It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine

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The Seeds - The Seeds (1966) review

Flower Power Masterpiece's Definitive Reissue
"The Seeds" by The Seeds (1966/2012)

Originally released by GNP Crescendo Records in April, 1966, The Seeds' eponymous debut LP is a seminal "flower power" album and helped pave the way for the 1970s punk scene.  Big Beat Records, UK, has supplemented the original twelve cuts of this first installment of their Seeds' reissue campaign's with ten bonus tracks, all presented in glorious mono, making this, without question, the definitive reissue of "The Seeds."

Led by vocalist/songwriter Sky Saxon, The Seeds burst onto the American music scene with the March, 1965, single "Can't Seem To Make You Mine" which, while not climbing the charts on its first release did garner airplay and hit #41 on the Billboard charts when re-released in 1967 and later was immortalized on Lenny Kaye's original double LP psychedelic rock collection "Nuggets."  Jan Savage's insistent, twanging guitar hook, Daryl Hooper's tasteful keyboards and Saxon's vocals make this track unforgettable and the perfect album opener.  Hooper's bounding keyboards lead the band through "No Escape" which would later find release as the b-side of "Mr. Farmer" released in December, 1966.  The Bo Diddley influenced "Lose Your Mind" features the "shave and a haircut two bits" riff and Saxon on harmonica.   Savage's fuzz drenched guitar introduces "Evil Hoodoo" a six minute psychedelic masterpiece pushed by Rick Andridge's pounding drums and Savage's pyrotechnic guitar.  The haunting tune is found in its unedited sixteen minute take as a bonus track.  "Girl I Want You" has an Eastern feel thanks to Savage's Eastern sounding guitar, with Hooper's electric piano adding texture to this two and a half minute gem.  "Pushin' Too Hard" with its familiar guitar and vocal harmonies became The Seeds' biggest hit on its second release as a single, peaking at #36 in February, 1967.  Far and away The Seeds' best known song, Savage's guitar solo is especially memorable.  The band's documentary film, presently making the rounds with producer Alec Palao, takes its title from this classic rocker.  "Try To Understand" is a gentle ballad with Hooper's electric piano lofting about, leading into another Savage solo.  This became the b-side of "Pushin' Too Hard" on its second release.  "Nobody Spoil My Fun" is a mid-tempo rocker with Savage's fuzz guitar and Hooper's organ and electric piano at the fore, and Saxon's vocals lofting over the top.  The bluesy "It's A Hard Life" showcases Savage's guitar and Hooper's keyboards.  Saxon's vocals dominate "You Can't Be Trusted" a light, breezy pop number with even more tasty guitar by Savage.  "Excuse Excuse" another gentle tune was released on a French EP as well as "The Seeds."  Hooper's electric piano and Savage's guitar are mixed perfectly on this slab of flower power, with Saxon's quirky vocals a wonderful complement.  The album closes with "Fallin' In Love" another mid-tempo tune, highlighted by Hooper's electric piano solo, while Andridge's drums drive this shuffle.  Despite critical approval, "The Seeds" peaked at #132 on the Billboard album charts, a disappointment, but still good enough to warrant further recordings.

The bonus material begins with the stop-start stomper "She's Wrong" unreleased until 1977 and featuring driving keyboards from Hooper.  The first take of "Daisy Mae," the b-side of "Can't Seem To Make You Mine" is filled with Savage's surf guitar and Saxon's harmonica, giving the listener an idea of how the song developed.  "Dreaming Of Your Life" is a snappy ballad with Hooper's keyboards and Andridge's drums dominating the mix.  The song makes its debut here, nearly half a century after its recording.  Two takes of  the original version of "Out Of The Question," follow with Saxon's vocals dominant, the beat building into a full blown rocker.  The second take includes directions from the control room that the band is playing too fast.  Take one of "Pushin' Too Hard" runs three minutes and fifteen seconds and includes a verse after Savage's solo that was removed so that the tune would come in under three minutes for AM radio play.  An alternate mix of "Girl I Want You" with Saxon's frantic vocals and harmonica overpowering the rest of the band finds its initial release here, complete with mid-song banter from the control room.  Savage's fiery guitar and Saxon's sneering vocals introduce the unedited sixteen minute take of "Evil Hoodoo."  Hooper's keyboard and Andridge's drums have the bottom end tightly secured while Savage runs amuck with his guitar.  Wailing harmony vocals add to the intensity of the performance.  With plenty of time to stretch out, Hooper and Savage take full advantage to pack this number with punch and each solo to their heart's content while Saxon's harmonica darts in and out.  A real rave up, this may well indeed be the most interesting piece of this reissue, never running out of steam despite its long run time.  Alternate versions of "It's A Hard Life" and "Nobody Spoil My Fun" round out the reissue in fine fashion.  

Compiled and researched by Alec Palao, Big Beat's reissue of "The Seeds" is presented here in only its mono version, a decision made by Palao.  Its twenty two tracks have a run time of nearly seventy nine minutes!  The package is rounded out by a 36-page full color booklet, with notes, including interviews, by Palao, full track annotations, mastering by Nick Robbins at Sound Mastering Ltd. and lots of incredible photos.  The first of five installments in The Seeds reissue project "The Seeds," especially in this deluxe edition is most highly recommended!   

- Kevin Rathert
© Copyright

Levitation Room - Minds of Our Own (2015) review

Levitation Room - Minds of Our Own (Burger Records, 2015)

Slipping onto the scene in a sonically low keyed euphoric manner with twin lead guitars, Levitation Room move with the groove set down by the likes of the Allah Las, the Mystic Braves [though they arrived on the scene several years before], and a grouping of others who’ve managed to capture the hearts and minds of the incense and peppermint revivalists.

Their sound is clean, spacey, and meandering in a mildly controlled manner that will shimmer your nights with full moon delight, recapping the essence and vibe of the 60’s with aesthetically pleasing chords designed to offer you groovy sounds to carry you through a low dose trip on a breeze of safe and pleasing musical formulas.  Minds Of Our Own is the band’s EP, with all but one song being found on their first formal album Ethos ... and to my way of thinking, the EP is hands down far stronger than that formal release.

Mind Of Our Own is most excellent, offering delightful arrangements and musically visual concepts that seem brightly expansive given the rather actual short nature of the songs themselves.  Regardless, Levitation Room set an unforgettable pace here, and their overly flowery interruptions of those bygone days nearly embroiders the air in front of you with wondrous translucent paisley visions.  

My advise, grab the EP, it will fly all night, any time ... as for their album Ethos, you’ll wanna keep [download] the songs “Lazy Richard,” “Standing In The Rain,” “Plain To See,” “Til You Reach Your Last Breath,” while from the demo disc, keep “Dorian Blue” and you’ll have a nonstop ascension into the nether regions of your subconscious.

- Jenell Kesler
© Copyright

The Move - Looking On (1970) review

Fourth And Final Esoteric Reissue Of The Move Rocks!

