Egg – The Civil Surface (1974)

Egg_CivilSurface3.5 out of 5 Stars!

When The Civil Surface appeared in 1974, it ended up being the third and (sadly) final album by the short-lived Egg, a sort of “retrospective supergroup” of the Prog-Rock/Canterbury Scene that featured keyboardist Dave Stewart, bassist Mont Campbell, and percussionist Clive Brooks—basically, the group Arzachel only without guitarist Steve Hillage on board.

After releasing its first two albums in 1970/1971 and having record company dilemmas along the way, Egg inevitably disbanded, with the members moving on to join other bands, such as Hatfield and the North and Groundhogs. But the trio briefly reformed several years later, however, to create this swansong release, which incidentally enough, also included some contributions from Hillage as a “guest star.”

From my understanding, many (if not all) of the mostly instrumental tracks included in this “reunion collection” were actually leftovers from the trio’s early years, compositions the group had performed during its concerts but—because of the record company woes—never got around to recording while Egg was in regular operation. But no matter the artist or the genre in which they operate, typically when it comes down to tracks considered “leftovers,” a few of them probably shouldn’t ever see the light of day, whereas others occasionally shine. The same is the case with this particular collection.

The longest compositions, the more sportive and intricate “Germ Patrol,” “Wring Out the Ground (Loosely Now),” and “Enneagram,” are pure gold in my opinion, generally matching the same lofty heights of inventiveness as the material that appeared on Egg’s first two albums. Yet on the other hand, most of the shorter tracks don’t come even close to equaling the same imaginative charm as the band’s earlier output. “Wind Quartet I” and “Wind Quartet II” are basically drawn-out exercises in Chamber Music featuring (no shock) woodwinds, and, in truth, bore me to tears. Then there’s the organ-heavy “Prelude,” another bland affair, but saved from being a total disaster in the middle section where guest female vocalists create pretty harmonies, which add a modicum of sparkle. Only “Nearch” offered up a bit of experimental verve to hold my interest, but unfortunately, still seemed way too underwhelming, especially for a band with an otherwise ingenious character.

Therefore, although not as intriguing as the prior albums thanks to a handful of tracks, The Civil Surface was nevertheless a welcome addition to the band’s legacy. And the longer tunes mentioned above include plenty of the same unexpected avant-garde whimsy, jazzy Proginess, and overall mesmerizing creativity that made Egg so delectable in the first place.

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Edge of Forever – Let the Demon Rock ‘n’ Roll (2005)

EdgeForever_LetDemon4 out of 5 Stars!

From Italy, the group Edge of Forever released a trio of powerful yet melodic albums in the new century, mainly Hard Rock bordering on Progressive Metal and Pomp Rock yet touched with AOR.

When it comes to Let the Demon Rock ‘n’ Roll, the band’s second album, catchy tunes such as “Crime of Passion,” “Mouth of Madness,” “One Last September,” “Feel Like Burning,” “The Machine,” and the title track barrel from the speakers with the force of a hurricane, while dramatic and hard-hitting ballads (“A Deep Emotion” and “Edge of Forever”) add variety. With his range, tone, and style of delivery, vocalist Bob Harris often reminds me of singers such as Glenn Hughes or Göran Edman. Meanwhile, bassist Christian Grillo and drummer Francesco Jovino construct a powerful sonic foundation, and the grand and rip-roaring instrumentation includes a perfect balance between Matteo Carnio’s blazing guitars and Alessandro Del Vecchio’s impressive “pompish” backgrounds and Prog-Metal-esque keyboard leads, which would seem almost right at home on albums by Time Requiem, Adagio, Space Odyssey, or basically any other group featuring Richard Andersson on keyboards.

