Eno – Here Come the Warm Jets (1974)

Eno_WarmJets4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Leaving Roxy Music after two masterpiece albums, “tapes treatment” and synth wizard Brian Eno created his first solo album with the aid of most of his former Roxy bandmates, as well as Chris Spedding, John Wetton, and Robert Fripp and many other guests, delivering his own masterpiece of Art Rock with a healthy dose of Glam. And although the music isn’t too dissimilar from Eno’s work with Roxy Music on the band’s debut release and For Your Pleasure, the experimentation here is at a much higher level.

Here Come the Warm Jets is completely unique to my ears, surreal yet accessible, zany yet catchy, sinister yet welcoming, with musical gems such as “Baby’s On Fire,” “Dead Finks Don’t Talk,” “Driving Me Backwards,” “The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch,” and “Blank Frank”—oh, hell, in truth, every one of the ten tracks is golden—all being mind-blowing when it came to overall creativity and general “goofiness.”

Simply stated, when it comes to the avant-garde melody lines, the curious lyrical content, the eccentric instrumentation, or the innovative production techniques, sound effects, and “treatments” Eno gives to the various instruments and vocals, this is Art Rock at its finest. No wonder the man has become a musical living legend.

Get The Album Now!

Eloy – Eloy (1971)

Eloy_14 out of 5 Stars!

When German group Eloy burst out of the starting gate back in 1971, the band’s debut album showcased a sound/style that had much more in common with fellow Krautrockers/Heavy Prog groups such as Birth Control, Epitaph, Night Sun, or Jane—or even British bands such as Deep Purple or Uriah Heep—displaying nary a trace of the Pink Floyd-inspired Symphonic Prog/Space Rock that would encompass the majority of its albums in years to come.

Still, with tracks such as “Dillus Roady,” “Something Yellow,” “Song of the Paranoid Soldier,” “Isle of Sun,” and “Today,” this is one of my favorite Eloy albums and I really enjoyed this riff-oriented period of the band’s history, even though this debut album seems fairly dismissed (and dissed) by many long-time fans of the group’s more famous and polished era.

Get The Album Now!

Epitaph – Outside the Law (1974)

Epitaph_OutsideLaw4 out of 5 Stars!

During this band’s early years, and especially on Outside the Law, the group’s third album, Epitaph seemed almost a German version of Wishbone Ash, with exceptional twin lead guitar riffs, the hint of Progressive Rock on some arrangements, and the album’s overall production/atmosphere. Indeed, I dare anyone to pay attention to the guitar arrangements on tracks such as “Reflexion,” “Big City,” “Tequila Shuffle,” or the title track itself and not hear the spirit of Wishbone Ash in every single beautiful and blazing note.

Regardless, the vocal melody lines and guitar riffs on Outside the Law are all quite catchy, the musical performances from all involved lively and amazing, and based on this collection alone—which rates as highly as the album Argus in my opinion—the band should have enjoyed the same degree of acclaim bestowed on Wishbone Ash instead of remaining in the frustrating realm of obscurity.

And oddly enough, both Argus and Outside the Law were the third albums of each band…coincidence?

Anyway, I also look upon this platter with nostalgic fondness since it brings to mind the days when Chicago had one FM station that used to have a 2-3 hour show at least one night per week called “Sounds From Across The Big Swamp.” The station broke from its normal format to feature obscure or underground bands from, despite the name of the show, both Europe and America. Through that single radio program I discovered dozens of albums I continue to cherish, and this is one of those musical treasures. Indeed, the station was so integral in my own musical enlightenment, that I used as much as I can remember of the overall concept as a template when developing my Prog-Scure radio show. If I can steer music lovers toward bands like Epitaph they may not have previously discovered, then I’ve succeeded at my job!

Get The Album Now!

EZO – EZO (1987)

EZO_14 out of 5 Stars!

This ’80s Japanese band merged Hard Rock, Glam, and Metal, eventually capturing the attention of Kiss’s Gene Simmons, who secured the band its record deal in America and even produced its debut album.