"Looking On" by The Move (Esoteric Recordings, UK 2016)

November, 1970, marked the release of the third album by The Move "Looking On."  This marked the first LP to feature ex-Idle Race guitarist/vocalist/pianist/songwriter Jeff Lynne, who replaced lead vocalist Carl Wayne.  The band's sound changed as "Looking On" featured five Roy Wood compositions and two by Jeff Lynne, the first album to include only original compositions .  As with its predecessor "Shazam" the album features the band continuing to grow musically as evidenced by their extended, more complex performances.

"Looking On" opens with the title track, a heavy tune written by Roy Wood and featuring the dual guitars of Wood and Lynne.  Rick Price and Bev Bevan pound out the beat as Lynne's guitar gives the song a nice melody while Wood's lead guitar roars.  Sounding not unlike Black Sabbath at its best, the song's heavy riff is complemented by Wood's sitar and Lynne's piano on this nearly eight minute tune.  "Turkish Tram Conductor Blues" opens with Wood's guitar wailing before the band settles into a heavy groove.  Wood's vocals are simply gorgeous.  An incredible guitar solo is joined by Wood's oboe to give the tune its texture before Roy's slide guitar drives the song home.  "What?" is the first Jeff Lynne penned title, another heavy tune, with great guitar work by Wood and gorgeous, heavily echoed lead vocals and piano by Lynne.  Wood's cello gives hints of the music recorded by Wood, Lynne and Bevan later, as ELO.  Wood's guitar solo aided by his wah wah pedal is amazing, while Bevan's drums stand out on this seven minute track.  Wood's slide guitar opens "When Alice Comes Back To The Farm" which also features Wood's cello and Bevan's percussion.  Another incredible guitar solo by Wood is accompanied by Lynne's piano.  At the three minute mark Wood's guitar takes over completely steering the song to its conclusion.  A real change of pace, Lynne's "Open Up Said The World At The Door" is much mellower with Wood's sitar at the fore, while Lynne's piano is reminiscent of Traffic's Steve Winwood.  Wood's oboe is added for flavor, while Bevan's  drum solo is phased and quite interesting.  Wood's guitar solo is simply stunning.  "Brontosaurus" is an incredible piece of hard rock, with Wood's lead guitar line soaring over the heavy beat of Price's bass and Bevan's drums.  Wood's acoustic guitar enters, followed by an amazing slide guitar solo joined by Lynne's pounding piano to play the song out.  "Feel Too Good" a gentle tune, features Wood's slide guitar and gorgeous vocal harmonies in addition to tasteful piano and drums by Lynne.  The band settles into a mellow, Traffic "Low Spark" type groove aided by P.P. Arnold and Doris Troy's beautiful vocal harmonies and Lynne's piano.  Wood's guitar takes over half way through this tour de force before Lynne's piano joins in leading up to more of Wood's slide guitar.  As a coda "Do Wop" vocals and gentle piano bring this nine and a half minute tour de force and album closer to its conclusion.  Disc one of this set closes with its first bonus track, the Rick Price penned "Lightning Never Strikes Twice" a non-LP b-side which relies on Wood's acoustic guitar to lead the way until he switches to sitar for the remainder of the tune.

Disc two contains four outtakes and rarities from the "Looking On" sessions and nine BBC recordings, including  interviews with Roy Wood and Bev Bevan, a total of thirteen tracks with a run time of just over 47 minutes, almost exactly the same as disc one.

The familiar outtake, "The Duke Of Edinburgh's Lettuce" is an interesting ditty dominated by Lynne's piano.  An alternate take of the album's title track follows.  As with the released version Wood's guitar and the driving rhythm section give the track a heavy feel offset somewhat by Wood's sitar and oboe.  This take runs a bit over nine minutes, slightly longer than the LP track.  An interesting US promo single edit of "Brontosaurus" sounds wonderful and its a real shame the side didn't hit record stores as it sounds perfectly suited for both AM and the newly emerging FM radio formats in the US.  Lynne's heavy guitar riff dominates the song throughout.  An interesting alternate take of "Turkish Tram Conductor Blues" displays Wood's vocals and guitar work at their best.  The BBC tracks included come from sessions in March and July of 1970.  As usual The Move performed songs not recorded for albums including two takes on Lennon and McCartney's "She's A Woman" which, while remaining loyal to the original have more punch than The Beatles' version wile retaining the gorgeous harmonies.  Wood's guitar is rather restrained on the first version.  "Brontosaurus" rumbles as Price and Bevan belt out a beat and Wood's guitar roars over them.  Definitely the heaviest number among the BBC takes.  Jeff Lynne's light, breezy "Falling Forever" features jangling, chugging guitars and gorgeous vocal harmonies, sounding much like ELO while benefiting from incredible, snaking lead guitar by Wood.  "Lightning Never Strikes" sounds snappy and features Wood's cello.  The song builds as Wood's guitar twists and turns.  "Looking On" is announced as a possible follow up single to "Brontosaurus" in the UK and it is alluded that the band may stretch it out to twelve minutes for the new album.  Roy Wood's guitar work is nothing short of amazing as he easily races through this three minute version.  "When Alice Comes Back To The Farm" features Wood's cello and slide guitar more prominently than the album version.  Add Lynne's boogie woogie piano and I actually prefer this take.  The set closes with the second version of "She's A Woman", this time given The Move touch and sounding much heavier, thanks to Wood's guitar,  yet remaining melodic.  A great take and an ideal closer for this reissue of "Looking On."

Compiled for Esoteric Recordings by Mark Powell this deluxe edition of "Looking On" has, in addition to its 14 bonus tracks, a 20 page full color booklet, with an essay by Mark Paytress, complete track annotations, tons of incredible photos and 24-bit remastering by Ben Wiseman, making this by far the best sounding and most definitive version of "Looking On" ever released.  To top things off, the set includes an interesting mini-poster for this reissue with news clippings and even more wonderful photos on the reverse side.  This release completes the four title reissue campaign by Esoteric Recordings of the pre-EMI Harvest catalog of The Move.  All four are essential to lovers of mod and psychedelic rock and I truly cannot recommend the entire series highly enough.  Obviously a labor of love, my hat is off to Mark Powell, his wife Vicky who helped compile the series, Ben Wiseman for the incredible sound and the folks at Esoteric Recordings for releasing this incredible series on this most treasured band.  Cheers!  

- Kevin Rathert
© Copyright

Psychedelic sound & Underground movement in Czechoslovakia in 1960s & 1970s

Hells Devils

As the first underground band in Czechoslovakia is rated rock´n´roll group The Hells Devils. The band was founded in 1961 and existed till their prohibition by communists in 1964. However, their repertoire consisted of cover-versions of songs by Cliff Richard, Elvis or The Shadows, the band was, in our country, very progressive because of the stage presentation – The Hells Devils performed in special costumes (black trousers, red shirts), experimenting with stage lighting – by the sides of the stage was red-flashing panels with name of the band. The band was progressive mainly because of their managers – Eugen Fiala and his father Eugen, called “Toscani”.

