Weeks Last Summer,’ although the versions heard here are completely different takes). From the rousing anti-war effort, ‘John The Gun’ to their folk rock renditions of traditional folk tales that was their specialty (‘Eppie Moray,’ ‘Wild Mountain Thyme,’ ‘Gypsy Davey,’ and the epic ‘Bold Jack Donahue’) the album is a marvelously encapsulated timepiece of that fledgling era of folk rock.


As with their self-titled debut released earlier that Spring, vocal chores are evenly divided between Denny and future husband, Trevor Lucas, and the songs themselves also alternate between Lucas’ more upbeat, country-rock efforts (The Byrds’ ‘Sweethearts of the Rodeo’ was obviously a huge influence on his songwriting) and Sandy’s slower, more intimate ballads. Just compare their languid, meandering interpretation of ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ with The Byrds more forceful arrangement and you’ll understand that the band were masters of pace, taking their time with a track and allowing it to unfurl. Lucas’ ‘Knights of The Road’ is a country rocking paean to cross-country truckers, highlighted by Donahue’s tasty soloing and fingerpickin’. ‘Late November’ appears in it’s  original version, an alternate take to the one that Island included on the 1971 El Pea sampler, and this same instrumental track (with Sandy’s redubbed vocals and Richard Thompson’s guitar flourishes) would resurface on her The Northstar Grassman and the Ravens debut (Island, 1971). Completists will also wax poetic over Sandy’s original take on the oft-recorded ‘John The Gun,’ which also received another airing on her debut, with Thompson again sitting in for Donohue on electric guitar.


While the temptation to brand Fotheringay as “Fairport Lite” or “Fairport’s Country Cousins” is understandable (Lucas’ countrified arrangement of Dylan’s ‘I Don’t Believe You’ is barely recogniseable from the original and the band’s epic eight-minute rendition of ‘Bold Jack Donahue’ could easily have sat alongside ‘Mattie Grove’ and ‘Tam Lin’ on Liege and Leaf), this heretofore unheard sophomore release provides solid evidence that they were a powerhouse act in their own right. A staple encore of their live performances, ‘Silver Threads and Golden Needles’ is slowed to a swaying country waltz. If you can forget Linda Ronstadt’s admittedly more famous goosed-up, pedal steel-driven two-step version, perhaps you’ll appreciate how Sandy and the band wring every last ounce of heart wrenching pain from this classic weeper.


The album ends with Denny’s loving rendition of Dave (The Strawbs) Cousins’ ‘Two Weeks Last Summer.’ She originally recorded it accompanied by Dave on acoustic guitar during her brief tenure in The Strawbs and, like ‘Late November’ and ‘Gypsy Davey,’ alternate takes were previously available on the Denny box set and several CD reissues. The version here is the intended arrangement that would have appeared on the second Fotheringay album, which is now available in all its glory as one of the key archival releases of this or any year. (Jeff Penczak)



Magicfolk  - Magicfolk



“Magicfolk” is the debut album of Norfolk-based pagan psych-folk outfit Magicfolk. The band have been going since 2003, experiencing various additions and changes to their line-up over the last five years, so that they have become a seven-piece. But now their album is here: twelve tracks parcelled up in an attractive sea-blue wrapper.


            Just looking at the song titles gives the listener an idea of what territory the band come from. The lyrics are heavy with Greek, Egyptian and Celtic pagan references; the music essentially acoustic, with electric and ethnic elements.


            The opening track “Green Man” is a folky number, in ¾ time for that authentic feel, though here the progressive influence is strong. “Sheba” has great vocals and harmony vocals from Michelle Glover, and a smattering of ethnic percussion. The third track “Persephone” is perhaps the most obviously psych-folk of any on the album, and recalls the music of Circulus, to great effect. “Little Spirit” has a great tune, Spanish guitar, and very good vocals, while “Aibo” is a weird little song with science-fiction lyrics; yet another one in ¾ time. More Egyptian-themed lyrics arrive with “Heliopolis”, and then we’re into “Angel”, a Spanish-guitar infused paeon to angelic protection. The strange time-signatures of “Furies” (5/8 and 7/8 I believe) launch a very weird track, filled with screaming vocals and some fine electric guitar shredding; this track reminded me strongly of ‘eighties festie band The Ullulators. The track leads the listener on to “Egypt”, which could have come from a ‘seventies album by that fine folk-prog group Renaissance; great flute playing, and another strong song. Saxophone underpins the keening “Narcissus”, then we have the chilled acoustic balladry and piano of “Diving Bell”. The concluding track, “Sea Priestess”, is the best track on the album, with a great chorus and some particularly good electric guitar playing. It’s much longer than the other tracks too – a superb conclusion, especially as we fade out into ocean sounds...


            I liked this album a lot. It is original, well played, and very well produced. While it does stay within the realm of psych-folk for its duration, the themed lyrics make the album stand out. The keyboards have the feel of ECM jazz albums, lending the music another unusual aspect. But the playing throughout is good, and Michelle Glover’s voice suits the material perfectly. An excellent debut, recommended to those into Circulus, Mellow Candle or Renaissance. (Steve Palmer)








    Either I have become very lax lately, or Carlton Crutcher has been on a creative roll, producing three excellent albums within a relatively  short space of time, the music an exotic blend of electronics, effects and ghostly vocals, the rippling guitar work adding the finishing touches.


