Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Day After The Sabbath 99: Isolation Waltz (violins)

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Welcome to The Day After The Sabbath volume 99, approaching the full century! This episode brings you heavy rock and prog that uses violins. Hearing that, some of you may be thinking of making a quick exit, expecting a lot of country and folk. While there is some classical and folk influence here, I have looked also for tracks where the riffs are rock-styled, but played on violins. Showing the international appeal of the instrument, this set includes a wide spread of nationalities, including the UK, The US, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and even Argentina.

What has the violin brought to rock music? It is certainly an instrument famed for conveying emotion, especially those of a maudlin or introspective nature. Conversely, one of the stirring qualities of violins is how they can promote speed and vitality. A versatile instrument indeed, with many available techniques like picking, bowing and strumming. Some violin runs are played so fast that they can compare easily to the most technical parts in progressive rock, or even the fastest of technical and thrash metal. Let's get fiddlin!

01. Saint-Preux - Le Gouffre Amer (1972)
       from album 'le piano sous la mer'
02. Sinto - Things I See (1972)
       from album 'right on brother'
03. Darryl Way's Wolf - Isolation Waltz (1973)
       from album 'canis lupus'
04. Asgærd - In The Realm Of Asgard (1972)
       from album 'in the realm of asgaerd'
05. It's a Beautiful Day - Creed Of Love (1971)
       from album 'choice quality stuff / anytime'
06. Esperanto - The Duel (1974)
       from album 'danse macabre'
07. Ñu - Profecia (1978)
       from album 'cuentos de ayer y de hoy'
08. Jud's Gallery - Catch The Fly (1972)
       from album 'swf-sessions volume 1'
09. Joe Soap - Get Out From Under (1973)
       from album 'keep it clean'
10. Zoo - Four Strings (Single version) (1972)
       from album 'i shall be free'
11. Raymond Vincent - Do It Now While You Can (1972)
       from album 'metronomics'
12. Miguel Cantilo y Grupo Sur - La Leyenda del Retorno (1975)
       from album 'miguel cantilo y grupo sur'
13. String Driven Thing - Heartfeeder (1973)
       from album 'the machine that cried'


le piano sous la mer'
Saint-Preux - 'le piano sous la mer'
The comp begins with an instrumental from the second Saint-Preux album. Saint-Preux (real name Christian Langlade - born 1950) is a composer of contemporary classical music and on his 1972 album he invited some guest musicians who added a hint of rock. On three of the tracks Claude Engel, who was in between stints of playing with Zeuhl legends Magma, played some great heavy guitar, and on Le Gouffre Amer (trans: “The Bitter Chasm”) it was accompanied by the violins of Michel Guyot and Patrice Mondon.

Sinto - Right On Brother LP

We move on to Sinto. They were a German (München) fusion band fronted by jazz violinist Hannes Beckmann that started in 1971. They included members of krautrockers The Rattles (see Vol49), Embryo and Between. With a diverse mix of ethnicities in the band, German to African to Cuban members that Hannes met while playing in a Brazilian ballet orchestra, they made fast music with the violin taking a leading role in the riffs. “Things I See” is a great example with it’s violin shredding right up front.

Darryl Way
Violinist Darryl Way was a founding member of UK prog band Curved Air. His post-CA band “Darryl Way's Wolf” included drummer Ian Mosley who was later a member of UK 'neo prog' band Marillion, and guitarist John Etheridge who went on to join Soft Machine. Wolf made three albums of accessible prog, all lead by Way's considerable fiddling skills, and in the later '70s he made contributions on Jethro Tull's "Heavy Horses" and Gong's "Expresso II". Darryl has continued to make solo albums and his most recent was last year. This compilation's namesake, "Isolation Waltz", is noteworthy as Darryl plays a viola, which is larger than a violin and has a deeper sound. The constantly descending riff stomps it's way along to a heavy ending.

Asgaerd were one of the first bands to be signed by the Moody Blues' label Threshold. The "Asgard" of ancient North European mythology means 'castle of the gods'. The band consisted of guitarist/vocalist Rod Harrison (ex-Please and Bulldog Breed - see Vol74), vocalist James Smith and drummer Ian Snow (who were both in the excellent 'Stonehouse' - Vol29), vocalist Ted Bartlett, bassist Dave Cook and violinist Peter Orgil. One of Rod Harrison's songs, "Austin Osman Spare'', was actually recorded separately by Bulldog Breed and Asgaerd.

In The Realm of Asgærd LP (1972)
They released a 45 in 1972 containing 4 tracks, and then a year later Threshold produced their one and only LP, entitled "In the Realm of Asgaerd", which has been likened to the early sounds of US bands Kansas and Styx. The track I have selected, "In The Realm of Asgard", is an epic tale of Thor and Asgard, and the music matches this grandueur with a powerfully-orchestrated, sweeping progressive rock ballad.