Hells Devils: Jiří Hampl, Zdeněk 'Kelly' Macháček, Miloš 'Reddy' Vokurka, Miroslav 'Tony Black' Schwarz, Jiří 'Satan' Sigmund, 1962 © Jaroslava Brezy

     The beginnings of Hells Devils go back to year 1961 when two friends, guitarists Zdeněk “Kelly” Macháček and Jiří “Satan” Sigmund decided to found a rock´n´roll band. After a while guitarist Mirek Kyncl and drummer Emil Gröschell joined the band. The last member of Hells Devils was singer Miloš Vokurka. In a short time the drummer position was replaced by Miroslav Schwartz, later known as “Tony Black”. Very important band member was sound technician, inventor and rock´n´roll fan Zbyněk Lán “Binny Laney”. Binny was known, in Prague rock´n´roll community as electrotechnical genius who constructed DIY amplifiers, tape recorders. He was recording music programs from A.F.N Munich radio station, which was broadcasting for US Army in West Germany, and later from Radio Luxembourg. Binny was often persecuted by Communist police for broadcasting music programs of prohibited Radio Free Europe to Czechoslovakian radio ether. In 1962 Binny Laney became a sound engineer of Hells Devils, and in that same year Evžen Fiala with his father, Eugen “Toscani” Fiala, joined the band as their new managers and producers. Father & son Fiala took care of band´s scenic presentation – shiny red shirts and black trousers became characteristic clothing of musicians, the scenery was consisting of red light spotlights, panels with red-flashing name of the band and some smoke pyrotechnical effects. The main aim was to break border between musician and auditorium and to induce the right “devil atmosphere”. 

Hells Devils: Jiří 'Satan' Sigmund, Emil Gröschel, Miloš 'Reddy' Vokurka, Miroslav Kyncl, Zdeněk 'Kelly' Macháček. © Muzea bigbítu

     The repertoire of Hells Devils consisted of wild cover version of rock´n´roll songs by Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Eddie Cochran or Cliff Richard and surf-instrumentals by The Shadows or The Ventures. Hells Devils become, in short time truly cult band, especially in community of first Prague “long hairs” – young people who didn´t want to live life under communist totalitarian policy. The most famous era, for the band, was in the end of 1963 till the spring of 1964. The band often changed its personnel – the members were guitarist Karel Kahovec (later in Flamengo) or bass-guitarist Zdeněk Rytíř (later in Mefisto, and in 1970s he was lyric writer for Olympic), as well. In 1964 began hard times for band – their concerts were too provocative for communists, because their concerts, and rock´n´roll music, as well, were expression of freedom and unchained (“American”) way of life which communists strongly hated. Evžen Fiala was arrested in May 1964 in case of sponging; the official press was publishing dishonouring articles which described Hells Devil as hooligans, vandals and enemies of socialist establishment. Their concerts were interrupted by communist cops. The band´s last concert was performed on April, 3, 1965 in Czech town Brandýs nad Labem and it was pure underground happening. The performance was stopped by police and Hells Devil became an officially prohibited band.

© Jaroslava Brezy


     Aktual was founded as artistic group by Milan Knížák in 1963, in Prague. The young artistic collective around Milan Knížák was focused on conceptual art. The theoretical base of the group was self-titled non periodical Samizdat magazine. Milan Knížák with Aktual organised street events and happenings. In 1966 was established Aktual club, and the artistic group became a movement. The members were: Milan Knížák, Jan Maria Mach, Vít Mach, Soňa Švecová and Jan Trtílek.
     Their artistic group soon started a music group with the same name. Milan Knížák was expelled from Prague to Mariánské Lázně by communist cops, because of his anti-establishment activities. Knížák was interested in contemporary music presented by John Cage or Karlheinz Stockhausen and influence of this music was reflected in his work with Aktual. The band´s personnel consisted of combination of musicians and non-musicians. Their music was based on experimentation; the songs had primitive melodic and harmonical structure and the lyrics was full of absurd visions or provocative slogans. Instrumentation was combined of classic rock-music instruments and various objects that can produce some sounds – barrels, drill machine, motorcycle, cutting the wood. Aktual´s best-known songs were “Žlutý marťan” (Yellow Martian), “Miluje tebe a Lenina” (I love you and Lenin), “Atentát na kulturu” (The Assassination of Culture),“Život je boj” (The Life is the Fight) or “Jak by to bylo krásný” (How it would be wonderful) and“Drop Acid you´ll See” – both inspired by Milan Knížák´s LSD trip.

     In 1969 Milan Knižák had visited USA and became a member of artistic movement Fluxus. Aktual was very influential group for other underground bands – The Plastic People, DG 307 and Umělé hmota and for all counter-culture youth in Czechoslovakia.

Milan Knížák working on Lenin for the Fluxus pavilion at the Venice Biennale, 1990. © Marie Knížáková

The Primitives Group

The Primitives Group, The 2nd Beat Festival, Prague, December 1968, © Jan Ságl

     The Primitives Group was formed as a fusion of members of two bands Primitiv and P-67 in 1966 in Prague. Former members were Ivan Hajniš - vocals, harmonica, Zdeněk Burda - guitar, Pavel Pešta - bass guitar, Jaroslav “Erno” Šedivý - drums and their manager Eugen Fiala with his father, who was the band´s producer. From the beginning, the band was strongly oriented on rhythm & blues, garage and psychedelic music. Their first repertoire consisted of covers of The Who, Count Five, Small Faces or The Pretty Things, Dutch bands such as The Zipps, The Outsiders or Q65. However, the band played only cover versions their entire career; it was very important group in Czechoslovakia because of their spectacular theatrical performances, presented maybe a few months before events in San Francisco or London. The band used, as the first band in Czechoslovakia, light shows, pyrotechnical effects with burning fires and coloured smoke shells. The musicians wore psychedelic costumes and their faces were masked by various make-up. The Primitives Group, from the start of their career presented a resistance against communist totalitarian politics for Czechoslovakian long-haired youth.

Ivan Hajniš, vocalist of The Primitives Group, © Jan Ságl

     In 1967 joined the band team of artists – Ivan Martin Jirous and Věra Jirousová (art historian), Jan Ságl (photographer), his wife Zorka Ságlová (conceptual artist and author of happenings) and Dušan Kadlec (painter). In collaboration with team of artists, the band began to produce much more artistic performances, influenced by psychedelic movement (which was very intuitive – information about youth cultural movement of London, New York or San Francisco was, in Czechoslovakia, thanks to censorship and information barrier, very poor), Jewish Kabbalah, Celtic mythology and astrology, as well. 

The Primitives Group, 1969 Left to right – Ivan Hajniš, Josef Janíček, Ludwig Šíma, laying  Ivan Pešl, and band’s manager Eugen Fiala, © M. Kulhánek

     Jaroslav “Erno” Šedivý left the band and was replaced by drummer Anatolij Kohout. The repertoire of the band began to be more oriented to psychedelia – the band played songs by Blues Magoos, The Fugs, The Mothers of Invention, Grateful Dead and especially The Doors. This music was known only to a few music fans in Prague and was totally unknown for majority of Czechoslovakian youth.

            The Primitives Group were very popular for their independent conception of events which were combinations of music, art happenings, light and fire shows and their concerts were sold out by a few hours from propagation of events. Many of their events were interrupted and prohibited by communist cops.