I thought EZO quite awesome and horribly ignored—especially with awesome tracks such as “House of 1,000 Pleasures,” “Flashback Heart-Attack,” “Destroyer,” “Desiree,” and the single “Here It Comes”—and I continue to enjoy both of the band’s albums to this day, although I actually find the sophomore effort, Fire Fire, slightly superior.

(Note: In the early ’90s, half of EZO eventually merged with Loudness after that band’s original line-up also disintegrated. Although I adored early Loudness along with EZO, the merging of the two talented groups just didn’t quite gel for me. A shame.)

Get The Album Now!

Electric Sun – Fire Wind (1980)

ElectricSun_FireWind3.5 out of 5 Stars!

After leaving Scorpions back in 1978—a sad, sad, SAD day for early fans of the German band, like myself—spectacular guitarist Uli Jon Roth formed Electric Sun. Although a bit more experimental in its musical scope compared to Scorpions, the band (as expected) provided an appropriate vehicle to showcase Roth’s more Psychedelic-styled, Hendrix-inspired playing, as on this album, the group’s second, and in my opinion, its best.

The band might have gained wider recognition were it not for Roth doing his own vocals, which are certainly not the most “accurate” or commercial, unfortunately. Fans of Scorpions were at least familiar with Roth’s sometimes-manic and always-bizarre “talk/singing on acid” style from his occasional vocal contributions on classic songs such as “Robot Man,” “Polar Nights,” “Drifting Sun,” and “Hell-Cat,” so therefore, came prepared, unlike those unfamiliar with Roth’s work.

Regardless, Electric Sun released a trio of somewhat enjoyable studio albums before the group disbanded in 1986, and avid guitar fans, as well as early Scorpions fans, will likely forgive the “vocal misfortunes” and enjoy these platters for Roth’s killer solos, wild riffs, and wonderfully liberal multi-tracking of his Stratocaster.

Get The Album Now!

Eden’s Curse – The Second Coming (2008)

EdensCurse_SecondComing4 out of 5 Stars!

On The Second Coming, Eden’s Curse (from the U.K.) delivers yet another spirited and well-produced collection of highly symphonic Heavy Metal, brimming with catchy choruses, stellar solos from both guitarist Thorsten Koehne and keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg, as well as a solid and driving rhythm section thanks to bassist Paul Logue and drummer Pete Newdeck. Additionally, wide-ranging singer Michael Eden’s voice cuts through crisp and clear above the full and rich background vocals, coming across as a British counterpart to Italian singers such as Michele Luppi (Killing Touch/Vision Divine/Secret Sphere) or Titta Tani (Astra/DGM).

Were it not for the powerful and metalized riffing throughout upbeat tracks such as “Lost in Wonderland,” “Raven’s Revenge,” “Just Like Judas,” “West Wind Blows,” and “Ride the Storm,” all blazing alongside the beautiful ballad “Man Against the World,” also included in this collection, I feel that Eden’s Curse would have made an outstanding AOR group, especially with the grand production treatment the songs receive from longtime colleague Dennis Ward (multi-instrumentalist from Pink Cream 69, Place Vendome, and Sunstorm).

Melodic Metal, anyone? If so, then The Second Coming might satisfy your craving.

Get The Album Now!

Easy Sleezy – Heroinme (2013)

EasySleezy_Heroinme3.5 out of 5 Stars!

As this Canadian band’s name suggests, Heroinme (Hero In Me, get it?) is a collection of down ‘n’ dirty Hard Rock, metal-tinged and “sleezy” as all hell with sort of a glam/punk attitude.

With slamming tracks such as “Society High,” “Dead Man Walking,” “So Look Out,” “Help,” “What a Shame,” and “Scumbags and Angels,” this debut album would have seemed perfectly in trend had the group released this in the late ’80s/early ’90s alongside albums from Cats in Boots, EZO, Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Britny Fox, L.A. Guns, or Alice in Chains—and perhaps (when it comes to several tracks) even in the relative proximity of Industrial Metal acts such as Marilyn Manson.

