31 Jan 2012

Mark Lanegan The Gravedigger's Song Video + Album Stream.

The new Mark Lanegan Band album Blues Funeral is due out early February and is already being hailed as a classic.

You can check out the video for The Gravedigger's Song below, directed by Alistair Legrand.

Mojo have the whole album available to stream at this link too if you fancy trying before you buy :



Ex-Fleet Foxes Drummer J. Tillman is Now Father John Misty

Fleet Foxes drummer J. Tillman surprised everyone when he announced he was leaving the band a couple of weeks ago.

With a number of solo albums already under his belt credited to J. Tillman, he's now trying something a little different.

He's signed to Sub Pop as Father John Misty and has a new album due out on May 1st titled Fear Fun, produced by Active Listener favorite Jonathan Wilson and mixed by Phil Ek - also responsible for the sound you've come to know and love on the Fleet Foxes albums.

You can download "Hollywood Forever Cemetary Sings", the first song to be released from the album from Sub Pop below. All it'll cost you is your e-mail address.

You can also watch the video exclusively through Entertainment Weekly through this link.

30 Jan 2012

Hear George Harrison's Lost Here Comes The Sun Guitar Solo

The guitar solo from The Beatles' 1969 hit single 'Here Comes The Sun' has been discovered after 43 years.

The solo, which failed to make the final cut of George Harrison's major contribution to The Beatles' 11th studio album 'Abbey Road', was found by Harrison's son Dhani, Beatles' producer George Martin and his son Giles during a visit to the studio which gave its name to the album.

Bob Dylan In The Sixties - Beginner's Guide

With a catalogue the size of Dylan's it's pretty hard to know where to start for the uninitiated, so hopefully this'll help someone out. I'll be taking a look at his back catalogue, album by album, starting today with the sixties.

Bob Dylan ( 1962 )
Still very much in thrall to Woody Guthrie, this set is mostly made up of enthusiastically performed covers of blues and folk material. Recorded over two 3 hour sessions, this gives you a pretty good idea of what the young Dylan would have been like live at this very early point in his career. It's particularly surprising to hear how gritty his performances of the old blues standards are, especially as Dylan was only 20 when this was recorded. Of the two originals, Talkin' New York is a pleasant enough talkin' blues, while Song to Woody points to where his songwriting would soon be heading. ( 6/10 ) BUY IT HERE

The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan ( 1963 )
A massive step forward in terms of songwriting and performance confidence, with only one cover. With iconic protest songs like Blowin' In the Wind, Masters of War and A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, this was always going to be a well remembered album, but Dylan's softer side is shown for the first time too with Girl from the North Country and Don't Think Twice, It's All Right.  Side two tapers off a little towards the end, but it's got stiff competition from the material on Side One, and compared to other folk albums of the period this is peerless and assured stuff. ( 8/10 ) BUY IT HERE

The Times They Are A Changin' ( 1964 )
A much angrier protest album than Freewheelin' this is a little more difficult a listen, but full of rewarding stuff. The Ballad of Hollis Brown and North Country Blues are some of the darkest songs in Dylan's catalogue. Grim stuff, but full credit to Dylan for saying what he thought needed to be said. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll has some wonderful wordplay and impressive attention to detail. There's also room for Boots of Spanish Leather, one of Dylan's loveliest ballads, and the thoughtful Restless Farewell shows even more growth. ( 8/10 ) BUY IT HERE

Another Side of Bob Dylan ( 1964 )
Another big step forward for Dylan, and a step away from his protest persona. Impressively recorded in one long red wine fuelled evening session, this features a number of songs with Dylan on piano, and as suggested by the title is quite a departure for Dylan. Chimes of Freedom and My Back Pages show an increased interest in surrealism and Motorpsycho Nitemare and I Shall Be Free No. 10 show a gift for slapstick. All I Really Want to Do was Dylan's poppiest moment so far, as evidenced by covers from everyone from the Byrds to Sonny & Cher. Lots of amazing tracks here, but for some reason it doesn't really gel as an album. ( 7/10 ) BUY IT HERE