The 2nd Beat Festival, Prague, December 1968, © Jan Ságl

            Several their conceptual concerts (or rather happenings) are very legendary nowadays:

     “Make Love Not War” (1967) – In November 1967 the band performed in Music F Club in Prague. The inspiration of hippie culture reflected on whole conception of this performance – the interior of club was decorated with flowers, musicians were lighted by colourful luminescent lights and red light-bulbs were flashing on the stage. The diapositives with scenes from horror films were screened on the stage´s back wall during the concert.

     “The Golden Masks and the First Bengali Fires” (1967) – The Primitives Group played the concert at the 1st Czechoslovakian Beat Festival in Prague, in December 1967. The main parts of stage scene were gold-coloured plaster mortuary masks of musicians´ faces which were made by artist Dušan Kadlec. These golden heads stood on long rods at the edge of the stage and during the performance were set by the fire. The faces of musicians were made-up of golden colour, as well. The back side of the scene, behind the musicians was created of large painting of landscape with golden, violet and black flowers according to Japanese artwork. The author of the back-side scene was Zorka Ságlová. From the mezzanines, down to auditorium were falling colourful balloons and light effects were used, as well.     

     “Cosmogony” (1968) – For The 2nd Czechoslovakian Beat Festival the Primitives Group´s team had prepared performance dedicated to cosmogony, mystics, Kabbalah and Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, the German philosopher and occultist. The musicians performed in special costumes with symbols of planets according to Agrippa on their chests – Ivan Hajniš had the symbol of Venus, lead guitarist Josef Janíček – Mars, guitarist M. Martiník – Saturn, bass guitarist Ivan Pešl – The Sun, organist Ctibor Kadlec – The Moon and drummer Ludwig Šíma – Jupiter. The Agrippa´s Kabbalistic symbols were drawn also on faces of musicians. The stage was edged by bowls with fires and during the production the colourful smoke shells were used and artificial snow had fallen from the galleries.

     “Fish Feast” (1968) – At the home scene of The Primitives Group, in Music F Club was performed the first of four planned music happenings which were dedicated to elements and mythology. The “Fish Feast” was performed in February 1968 and the happening was dedicated to water, fish and water animals and water astrological signs. The scene was created of glittering reflecting materials evoking the water surface, in the stage´s back side was, for the whole production, screened the sea surf and in the aquarium swam real fish. The costumes were sewed of green and blue luminescent textile combined with silver and translucent foil. Also, the Kabbalistic symbolism was used again. Over the spectators´ head was hanging fishing net and the auditorium was sprinkled by water aerosol.

The Primitives Gropu, 2nd Beat Festival, Prague, December 1968, © Jan Ságl

     “Bird Feast” (1969) – In January 1969 at Music F Club the band performed their second music happening dedicated to elements. “Bird Feast” was conceived as a celebration of birds, wind and air. The author of the scene concept was Jan Ságl. The scene was created as an environment of 100 kg of white feathers. The walls and the floor of club were covered by these feathers. During the concerts, the spectators were tossing up the feathers, so the whole space of club was full of it. On the stage back side wall were projected monochromatic diapositives of birds, films with balloons, air planes and water birds and diapositives of collages with bird motives by Prague artist and poet Jiří Kolář. Between the songs were played recordings of bird´s sounds recorded during the dawn at Prague ZOO. The large cigar-shaped balloons were floating over the auditorium.       

     In the end of 1969, the most of the members of The Primitives Group emigrated to Western Europe and the band have split up. Josef Janíček moved to The Plastic People of the Universe.

The Primitives Group before Bird Feast performance, 1969, © Jan Ságl

The Plastic People of the Universe

The Plastic People of the Universe performing in Havlíčkův Brod, 1969, © Jan Ságl

     The Plastic People of the Universe were founded in September 1968. The former members were Milan “Mejla” Hlavsa – bass guitar, vocals, Michal Jernek – vocals, clarinet, soprano saxophone, Jiří “Přemysl” Števich – guitar and Josef Brabec – drums. Josef Brabec was, in short time replaced by Pavel “Eman” Zeman. The band was strongly influenced by music of The Velvet Underground, The Mothers of Invention and by scenic presentation of The Primitives Group, as well. Under the influence of The Primitives Group they began to conceive their performances as music happenings. The Plastics, same as The Primitives Group used fires, costumes and theatrical make-up in their performances. From the beginnings, the band played their own songs such as “Muž bez uší” (The Man without Ears), “Modrý autobus” (The Blue Bus) or “Poschodí omamných jedů” (The Floor of Dazing Poisons). Except of their own songs, the repertoire consisted of cover versions of American and British underground bands – mainly The Velvet Underground (“The Plastics” were the first and only band who played their songs in that time in Czechoslovakia), The Fugs, The Mothers of Invention, The Pretty Things or Q65.

© Zorka Ságlová
     In 1969, when The Primitives Group had split up, Josef Janíček joined The Plastics and played the lead guitar, keyboards and sang. In that time, began to collaborate with The Plastics the team of artists lead by Ivan Martin Jirous. The band used sophisticated stage presentation – the musicians wore ancient Greek white togas with symbols of red suns and performed with make-up on their faces, fires were burning on the stage and coloured smoke shells were used. Inseparable parts of their stage decoration were models of red light-flashing flying saucers which were burnt out during the concert on July 21, 1969, the evening when American astronauts landed on the Moon. The Plastic´s repertoire consist of long dark instrumental compositions such as “Crematorium Smoke”, “Tropic of Cancer” (based on Henry Miller´s novel), “Gibson´s Sons” or “Gnor´s Life” (based on Alexander Grin novel) or “The Sun” (which contains philosophical statement of all Czech underground movement - “All the stupid brains are in the sun, our great nation lives in velvet underground”). Unfortunately, only few recordings had remained from this band´s era.

     In 1970 became the process of political and social normalisation in Czechoslovakia, which was started by Communist party. The music and other culture were under strong rule of the Communists. The rock music was dying, art and culture of high quality was prohibited because of its ideational background. The rock musicians had to change the name of their band into Czech or Slovak, the lyrics of songs they sang had to be in Czech or Slovak language and their hair had to be short. Long hair was in that times sign of free life. The Plastic People of the Universe refused these conditions, so they have lost their professional statute. The personnel of the band had changed. Michal Jernek left the band. The new members were Canadian English language teacher Paul Robert Wilson, who sang, played the guitar, harmonica and percussion and violinist Jiří Kabeš, as well. The repertoire of this band period consisted of cover versions and new songs based on poems by William Blake, Edmond Spencer and Czech poet Jiří Kolář. This period lasted till 1972 when the Communist police interrupted their concert and their fans were beaten by the police. Ivan Martin Jirous was arrested for the first time for 48 hours. In 1973 the band changed their personnel again. Paul Wilson left the group and saxophonist Vratislav Brabenec joined the group. The Plastics began to music texts of Egon Bondy, the Prague poet and philosopher. The first songs based on Bondy´s poems were “Francovka”, “Dvacet” (Twenty) or “Magické noci” (Magical Nights). The stage presentation became to be simpler, with no visual effect or costumes.The problems with establishment kept on and in 1974 the Plastics were officially prohibited. Except the Plastics, there were some other bands in underground, existing as in brotherhood with Plastics – the groups as DG307, Umělá Hmota, Sen noci svatojánské band, song-writers Svatopluk Karásek and Charlie Soukup. In 1976 some members of these group were arrested. Ivan Martin Jirous, Pavel Zajíček of band DG307, Vratislav Brabenec of the Plastics and singer-song-writer Svatopluk Karásek were the first prisoners. They were arrested for 18 months. Ivan Martin Jirous was totally arrested for 8 years till 1989. These people were unrighteous criminalised for their free minds and obvious opinions against the Communist establishment. From 1976 the Plastics played only private concerts for invited friends.