Certainly, there’s nothing at all revolutionary or life-altering on offer here, but the music is deliciously riotous, raucous, and rowdy, generally well-produced, and wildly energetic sleaze rock with a strong retro flavor.

Not Currently Available At Amazon

Empty Tremor – Eros and Thanatos (2000)

EmptyTremor_Eros4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Empty Tremor is an obscure Italian band that released four high-quality studio albums, the final one being in 2010.

Like many bands in the Progressive Rock/Metal genre, Dream Theater influences pop up from time to time—especially since Giovanni De Luigi, the vocalist on Eros and Thanatos (the band’s second album), has a voice similar in tone and range to Charlie Dominici, DT’s original singer—but Empty Tremor is far from being a clone of any band, and indeed, has a personality all its own.

On highly diverse tracks such as “Outside,” “Y2K,” “The Future Needs Your Name,” “Star,” and the seventeen-minute epic “The Timeless Night,” the music is complex, melodic, and always impressive when it comes to the arrangements, numerous styles and tempos, all excellently performed by capable musicians, and will likely appeal to any serious fan of Progressive Rock with Metal touches.

Get The Album Now!

Elton John – Madman Across the Water (1971)

EltonJohn_Madman4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Although I was never a huge fan of Elton John’s “mid-seventies and after” career once he transformed himself into the flamboyant, glammy-glasses, boas and feathers, and platform-wearing “Rock ‘n’ Roll Liberace,” I did enjoy several of his earliest unpretentious and lighter piano-featured releases, especially his fourth studio effort, Madman Across the Water. Talk about capturing lightning in a bottle, where every aspect of the songwriting process, performances, and production seem blessed with musical magic.

Most of the tracks on this album are absolutely haunting—due not only to John’s engaging melodies and Bernie Taupin’s thoughtful, creative lyrics, but also to the overall musicianship from those involved, including Paul Buckmaster’s undervalued orchestrations—and they continue to hold a certain majesty even to this day.

Songs such as the title track, along with “Tiny Dancer,” “Indian Summer,” “Levon,” “Rotten Peaches,” “Razor Face,” and the poignantly stark “Goodbye” are simply mesmerizing, making Madman Across the Water near perfect in my eyes, and it undoubtedly remains one of Elton John’s most enduring releases, a true classic.

Get The Album Now!

Elephants Of Scotland – The Perfect Map (2016)

ElephantsScotland_PerfectMap4.5 out of 5 Stars!

Last year, during one of my numerous “new music searches,” I stumbled upon a band with the unusual name of Elephants Of Scotland. The name alone immediately drew my attention, and with the moniker being so unique, it also proved memorable, which is always a huge plus for a new band struggling to break into the ever-crowded marketplace.

Yet in one respect, the name is also a bit of a misnomer, since the group is not from the UK as one might expect, but from the USA—the state of Vermont, to be precise, as I eventually discovered. But despite that little fact, I soon came to realize that the name is actually quite appropriate, since the band’s music has so much more in common with Progressive Rock groups based in the UK than in America. Indeed, on any of the band’s three studio albums, one can hear numerous musical influences from some of the most “Brit-sounding” acts in the Prog-Rock realm, including Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis, etc. So bravo to Elephants Of Scotland for selecting a name that not only proved eye-catching and memorable, but wickedly accurate regarding its overall sound, irrespective of its actual origin.

Another good thing I soon discovered about EOS…this talented four-piece is quite a prolific outfit, considering it has already released a trio of highly engaging, above-quality studio albums (plus a live album) since popping onto the scene in early 2013. And this, the band’s latest release, is (to me) the best thus far, and that’s quite an achievement, considering the band’s consistent quality.