The Bootleg Series Vol. 6 : Live 1964 - Concert at Philharmonic Hall 
This has got an amazing reputation, but doesn't do much for me in all honesty. Granted Dylan is charming , relaxed and confident throughout, but there's not really anything essential here. The arrangements are so similar to their studio counterparts that they don't really offer anything new. I would have rather seen a release of the shelved In Concert album, recorded in 1962 which features a number of tracks not released officially elsewhere. I've no doubt this would have been a great show to be at, but on disc there's just not enough to differentiate it from the studio albums preceding it. Otherwise, this is a pretty good alternative snapshot of his work up to this point for those that don't want to own the studio albums, although I'd always recommend them first. ( 5/10 ) BUY IT HERE

Bringing It All Back Home ( 1965 )
Dylan's first great album with one side of acoustic and one side of electric material. The rollicking Subterranean Homesick Blues and Maggie's Farm make great use of the rhythm section, while Love Minus Zero/ No Limit and She Belongs to Me are more introspective gems. The acoustic side is gold all the way through with Mr Tambourine Man, It's All Over Now Baby Blue and It's Alright Ma showing just how far Dylan had come. ( 10/10 ) BUY IT HERE

Highway 61 Revisited ( 1965 )
Dylan's first fullblown rock album may have been a little controversial at the time, but is one of his masterpieces. Al Kooper's keyboards and Mike Bloomfield's guitars help make this Dylan's most raucous rock n roll album. Dylan's already proven that he's at his most eloquent when he's angry and Like A Rolling Stone and Ballad of a Thin Man may be the best examples of this, while Desolation Row shows that he hasn't lost his poetic touch. A fantastic, visceral rock n roll album. ( 10/10 ) BUY IT HERE

Blonde On Blonde ( 1966)
Dylan's first double album, and quite possibly his best. In his words : "The closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind was on Blonde On Blonde. It's that thin, wild mercury sound. Its metallic and bright gold, with whatever that conjures up". Refining the sound of Highway 61, this has it's fair share of boisterous rock n roll numbers, but also finds room for the likes of I Want You ( as close as Dylan ever got to pop ), and the swooning, gorgeous Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.  ( 10/10 ) BUY IT HERE

The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 : Live 1966 - The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert
One of Dylan's most impressive officially released live albums, this catches Dylan at the point where he was getting grief from a large amount of his fans for abandoning folk music in favor of rock n roll. As a result he'd perform two sets on this tour, one solo acoustic set to keep this part of the crowd placated, and one fired up full band set which could be hit and miss depending on the night, but is firing on all cylinders for this show. Dylan's obsession with reworking his material began on this tour too, with previously gentle acoustic gems like One Too Many Mornings given the full band treatment. There's also a wonderful sparse solo version of Visions of Johanna which is particularly memorable. Excellent. ( 9/10 ) BUY IT HERE

John Wesley Harding ( 1967 )
Dylan totally reinvents himself again with this album, abandoning the rock approach of the previous couple of years, in favor of a stripped back acoustic three piece sound ( with added steel guitar on the last few tracks ). In doing so he helped kick start the country rock movement along with the Byrds. Lyrically this is very different as well, with many songs inspired by biblical allegories. This is pretty unique in Dylan's catalogue and a favorite of mine. The Wicked Messenger and I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine are highlights of this very consistent effort, also the home of the original versions of the much covered All Along The Watchtower and I'll Be Your Baby Tonight. ( 9/10 ) BUY IT HERE

Nashville Skyline ( 1969 )
This is one that gets mixed reviews, but is a lot of fun if approached with the right expectations. Lyrically very lightweight compared to Dylan's normal output, this is an entertaining country album with some pleasant steel guitar and top notch session work from a bunch of Nashville pro's. Dylan's voice has never sounded better either - it's hard to believe this was the same voice that was responsible for Like A Rolling Stone. Main single Lay Lady Lay gives you a good idea of what to expect. He sounds as relaxed as he looks on the cover. This is Dylan the entertainer rather than Dylan the spokesperson for a generation ( which is a tag he hated anyway ). ( 7/10 ) BUY IT HERE

