Friday, May 3, 2013

The Day After The Sabbath 87: Do I look High? (space rock mix)

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What is ‘Space Rock’? Well, for a start it's a ubiquitous and incautiously-used genre tag. Some people say it's a meaningless term and I can see their point. It's been said that some of Pink Floyd's earliest explorations were space rock, though Floyd themselves don't agree, but there’s been experimentalists making eerie electronic outer space and science-influenced music since the 50's and even earlier. Is ‘space rock’ music with lyrics about space travel? Is it music with cheesy sci-fi outer-space sound effects? (‘Outer-space sound effects’ being something of an oxymoron considering there is no sound in space). Is it just 60s/70s rock that uses a lot of the early electronic synth effects, which nicely complement ‘altered’ mind states?

If ├┤awkVVind were the epitome of the sound then it's all about drug-fueled science fiction-themed proto punk. More interestingly, did it originate from imaginative minds of musicians in response to the optimism of the new space age in the 50s and 60s; the soundtrack to the moon landings? Conversely, maybe it’s the reaction to the same period’s development of weapons powerful enough to wipe out life on our home planet. Well, I guess the beauty of it is it can be all or any of these things. Roger Waters said that Syd Barrett's vaguely spacey lyrics are really just a metaphor for our inner space, but I like to think it comes from yearning notions that there’s something great, hopefully better, out there.

Volume 87 of TDATS is another departure from the norm. I had some help way back on the previous Spanish comp #39 from a fellow blogger called Mara Bunta, who lives in Spain and helped out with some very cool picks for that one. Other than her own blog, she specialises in collaborative mixes created with other bloggers/music fans, and makes them available on Mixcloud.

01. UFO - Flying (1973)
       from album 'UFO 2: Flying (One Hour Space Rock)'
02. A.R. & Machines - Station 1: Globus (1971)
       from album 'die grüne reise - the green journey'
03. Omega - Tízezer Lépés (1969)
       from album '10000 lépés'
04. Barry Gray - Death's Other Dominion (1975)
       from album 'space: 1999 [original television soundtrack]'
05. Eagle Fart - Ruler of the Cosmos (1971)
       from album 'looking for the void'
06. Philippe Besombes - Boogimmick (1975)
       from album 'libra (un film du groupe pattern)'
07. Gong - Fohat Digs Holes in Space (1971)
       from album 'Camembert Electrique'
08. The Sun Lightning Incorporated - Quasar 45 (1969)
09. Montrose - Space Station #5 (1973)
       from album 'montrose'
10. Älgarnas Trädgård - Takeoff (1974)
       from album 'delayed'
11. Dies Irae - Trip (1971)
       from album 'first'
12. The Mec Op Singers - Stop the Machine (1969)
13. The Galaxies IV - Don't Lose Your Mind (1967)
14. Lightshine - Nightmare (1976)
       from album 'feeling'


Mara suggested making a collaboration with TDATS, so I offered a few tracks I had been saving up for a Space Rock comp I was planning, and Mara completed it with a few of her own picks. TDATS 87 is the result, and what makes it really special is the amazing job she has done on mixing it together, with a few wise words from the Scientific Sage & Sentinal of Space himself, Carl Sagan. Carl of course being the famous cosmologist, author and science popularizer.

So we kick off with track 1....Before UFO became a huge stadium rock act of the mid 70s and 80s, they started out with a different sound. Our first track is an edit of the closer from their second album, 1971’s 'UFO 2: Flying (One Hour Space Rock)', which is 27 minutes long on record. Back then the band had guitarist Mick Bolton, who would soon be replaced by Michael Schenker, fresh out of The Scorpions. At this time they were aiming for the stars with their own interpretation of Space Rock, which took the form of (often long) bluesy hard rock songs with some spacey sound effects and fantastical lyrics about princes from other planets.

A.R. & Machines was started in 1971 by Achim (A.R.) Reichel, who was a founding member/front man of popular German beat group The Rattles (see Vol49), and also an actor. Many of his records, including previous project 'Wonderland ', were in collaboration with drummer Frank Dostal who was also in The Rattles. Later on Frank became a lyric writer and had success with pop disco hits like 'Yes Sir, I Can Boogie'. After A.R.& Machines dissolved, Achim continued to produce solo records and still does now. The Machines albums are ones for fans of experimental krautrock like Neu!, Tangerine Dream and Can, and the track I used here 'Station 1: Globus' uses a lot trippy delay effects, reminiscent of Floyd's 'One Of These Days'.