And speaking of comparisons, the band’s overall musical style has much more in common with heavy yet occasionally commercial artists such as Rainbow, Heaven & Earth, Sunstorm, and Eden’s Curse as opposed to lighter and “pure” AOR groups such as Journey, FM, Babys, or Shy. So don’t let the AOR genre designation fool you—Edge of Forever has a mighty edge indeed, one that’s loaded with scads of hummable melodies.

Please also note, Let the Demon Rock ‘n’ Roll was produced by Bobby Barth, long-time vocalist and guitarist of the hard-rockin’ and melodic Florida band Axe, who may have aided Edge of Forever in keeping its style on this particular musical path.

Regardless, even through it’s been many years since the band’s lineup changed (leaving keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio as its vocalist) and its last album (2010’s Another Paradise) saw the light of day, Edge of Forever has subsequently signed a multi-album deal with Italy’s renowned Frontiers label and is supposedly working on new material for a comeback platter. Therefore, I’m thrilled to know the band has not fallen into oblivion, thus leaving my previous fears of possible dissolution in the dust.

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Edith – Dreams (1993)

Edith_Dreams4 out of 5 Stars!

Talk about obscure and hard to locate! Dreams, Edith’s third release, is the one album I was finally able to track down and acquire through the years by this defunct Italian band from the 1990s.

The well-produced music offered on Dreams is pleasant, non-offensive Neo-Prog material, with tunes such as “Silent Whispers,” “Balance of Love,” “Out,” and “Africa” being generally melodic with a decent (albeit somewhat-quirky) vocalist who delivers the English lyrics with only the slightest of accents. Keyboards—mostly grand piano and spacey synths—tend to dominate the overall sound-picture, while both electric and acoustic guitar are also used in equal balance, with the six-string solos being sparse yet ever-tasteful. Moreover, on the tune “Friends,” the surprise appearance of woodwinds and an organ solo add extra spice to the album’s overall instrumentation. And through it all, the bassist is frequently given a chance to shine, his melodic runs acting as a solid backbone with the diverse yet often laid-back percussion. And speaking of laid-back, on tracks such as “I Dream of You,” “Endless Times,” “In the Darkness,” and “Dreamland,” the easygoing rhythms and flowing, unobtrusive background instrumentation become almost hypnotic in regards to the overall moodiness and almost New Age-esque atmospherics.

So when it comes to Dreams, there’s truly nothing outstanding being delivered in the musical spectrum, nothing earth-shattering to forever alter the Prog-Rock genre, but the music is certainly enjoyable enough, and I’ve found myself being drawn to this album countless times in the past few years, especially when I’m in the mood for serene and uncluttered musical nourishment. And better still, the album leaves me wishing I could locate the band’s other releases to see how they stack up. Additionally, no other major groups instantly spring to mind when attempting to compare this band to others—apart from perhaps the occasional nods to mellower aspects of IQ, Pallas, or Hogarth-era Marillion—so that’s also a positive trait for Edith.

Therefore, I firmly place this band into the category of “talented and overlooked…with albums difficult to locate.”

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The Emerald Dawn – Visions (2017)

EmeraldDawn_Visions4 out of 5 Stars!

A few years ago, just after I joined Facebook on a quest to unearth obscure Progressive Rock bands, both old and new, I stumbled upon information regarding The Emerald Dawn, a band originally out of Scotland. After reading up on the group and hearing several sound samples, I eventually snatched up the band’s debut album entitled Searching for the Lost Key—how appropriate a name, considering my own personal “quest for obscure bands.”

Anyway, after several hearings, I felt the debut album quite promising. To me, the quartet had an intriguing style, its music heavily symphonic and often graceful and dreamy, seeming almost a cross between bands such as Pink Floyd, Eloy, Millenium, Abel Ganz, The Moody Blues, and Airbag, with almost a laid-back and experimental ’70s Krautrock ambience. Not only that, but the occasional flute and sax insertions added a touch of Jazz, and the mixture of both male and female vocals set the band even further apart from the majority of its contemporaries. Therefore, I decided I had better keep an eye on The Emerald Dawn, and shortly afterward, I chanced upon and befriended Ally Carter, the band’s guitarist and sax player and keyboardist and vocalist (and he’s probably its kitchen-sink specialist as well), whom I reasoned would post regular updates as to the group’s future plans.