With a tight and often-rollicking rhythm section (thanks to bassist Dan MacDonald and drummer Ornan McLean), wildly numerous “old school” keys (courtesy of Adam Rabin), and an adroit guitarist (John “Lefty” Whyte) when it comes to style and substance, the band stampedes into the opening tune, “Sun-Dipped Orphans and the Wizard’s Teapot.”  This track, beginning with thundering drums, and a pleasant concoction of piano, organ, and synths, had me instantly sitting up to take notice. Musically, the song falls into a similar realm to groups such as The Flower Kings, Kansas, and a touch of Yes, but with also a strong “retro” feel ala bands such as a lighter (ie. not too “metal” when it comes to the guitar tones) Presto Ballet. Lyrically speaking, the bizarre song title alone suggests to the potential listener that things with this group tend to be a bit odd, and that is indeed correct. As always happens with Elephants Of Scotland, that quirkiness comes to life with the lead vocals—their tone and delivery—which truly sets the band apart from the aforementioned groups and adds a distinctness—an instantly identifying trait—to the band’s overall sound.

“Counting on a Ghost” contains more frantic synths, off-time rhythms, and a complex arrangement that (depending on the section of the song) might seem right at home on albums by Magellan, Crucible, or IQ. I also must mention the fun closing line of the song: “Gather all your dreams, nail them to a post.” To me, the lyrics of this tune are delightfully zany, and when it comes to music of a progressive nature, zany is always welcome and, once again, adds another positive dimension to this group.

On the next track, “One by Sea,” the beautiful piano-driven melody is sung by guest female vocalist Megan Beaucage, and leads to Prog-Rock splendor in the realm of a group such as Curved Air during its heyday, especially since it also features a short violin solo from guest player Gary Kuo. After some surprising rhythm breaks and tempo changes, a rambunctious arrangement takes shape for the song’s second half. Generally speaking, this was an unexpected track from the group, a different sound and approach (especially with the female vocals and violin), and one that proved highly successful.

The rather goofy “Swing the Gavel” ended up being one of my favorite tracks, showing the band’s true diversity when it comes to its arrangements and creativity. The song is so “British sounding” throughout, and again, considering the band’s name, one would think the group came from the UK during the height of the early-Genesis period in Prog-Rock history. The minor Gentle Giant influences I detected also just prove the point that Elephants of Scotland seem to have been “born” in the wrong century. “Swing the gavel low, swing the gavel high”—zany catchiness at its best.

With its atmospheric intro and opening verses, title track “The Perfect Map” once again brings to mind some of the more moodier tunes by UK Neo-Prog groups such as IQ, Marillion, or Twelfth Night. And better still, with some synth passages that have a tone eerily reminiscent of bagpipes and a melody line that conjures up images of the verdant, sunlit, and breezy highlands of Scotland, the band’s memorable moniker seems more than appropriate here.

The album’s longest track, “Random Earth,” especially with its synth-laden intro, rich and full guitars, driving rhythm section and vocal passages, immediately reminds me of mid-period Rush, although graced with the “quirky” aspect that only Elephants Of Scotland can deliver in its unique way. Additionally, the song’s second half offers minute upon minute of Neo-Prog majesty, with swirling synths and organs, with a blazing guitar solo and solid fills, with scampering bass lines and rip-roaring drums, not to mention numerous rhythm shifts and vocal melodies that bring to mind a perfect marriage of musical influences from groups such as Pallas and Also Eden, The Flower Kings and Transatlantic, with even a touch of (and here’s that word again) “quirky” groups such as It Bites to add musical tinsel to the grand proceedings. Utterly glorious!

And lastly, I cannot forgot to mention “Für Buddy,” a short yet highly emotional instrumental—basically an “outro” to the previous track—with chord patterns and a melody line that actually brought the hint of tears to my eyes. No kidding! Indeed, I had to repeat this track several times, making certain I wasn’t just imagining the emotions the simple little tune evoked. And what a shock it was to realize I wasn’t imagining things after all. Generally speaking, the music of this band is typically lighthearted, whimsical, and frolicking, but this track? Holy hell, for some reason, the song felt like a slam directly to the heartstrings—even without lyrics—therefore making it a pure “bravo exit” to an engaging album.

So overall, on its latest release, does Elephants Of Scotland deliver anything brand spanking new to the genre of Progressive Rock? No, probably not. But what the band does do is deliver a rock-solid package of Neo-Prog fun, and bundled in its own unique package, especially when it comes to those vocals being so damned identifiable—and, therefore, so damned welcomed.

Get The Album Now!