     The repertoire of The Plastics until 1977 were absolutely based on Egon Bondy´s poems. In the end of 1970s The Plastics began to compose long conceptual works based on religious, biblical and philosophical themes of New Testament, or on works of paramystical Prague philosopher Ladislav Klíma.

     In 1978 their first record was published in France and Canada, which consists of the recordings from 1975, the songs with lyrics by Egon Bondy, the album “Egon Bondy´s Happy Hearts Club Banned”. Their other records published in Canada, by Paul Wilson’s company Boží mlýn, were “Pašijové hry velikonoční” (Passion Play, 1978) and “Co znamená vésti koně” (Leading Horses, 1981).

DG 307

DG 307, 1979

     The band DG 307 was established in 1973 by Milan “Mejla” Hlavsa, bass guitarist of The Plastic People of the Universe and poet Pavel Zajíček. The band´s name is catalogue abbreviation of psychiatric diagnosis – situational stress disease. DG 307 was focused, from their beginnings, on experimental music with use of many “non-musical” instruments as radio, barrel-organ, siren, vacuum cleaner, etc. Musically, the band, was influenced by composers as John Cage, Edgar Varése or Prague conceptual group Aktual, led by Milan Knížák. The important part of their music were poems written and declaimed by Pavel Zajíček. The first personnel consisted of Pavel Zajíček – declamation, Milan “Mejla” Hlavsa – guitar, declamation, radio, vacuum cleaner and various instruments, Ivan Čeleda – bass guitar, Vladimír “Hendrix” Smetana – drums, percussion.         
     The genre of music, which DG 307 performed, was presented as “anti-music”, and was strongly different to production of the other underground bands, which was rather similar to music of The Velvet Underground, The Fugs, David Peel or Frank Zappa. The band´s performances were happenings with theatrical influences – the musician, in beginnings, performed clothed just like psychiatric patients. 
     One of the greatest band´s performances happened in Kostelec u Křížku in 1973. 
DG 307 played in advanced 10-musicians personnel. The instrumentation was very various – guitars, clarinet, violin, drums, various percussion's, various DIY instruments, vacuum cleaner, barrel-organ, and many others. The last song of the concert was “Papírový a Psolutno” (The Paper Absolute) and the performance was ended by burning out the papers with DG 307´s lyrics. 
     In 1976 Pavel Zajíček was arrested, with Ivan Martin “Magor” Jirous (manager of The Plastic People), Vratislav Brabenec (saxophonist of The Plastic People) and Svatopluk Karásek (evangelical priest and song-writer) in communists-fabricated juridical process.      
     When Pavel Zajíček was back from the jail, he was working on new project – “Dar stínům”(The Gift for the Shadows) which was performed in Nová Víska on spring 1979. During the live performance of this work, the band played lightened by two spotlights behind white curtain and the auditorium has seen only shadows of playing musicians – according to the name of the work.       
     In autumn 1979 DG 307 prepared the next conceptual work – “Pták utrženej z řetězu” (The Bird Torn out of Chains), which was recorded in same personnel as “Dar stínům”. The live version of the work was recorded in underground community house at Nová Víska in the same way as “Dar stínům”. During the performance, musicians also played behind white curtain, but the curtain was cut on several places, so the auditorium has seen only some parts of the scene.      
     The last work of this triptych was “Torzo” from spring 1980. After finishing this work, Pavel Zajíček had been forced, by communist police, to emigrate from Czechoslovakia because of political reasons.          
     The next ten years Pavel Zajíček lived in Sweden and later in New York, USA. In 1989 in New York, with a help from his friends, Pavel Zajíček had organised concert for arrested Ivan Martin Jirous and František “Čuňas” Stárek (Prague underground journalist). Pavel Zajíček performed here with guitarist Gary Lucas. Allen Ginsberg and Ed Sanders of The Fugs had participated the concert, as well. From 1995 Pavel Zajíček came back to Prague and he still carry on in his musical, art and poetical work.

DG307 - Pavel Zajíček, 1979

- Peter Markovski
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It's Psychedelic Baby presents: The Orions - Lightning Stroke Twice album premiere

”Lightning stroke twice” is their first full length LP, following a sold out EP - “Always Clean And Fresh” (Cassette by Burger Records, 7” by Kuskus/Crapoulet). 
“Lightning Stroke Twice” was recorded live to an analogue 8-track tape machine. This live recording, along with the worn tape sound are the Orion’s vision for their garage surf sound. The recordings took place at the “Koro” - Tel - Aviv’s iconic punk venue, which members of the band operate themselves. Lightning Stroke Twice sounds like an undiscovered surf classic presenting fresh melodic surf sound with garage aesthetics, punk attitude, and middle eastern vibes. Only 500 copies available on 180 gram vinyl and a limited edition of 100 cassette tape. Shipping from July 21th.

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Landing - Third Sight (2016) review

Landing - Third Sight (El Paraiso Records, 2016)

Connecticut’s ethereal space rockers Landing have been releasing albums and EPs for nearly 20 years and also played at several prestigious Terrastock festivals (in 2002 and 2006). Third Sight continues their transcendental, wobbly space explorations via four tracks evenly divided between two lengthy journeys to the pharsyde of your mind that make up nearly half an hour of the album’s running time and shorter sorbets set to calm you down after having your minds fried to their outer limits. ‘Delusion Sound’ delivers Floydian textures, behind trippy, sleepy vocals, flickering guitar lines and flowing electronics – think Loop on ‘ludes! It all ends with hypnotic, flickering guitars interwoven throughout treated electronics for maximum “psychedelic lift off” effect.
The punny title track (‘Third Site’ [sic]) is an exercise in minimalist electronics, as a lonely piano note taps inside free-flowing electronics, achieving ultimate outer space ambience – you’ll feel like you’re free falling thorough the Milky Way enroute to destinations unknown, but you’ll damn sure enjoy the ride.

The trip continues on the flip side, with the pretty ‘Facing South’ just lounging around inside your brain like a lie down in the backyard Hammock (OK, pun intended!) and the 14½-minute ‘Morning Sun’ offers more celestial electronics, delay pedals, and other mindwarping (third) eye openers to help you start your day. Slap this on to watch tomorrow’s sunrise and give a whole new meaning to “wake & bake”. Another brilliant release from the always adventurous, exciting, and hypnotic quartet. Enjoy your tryyp!