    After the short dust cloud of “Build a Lighted House”, “Isadora Shadow” steps into high gear with the haunting and psychedelic “Closer You See”, a delicate and ethereal piece with the distant vocals of Sharon Crutcher taking centre stage, and adding direction to the music.


  On the title track, the sounds of late sixties sci-fi films are lovingly re-created, the music dripping with atmosphere, the echo unit employed to a perfect degree, a wisp of sonic mist that clings to your mind. Slowing things down even more “Mosaic” is a whispered drone, the creaking of an empty playground on a winters day, the music barely existing at all. Finally “Waiting For the New World” is a half hour journey into tension and release, the quietness overshadowed by a creeping unease, the band working in unison to create confusion.


    Best played alone, this album is one that deserves to be heard through headphones, a master class in atmosphere and restraint.


    Opening, as the last album closed, with a half hour long piece, “777” has a more drifting feel in its grooves, the bands triving for the outer reaches of the galaxy with “Midnight Sun” sounding like the work of My Cat is an Alien, something that is no bad thing in my book. Following on “December 21, 2012” (have they been there?) has a harsher feel, the sounds whipped to an electronic frenzy then receding, leaving echoes of early Floyd floating in the room. The influence of another bunch of sixties electronic musicians, the wonderful White Noise can be heard on “Lily’s Paw” an undulating piece that has some fine guitar from Aaron Bennack, who also wrote the tune.


    Final piece, “Hollow earth” takes all that has gone before and distils it into a sonic cave painting, half ritual half lament, the music swelling outwards on an infinite journey, seeking answers to unknown questions.


    Featuring just five tracks across two discs, “Dream of the Blue Hummingbird” could possibly be the perfect Book of Shadows album, containing three live pieces and two studio cuts. Disc one opens with “KVRX Local Live 11/12/06” , 58 minutes of improvised beauty, the whole band in sync with each other, each realising the value of silence and restraint, allowing the music to rise onto another plane. Breathtaking in its scope you can easily become lost in its majesty.  On “Red’s Scoot Inn 10/22/06”, chaos creeps in the music scattering in all directions, writhing like a decapitated serpent with a free-form heart.


    Moving onto disc two, “Book But agree- The Flying Carpet Experimental Symphony” feature only Carlton and Sharon Crutcher, and has a softer feel, the lack of guitar adding space to the music, whilst the keyboards give a hint of Tangerine Dream to the proceedings.  After “Salvation Pizza 12/16/06”, another lengthy live improvisation, Final track “Blue Tailed Fly” is a solo piece, written and performed by Aaron Bennack. By its very nature more structured than the rest of the album, the piece has a light airy feel and is restful way to end a fine album.


   The thing that amazed me the most whilst listening to these albums, is the ability of the musicians to remain fresh and focused, maintaining the band sound whilst also coming up with new ways to achieve the high standards they obviously set for themselves. (Simon Lewis)



Nathan Moomaw - 26



is a singer-songwriter who lives in San Francisco and plays music there "alone, and sometime with other people, which is great." Moomaw's father plays folk music, and did so when Moomaw was young, growing up in the woods of western Massachussetts, rural days that, he explains, were spent near orchards and farms. Moomaw then moved to Boston for a number of years and then to New York for few more. He says his goal now that he is in San Francisco is to have fun and play music and art that makes him, and hopefully other people, happy.


Moomaw's album "26" is a curious mixture of styles and moods, the idea of which is to create twelve tracks, from April to March during his twenty-sixth year, making a record of a year of his life.


The opening track is "April", and it sets a pretty tune against simple guitar strumming. "May" is similar but adds eerie theremin against the arpeggiated chords, before a strange accordion enters and the song veers into lo-fi, angsty territory. "June" is slow and bizarre, and reminded me of Gorkys Zygotic Mynci. The feel is acoustic low-fi, to the extent of what sounds like accidental distortion of Moomaw's voice. Again the theremin accompanies the song, along with what sounds like kitchen pots-and-pans percussion. "July" is swift and fragile, hardly more than breathy vocals and a guitar, before we get into more personal territory in "August", which seems to be about Moomaw's lost relationships: "Tears to my eyes, And sighs of relief, Happiness and horrible grief. Thoughts I haven't thought for years, A peace through a parade of fear." A strong tune, this one, with an impassioned vocal performance, and some additional instrumentation at the end in the form of organ chords. "September" features a great slide guitar and sounds in places like the Floyd of '69. Again, the tune is memorable, with lyrics about loved ones. As we enter the second half of Moomaw's year we keep the same vocal style and lyrical concerns, but the instrumentation is modern; synthesizers, synthi bass and drum machines (along with a few weird instruments and items of percussion). In "October" we are back to lo-fi strangeness, while "November" is similar but with added backwards instruments and random percussion. "December" returns us to acoustic balladry, and a mouth-organ that inevitably recalls Neil Young. "January" has banjo and glockenspiel underneath the muted vocals and a great (if wordless and rather odd) chorus. In "February" the mood is very restrained, with vocals half sung half breathed, and a wobbly phased guitar; another good chorus in this song. The concluding track "March" ends the album by reviewing the whole project, as Moomaw sings to a starling in a tree.


The artwork is complex, adding to the project as a whole, with two pages for each month - one of artwork, one of handwritten and dated lyrics. The feel is personal and idiosyncratic, with little "technique" apparent. I liked the lo-fi, occasionally ramshackle feel of the album, and if Moomaw's central idea appeals to you then this would be an interesting project to check out. (Steve Palmer)