27 Jan 2012

The Coral - Beginner's Guide

Liverpool's The Coral are to my mind the most interesting and consistent band to have come out of England in the last 10 years. Incorporating obvious Mersey influences like the Beatles, Shack, The La's and Teardrop explodes they also owe a debt to various U.S West Coast psych outfits, as well as Love and the Byrds. Obviously they've got some pretty big boots to fill then, so it's just as well that they bring some cracking good tunes to the party. Big in the U.K, but fairly obscure over here in N.Z, it's time they received a wider worldwide audience. Here's a look at their output so far....
The Coral ( 2002 )
Their debut brought them critical raves, and with good reason. Probably their most varied release, this ranges from energetic sixties style rave ups like Dreaming of You, Goodbye and Waiting for the Heartaches, to more experimental pieces incorporating heavy psychedelia, dub-style production and sea shanties. Impressively diverse and confident for a debut, they haven't made another album that sounds quite like this one since. ( 9/10 )

Magic & Medicine ( 2003 )
An impressive follow up, this is a little less experimental. It's also from a critical view not quite as good as the first album, but to me at least, a more enjoyable listen. Secret Kiss and Pass it On are timeless singles which you can easily picture on the sixties charts,  Talkin' Gypsy Market Blues channels Dylan's Thin Wild Mercury Sound, and Don't Think You're the First and Bill McCai are enjoyably sinister. Meanwhile Liezah may well be their best ballad.        ( 8/10 )

Nightfreak & the Sons of Becker ( 2004 )
Legend has it that the band spontaneously threw this together in a matter of a week or so, with many of the tracks written off the cuff during the sessions. Released as a mini album, this was intended more as a stop-gap reward for loyal fans, than an album proper and no singles were released from it. It's got a ramshackle charm, and has plenty of interesting experimental moments and some solid tunes, but lacks the one or two killer tracks required to keep bringing you back to it. Fun for the converted ( who it's intended for anyway ), but not recommended for the novice. ( 5/10 )

The Invisible Invasion ( 2005 )
Bringing in Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley from Portishead to produce their third album worked fantastically. While this album seems to have it's share of detractors, I think it's one of their strongest. Pursuing the moodier sound they'd experimented with on Don't Think You're the First, this is a much darker album than they'd hinted at previously. The sunshine pop of their earlier albums still managed to break through on a few tracks, noticeably Something Inside of Me, but elsewhere Doors influenced psychedelia takes over resulting in some of their best work up to this point with the creepy A Warning to the Curious a highlight, which manages to convincingly cop the atmosphere of the M.R James story which provided it's title. ( 9/10 )

Roots & Echoes ( 2007 )
Another album with a middling reputation, this is an excellent collection which strikes the best balance between their light and dark sides that they've managed to capture on record so far. Put The Sun Back and Who's Gonna Find Me show just how easily they can turn out top notch guitar pop with a hint of melancholy. Towards the end of the album is where things get particularly interesting though, especially with the mysterious Music at Night, and She's Got A Reason, which has a fantastic fuzz guitar outro which may just be my favorite recorded moment of theirs. ( 8/10 )

Singles Collection  ( 2008 )
This paints a pretty compelling portrait of the Coral as one of the best singles bands of the decade, and while not showcasing their diversity as well as their albums do, on a track by track basis this is peerless sixties style sunshine guitar pop. New track Being Somebody Else fits in nicely among the established gems. The ideal starting point for the newcomer. ( 10/10 )

Mysteries & Rarities ( 2008 )
Included as a bonus disc with some versions of the Singles Collection, this is equal parts fascinating and frustrating. A bits and pieces collection to give big fans another reason to buy the Singles Collection, it's fascinating to hear how good some of the album outtakes are ( and why weren't they used as b-sides at some point? ), but frustrating for several other reasons. There are a couple of decidedly lo-fi live covers which break the flow up a little, and a few too many demos of existing tracks, where I would rather have heard perhaps a few more of their very high quality b-sides. Hopefully they were holding them back for a full b-sides collection - they've got enough for an excellent triple CD set of them by now. I reckon there's definitely a market for it, so how about it boys? ( 5/10 )

