progbear: Major-General Progbear (That’s My Purse!)
Here’s the deal:

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I love how eSnips couldn’t be bothered to e-mail me any information at all about this. Yeah, they suck! It’s not like I’m posting entire albums, and I try to be careful not to post stuff that’s readily available on CD. But with the RIAA and their whole “we own everything ever recorded” bullshit, I imagine they’re in panic mode.

So, in short: eSnips sucks, no SOTW for a while.
progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)
Considerably less insane than last week’s entry, this week’s SOTW is dedicated to [ profile] paddbear:

Long Island rocker Carolyne Mas was dubbed “the female Springsteen” when she debuted in 1979. Regrettably, the appellation seemed to do more harm than good to her career, as most Americans seemed to dismiss her as a copycat. To be quite fair, I think the Springsteen-esque sound is mainly on account of her producer, Steve Burgh, as well as whoever it is playing that Clarence Clemons-esque sax. Mas clearly has an authoritative voice and a lot of talent, though thanks to the production and instrumentation, this particular tune truly does sound like an outtake from Darkness On The Edge Of Town with female vocals dubbed over.

“Stillsane” hit the American charts, but did not ascend into the Top 40. Mas did have a Top 40 hit (barely) in the UK with another song from this album, the energetic “Quote Goodbye Quote.” but found her greatest success in Germany.

Carolyne Mas - 01 - Stillsane
Carolyne Mas - 01 ...
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progbear: Weenies from Spongebob (weenies)

You can thank [ profile] peppabear for this exquisitely rare oddity. I nearly had a heart attack when I discovered he had it!

Another one of those albums made infamous (and thus, an expensive collectors’ item) thanks to mentions in Incredibly Strange Music, Jim Fassett’s 1960 opus Symphony Of The Birds delights by actually being incredibly strange (unlike, say, the many boring lounge acts the two books covered, e.g.: Korla Pandit). Not content with a dry presentation of field recordings of bird-calls à la Roger Tory Peterson, Fassett displays an obsession with using then-modern recording technology for replaying and examining bird-calls at various speeds on his Music And Bird Calls. On Symphony of the Birds, he goes one better, creating a 14-minute, three part musical suite made up entirely of bird calls manipulated by tape-editing. The result is a surrealistic, avant-garde musique concrete symphony that varies from eerie and cosmic (the final “Misterioso” movement, which is made up entirely of the songs of thrushes) to the wacky and off-the-wall “Buffo” segment. Guess which one I’ve chosen to include here?

Jim Fassett - Symphony of the Birds - Second Movement (Buffo)
Jim Fassett - Symp...
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progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)
Jeez! Sorry about the lateness of this week’s entry! I promise not to be so flaky in the future...

Cado Belle was a funk/soul/rock band from Scotland. Think the Average White Band with a sultry female vocalist and you’re halfway there. The real revelation about this album, the singer is no less than Maggie Reilly, who later sang for Mike Oldfield, most notably on his big hit “Moonlight Shadow.” As such, this album came as a total surprise! Maggie’s got soul!

Cado Belle - 04 - I Name This Ship Survival
Cado Belle - 04 - ...
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Progbear’s birthday celebration this Friday: details here (friends’ only post)
progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)

OK, here’s a group badly in need of a stylist! All right, Amy Madigan (center, and the group’s female lead vocalist) doesn’t look too bad. But you can’t really tell from the photo above, but Fred Bliffert (left in the above photo) is wearing Coke™-bottle-lensed glasses that make him kinda look like a hairier Percy Dovetonsils. And as for keyboardist Jesse Roe...well, just look at him!

Looks aside, this is actually a pretty strong late 70’s pop album with strong production values and emotional blue-eyed soul vocals (both male and female). And I tell you, I miss the days when even your female lead singer would get instrument credits for things like “vibraphonette.” The album didn’t sell, though, and not even a promotional Playboy spread featuring Amy naked and slathered in jelly helped the group’s cause much.

Of course, the group are best known today because Amy Madigan went on to become an Oscar-nominated actress (for her work in this film). I’m surprised how good a singer she is here! I rather wish she’d have stuck with it, but she’s pretty much a full-time actress these days. Here is the group’s interpretation of the classic, King Oliver-penned New Orleans jazz classic “Dr. Jazz.” In my opinion, this one song totally blows similar efforts by the Manhattan Transfer out of the water!