Budapest, Hungary’s Omega have appeared on the blog before, back on Vols 2, 22 and 41. They have been around since the early 60s, had good success in Europe and made a wide range of sounds through the years from psych, to hard rock, to glammy theatrical prog. These styles met somewhere in the middle on the 1976 album ‘Time Robber’ which I liked enough to buy on vinyl a while back and here for track 3 is one of Mara’s picks; ‘Tízezer Lépés’ from their 1969 album “10000 lépés” (trans:”10000 Steps”). On this record they were in proto-prog mode and Tízezer Lépés is a cool track with a dreamy keyboard/brass backing and wicked lead guitar. Omega shared at least two members with one of the other well-regarded Hungarian bands, Locamotive GT (Vol41); Tamás Somló (sax, vox) and József Laux (drums).

For track 4, we have a bit of incidental music from a TV show that has nostalgic memories for me, called 'Space 1999'. It was just about still getting re-runs on TV here in the UK when I was a kid, along with other questionable TV scfi 'classics' like the original Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers, for an impressionable youngster they were as close to a serialised Star Wars as could be hoped for. In Space 1999, the moon gets accidentally blasted out of earth's orbit, taking its inhabitants on un-told adventures across the galaxy. During recent searches for movie and TV theme music, I came across this Barry Gray composition, a guy who created this and music for many other Gerry Anderson productions through the years, like Stingray, Thunderbirds and 'Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons'. Barry was fascinated by the Ondes Martenot, which was an early form of electronic instrument with a similar sound to the Theremin. He used it to create his strange sci-fi noises, I wonder if that's the sound that appears at the end of 'Death's Other Dominion'?

Track 5 will be our mystery entrant here, but I’m sure it will not take you long to figure out who it is…

And on to track 6 with Philippe Besombes, a French electronic pioneer who worked on collaborations like Pôle,'Besombes - Rizet', Hydravion and his own albums. While he was a chemistry PHD student, he ‘borrowed’ electrical equipment from the physics lab to use in his experiments in making strange sounds. Later his efforts lead to involvements with orchestral/electronic pioneers like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis and Jean Michel Jarre. The first record released under his name was a collection of incidental music he and a group of talented session musicians made for an obscure sci-fi movie called Libra, from which I have included the track 'Boogimmick' here. The record is a mixture of space rock, free jazz, pop and avant-garde electronica and has recently been rediscovered and re-appraised as a minor classic of its (very unusual) kind. Julian Cope has written a devoted review with lots of great facts here. Julian reviewed another of Besombes’ albums here. Boogimmick is one of the more conventional tracks on the record, the first few seconds of riffing comes on like the best song that ├┤awkVVind never wrote, then it devolves into a blues jam with a load of widdly spacey noises. Going off on tangent here, while researching Philippe Besombes, I became newly-acquainted with the ‘Nurse With Wound list’ in which Besombes is included. It’s a list of obscure artists compiled by Steven Stapleton’s experimental noise band ‘Nurse With Wound’ and printed in the cover of their debut 1979 album ‘Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella’. The list has become renowned as something of a must-listen guide for record collectors and includes many acts that I have used over the time of TDATS; like Art Zoyd, Blue Effect, Comus, and Nine Days Wonder to name just a few.

Gong's story go back to 1968 when it was started by Daevid Allen, a founding member of influential UK proto-proggers The Soft Machine. Soft Machine were returning from a trip to France where they had ingratiated themselves with the Parisian underground scene, but Allen wasn't allowed to re-enter the UK after border control noticed that, as an Australian national, he had previously over-stayed on his visa. He returned to Paris and started a new band called Gong with his wife Gilli Smyth, the two of them remain the core of the band to this day, while Soft Machine continued without him. Gong have been an omnipresent entity ever since and have played at many international festivals including the second ever Glastonbury in 1971. Over 40 names have passed through it's ranks and the multiple Gong splinter bands, including Bill Bruford (King Krimson, Yes), Steve Hillage (Kahn, Mike Oldfield, System 7) and Tim Blake (├┤awkVVind). The track included here, one of Mara's picks, is 'Fohat Digs Holes in Space' from the 1972 album 'Camembert Electrique'. It's very easy to hear on this track why Gong are counted amongst the space rock originators; it begins like a scene from an alien invasion movie and quickly morphs into beautiful echoes of space sirens tempting us into the black hole. It's the kind of song where anything can happen, and when it does it makes perfect sense.

