Tony Coulter here, with another of my bi-weekly roundups of audiovisual odds-and-ends. As always, everything audio was acquired by me after moving to Portland, OR last summer. This time I've honed in on one micro-style: U.S. prog rock from the '70s. And, following some sounds, I've got pictures to show you.
Come along, my friends, past the jump that never bends....
_________________________________________________________________________________________Puzzle: s/t (Motown Records, 1973)
The first track I've chosen is actually an amalgam of two styles: prog rock and horn rock a la Blood, Sweat & Tears. That may not sound like too prepossessing a blend, but it's actually a pretty nifty cut (OK -- except for those pseudo-classical cadenzas during the pianist's solo). I'm even reminded in places of Magma -- a good thing in my book. The band's first album, Puzzle was recorded in Hollywood in 1973 (its followup was released a year later, under the strikingly uninspired name The Second Album). Most tracks were written by drummer/vocalist John LiVigni -- though the track I've picked was co-written by Lawrence Klimas (sax and flutes). For me, the only "Puzzle" is what this band was doing on the Motown label....
Pieces of the Puzzle:
Flight: s/t (Capitol Records, 1975)
Next up, I've given you two cuts from the first of three albums by the insanely supercharged Flight (the second, 1976's Incredible Journey, has already gotten the Mutant Sounds treatment). The album at hand was recorded in New York City and was very much the brainchild of one Pat Vidas, responsible for all compositions as well as lead vocals and all brass. Flight's sound is deliriously manic -- so extreme and excessive that it pushes past through overblown prog absurdity into something quite unique. Perhaps mopey shoegazer types should be forced to listen to this stuff -- it might restore some balance to their brain chemistry.
Flight at rest:
Fireballet: Two, Too... (Passport Records, 1976)
We turn next to the second and final LP from the band Fireballet (their first, in ur-prog style, was an album-length rock version of Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain). Recorded in West Orange, NJ (yep -- just a stone's throw from FMU's old home), Two, Too consists primarily of band originals, mostly written by percussionist/lead vocalist Jim Cuomo. These cuts feature rather odd combinations of styles: the opening track, for example, sounds like a prog rock version of the Association, while the cut I've picked, "Chinatown Boulevards," resembles a Broadway musical laced with bits of Yes, Gentle Giant, and King Crimson ... and let's not forget the snatches of pseudo-Chinese music and the siren! Weird and rather ridiculous, yes, but also kind of fun.
After burning their tutus:
Zazu: s/t (Wooden Nickel, 1975)
During the '70s, prog rock was particularly popular in the Midwest, though mostly, of course, we're talking the hybridized pop-prog developed by bands like Kansas and Styx. Styx's earliest and proggiest albums were on the smallish Chicago label Wooden Nickel -- which was home also to the band Zazu. Like Styx, Zazu was at best semi-prog and overall I must admit to not being too fond of their sole album. I do, however, like one cut, "Upon the Island Unisphere," which has a nice Canterbury feel in parts -- particularly some of John Melnick's organ passages, which remind me of Caravan or Egg. Give me a swirling prog organ and I'm happy! (Just like Tom Recchion, I Love My Organ.)
Zazu zooms off:
Sunblind Lion: Above & Beyond (Homegrown Records, 1978)
Last up as far as the audio portion of this post is concerned is a band from Wisconsin -- probably never the prog center of the universe. Sunblind Lion released three albums between 1976 and 1980, of which Above & Beyond, from 1978, is the second. Despite its pompous title and lyrics, the Sunblind Lion cut I've selected is more low-key and less showy than the preceding tracks -- indeed, it has a rather appealing depressive quality that gives it a slight psych tinge (another good thing in that book of mine I mentioned earlier). Like the majority of the album's tracks, it was written by lead vocalist/guitarist Keith Abler.
The leonine logo:
It's time now to show you some pictures -- things to look at while listening to prog rock, perhaps? 'Fraid I no longer remember where some of the images came from -- I clipped them from books or record jackets that long ago slipped out of my life. Apologies, oh ye forgotten ones....
[detail from] Weekend: At Last (Goodtime Records, 1975)
Promo booklet for Swedish release of The Chase
[8-track bootleg of] Brewer & Shipley: Tarkio Road (Super Hits Inc., 197?)
That's it for this time -- see you in two weeks....