It's a Beautiful Day
It's a Beautiful Day - David LaFlamme (L)
David LaFlamme was the violinist in It's a beautiful Day. Since then he's has a sideline career as a character actor "the Annoying Fiddler", appearing in Frazier, Ellen and Wings, among other shows, as the strolling musician who stands right at your table in a restaurant, sawing away on his violin. David grew up to be a soloist for the Utah Symphony.  After serving in the army he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and became an icon in the underground scene performing with people like Jerry Garcia and Janis Joplin. After his short-lived Electric Chamber Orkustra, he joined It's a Beautiful Day in 1967. The their biggest hit was "White Bird" from the 1969 debut LP.

While being a very commercial sounding band, they rocked now and again, the best example being some tunes on side one of their third album called 'Choice Quality Stuff / Anytime". This is where "Creed Of Love" is taken from, David LeFlamme's roaring distorted violin sounds great over the funky riffs of guitarist Billy Gregory and the rest of the band.

Esperanto was the band that followed on from the earlier solo efforts of violinist Raymond Vincent, who's background will be filled in later when his track appears. His band Esperanto was a unique and complex symphonic prog band but that description does not do them service as they don't really sound like anything else I know. Their music is accessible but displays great technicality, with strings always at the forefront and musicianship to compare to any of the progressive greats of the '70s, as "The Duel" deftly shows. The track effortlessly turns on a dime from totally manic layered strings to enigmatic interludes with the ethereal backing vocals of Brigette Du Doit. The full-frontal violin attack is performed by no less than three fiddlers, with Tony Harris and Godfrey Salmon backing up Raymond Vincent.

Cuentos de ayer y de hoy
Cuentos de ayer y de hoy LP
Ñu started in Madrid in 1974, and had an adventurous outlook, incorporating flute, violin and folk influences into hard rock that had a hint of Sabbath heaviness too. On the first album, 1978's "Cuentos de ayer y de hoy"  (Trans: "Stories of Yesterday and Today"), from which I have used the opener 'Profecia', the violinist credited is Frenchman Jean François André. He is also credited on the second Ñu LP, after which it seems he left the band. Unfortunately he died in 2002.

Carlos Molina José
Carlos Molina José
The band still performs but with just one founding member, singer/flute player Carlos Molina José. In their early years the band's progress was stifled by label problems and other difficulties of maintaining a rock band in Spain at the time. I used an earlier Ñu single on the first Spanish comp (Vol39) and since then have discovered that the original guitarist Rosendo Mercado was annoyed to find he'd been replaced after returning to the band from military service in 1977, so he quit and formed Leño, another great Spanish band that I used on Vol39.

Ñu - Jean François André
The track 'Profecia' is a stunner, sounding like Tull and Sabbath on stage together. Alas, by all accounts, Ñu did not make another album like this and although becoming technically better they lost the heaviness on record and became a vehicle for Carlos Molina José. For their recent re-appearances however, their image seems to be cashing in on the huge heavy metal market that now exists.

Jud's Gallery
Jud's Gallery
We pass the halfway mark now and move on to some krautrock. Jud's Gallery came from Offenburg near Strasbourg. They formed in 1971 as a vehicle for singer/bassist Jürgen "Judy" Winter, with a revolving door line-up. During their three plus year history only one other member, guitarist Peter Oehler, was constant. The only music available is an archival release from Longhair records, which collects sessions that were recorded at Southwest German SWF Radio (now SWR) in Baden-Baden, 1972.

An interesting side story regarding this band is that Jurgen Winter successfully sued Gary Moore for plagiarism, accusing him of copying the guitar solo from their "Nordrach" track and using it on his 1990 hit "Still Got The Blues". The justification for this claim was that Gary's roadie, live-mixer and good friend at the time William Hindmarsh, did work with Jud's back on live shows in the seventies.

The Jud's Gallery violinist was Hannes Greminger, he was also in a band called Open Voice which made an album in 1984. On 'Catch The Fly' he does an amazing job of creating all kinds of spacey sounds over the band's hard krautrock, with different techniques like picking, this tune is a real trip.

John Tennent and David Morrison
Tennent & Morrison
Joe Soap
On to some more conventional rocking with a Stonesy number from Joe Soap. This band was a project of singer/guitarists John Tennent and David Morrison, who had released an album the year before as the duo 'Tennent & Morrison', which included a lot of musicians from Stone the Crows. Along for the ride came guitarist Jimmy McCulloch (Thunderclap Newman, Stone The Crows, Wings), violinist Mik Kaminski (ELO), drummer Gerry Conway (Jethro Tull, Fairport Convention, The Pentangle) and Jeff Pearce on bass.

The folk influences from some of this impressive lineup come through, but mostly the album is upbeat, fun and immediately likable rock, and rock it does in many places. Mik Kaminski's violin is not mainly at the forefront, but grooves away in perfect unison with McCulloch's cocky riffs to make it impossible to sit still listening to tracks like "Come Out From Under", which integrates the violin in a similar way to East of Eden on tracks like "Northern Hemisphere" (See Vol74).

Zoo - Hard Times, Good Times
single (1972)
Zoo was a quirky band that had elements of psych, soul, prog and jazz but is not easy to describe, having a unique sound over all. They mixed violins and a brass section in with some-times hard rock, but at all times there was a sense of fun and unpredictability. Original vocalist Joël Daydé ('68-'70) had left to start a solo career by the time of the album from which I have taken the instrumental here, "Four Strings". By now they had taken on English singer Ian Bellamy, to compete in a scene where they were sharing stages with the likes of Pink Floyd and The Nice. The violinists on Four Strings were Daniel Carlet and Michel Ripoche, and they battle it out over some heavy prog-jazz from the rest of the band.