The Sangralads meet President Nixon
The Sun Lightning Incorporated started out as 'The Sangralads', who took their name from the Sangralea Valley Home For Boys in Indiana. In the band’s early years various kids who stayed in the home for wayward kids passed though it's ranks, and the only constant member, Phil Armstrong, has written an account of the band's life here. They got as far as recording a couple of singles, of which 'Mary's Kidd' was a minor hit in Southern Michigan, 1969. The final line-up was: Phil Armstrong (keyboards/vocals); Rocky Lillard (guitar/vocals); Bill Thompson (drums/vocals) and Mike Sisson (bass/vocals). This lineup recorded the track I have used here, 'Quasar 45' which was their second single. Of the four songs they recorded, it's the only one with space rock idealisms, which are nicely described by Whap Records on the back of the 45's jacket:- "Since The beginning of time man has looked into the heavens and dreamed about space. The size of space, the shape of space, the sounds of space. On July 20, 1969, Neil A. Armstrong stepped onto the moon and the United States Apollo program heralded the beginning of man's history in space. Great events in history have oft times inspired the composers of song and verse. A 21 year old musician also an Armstrong (Phillip R.) was so inspired on this occasion. QUASAR 45 is a song with the sounds of space both real and imagined. Listen carefully and you will hear the roar of a rocket launched, the monotonous din of radio signals from afar, the haunting and beautiful bass runs signifying the endless eternity of space itself. All is resolved in the finale by the faint sound of strange voices suggesting ones presence on some faraway planet. QUASAR 45, written in the Rock & Roll idiom is like two minutes and 37 seconds of modern opera. If you're with this generation you'll dig the way out and beautiful sounds of QUASAR 45."

Ronnie Montrose started out as a successful session guitarist. He was also member of the Edgar Winter Group. He played on their classic single Frankenstein, on the hit 1972 LP ‘They Only Come Out at Night’. Ronnie started up his own act ‘Ronnie Montrose and Friends’ after leaving Edgar Winter, recruiting fellow San Franciscans Sammy Hagar (then known as Sam, later of Van Halen) on lead vocals and Denny Carmassi (drums). Also invited was bassist Bill Church, who Ronnie knew since they had both sessioned with notable names like Van Morrison & Herbie Hancock. The debut s/t Montrose album kicks off with three super strong songs; Rock the Nation, Bad Motor Scooter and the hard-driving 'Space Station #5' (included here). I also previously used 'I Got The Fire' on Vol4.

Älgarnas Trädgård formed in Sweden's second largest city, Göteborg (Eng:'Gothenburg'), in 1969. The six-piece's classic 1972 album 'Framtiden ar ett Svavande Skepp, Forankrat I Forntiden' is regarded to be as good as anything from krautrock at the time and melds ethnic/archaic folk instrumentation with trance-inducing psychedelic space rock. The track I have used here is from a pothumously released collection of 1973-4 material, called 'Delayed'. Älgarnas Trädgård are another band found on the Nurse With Wound list, and members such as Sebastian Öberg were in many other well-regarded Swedish bands like Fläsket Brinner. The other members of the band were, at various times, Andreas Brandt (violin), Mikael Johansson (bass), Dennis Lundh (drums), Dan Söderqvist (guitar),  Jan Ternald (keyboards), Ulf Mårtensson (drums, 1971), Christer Öhman (drums, guitar, 1973-74), Kjell Karlgren (saxophone, 1976) and Sverre Götberg (drums, 1976).

I must thank Ian Gledhill over at Prog Archives for the following bio on Dies Irae: "Playing locally in and around clubs in southern Germany, Switzerland and France since 1968 Dies Irae, consisting of Rainer Wahlman, lead vocals/harmonica, Harald Thoma, guitars/vocals, Joachim Shiff, bass and Andreas Cornelius on drums were finally discovered by the now long defunct Hamburg record label PILZ in early 1971. They were a progressive psychedelic/blues freak band with a darker side from Saarbrucken, Germany who released just one LP and one single as well as appearing on the PILZ sampler, Heavy Christmas, in 1971 before splitting up in 1972 as a result of musical differences to form two offshoot bands, Lucy Gang and Green Wave.

Not to be confused by several metal bands which have used the name Dies Irae which literally translates to Day Of Wrath which is the title of a Latin hymn which refers to the day of judgment before the throne of God where the saved are delivered from evil and the unsaved are cast into the eternal flames, the original Dies Irae has been often compared to Black Sabbath's early sound on their LP "First" for PILZ because of a guitar/harmonica heavy blues sound with lyrical references to the occult although the vocals were far more trippier and out there. Extended psychedelic electronic collages and free form jams were also included on the sole album. 