Butterfly House ( 2010 ) / Butterfly House Acoustic ( 2010 )
With guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones having left previous to the recording of this album, it's no wonder that this sounds a little different to previous albums. Production wise there's a much denser sound here, which made it a little more difficult for me to get into than previous albums. There's also a much more pronounced sixties West Coast influence with a lot more harmonies and guitar jangle. Roving Jewel shows more of an awareness of traditional folk music than they've displayed in the past, and the title track is a thunderous epic which builds to a mighty crescendo. They also released an acoustic version of this album, which has a much more organic sound and gives the songs a bit more space to breathe. ( 7/10 ) ( For both versions )

25 Jan 2012

Poor Moon ( Fleet Foxes ) - Free Download of People in her Mind

New Sub Pop signing Poor Moon ( named after a Canned Heat song ) have their first e.p due out in March. Why should you care? Well, the band includes two members of the Fleet Foxes. Interested yet?

The Sub Pop Bio Reads :
Poor Moon is Christian Wargo (Fleet Foxes, Crystal Skulls) Casey Wescott (Fleet Foxes, Cystal Skulls) and brothers Ian and Peter Murray (The Christmas Cards). The band, named for frontman and primary songwriter Christian Wargo’s favorite Canned Heat song, began four years ago as a long-distance project with demos being created and sent back and forth while Wargo and Wescott were touring in support of the Fleet Foxes 2008 self-titled debut and Ian and Peter living in the Bay area. Their first shows were at intimate Seattle house parties where they used playful throwaway monikers like Rabbit Kingdom and Cookie Mask. It wasn’t until the band opened up for Deakin at Seattle’s Neumos (under the name Peppermint Majesty) that things began to really take form. Recording began and the four longtime friends became a band and Sub Pop didn’t hesitate to pursue them with unabashed enthusiasm. And it worked.

Listen to the first single People in her Mind below or you can download it by supplying them with an e-mail address, where they'll send a download link. Courtesy of the fine folk at Sub Pop.

Wilco - Dawned On Me - Popeye Video

The video for Wilco's Dawned On Me has been released and is a vintage style black and white Popeye cartoon, complete with cartoon versions of the band interacting with all of your favorite Popeye characters.

Check It Out Below :

24 Jan 2012

15 More of the Best Psychedelic Albums Of All Time ( 3 ) .

Here's some more listening for all you psych fiends out there:

Cold Sun - Dark Shadows ( Recorded 1969, Released 1989 )
Acid spiked garage psychedelia with creepy organs and a distinctly unsettling atmosphere. Another excellent texan band, these guys face the inevitable 13th Floor Elevators comparisons but also share a sense of discordant menace and unease with the likes of the Velvet Underground at their most avant garde.

Dungen - Ta Det Lugnt ( 2004 )
An excellent Swedish outfit, Dungen have produced a stunning back catalogue, out of which this is the best place to start. With choruses to die for, they effortlessly evoke the melodic magic of vintage late sixties Beatles, but approach things from a far more adventurous angle with complex instrumental passages that owe a lot to prog rock and jazz. Check out Panda and you'll be won over immediately. BUY IT

Mighty Baby ( 1969 )
Formed from the ashes of excellent mod pop outfit the Action, Mighty Baby have been rather unfairly written off as a Brit Grateful Dead, but they have a strong identity of their own especially on this, their debut. A pleasing rural psych album which admittedly does show a San Francisco influence, it features some nice acoustic guitar and fuzz guitar moments and some great communal harmonies. Opener Egyptian Tomb shows them at their best. BUY IT

Espers - II ( 2006)
Amazingly atmospheric psych folk, most obviously influenced by Comus and Pentangle. Some of the slower, moodier tracks especially Children of Stone hint at some previously unsuspected stoner - folk hybrid that sounds like something Kyuss fans would listen to on a Sunday morning. Lots of great fuzz guitar with unrivalled drone sensibilities too. Bloody great. BUY IT