- Jeff Penczak
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It's Psychedelic Baby presents: Centralstödet - "Gräva Grav/Två Nyktra Veckor Senare" (Hjärndimma) premiere

The promised return of Centralstödet! Leading up to the release of brand new studio material from these heavy Swedish proggers, Sky Lantern Records is excited to present Hjärndimma, a thundering live document cut last winter deep in a waterfront warehouse (shed number 46, to be precise) in the band's hometown of Göteborg. 

Though their home-taped debut blew a lot of people out of the water, Centralstödet is essentially a live band, and it's in this setting that their fire burns brightest. A medley of pieces from 2014's Solkurva, Krök, En Böj tape is book-ended here by a pair of new numbers, including one (the jagged closer "Signalfel") showing off an expanded five-man lineup with Felix Eliasson on electric piano. The band clearly hasn't been sitting on their hands since we last saw them, as these recordings indicate a marked refinement of technique and a vivid expansion of the fundamental Centralstödet sound into new and exciting psychedelic territory. Tape loops, overloaded echo units, and prerecorded sounds bounce around the stage during and between cuts, and the signature mountain troll stomp carved out on Sulkurva by the rhythm section of Joni Huttunen and Jonas Fridlund is leavened by the band's sense of deeply woven inter-connectivity. Ulrik Lindblom and Daniel Johansson's sharp, fuzzed out guitars lock together gearlike, sustaining momentum while elevating the proceedings higher and higher into the rainy Swedish night - dig the stratospheric, feedback-drenched vamp that emerges out of the "Gräva Grav" and "Två Nyktra Veckor Senare" collision. 

Needless to say, we're beyond excited to see where this band heads next.
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Hi-Fi series presents: EAR interview with Tim de Paravicini

Esoteric Audio Research was established in England in 1976 with the EAR 509, a 100 watt valve monoblock power amplifier. Mr. Tim de Paravicini is mastermind behind Esoteric Audio Research. He's well known for his amazing and extraordinary valve amplifiers, He's also involved with the professional recording world. Tim de Paravicini is an excellent example of both an audio engineer and a mastering guru for Mobile Fidelity.

EAR are sponsoring our music magazine with their audio products. Please see their website at:


How old were you when you first got involved with music and what was the first genre or should I say artist that inspired you?

I started to enjoy music at about 4 years old but did not fully understand what or how until 12 years old. Buddy Holly was my first love.

Was music important in your family?

Only to my mother. That is where I got my interest from.

What was your first involvement in audio world?

Commercially I have been in the audio business since I was about 21. I worked at making my own guitar amplifiers and Hi Fi amplifiers.

In the 1970s you were working in Luxman and developed C1000 pre-amplifier and M6000 power amp among other products. What was the philosophy behind making this combo? Also, how did you get involved with Luxman? 

I was invited by the President and sales person when I met them in 1972 in South Africa. I went to Japan at the very end of 1972. I was a design engineer. My challenge was to make the very best products especially for the American market.

Your next step was to return to England from Japan and to start your own company, which became a great success. Esoteric Audio Research is still one of the leading hi-end companies. What was the original concept behind EAR? Is it possible to name a few things you did differently than other companies at the time?

EAR was a play on words for the ear as Esoteric Audio Research Ltd, a UK company. I wanted to make since I started valve revival in 1978 in England a valve high powered amplifier the EAR509 at 100 watts each with very low distortion compared to all other valve amplifiers. I still believe in making accurate amplifiers not some fancy jewellery looking stuff.

Before we get more into your work at EAR maybe you can tell us the story about making disc-cutting system for Island Records. How did that came along?

I met the mastering engineer and offered to design the best sounding most accurate disc cutting system.

Since we are in music business we can without a doubt say that vinyl as a format is gaining more and more popularity. Almost every underground band is releasing an LP or even cassette. I myself love this whole aspect of having a physical format in my hands and in my archive, but when you're critically listening to some of the latest vinyl releases (including reissues) you notice that the sound quality can be really mediocre, reasons being poor mastering skills, overcrowded pressing plants and various of other facts. What's your opinion about vinyl comeback in general?

I was for 30 years fighting to keep vinyl and said it still offered the best performance for home user. But now is just a fashion and everyone  wants to make records but the quality is not always good.

Of course there are a few companies that really care what you're listening to and you are involved with one of the very best - Mobile Fidelity. Tim built LP cutting system and reproducer amplifiers for Studer A80.

I will only say I care about sound and I designed all the analogue equipment for Mo Fi.

But when it comes to owning a music piece I prefer a really bad vinyl pressing next to a decent quality audio files stored on hard drive. For me it's like owning a thought that will soon disappear and you're left with nothing. Maybe it's a cliché, but still…

Yes, Agreed.

In EAR you launched also a turntable, CD player and loudspeaker besides amplifiers and pre-amplifiers. Is it possible for you to tell us some basic facts that have to be considered when it comes to turntable making? 

I will say nothing about my turntable since I really do not have time to make more for the market.

In hi-end audio you always have war between solid state and tubes. What would you say is the main reason for your company to be mostly dedicated to tubes? 

Because Valves are much faster than solid state electronics especially for power amplifiers.

What about M100A solid state?

That is made to my valve transformer rules so behaves like a single end valve amplifier. 

What would you say were some of the better hi-end products in history of audio? 

Quad Quad Quad.

And which products are you most proud of in EAR?

EAR509 and EAR912.

What is Mr. Tim De Paravicini currently listening to? 

My own stuff amps loudspeakers etc.

Mostly pop and Jazz.

What are you currently working on in your company? 

New products such as Phono boxes and power amps.

What do you think future will bring to audio world?

384K / 24 bit digital audio will get more perfect.

Thank you for your time. Would you like to send a message to your fans and audio enthusiast? 


We are using their phono stage in our music room.

- Klemen Breznikar
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Daniel Grau - Disco Fantasy (1979) review

Daniel Grau - Disco Fantasy (Oom Dooby Dochas/Merlins Nose Label Group)

This 1979 release has been the fourth solo effort of Venezuelan composer and musician Daniel Grau. The music has been settled at the pulse of its time for certain. Discofunk with a Latin melody and rhythm approach surely was the hottest thing among the dancing folks back in the day and the rather futuristical synthesizer arrangements turn these memorable tunes into a spacey and spicy affair. The sound is perfect and the performance equals its package. The compositions are quite long all in all and therefore have a hypnotical effect on the listener and dancer. The continuing pulsating groove comes in a repetitive manner creating a floating atmosphere. This record is surely a product of its era and made for disco lovers to dance on through the simmering nights, but unlike most mainstream disco albums this record opens the gate to another dimension touching the senses of everybody in reach when it gets played on the turntable. Next to the similar massive Donna Summer works like “I feel love” this is the true essence of disco music just entirely instrumental with an emphasize on synthesizer melodies instead of vocals. Drift away into your disco fantasy, folks!

- 'Sir Lord Doom'
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Bread Love & Dreams

Availability of their rare debut coincides with founder’s death

The name might at first suggest California ’67 flower-power or compatriot mainstreamers who hit on the first word for their moniker. But the truth is a bit different. Based on an Italian mid-50s ‘romantic comedy’ film (Pane, amore e fantasia), a Glaswegian-educated singer-songwriter met a female folk duo at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and ‘decided to record some demos together. We thought they sound good so we kept going’. For the first time all three of their albums are available at the same time.  