By 1975, due to a lack of the success they had worked for, Zoo had been finished for a while. Brothers André Hervé (keyboards) and Michel Hervé (bass) started Z.O.U. with two further brothers Joel Hervé, Stephan Hervé, along with singer Maria Popkiewicz. After this André, Michel and Maria all had a spell in the afore-mentioned Magma.

Raymond Vincent
Raymond Vincent
The Belgian violinist Raymond Vincent appears twice in this volume, firstly as part of Esperanto, and here with a track from his solo album 'Metronomics'. Before both these efforts he was in the London-based Belgian pop troup "Wallace Collection". After WC split he played for a short period with Dany Lademacher and Roger Wollaert (who had both left Kleptomania), then with Waterloo's Dirk Bogaert. See the Belgian Vol61 to hear all three of these bands.

Metronomics LP
Metronomics was to signal the sound that he and keys man Bruno Libert would take further with Esperanto. Unusually, Metronomics was funded by, and used to promote, an alcoholic drink called Izarra, which is a popular sweet liqueur in French Basque Country and elsewhere in Europe. Metronomics is generally upbeat, and often likened to the Cantebury prog sound. "Do It Now While You Can" has lots of frantic fiddling, which is put through various effects and sounds really cool.

Miguel Cantilo y Grupo Sur
Nearing the end now and the penultimate track is from an album called “Miguel Cantilo y Grupo Sur” (trans: Miguel Cantilo and South Group). The first thing that struck me about it was the mesmerising psychedelic cover art. Something with a cover like that, from Argentina in 1975, was bound to be at least interesting. I wasn't disappointed, and I was surprised that the album doesn't seem to be one of the more talked-about from Argentina, a country with a great reputation for kick-ass ‘70s rock.

Miguel Cantilo
Miguel Cantilo & ‘El Bolsón’
Band leader Miguel Cantilo had been around since the ‘60s, starting out in a pop duo called “Pedro y Pablo” and continues to make music to this day. In 1975 he released the album that he was unable to realise while in the duo, making bombastic rock that he says was influenced by Led Zep and Deep Purple. As the LP’s inner sleeve pictures show, Miguel was involved with a Patagonian hippie commune called ‘El Bolsón’ at the time, and there are also lots of communally-sung folk tunes that seem to fit the imagery. In reality, only the last three tracks really rock out, but they are great! The track I have chosen, “La Leyenda Del Retorno” is one of those. It begins in rip-roaring fashion with the violin-lead riff right up front, starting as it means to go on and it does indeed have the bravado of an immediate Deep Purple track like Speed King. It reminds me strongly of another album from Argentina, "Miguel Abuelo & Nada", which I used a track from on the Latin Vol43. The Argentinian violinist was Jorge Pinchevsky. Just after this he would join Gong (there's that name again) during their Shamal LP era.

String Driven Thing
String Driven Thing - Heartfeeder LP inside
String Driven Thing is a well-known folk rock band, possibly a little too much so for TDATS, but this tune is perfect as a closer for the set. It is a dark, emotional and powerful track. The reason for this is said to be that it was written by leader Chris Adams while he was in hospital, recuperating from surgery for a collapsed lung, during which he says he was conscious while the surgeon was drilling into his breast plate.

The violinist of String Driven Thing is Graham Smith, who was also in a brief incarnation of Van der Graaf Generator simply called ‘Van der Graaf’, and contributed on the UK folk-prog Greenslade album “Spyglass Guest”.

Taken from the band’s third album, our closing track is called ‘Heartfeeder’, and that was what Chris intended the name for the album to be too. It is a harrowing track, that uses the skills of Graham Smith to beautiful, emotional effect with the ever-longing pathos of the violin. Unfortunately the record label were not happy with the disturbing direction that the music had taken compared to previous work, and the LP's title was changed to “The Machine That Cried”. They also insisted that the longer track's play times were edited down. There is an interview with Chris Adams and Graham Smith here at psychedelic baby webzine: http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/string-driven-thing-interview.html

Thanks for listening! Rich

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  1. And again have you succeeded in finding obscure tracks which I listened to in the past and are still in my vinylcollection , like this time St Preux. The first violins in rockmusic for me were (although not that obscure): "Tired of Waiting" by the Flock and the first two albums by Family with Rick Grech (before joining Bind Faith) on bass and violin. Keep up the good work, Rich !

  2. Thanks mate! It's my first visit to your blog and it looks very good!

  3. this is amazing ! thanks for sharing : )

  4. Gareth Ki CotterellAugust 5, 2015 at 9:12 AM

    The Flock with Jerry Goodman who later turned out for the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
    Henry Lowther played a bit for Keef Hartley.Don"Sugar Cane" Harris with Zappa,Mayall and solo.Jean-Luc Ponty with various.Didier Lockwood with Gong.