Makkiwhipdies – His Name Is NNNNNN (1996)

Makkiwhipdies_MyName4 out of 5 Stars!

This is a truly bizarre band with an equally bizarre name that I ran across nearly 20 years ago. Strange, strange, strange stuff, which often reminds me of Frank Zappa’s more eclectic releases…shades of the Mothers Of Invention’s Uncle Meat era. Truly odd and adventurous songs on their debut album (and, sadly, their only album), with snippets of disjointed weirdness seamlessly linked together within the songs (pure Zappa), but not too freaky that it can’t be enjoyed, but rather admired for its overall strangeness and creativity.

The longer tracks are broken up by shorter ones (several being under the two-minute mark), which serve as breaks or lead-ins to the longer pieces.

The title track, “His Name Is NNNNNN,” is twenty minutes of “pure freak,” as explained above in the opening paragraph when it comes to the disjointed Zappa-like weirdness and snippets.

Whereas “Always Merry And Bright,” a light and bouncy instrumental, could have easily appeared on a Jethro Tull album such as Heavy Horses.

“His Name Is Clone” at first continues on with additional Jethro Tull influences, then pops into more Zappa-inspired weirdness, with various breaks of unconnected madness and sections of insanity, including one where, I swear, it sounds like someone is playing (quite well, actually) one of those multi-colored kiddy xylophones.

The next track, “Vicious Cruiser,” is a short proggy instrumental, which leads into the track “NNNNNN Hibachi Salesman, Basketball Star.” The crazy name says it all…more Zappa-esque vocals before the track ends with another short prog excursion.

“Bobby-O-Bobby” includes some reprises from the title track, along with sections of pure prog mixed with more of the Mothers Of Invention type of avant-prog bits (voices, sound effects, radio station insertions, you name it) tossed in at unexpected times.

And near the end of the album, there’s the track named “Kazoo,” a romp into keyboard-driven jazz-rock territory, that actually features—yep, you guessed it—someone playing an actual kazoo as an occasional lead instrument. Again, some of the title track’s main themes are given another reprise here, only arranged to feature the keyboards. Sounds like a cross between bands such as UK and Return To Forever and Utopia (with perhaps Zappa acting as producer).

Do I really need to continue describing each track? Doubtful, since I’m sure by now you get the overall picture of what’s happening here. Despite the fact there are actually twelve named tracks on offer, together they truly make up one long epic, one vast journey into goofy-town, that somehow, magically, seems to work. Or at least it will likely work for listeners who enjoy the type of Zappa-styled, eclectic brand of silliness that is far outside the “norm.”

Too bad Makkiwhipdies released only this single album, as I felt they had great potential. They certainly showed some outrageous creativity and likely could have carved out a place for themselves in the world of Prog.

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Fireballet – Night on Bald Mountain (1975)

Fireballet_NightMountain4.5 out of 5 Stars!

I really liked this band from the mid-’70s that, sadly, released only two albums before disappearing. Although Fireballet was an American band from the East Coast, the music was quite British, often reminiscent of other bands from the same era…Genesis, Yes, ELP, King Crimson, etc. with shades of Uriah Heep when it came to the full and layered background vocals. The Night On Bald Mountain album is still one of my favorites after all these many decades. Expect a lot of terrific organ and synth work, thanks to the two keyboardists featured in the band, along with some sax and flute (played by guest musician and producer Ian McDonald from King Crimson) that adds a nice extra dimension to the sound.

The album consists of only five tracks, each of them adding something special to the overall package.

At first, “Les Cathédrales,” this ten-minute opener, begins with soft keyboards and acoustic guitar and sounds like a cross between Genesis, Flash, or early Yes, until both a sax solo and electric guitar pop up, which gives the track almost a Van Der Graaf Generator vibe. Countless time shifts, keyboard and guitar runs, and mood alterations abound, creating further drama, while some spoken “story parts” in the song’s midsection lend a storybook feel.

Although the next track, “Centurion (Tales of Fireball Kids),” is less than half the length of the opener, it’s still equally as complex and grand. Here the band takes on an almost “electrified ELP” sound, with terrific fuzz guitar leads playing counterpoint to Keith Emerson-like “pomp” keyboards.