Sun Dial - Other Way Out ( 1990 )
Amazing to think this was recorded in 1990 - there's not many records from that year that haven't got a horribly dated sound now, but this sounds like a totally convincing piece of psychedelic hard rock circa 1969. Lots of wah- wah guitar, some nice flute parts and clever vocal treatments help give it that ring of authenticity, the top tunes don't hurt either. BUY IT

The Grateful Dead ( 1967 )
The Dead's 1967 debut is generally not held in that high regard, with detractors pointing out that it doesn't give an accurate representation of their live sound. I couldn't agree more, and that's kind of why I'm so fond of it. While the Dead could be great live, they also had the tendency to wander off into ponderous noodly territory. For those with limited patience like myself, this set of mostly concise tunes is a godsend. Opener The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion) is their great pop moment, while Viola Lee Blues proves they could stretch out beyond ten minutes and stay focused.

Pram - The Museum of Imaginary Animals ( 2000 )
More psychedelic in approach than execution perhaps, this is Pram's most accessible release but is also reliably weird. Pram's best attempt at writing songs proper rather than establishing mood, this combines elements of half forgotten kids TV soundtracks with space pop ala Broadcast and Stereolab, but with a noticeably British sound, mainly due to some fine reedsmanship. The Owl Service is peerlessly creepy and one of the best pieces of music I've ever heard. BUY IT
You can hear a track on this cloudcast.

Country Joe & The Fish - Electric Music for the Mind and Body ( 1967 )
Awesome early psych masterpiece with fantastic organ work and excellent, stuttering lead guitars from Barry Melton. Their first album, and best by a long shot, this encapsulates U.S psychedelia in 1967 better than any other album I can think of.  Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine captures the Dylan sound of 1966 pretty admirably, while Section 43 sees them stretch out musically in the manner of Barrett era Floyd when they gave themselves some space. BUY IT
You can hear a track on this cloudcast.

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - Blood Lust ( 2011 )
This is an excellent hybrid of heavy doom and dark psychedelia, heavily indebted to Black Sabbath but with an astonishingly druggy atmosphere that the Sabb's never hinted at. Fans of early occult rock like Black Widow will find much to like here, but thanks to some excellent studio trickery this admittedly quite derivative album comes off sounding pretty fresh. Uncle Acid does the best Ozzy impression I've ever heard and with layers of vocal effects sounds suitably evil. Great songs too, almost as good as anything on the first 3 Sabbath LPs, and with titles like Withered Hand of Evil, what's not to love? BUY IT

The Seeds - Future ( 1967 )
After the abrasive garage punk of their first releases, the Seeds fully embrace flower power with this release, but Sky Saxon's trademark vocal sneer is still firmly in place, making this one of the more unusual artifacts of it's time and a bit of a creepy listen. The C.A Quintet and 13th Floor Elevators come to mind, but this has more brattish attitude than either of them could muster. BUY IT

Broadcast - The Future Crayon ( 2006 )
Strangely for a collection of b-sides and rarities, I tend to find myself listening to this more often than Broadcast's proper albums. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that Broadcast are never shy about putting adventurous, experimental work on their albums, so this collection doesn't end up being a repository for failed experiments like it perhaps would for other bands. The usual Broadcast aesthetic is adhered to with Trish Keenan's hushed dream pop vocals, blazing drum work, eerie sound collage and general quirkiness all around. BUY IT
You can hear a track on this cloudcast.

It's a Beautiful Day  ( 1969 )
Excellent west coast hippie psych with some nice progressive folk rock arrangements, fantastic electric violin playing from David LaFlamme and some excellent harmony vocals. White Bird is the anthem that everyone knows, but the proggier instrumental Bulgaria matches it for quality, while Deep Purple enjoyed Bombay Calling enough to steal the main riff for their rather popular Child In Time. BUY IT

Amon Duul II - Yeti ( 1970 )
This is one of those magical albums that manages to perfectly toe the line between terrifyingly dark druggy psychedelia ( think a Krautrock version of live Volunteers era Jefferson Airplane ) with hugely enjoyable and totally accessible moments of almost pop-like bliss. This has the hooks that their earlier material lacked, but also the adventurous spirit that they started to move away from after this. BUY IT