Thankfully, it didn’t take long for news to arrive regarding the band’s latest endeavor, a second album christened Visions. And to my pleasure, I was offered an opportunity to review the album for my blog, and, in turn, my Facebook page. (Thanks to Ally for that.)

So what has this assemblage of multi-instrumentalists created this second time around? Well, like its predecessor, Visions also contains four lengthy tracks of lush Symphonic Prog with arrangements that feature both airy and bombastic keyboards, hypnotic rhythms and soundscapes, and emotive guitar solos, along with touches of sax, flute, and violin added to the mix for diversity. Also like the debut album, the performances seem somehow free-floating in respect to dynamics, as if the songs were recorded live in the studio, with the musicians jamming around a central theme and eagerly feeding off each other’s energy and vibe, going with the constant ebb and flow of a less-structured environment, adding no massive overdubs to the bare-bones basics, which contributes to that more experimental Krautrock ambience I mentioned earlier.

And of even greater importance (at least to me), it’s also abundantly clear when hearing both albums back to back, with Visions sounding like a direct sequel to Searching for the Lost Key, that the band has indeed fashioned its own distinctive style. Certainly, the Prog-Rock acts I named above (or certainly others) may have been potentially influential in The Emerald Dawn’s base sound/style, yet if so, then the group managed to extract only the best elements of those aforementioned acts without relying on any lingering mimicry. Along with Ally Carter, keyboardist, flutist, and vocalist Tree Stewart, bassist and violinist/cellist Jayjay Quick, and percussionist Tom Jackson have amassed their individual skills to construct a sound for themselves with an instantly identifiable stamp, not an easy accomplishment in this over-saturated musical marketplace.

Therefore, for fans of Prog-Rock who are seeking music of a tender elegance yet also of an overall less-challenging nature (material with no jarring leaps from one unrelated musical passage to the next, no unnerving chord patterns, no stampeding rhythms to rattle the nerves, no key-shifting flip-flops, and no overly twiddly solos that never stop twiddling before they’ve explored every imaginable octave), then Visions (as well as the band’s debut album) could be the perfect addition to your own musical collection. Indeed, as I once again hear the gentle, spacey middle section of “Stranger in a Strange Land,” knowing an absorbing and melodic guitar showcase is about to commence in the best tradition of, for instance, the solo work by Steve Hackett or Steve Rothery, I allow my mind to simply float on the mellow sonic environment of keyboard washes beneath jazzy flute improvisations while my residual stress from the outside world washes away…sigh…

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East Of Eden – Snafu (1970)

EastEden_Snafu4 out of 5 Stars!

From out of the U.K., East Of Eden’s sophomore album Snafu, like its predecessor, is a blending of Progressive Rock and some jazzy and wacky Avant-Prog, even Blues-based Psychedelic Rock, with guitars and bass diddling and twiddling, with flutes fluttering and saxes wailing and trumpets harping and violins screeching and percussion occasionally clanging and banging at the oddest of times.

Certainly, a few of the tunes here are fairly “normal,” where the band plays relatively “straight” full-out rock and roll, such as on the short opener “Have To Whack It Up” or the bonus tunes “Biffin Bridge,” or “Blue Boar Blues,” where the band comes off as almost an early Jethro Tull or Blodwyn Pig imitator. But then, sounds and styles quite similar to groups such as King Crimson and Gentle Giant seem to come into play on compositions like “Leaping Beauties for Rudy / Marcus Junior” and “Nymphenburger,” where East of Eden adds wild Avant-Prog or Jazz-Rock elements. Moreover, on “Xhorkom / Ramadhan / In the Snow for a Blow” and “Gum Arabic / Confucius,” Middle Eastern atmospheres and rhythms infiltrate a portion of the songs before the band heads back into more traditional Jazz-Rock territory, occasionally reminding me of Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats period. And then, there are other tracks, such as “Uno Transito Clapori” and portions of “Habibi Baby / Beast of Sweden / Boehm Constrictor,” that are just plain bizarre and experimental, sort of in the same relative musical sphere as Amon Düül II or Can.