“The Fireballet” sounds like a cross between Yes, Flash, Nektar, and some weird version of Gentle Giant, replete with (again) various time changes, counterpart keys and guitar riffs, and even some odd sound effects in the middle.

To bring things down to a mellower mood, “Atmospheres” is basically an acoustic guitar song, with pastoral-sounding piano and keys supporting a soft vocal melody, reminding me of something that may have appeared on the Nursery Cryme or Foxtrot albums by Genesis. On any other album by any other band, this could possibly have been considered nothing more than an outtake or filler track, but to me it’s not only the perfect opening to the album’s “B” side, but a song that leads smoothly into the monster title track extravaganza.

“Night on Bald Mountain (Suite),” a nearly nineteen-minute epic consisting of five parts, is nothing if not elegantly grand and wonderfully ambitious. It’s also a Prog-Rock lover’s dream come true, with the many twists and variations on different themes creating a spirited roller coaster ride through Prog territory. Each musician shines in different sections, and not only are we treated to numerous Yes, ELP, and Genesis influences again, but also Uriah Heep when it comes to the “layered background vocals over Hammond organ” section, reminding me of something off either the Demons and Wizards or The Musician’s Birthday albums. I suppose the Hungarian band Omega also springs to mind, considering that group was also heavily Heep-influenced. Regardless, sax makes another short but welcome appearance on this track as well, so even a touch of Van Der Graaf Generator pops up. As I’m unfamiliar with the actual work of Petrovich Mussorgsky (the composer of this classical track) I cannot make a judgment whether Fireballet gave the song, with all its twists and turns and mood shifts and intricate arrangements, any justice or made mincemeat of it. All I know is that the track, to me, is a rollicking good romp through Prog Heaven, and unlike a handful of reviewers who downgraded this album at various music sites because of their take on this particular rendition, I frankly don’t give a damn whether Mussorgsky is smiling proudly over Fireballet’s version or turning over in his grave.

Anyway, this debut album from Fireballet is one interesting and enjoyable collection of tracks, and I highly recommend it for all Prog-Rock lovers like myself.

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D’AccorD – An Overview

DAccordAlbums In My Collection

– D’AccorD
– Helike

An Overview

Upon first listen, one might think this current Norwegian band existed about 40 years ago, since their style is eerily reminiscent of a time in music when the sound of Genesis or Yes using a Mellotron, for example, inspired so many music lovers to jump on the Prog-Rock bandwagon. Along with the mighty Mellotron, the band also incorporates other vintage keyboard sounds (Hammond, electric piano, etc.), flute and sax, and heavy guitar reverb that tips a hat toward Pink Floyd atmospherics. Indeed, D’AccorD’s production brings to mind the olden days of analog recording equipment, and even the cover art on their albums looks retro.

The band is also not afraid of stretching its musical muscles when inspiration strikes, mixing some “normal” shorter tracks with a few extended pieces. Indeed, their second release, Helike, is comprised of only two tracks—”Helike, Part 1″ and “Helike, Part 2,” each surpassing the twenty-minute mark—which, combined, become one mega epic. But whether the songs are short or extended, no one can accuse the band of not being daring and even adventurous, as each track shows their capabilities throughout various styles and atmospheres, some powerful, some mellow, and all of them well-performed, ambitious, and full of musical depth.

The band has developed a sound that reminds me of a Prog-Rock act such as Birth Control, Jethro Tull, or Genesis melding together with a Hard Rock troop such as Deep Purple, Bloodrock, or Uriah Heep. In many ways, D’AccorD is similar to other “retro-sounding-bands” like Siena Root, Presto Ballet, Black Bonzo, or Hypnos 69, successfully incorporating the classic sounds and production techniques of bands from the 60s & 70s, adding a touch of Stoner Rock, a bit of Psychedelic Rock, some Jazz-Rock, a whole lot of Heavy Prog, and whisking music lovers back to the time when Prog-Rock began.

Hell, when listening to any of the band’s releases, you can almost smell the weed burning in the background…

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