Jelly - 06 - Dr Jazz
Jelly - 06 - Dr Ja...
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progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)

After last week’s horror, let’s cleanse our ears with a much nicer cover version. Ex-Ronnettes lead singer Ronnie Spector recorded this for Florida’s small Alston label (a subsidiary of the TK label of KC & The Sunshine Band fame) in 1978, apparently as a competition for Bonnie Tyler’s version (which was recorded a year before, but didn’t make it to the States till a year later). While Spector was obviously the more established artist, she didn’t have the major label support that Tyler did, and the single didn’t chart.

It’s actually a fairly nice, country-tinged version of the tune, buoyed by Spector’s expressive singing voice. When I saw this single, I was quite surprised, as I had no clue it even existed. At a mere two dollars, how could I say no?

Ronnie Spector - It's A Heartache
Ronnie Spector - I...
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OK, I heartily apologize for this week’s song, but my hand was forced. Blame [ profile] broduke2000 if you must.

This rather dire rendition of Roy Orbison’s classic song was a B-side, and sounds like it, from Newton’s cover version of Neil Sedaka’s “The Hungry Years,” which grazed the bottom of the Hot 100 in 1976. It was actually the only version of that venerable Star Search staple to chart. It doesn’t excuse this horrid version of a great tune, and it doesn’t take the hurt away.

You’ll either be glad, or horrified, to know that I haven’t taken even the least effort to clean up the sound of the noisy 7" vinyl (which I paid all of a quarter for). Somehow apropos, I feel.

Wayne Newton - In Dreams
Wayne Newton - In ...
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progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)
Sorry for the delay. Got caught up in other stuff yesterday:

Russia are a bit of an odd duck. Like The Movies, they were another Seattle-based band that migrated to L.A. to seek fame and fortune. They seemed to have been aiming for that AOR sound so prevalent in the late 70’s and early 80’s, but didn’t stop there. They added some flashy early 70’s glam-rock touches, odd instrumentation (like saxes and recorders) and general wackiness (note the elephant trumpets at the beginning of this track) that set them apart. Imagine a blend of Boston, Queen and the zanier side of 10cc and you’re beginning to get an idea of what they sound like. How can you not love a band that has instrumentation credits for things like railroad springs and song titles like “Poignant Clams”?

While they found a live following in the L.A. did Sparks. And like Sparks, they were just too weird for mass, mainstream USA acceptance. Which is a bit of a pity, as the album is quite fun. I am convinced that The Darkness must have heard this LP at one point.

Russia - 03 - Gotta Get Away
Russia - 03 - Gott...
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progbear: Weenies from Spongebob (weenies)

The story goes: ABBA were in the studio recording the follow-up to 1982’s The Visitors, tentatively (and ironically) called You Owe Me One. But Frida’s promotion of her Something’s Going On album and Benny and Björn’s involvement in the Chess project—coupled with the fact that everyone was sick of looking at each other—stalled the project. Two singles were released (“The Day Before You Came” and “Under Attack”) from the sessions* and that was pretty much all anyone ever heard of the project.

The song “Just Like That” was subsequently inherited by the duo of Karin and Anders Glenmark, collectively known as Gemini, who released it as a single in 1985. ABBA’s version can only be heard in its entirety on bootlegs, though a tantalizing snippet of it appeared on “ABBA Undeleted” from the Thank You box set.

This tune is belatedly dedicated to [ profile] hantsbear. Too bad I couldn’t have made it in time for your birthday. Perhaps it can commemorate your move.

Gemini - Just Like That
Gemini - Just Like...
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*“You Owe Me One” and “I Am The City” later turned up on posthumously-released CD compilations.
progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)

Winners of the Winter 2007 edition of the Progbear Melodi Grand Prix, Dagmar, Peter and Anthony here offer the reprise edition of their winning song with a new arrangement incorporating the violin of Graham Preskett. You can compare and contrast with the original, stripped-down recording found here.

Slapp Happy - 01 - Casablanca Moon (re-recorded)
Slapp Happy - 01 -...
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progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)

Something of a supergroup, featuring super-guitarist Miller Anderson and drummer Keef Hartley from Hartley’s group and bass player Paul Bliss, later of Steely Dan-wannabees the Bliss Band. The Dog Soldier album takes the bluesy Keef Hartley Group sound in a more “progressive” direction (whatever you take that to mean). And yes, they only made the one album.

I’ve become obsessed with the song “Several People” (second on the album) of late. The melody is to die for, plus I just love the Moog lines and that jangling, insistent 12-string rhythm guitar part. Why doesn’t anyone make music like this anymore?