The Doors ( 1967 )
The Doors first album sees them at their most psychedelic, and is probably the most consistent album in their impressive catalogue. Ray Manzarek's keyboard sound would launch a wave of second tier psychedelic acts over the next few years, and Jim Morrison's acid poetry found a wide audience with those not won over by the prevailing attitude of the summer of love. The End is obviously a psychedelic epic, but the lesser known End of the Night and the Crystal Ship are gentle psychedelic gems of the highest order. BUY IT

Buffy Sainte-Marie - Illuminations ( 1969 )
For those that are only aware of the gentle protest folk side of Buffy Sainte- Marie that penned Universal Soldier and the much covered Codeine, here's something to freak out about. A radically experimental album with swathes of raw psychedelic rock, early experimental electronica ala the Silver Apples, and God is alive Magic is afoot, an early Leonard Cohen lyric put to music. Thanks to Noel Gallagher for championing this one so aggressively or I would never have thought to listen to this. Good taste that man! BUY IT

My top 40 psychedelic list is here : http://active-listener.blogspot.com/2012/01/best-40-psychedelic-albums-of-all-time.html
 And two follow up lists with 15 great albums in each are here :
15 More of the Best Psychedelic Albums Of All Time 
15 More of the Best Psychedelic Albums Of All Time ( 2 )

22 Jan 2012

Thirty Classic Progressive Rock Albums That You Have To Hear ( Part 3 of 3 )

Airbag - All Rights Removed ( 2011 )
You wouldn't know it from my previous recommendations but prog rock is definitely still alive and kicking in the 21st Century, and one of the best of these new bands is Norway's Airbag. Formed as a Pink Floyd covers band, they eventually graduated to writing their own tunes, and their second full length All Rights Removed is a doozy. There's no shortage of bands out there that evoke vintage Floyd, but Airbag are a little different in that they perfectly capture the claustrophobic feel of the Animals album - not an easy task. There's a touch of Porcupine Tree to the vocals, but it's the soaring Gilmouresque guitar leads and memorable choruses that really grab the listener's attention. If this floats your boat it'd also be worth tracking down either of Think Floyd's albums - although their sound is more geared towards post - Roger Floyd. BUY IT HERE

Ian Carr with Nucleus - Solar Plexus ( 1971 )
Ian Carr may well be the single most important figure from the 60's / 70's English jazz scene.
A Miles Davis disciple, he took the template Davis set with Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson and crafted an impeccable run of funky prog jazz gems, with Solar Plexus being my favorite. There's a huge variety of music to be found here, from the creepily Doctor Whoish Elements I & II, to the lyrical Changing Times, to the fantastically loose Snakehip's Dream, a close cousin to Side One of A tribute to Jack Johnson. BUY IT HERE

Gila - Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee ( 1973 )
With only guitarist Conny Veit left from the first album's line up, this is a very different proposition. While the first album relied on dense space rock jams with plenty of improv passages, this second album is a much more carefully structured piece of work with plenty of acoustic guitar passages, making it sound a little like a folkier version of the middle part of Pink Floyd's Meddle, with a touch of West Coast psychedelia also present in the mix.  Epic closer, The Buffalo Are Coming is the proggiest and best cut by a long shot with it's dramatic, thunderous percussion. BUY IT HERE

Curved Air - Phantasmagoria ( 1972 )
Their third album, and the last by what's generally regarded as the classic line up, this fulfills the promise of their first two albums and expands upon them dramatically. Things start off safely enough with a couple of solid and relatively straight forward prog folk cuts, before things get a little more unusual with the tracks Not Quite The Same, Once a Ghost Always a Ghost and the excellent title track, all of which are quirky prog pop gems with memorable choruses and adventurous jazzy time signatures. Things get a little too adventurous on Whose Shoulder Are You Looking Over Anyway?, a tuneless, atonal keyboard dirge, but otherwise this is heaps of fun and should appeal to fans of the Canterbury Scene. BUY IT HERE