By the way, if hunting for this album, it’s worth the effort to seek out the copy of the remastered version that includes numerous bonus tracks—a few additional songs that either didn’t make the actual release and some alternate versions of the tunes from the album-proper. These include the rocking and fiddling “Jig-a-Jig” (released as a single, if you can believe it), the rather catchy yet Symphonically Proggish “Petite Fille” (where the string orchestration reminds me of The Beatles’s “Eleanor Rigby”), as well as the aforementioned “Blue Boar Blues” (which is a definite highlight for me).

But like the music of Frank Zappa and the other bands mentioned throughout this review, the strangeness of Snafu as a whole, the experimental sounds, the extended free-form jamming passages mixed with solid Jazz-Fusion, just somehow seems to work, as if by magic. Therefore, Snafu—as well as East of Eden’s debut album Mercator Projected—is recommended for Prog-Rock fans who yearn for something a bit off-the-wall and adventurous.

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The Edgar Winter Group – Shock Treatment (1974)

EdgarWinter_ShockTreatment3.5 out of 5 Stars!

After 1972’s They Only Come Out at Night, a fairly decent debut album containing the monster hits (pun intended) called “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride,” how did The Edgar Winter Group follow up?

By creating another collection of eclectic tracks—a mix of rockers (“Some Kind of Animal,” “Rock & Roll Woman,” “Queen of My Dreams,” and “River’s Risin'”), and ballads (“Sundown” and “Someone Take My Heart Away”), and miscellaneous bits of Pop (“Miracle of Love” and “Maybe Some Day You’ll Call My Name”), bits of Jazz (“Easy Street”), bits of Funk (“Do Like Me” and “Animal”), and bits of other genres—along with another highly capable guitarist named Rick Derringer, who replaced Ronnie Montrose, that’s how.

Indeed, I actually enjoy Shock Treatment more than the band’s debut, thanks mostly to the talents of the sadly underrated bassist/vocalist Dan Hartman (RIP), the group’s chief songwriter, as well as the killer, sax-wailing tune “Easy Street” (which should have been a #1 hit) and the brutal Zeppelin-inspired “Queen of My Dreams.”

No, Shock Treatment is not a masterpiece in my eyes, as I feel it’s a tad disjointed overall with so many styles included. Nevertheless, I also feel it’s a rather savory, above-average album as it contains some exceptional tracks (“Easy Street” being the unrivaled gem), and a platter I still find myself craving from time to time.

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Melissa Etheridge – Brave And Crazy (1989)

MelissaEtheridge_BraveCrazy3.5 out of 5 Stars!

Before achieving her big breakthrough with 1993’s Yes I Am album, Kansas-born singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge released three collections of tracks in a genre now being coined “Heartland Rock,” basically a mixture of Hard Rock/Folk Rock with perhaps a hint of Country and R&B tossed in.

Well, whatever the silly and trendy “genre du jour” moniker being used within the industry at any given time to describe a musical style, Etheridge’s second release, Brave And Crazy, is crammed with no-frills and well-performed melodic songs such as “No Souvenirs,” “You Used to Love to Dance,” “Testify,” “Skin Deep,” “The Angels,” “Let Me Go,” and my favorite, “Royal Station 4/16.”

Overall, the collection contains a pleasant balance of Hard and Soft Rock, with Etheridge’s 12-string acoustic guitar at the forefront in the mix and the emotionally charged lyrics delivered in her raspy, recognizable, and soul-stirring voice, which I adore.