Dog Soldier - Several People (96)
Dog Soldier - Seve...
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progbear: Major-General Progbear (Fat Teddy)
Consider this the Progbear Melodi Grand Prix intermission show:

Early on in my “exploring prog beyond the Big 5 bands” days, I came across this album by the Italian group Banco, whose full name is Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. Gosh, I can’t imagine why the album caught my eye! Anyway, the album turned out to become an absolute favourite of mine, due to the combination of the dueling keyboards from the Nocenzi brothers (analog synthesizer bliss!) and the demi-operatic vocals of singer Francesco di Giacomo (pictured).

This 1975 album, simply entitled Banco, was their only American release. It came out on ELP’s Manticore label, and consisted largely of remixes/re-recordings of songs from their previous three Italian albums with new English lyrics (courtesy of the questionable Marva Jan Marrow). There are, however, two new tracks on the album. The first is “Chorale”—essentially a prelude-ized re-arrangement of the instrumental “Traccia II” (which concluded their previous album, Io Sonno Nato Libero, and also appears at the end of this one). The other one is “L’Albero del Pane” (The Bread Tree), and Italian-language track that appears nowhere else. Since this particular album has only been fitfully available on CD, I’ve included this “rarity”* here.

*it’s only a “rarity” for those who don’t collect vinyl. The record album is quite easy to find!

Banco del Mutuo Soccorso - 2 - L'Albero del Pane
Banco del Mutuo So...
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EDIT: fixed image
progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)
It’s baaa-ack!

The Progbear Melodi Grand Prix comes to Tokyo, Japan! The theme this year: Voices of Women. Ten tunes featuring female artists or female fronted bands are presented. Artists representing North America, Europe and Asia are featured. Draw order courtesy of

Six of the seven jurors from last year are present and accounted for. I’ve still not heard from the no-longer-on-LJ [ profile] paddbear, so a backup juror may take part if I don’t hear from him. (I like to have an odd number of jurors, it lessens the eventuality of a tie score.) Let me know if you want to be that juror. You can not be submitting a tune to Ursavision if you intend to be a juror. Due date for all votes: March 11th, 11:59 PM GMT. Please try to have your votes well in advance of that! And e-mail your votes, DON’T post them here!

EDIT: Found the back-up juror. Swiss resident [ profile] zurcherart graciously volunteered, making it a grand total of three Europeans and four Americans this time!

All the songs can be streamed/downloaded here. More info on specific songs (as well as links to each individually) can be found behind the cut )
progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)
Song of the Week deliberately postponed for a special SOTW event to be announced later. Watch this space...
progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)

A rather interesting story behind this album. There really is no band called Zoldar & Clark. This album (as well as another one credited to Arden House) actually consists of recordings by the American psychedelic-turned-progressive band Jasper Wrath (who had a borderline hit with the 1971 single “Look To The Sunrise”), released by the tax-scam record label Dellwood without the band’s consent or knowledge. The Z&C tracks were recorded circa 1976, by which time the Yes-style prog-rock metamorphosis was complete. It tends to be a bit on the song-oriented side, but will certainly appeal to many—prog-rockers due to the preponderance of high-flying 70’s analog keys (Moog, Mellotron) and quirky meters, others due to the chiming vocal harmonies and shimmering melodicism. Imagine a place where Yes and the Beach Boys meet, and you’re beginning to get the idea.

Regrettably, neither the Arden House nor the Zoldar & Clark albums have made it to CD* in their entirety, but selected tracks from both appeared on Jasper Wrath’s 1996 two-CD anthology.

*at least not officially, there’s a Japanese pirate edition of the Z&C album

Zoldar & Clark - 1 - Touch The Sky
Zoldar & Clark - 1...
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For many years in the Soviet Union, Песняры (Pesniary) was as close as the mainstream media would come to “rock & roll.” They were a large electrified folk group from Minsk, and while some of their stuff compared favourably to British folk-rockers like Fairport Convention, most of it was wimpified balladic stuff that would have “real” rockers laughing them off the stage.

This tune (“Я всё тот же” in Cyrillic script) is from their 1983 live album Зачарованная моя (Zacharovannaya moya), which Melodia translates as “The Enchanted One.” I really regret that I somehow seem to have misplaced my vinyl (double!) LP of this, as the inner gatefold portrait of de-facto leader Vladimir Mulyavin (front-left in the above photo) in a bad toupée is priceless!