Opeth - Damnation ( 2003 )
A very divisive album this one, which tends to be viewed with suspicion by their loyal fanbase, but loved by a more contemporary audience. Mikael Akerfeldt had never made a secret of his love for 70's prog rock, naming three previous Opeth albums after some of his favorite obscure bands, but no one seemed to expect this - a full blown melodic prog album with no sign of their metal roots and Akerfeldt using his sweet singing voice exclusively. Producer Steven Wilson provides a contemporary sheen so that you can never mistake this for a lost seventies relic, although the sound on this album does tend to recall Camel, but with a less dated keyboard sound and an extensive use of mellotron. Consistently great, the highlights are Windowpane, Death Whispered a Lullaby and the Andy Latimer inspired Ending Credits, although final track Weakness is an underwhelming finale which sounds like it would make a better prelude to something more dramatic, than a closing note for the album itself. BUY IT HERE

Steel Mill - Green Eyed God ( 1972 )
A memorable hard rocking prog album by an English outfit that had some success in Germany with their first single release, but didn't stand a chance in their homeland with their record label holding back the album release for a ridiculous amount of time. It's all very English and very pastoral, although don't think of pastoral in terms of Barclay James Harvest or Spring. This taps into something much more pagan and sinister. You can definitely see why metal label Rise Above chose it for reissue. There's some haunting flute work that sounds nothing like Ian Anderson despite what a lot of other reviewers seem to say, and some excellent sax which places this up there with early Black Widow and Ginhouse as one of the better atmospheric dark prog outfits. BUY IT HERE

Camel - Mirage ( 1974 )
Being asked to pick a favorite Camel album is a little like deciding which of your children you like the best. After much deliberation I've decided that throwing you in the deep end with Mirage is probably the best bet. While it's two follow ups The Snow Goose and Moonmadness are both excellent too, Mirage strikes the best balance between showing off their prog credentials and their songwriting skills. Pete Barden's keyboards are accomplished, but it's Andy Latimer's fluid guitar work which impresses most. Lady Fantasy may well be the ultimate Camel track ( although Ice from I Can See Your House From Here better highlights Latimer's lyrical guitar playing ). BUY IT HERE

Marsupilami - Arena ( 1971 )
Their self-titled debut is generally regarded as their finest hour, but I've got to admit a preference for this much darker follow up, which is a loose concept album centred around the violence of ancient Rome. Enlisting Camel's Pete Bardens for production duties didn't do any harm and neither did expanding their musical palate to include a lot more woodwind and mellotron. Musically this is complex, multilayered stuff with pleasingly obtuse melodies - like a much more aggressive version of the stuff that Genesis and Yes would soon be coming up with. Great drums too. Certainly a more difficult listen than the first album, but more rewarding in the long run. BUY IT HERE

Titus Groan ( 1970 )
This is an excellent early proto prog oddity with some psychedelic and blues touches. With it's reputation for being a bit wishy washy, I was very pleasantly surprised by this album. While it's lack of commercial success made a follow up financially unfeasible, these guys definitely had the chops to go far. Excellent drums and woodwinds, with some nice organ work on most tracks. The obvious highlight is the epic Hall of Bright Carvings, with it's memorable oboe and guitar refrain suggesting an unearthed Tudor relic. BUY IT HERE

Aphrodite's Child - 666 ( 1972 )
They'd had a hit a few years previously with the appealingly mawkish psych pop ballad Rain & Tears, but it was only with this, their third and last album that Aphrodite's Child became Greek prog gods. Sure it's a little bit too long ( lose the twenty minute jam on side 4 perhaps? ) but this is an epic and totally unique listening experience who's reputation seems to be on the rise lately. The Four Horsemen is the highlight, but there's plenty more gold here. And Demis Roussos bass playing skills were a big surprise to this listener. They called it a day before this was even released, with Vangelis heading off for a successful solo career, and Demis Roussos on his way to easy listening glory. Show some respect and remember them for this. BUY IT HERE

You can find parts 1 & 2 of this feature here and here.