Despite recording just one single album the band created some waves in the summer of 1971 when most German radio stations refused to play anything off their album because of controversial LSD induced lyrics with sacrilegious connotations. A wacked out, off the deep end video of 'The Trip', filmed in 8mm was, however, aired on German TV and was enough to gain them limited underground status to this day. An attempt was made in the early 90s to reform the original band again and several live tracks appeared on a live CD, “Saarock Live", recorded at a local club in Saarbrucken called Le Garage which also featured several other bands. In 1993 the band was disbanded once again, this time slipping into Krautrock folklore forever, although their single album "First” remains in demand in CD form amongst fans of heavy prog".

Next up we have a double-whammy of fun 60s garage psych, the first is a 1969 a-side from Belgian band The Mec Op Singers. Coincidentally, the first song/EP they released was called Dies Irae (1966) like the previous band here, which is speculated to have been influenced by the Gregorian chant-like sounds of the 1965 Yard Birds track 'Still I'm Sad'. I found some history of the band here in Belgian, which does not translate that well but I can at least tell that their name is a contraction of 'Mechanical Optical Singers'. If anybody wants to know more, the rhythm guitarist Guy Bodart can be found on youtube and I have seen him commenting on a few of their tracks there. 'Stop The Machine' has suitably scifi lyrics and loads of cool scifi-effect sounds. The rest of the band was Francis Lacor, Jean-Pierre Allard and Alain Vigneron.

The next slice of 60s psych is a 1967 b-side 'Don't Lose Your Mind' from Trenton, New Jersey's 'The Galaxies IV'. I found an interview with the bands drummer Alan Fowler here in which he describes their popularity and how they were invited to play at New York's Worlds Fair in 1964 and 1965. It also describes the group's success in band battles and how New York leader and politician Robert Moses declared a 'Galaxies IV Day' in the summer of 1965. The track I used here 'Don't Lose Your Mind' is a belter, full of spacey echoes and widdles, along with a manic performance from singer/guitarist Chris Holmes. The rest of the band was T.J. Tindall on guitar, Charles Brodowicz on keyboards and Len Demski on bass. They changed their name to Alexander Rabbit and made one album in 1970 called 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame (The Bells Were My Friends)' before breaking up. Here is the epic proto-prog title track.

Formed in 1974 by four students, Lightshine originated from the town of Emmerich in the lower Rhein area. Slightly out of their time, negotiations with Sky and Vertigo came to nothing, they didn't fit in with the new smoother progressive sounds of the mid-70's, so eventually they decided to publish an album themselves. Unusually, Lightshine sounded very psychedelic for a band in 1976, their personalised brand of progressive rock was heavily inspired by British bands like Family and Genesis, along with touches of early Jane, Eloy, or Satin Whale, but with a touch of Teutonic eccentricity, their twist on Peter Gabriel type theatrics is highly original, and with complex arrangements and clever (sometimes very funny) songs, it all made for an enjoyable and inventive album. But, aside from getting enough interest to repress the album a year later, Lightshine never got above the ranks of support act to the likes of Hoelderlin or Scorpions. They disbanded in late 1977.

So it's goodbye from Carl, and goodbye from me, thanks for listening and happy travels! Rich

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  1. hi, i download some compilations from your side. i wanna say thank you for your work and the very good music ;-) do you know where i can find the hole underground electrics album in a good quality, i only have it in 128!?
    thank you, lg, m

    1. Hi, I don't have it right now, I recommend searching blogs or using the free program called 'Soulseek'. Cheers.

  2. Well done bud. I´m proud of you. We should try a 2nd one, sometime... :))

  3. Wow, what a blastoff into orbit! Thanks for the share. "Spaceman" form early JOURNEY (the Next LP) or "Mystery Mountain" form their self-titled debut would have been appropriate for this far out list!

  4. Rich, extraordinary job in all your research and work here. You should be getting paid to do this.

    I am on a quest and maybe you can help or create a comp in the near future for this. I am looking for songs with feel and vibe of, and in the vein of, "Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow" Strawberry Alarm Clock, "A Hundred Days And Nights" Masada, and more that I wanted to list for reference that I cannot now remember. But I think you know what I mean - that mellow, haunting, somewhat psych magic of obscure gems like these. Any ideas of some stuff I may not know of?

  5. excuse,where is the vol.34?

  6. Absolutely fantastic blog, I can't get enough. It's an endless treasure trove (sp?) of goodies. Thank you!

  7. amazing blog/repository of music. Thanks for all your hard work!

  8. I miss space rangers hete Eich
    Good compilation though

  9. Does the name Medicine Rain possibly ring a bell?