Pesniary - 15 - Ya vse tot zhe
Pesniary - 15 - Ya...
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progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)

Roughly the Dutch equivalent of the (pre-disco) Bee Gees, the Cats were a folk-tinged soft-rock group with close-form harmony vocals and tunes inspired by the lighter aspects of the Beatles’ sound (note the early-ish single, “Magical Mystery Morning”). They tried (and failed) to crack the American market twice: first in 1970 (with the album 45 Lives) and again in 1974 (with the album Love in Your Eyes). The latter attempt was accompanied by a Cat Stevens-esque single: “Time Machine,” which flopped in the States. Meanwhile, Dutch deejays gravitated towards its more “schlager-y” B-side: “Maribaja.”

Now, “Maribaja” doesn’t sound so terribly different from other Nederpop tunes hitting the American charts at the time (e.g.: “Ma Belle Amie” or “Little Green Bag”), but I can’t really see the tune as having American appeal, mainly on account of the very quirky “Dutch-ness” of the lyrics. Note that they use “Himalaya” as a rhyme for the title.

The Cats - Maribaja
The Cats - Maribaj...
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progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)
SotW arrives, a day late and a dollar short, but still thriving.

Airlord hail from Wellington, New Zealand. They were one of a number of Kiwi bands that crossed the Tasman to record and try their luck in a bigger market. They were also one of the less fortunate ones, in that they never managed to follow this album up. To be perfectly fair, they came up a little short in comparison with top-flight Australian proggers of the day like Aleph and Sebastian Hardie, though they were by no means bad. Heavily dependent on Genesis as a source of inspiration, but neither Aleph nor Sebastian Hardie were exactly paragons of originality, either.

Like many Australian/New Zealander prog albums, there’s sort of a grungy, low-fi air to proceedings here. The most outstanding and, well, crazy track here is the album’s title track: “Clockwork Revenge” itself. Firstly, the lyrics tell of the residents of a toy store exacting revenge on their cruel mistress (an old lady). Secondly, Raymond Simenauer’s vocals go well into the red, histrionically speaking, proceeding well beyond Peter Gabriel in the dramatics right into Pavlov's Dog territory. The balance of the album is considerably more sedate than this.

As usual, you may wish to wait a few hours after I post this before attempting to download. And again, I apologize for the heavy recompression (64 kbps in this case).

Airlord - 1 - Clockwork Revenge
Airlord - 1 - Cloc...
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progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)

Cheryl Dilcher was/is a singer-songwriter from the Allentown, PA area, who made four albums back in the 70’s. Unfortunately for her, her most famous moment was second-hand; a backing vocalist who appeared on her debut album (1970’s Special Songs) happened to be a young, pre-fame Bette Midler. She never really made it big, despite some help some from pretty famous hands (1977’s Blue Sailor features musical support from Al Kooper and the late, great Lowell George). Unfortunately, again, acclaim only came after the fact (check out enthusiastic reviews for Butterfly and Magic over on rateyourmusic). Due to erratic musical style (her albums have contained everything from folk to hard rock to ballads to disco, and everything in between) and a curious schoolmarm-ish voice, she seems destined only for a cultish following.

Here, I’ve included the title track to 1977’s Blue Sailor, clearly the outstanding moment of the album.

Cheryl Dilcher - 6 - Blue Sailor
Cheryl Dilcher - 6...
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progbear: Major-General Progbear (Default)

Some years ago, [ profile] bigjohnsf brought me along with him to a screening of Rosa von Praunheim’s latest film: Tunten lügen nicht. Several minutes in, the four titular drag queens are dancing around on stage, lip-syncing to the most ridiculous German schlager take-off of “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” about a “flower power dress.” It’s at this point that John leans over to me and whispers, “I have to have that!”

That evening, I do a bit of research. Turns out, the tune is actually by a Norwegian singer, Wenche Myhre (whose name is spelled “Wencke” in Germany), who was quite popular in Germany in the 60’s and 70’s. The full title of this ludicrous number, as seen in the above photo, is “Sie trägt ein Ding-Dong Bama-Lama Sing-Song Teeny-Weeny Flower-Power-Kleid.” The impishly cute Nordic brunette Wenche—who rather looks like a cross between Loretta Lynn and a wood sprite—recorded versions of this tune in English, Swedish, Danish and of course her native Norwegian.

A word of warning: if you thought “Bananaphone” was a horrific earworm, wait till you hear this!

Wencke Myhre - Flower-Power-Kleid
Wencke Myhre - Flo...
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