    This almost-unique configuration—not often a chap in a band is the odd one out, gender-speaking rather than other criteria—gelled from the off. After he did his set, Angie & Carolyn (as they were known then) played and their manager asked him if he wanted to join their demo session. They immediately realised that their musical styles were intertwined and shared. Bread Love & Dreams are often compared to the Incredible String Band, probably because of locale (though the Shindig special on ISB for example ignored them), or Dr. Strangely Strange but their quirkiness is less strident and potent though beauty is a key element of all three groups. They’re more like a collage of Loudest Whisper, Mark Fry, Roger Rodier, Wooden Horse, Trader Horne with a smattering of Pentangle. Even Pearls Before Swine for those seeking beyond the Atlantic.

    David McNiven (vocals, guitar, flute, clarinet, harmonica), Angie Rew (vocals, guitar, African and European percussion), and Carolyn Davis (vocals, guitar) were fired up by a mutually creative spark. Rew told Seasons They Change (2010) that the early days were intense, rehearsing and gigging all the time anywhere they could, including an incredible eight shows per night for a fortnight in two clubs in snowy Cologne. A Turkish bouncer ‘adopted’ the girls and carried them with their guitars and amps under each arm between clubs. It’s often said that the debut was recorded in London, but in fact was taped in Edinburgh then Ray Horricks, a producer and A&R rep for Decca who saw them at the Fringe in ’68, took the tapes to London to add and mix early the next year. McNiven went there soon after to collect their advance for three albums: the princely sum of ten quid.  

    The eponymous Bread Love & Dreams appeared in October 1969, mostly songs that McNiven and Rew/Davis wrote prior to meeting. Always hard to find, it is now available via Talking Elephant (TECD195); Wikipedia, who should know better, lists an infamous Korean bootlegger as an official CD release. A dozen songs, filling all available vinyl space, ooze the period. One might dispute the placing of the opener (the album starts and leaves up- tempo) about binge-drinking and its hangover (Switch Out The Sun): ‘Yesterday I hit the bottle and today it hit me back’, but finger-picking and close harmonies are a good introduction. Virgin Kiss is more ISB style, the only track, with bongos about a magical moment with the poetically-named Isidora. Bass and strings add to the feel. The first sung by Rew, The Least Said, is about the ending of a relationship, and less directly on Until She Needs You (with McNiven’s backing vocals over violin/cello) also from the female perspective’s ‘reincarnations’, the only time across three LPs that they border on saccharine.   

    Jansch-style guitar and voice, with McNiven’s deep-toned yearning (perhaps he is the lyric’s Stranger) ‘down the estuary of Time’, are supplemented by wordless harmony for the longest track at near-six minutes (Falling Over Backwards). There is a Trees-like feel with harp instead of glockenspiel and Bridget St. John nature trope to Lady Of The Night, while side one closer Main Street is an almost jazzy group composition displaying harmonica and kazoo solos: reminds of the Rakes or Mungo Jerry sans new-fangled electric. Bass and bells open Artificial Light that nothing can replace the real thing. Its vocal style, over organ, suggests that maybe Melanie or Mary Hopkins with Apple clout could have put it in the charts.  

    Harp trills, choir-like vocals and unusual percussion adorn Mirrors that strums to Dylanesque lyrics (‘Turn around Stranger…’) about a war veteran returning to the aftermath of his country. It recalls the breadth of Beau or the late Mike Hart about human experiences. Poet’s Song is sometimes maligned in reviews as pretentious or where sensitivity hits overload, but it doesn’t strike this listener that way. Doesn’t the female vocal mitigate? It’s actually modest, note the title’s apostrophe; a rare acoustic solo over the strumming plus flute illustrate where the poet muses. Reviewers also mention the Scottish humour of The Yellow-Bellied Redback, maybe, I’m no expert, the pace is upped with bongos and percussive-like harmonies mentioning non-Scottish Chelsea, Hampstead or ‘any place with dusty hedges’ before the curious engineered ending.  The closer 95 Octane Gravy is rollicking blues with barrel-house piano and harmonica. A consistently wide spectrum draws one in until the close: some call it a recipe for prog, the   
permutations are endless.
    Virgin Kiss b/w Switch Out The Sun was put out in August 1969 as a single (Decca F12958). They must have been sniggering as the title alone would have caused fusspot Auntie Beeb palpitations (we’ll hear more about Decca soon). It was the same month as Open Mind’s Magic Potion on Philips, Junior’s Eyes, Dr Strangely Strange’s first LP—all near lost until the CD era—plus Fairport Convention’s Unhalfbricking riding their crest to #12 in the charts. BL&D’s LP was issued in mono (red label) as well as the more common blue Decca label for stereo, with a light blue variant for America on the London subsidiary. Gigs with Tyrannosaurus Rex, Magna Carta, and Thunderclap Newman using The Who’s titanic PA still saw poor sales, so Davis left partly to write a solo album that seems unreleased, a contribution to Looking Glass (1972), and classical music projects.

    One of the first foreign groups allowed in Franco’s Spain, censor-in-tow, they performed the premiere of their new album at a church in Antwerp in 1970; they’d taken 200 copies of it on sale or return and scuffles broke out before all were sold. Heavily featured on Belgian radio added to their substantial following there. Like ISB they worked with a theatre troupe, Traverse, forging new material that would appear on the third album.

    Decca issued the duo’s The Strange Tale of Captain Shannon and the Hunchback from Gigha in November 1970. Although the band wanted it to be a double, it was split into separate releases. Horricks, who worked with the Human Beast—McNiven contributed clarinet and lyrics to their only album—and Davy Graham, produced again with engineer Derek Varnals. Pentangle’s Danny Thompson (bass) and Terry Cox (drums) were added with Allan Trajan on keys for the slightly-shorter-length nine titles that are uniformly of the period. In spite of being only a hired-gun, Thompson took the songs home each evening to work on them before each session. Davis returned to guest her high-pitched Purple Hazy Melancholy about lost first love and future hope. In spite of its more eye-catching hippy-swirl cover (German Decca preferred a head-shot of long-haired McNiven alone) and warm if stilted reviews (‘It has a basic tranquillity which is as commended as the obvious musicianship’ Record Mirror) sales again eluded them.           

    Harmonica and stranger-focused, still-pithy lyrics open about a girl of the era (‘She put out the sun…and tasted the opium sweet’ Hymn For Sylvia) set in the Ace Café in Neasden circa 1966, while Masquerade bowls in with electric guitar and swirling harmonies for a fictional ballad about a homicidal car thief. Sucking On A Cigarette modernises a Scottish 16th century sonnet with a free-wheeling middle section of horns, He Who Knows About All is amusingly about the bloke-we’ve-all-met who claims to know the secrets of the universe irrespective of what one tries to intersperse. Psych-style guitar and fuzz bass add to the menace.