Plus, even this early in Etheridge’s professional career, her songwriting capabilities are already impressive, with most of the tunes on this release being highly memorable, adding to the album’s replay value.

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Elegy – State of Mind (1997)

Elegy_StateMind4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Although this creative group from the Netherlands formed back in 1985 and had been releasing albums since 1992, it wasn’t until 1997’s State of Mind (Elegy’s fourth album) that extraordinary British vocalist Ian Parry made his debut with the band, which really boosted the quality level up another mighty notch.

To me, Elegy was a more accessible version of a group such as Symphony X with a touch of influences from acts such as Rainbow and House of Lords, including tighter, more concise arrangements and a greater emphasis on the vocal melodies and background harmonies as opposed to the instrumentation, even though the music still included tons of orchestrated Pomp keyboards, impressive guitar work, a solid rhythm section, with Parry’s forceful yet commercial voice soaring above the top in the tradition of singers such as Ronnie James Dio, Doogie White, Jorn Lande, etc, only with less gruffness.

Unfortunately, this seemingly forgotten group disappeared off the musical landscape sometime after its seventh release back in 2002, yet thankfully left behind some stunning material for Prog-Metal fans to savor for years to come.

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Epidermis – Genius of Original Force (1977)

Epidermis_OriginalForce4 out of 5 Stars!

German band Epidermis released its four-song debut (and probably, its best album) in 1977, which contains a mixture of various Prog-Rock styles, some reminiscent of the more experimental bands of the era such as King Crimson or Grobschnitt. But when it comes to song arrangements and the instrumentation of numerous passages—the surprising inclusion of recorders, for example—and (especially) the vocals—often complex, with multiple counterpoint melody lines and harmonies—Gentle Giant instantly springs to mind.

In fact, the track “A Riddle to Myself” could have come straight off any Gentle Giant album, while the vocal sections on the eleven-plus-minute “Genius of Original Force” are eerily reminiscent of GG’s “On Reflection” from the Free Hand album mixed with some bits off the platter The Power and the Glory—only with Epidermis singing in its native language—while the instrumentation seems to mimic the style of GG’s In A Glass House release.

So for Prog-Rock fans who revel in the Gentle Giant sound and want to experience more of it, Genius of Original Force is an album you’ll certainly want to investigate.


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Ethos – Ardour (1976)

Ethos_Ardour4.5 out of 5 Stars!

From the town of Fort Wayne, Indiana, came the group Ethos, a Prog band with high potential that released only two albums before sadly disbanding. Not until the groups Kansas, Starcastle, and Ethos appeared on the scene in the mid-’70s could the Central Midwest region of the USA claim such promising Prog-Rock bands in its midst, so it was a shame the latter act disappeared so shortly after emerging (and followed soon afterward by Starcastle).

Anyway, the band’s debut album, Ardour, contains some truly impressive, complex, and well-performed Symphonic Prog, very British-sounding overall, with lush melodies and grand vocal harmonies, keyboards galore—including Mellotron, Chamberlin, and multi-layered synths—a seemingly perfect balance of both acoustic and electric guitar accompaniment, a dynamic rhythm section including Rickenbacker bass, along with mandolins and flutes popping up on occasion.

On diverse tunes such as “The Dimension Man,” “Space Brothers,” “Long Dancer,” “Everyman,” and “Intrepid Traveller,” I hear Yes and Flash influences, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and Genesis touches, a smattering of Van Der Graaf Generator, and (on “Atlanteans”) an all-too-brief guitar solo that instantly brings to mind the work of six-string axe wielder Georg Wadenius, who employed some inspired and jazzy “guitar/vocal duets” during his time with Blood, Sweat & Tears.

Regardless, Ethos was a band worthy of greater acclaim and wider recognition, and Ardour (and, to a lesser extent, the band’s 1977 sophomore release) is an obscure goldmine of musical riches.

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