    Lewis Carroll is visited (The Lobster Quadrille) for sing-along zoological whimsy then into the catchy, jubilant Butterfly Land from Angie Rew’s childhood in Mexico with her diplomat father. It’s a colourful nature tapestry for a shared trip among the Aztec ruins, although the terrible poverty, unalleviated by the Church, remained in her memory when writing it ten years later. Her light love ballad Sing Me A Song is also very much of the time yet a stark contrast. The title track’s resonant cello sets the scene for McNiven’s recalling a clay-pipe-smoking mariner’s tales a-tumbling about the ‘sea-mist where sea and heavens kissed’, a wounded bird, flowers, woods and a hunchback in a cave on the Scottish island Gigha (pron. Giya). Its seven minutes point to the follow-up’s first side, ending with waves and crunching beach gravel for an LP building on the sure structure of the debut.

    Very early sampled and looped vocals mixed with wide instrumentation including sax (by the uncredited Dick Heckstall-Smith of Colosseum), horns, strings, sprinkles of organ, harp, flute, bongos, boogie, birds’ song, and footsteps recorded on Dover beach take us on a wonderful journey. At times ethereal and contemplative, at others seeking a place in their era, like its forerunner the album is more than just an interesting experiment during one summer week in 1970 at Decca’s West Hampstead studio. The band weren’t allowed to attend mixing sessions, only comment on the acetates until all agreed, and almost no time for overdubbing except David’s Fender Strat on one track and some tabla by Angie.

    Neither album is intended as a concept piece: their range stimulates divergent thoughts for each listener. Originally conceived as a double, at which Decca baulked in spite of ISB’s success with Wee Tam and the Big Huge, the rest of the sessions were released as Amaryllis in July 1971 (both are on CD via Sunbeam). An early working title was Mother Earth (‘about the earth being destroyed but something positive emerges from the calamity’, the development of the earth as a microcosm of the stages of human life), but was changed because an American band had that name so was borrowed from the first name of their fellow-actress Amaryllis Garnett. It grew out of McNiven’s and Rew’s work in theatre after they married and honeymooned on Gigha that was privately-owned until 2002.
    The title track filled one side for 22 minutes, but rather like ISB or Amazing Blondel is an amalgam of shorter songs into one vision. Rew’s Brother John mesmerises from the same landscape as Butterfly Land, the desolate beauty of a Mexican hermit’s shelter beside a tiny chapel, orange trees, and a neglected gravestone. Time’s The Thief (McNiven’s teen attempt to win a place at RADA) opens side two’s four songs, which recall the debut with embellishments, while My Stair-Cupboard At 3 AM is their only melody nodding to the West Coast ethos of this review’s first sentence. Its lyrics about isolation and paranoia are by the poet Lindsay Levy, set as an experiment to a jolly tune. The closer, Circle Of Night, was penned for label -mates Human Beast—their drummer John Ramsay was added for gigs in BL&D’s last stages. Like Mick Softley, McNiven had just returned hitch-hiking from Barcelona, where he briefly joined a band and learned Flamenco licks occasionally heard here. They continued to expand ideas and instruments but the album, in spite of some seeing it as their best, sold even less than before, so they called it a day a year or so later after touring Scandinavia, France, Spain, Belgium and Holland to wide acclaim.   

    Decca retained copyright of all the songs but lost interest by the third album, in spite of it being performed at Edinburgh’s Royal Court Theatre. Too few copies had been pressed only in the UK despite strong European interest due to touring and, with botched marketing t’boot, the album went unnoticed in spite of its messy eye-catching cover. It’s odd they weren’t on Decca’s more appropriate Deram to tour with East of Eden, White Plains or even Ten Years After. A similar fate at the hands of Decca, the label who declined the Beatles (ironically ’lest we forget, soon to be criticised for being liked by teenagers’ parents!), was suffered by Mellow Candle (‘evasive promotion’) and it’s now believed Amaryllis was a tax scam by the label. Huge batches were dispatched to Ceylon—when they were returned unsold (few inhabitants of pre-Sri Lanka had record players or even electricity of course) the band were expected to reimburse the label £19,999, 19s 11pence, against their first royalty statement of £20,000!! McNiven and Rew briefly joined an obscure Scottish rock band, then a Fringe Award First with the Wildcat theatre group in 1981 (who issued an LP that year with Rew) led to TV music contracts while his wife worked in theatre. In this century he taught music to children with special needs, like Nick Pickett after his turning his back on the biz due to Reprise’s disrespect of the artist.    

    Born in Dennistoun in 1945 and schooled in Glasgow, David McNiven’s first instrument was a banjo from his grandmother on which he immediately started writing. The only child’s parents worked in offices, and one played the piano the other the bagpipes. Playing clarinet and saxophone at school, he busked with the actor Bill Patterson (they met again later in the 7:84 theatre company which the latter co-founded). Playing in numerous rock and R&B bands—even a soul band on organ which he had to lug to gigs himself—the songwriter became increasingly influenced by Dylan, Cohen, Jansch, Lead Belly, Big Bill Broonzy, and also the ISB whom he often watched locally at a time when folk clubbers preferred songs they knew and sing along to! Just before Bread Love and Dreams he studied drama too while working as a bingo caller and bus conductor, and took a week off from factory work to see if he could get a deal or residency in the capital when he met the two girls as mentioned earlier.

    He later wrote theme music for over twenty T.V. series including Rab C. Nesbitt (which he also appeared in), Naked Video, Ben Elton’s Happy Families (with the Halle Orchestra) as well as for Robbie Coltrane and Stephen Fry, also writing for BBC Scotland and theatre companies including Emma Thompson’s at the Fringe. Bread Love & Dreams reformed in 2008 on Angie McNiven’s 60th birthday. Espers turned up on their doorstep with backstage passes for their Edinburgh gig, while Time’s The Thief from Amaryllis was covered by Midlake as an influence.

    Sadly David McNiven passed away in December at the age of 70 in Broughton, survived by his second wife Angie Rew and their children. The second album was a tad more mystical and the third New Age before that term became denigrated, but the debut shouldn’t be overlooked by current focus on the later albums because it holds up very well as a timeless effort that still fascinates today. ‘The first, like their career, is a study in glimpses of unfulfilled promise and underappreciated talent…Enjoy it if you come across it’, wrote Clem the guitarist of Nazareth. He adds that its effect differs according to what season it is heard in, a fair and rarely expressed truth for albums that are more talked about than listened to.

    Multi-instrumental and fine harmony balances the heart-felt, sometimes emotive lyrics to develop more complex themes and structures. Melancholy, insights, gaiety and frivolity in equal measure, their charm and occasional whimsy blend well with interspersed realism. Angie believes there is a lot of imagery in their songs: ‘You can see the places, see the people very clearly’ because so pictorial and visual. Perhaps, tentatively in hindsight, their undue neglect can be put down to always being a year or two out of synch with the prevailing moods, in the frothy near-wake rather than the swim, but this doesn’t detract at all. From the outset they ‘extended the scope,’ one liner note says, ‘of what was a fairly narrow and traditional folk style’ into acid-folk and folk rock, a good reflection of what could be done with imagination and breadth of styles and instruments. They never disappoint decades later, no small achievement in this clamorous and deluged age, and the solid platform of the debut via Talking Elephant Records is a welcome glimpse into a period that still influences musicians today.

- Brian R, Banks
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