Camel - Mirage (74) - 8.5/10
Camel's finest hour!
Camel - Snow Goose (75) - 7/10
Instrumental. Loads of flute. Often beautiful, but unfortunately uninspired and boring at times.
Camel - Stationary Traveller (84) - 6.5/10
Song-oriented and quite commercial, but I find it good anyway.
Canarios, Los - Ciclos (73) - 6.5/10
Remake of Vivaldi's Seasons. Interesting enough, but I actually like the original better, so it is difficult to recommend this.
Carmen - Dancing on a Cold Wind (73) - 7/10
Flamenco-rock, but very different from the way Triana and Mezquita did it. This concept album about a gypsy girl is in my opinion overrated. The vocals are too emotional, and they are there almost all the time. Those who like the vocals, however, should find this quite good.
Cathedral - Stained Glass Stories (78) - 8.5/10
Bass guitar is used in a brilliant manner by this band, making them sound like Yes at times. The elsewhere flamed vocals sound OK in my opinion. Quite reminiscent of Anglagard.
Celeste - Principe di un Giorno, a.k.a. Celeste (76) - 9/10
Extremely tranquil and pleasant. Almost no drums. Wonderful music.
Celeste - Second Plus - 6/10
This record contains 72 minutes of music from the creators of the magnificent Principe di un Giorno. However, the music here differs significantly from that of their highly acclaimed masterpiece. Strong jazz influences can be heard, or rather: Most of it is jazz. The relaxed and pleasant atmosphere of their other release is always there, even if drums are frequently used. The record can be divided into two parts. Firstly, there are four long pieces, lasting from 8 to 14 minutes. Two of these contain sax improvisation on top of a layer of more fixed keyboards, drums and bass. One is dominated by flute and vocals. The fourth sounds like free improvisation - jazzy and exciting, but some will find it a little aimless. The second part of the record consists of 7 short tracks (2-5 minutes). Most of these are very jazzy, except a quite boring mellotron solo and an over-pretentious track filled with flute and mellotron. The five-minute "Bassa marea" is perhaps the most atmospheric track on the record, containing lush mellotron, a monotonous bass line and drums. It is instrumental, like most of the tracks. Overall, this is not your average progressive rock record, and could be worth having for that reason. Some of the tracks tend to drag a little, though, but perhaps that should be expected when the record lasts for 72 minutes. Those who do not like jazz should not buy this, and neither should those who do not want to venture too far away from standard progressive rock. Only those who enjoy jazz and relaxed music without an awesome lot of things happening should put Second Plus on their shortlist.
Cervello - Melos (73) - 10/10
Every now and then, I find a record that makes me recall why I find progressive rock to be the ultimate of the musical genres. And this is one of them. Cervello is an Italian band, and the sound is very typically Italian. Most remarkably, the vocalist has a very intense voice, and uses vibrato (too) much. However, he fits very well into the generally intense sound of the band as a whole, and most vocal parts are in fact outstanding. There is also some nice falsetto singing, a feature that for some reason can be found on almost all Italian prog records (though it doesn't always sound nice when performed by certain other bands). Cervello were a five-piece, and the most important instruments are an electric guitar and an electric saxophone. As far as I know, the electric guitar player of Cervello is the brother of Osanna's guitarist (who seems to be greeted in the liner notes). And, in fact, the former must have been one of the best guitarist in the entire world - and this is not an exaggeration. His style is very similar to Mahavishnu Orchestra's John McLaughlin - except the important fact that Cervello's guitarist plays more interesting melodies - in one hell of a tempo. The cooperation between the saxophone and the guitar is very important in this band - the two instruments sound almost the same, and melt together into something very special. And the saxophone playing is almost as stupendous as that of the guitar. It (at least, I think that it must be a saxophone) sometimes works almost like a keyboard - the first time I heard it, I though that it was a distorted cello mellotron or something. It's not really unlike the massive keyboard sounds of Biglietto per l'Inferno's self-titled album either. Moreover, the drummer is a genius. And on top of all this, they use flutes a lot. They usually have two of them playing simultaneously. And in addition, their drummer also plays vibraphone here and there, and these parts are among the very best parts of the record. And there is also some acoustic guitar inbetween. And I like the cover and the Italian lyrics. Cervello is a very special band, not derivative of anyone (if you disregard the McLaughlin-sounding guitars). They can perhaps be regarded as a hyperactive version of Banco (and that should qualify for an exclamation mark!), and there are also some similarities to Osanna's Palepoli. Most notably, there are a few electric guitar riffs played backwards. However, Cervello sound more refined, sophisticated and in fact more complex than Osanna. The scale is changed all the time; at one moment it's major key, at the next it's minor and a moment later comes a modulation. This makes the word "surrealistic" pop into my head (which again recalls the word "Semiramis"). Unlike Semiramis or Osanna however, Cervello are in fact right up there next to the glorious Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. It's nothing less than a tragedy that this CD has been out of print for a long time, and it's a disaster that it's their only record.
Circus - Movin' On (77) - 9.5/10
This and Island's Pictures (also released in '77) are the only Swiss records that I have. Circus play symphonic rock not entirely different from many of the Italian bands. The performance is impressively tight and with enough changes to please any fan of Banco del Mutuo Soccorso. Flutes are used frequently, and the flute player is exceptional. The 12-string acoustic guitar and vibraphone in addition to flute sometimes recall Celeste, and vibraphone and an occasional circus feeling to the music means Semiramis similarities. As you would expect from the year of release, the sound is clearer than in most prog, and on this record that's a good thing - there are no cheesy synth sounds. In fact, the most apparent similarity would be Van der Graaf Generator: The excellent vocalist, singing in English without silly accent, is almost a carbon (cdr? haha) copy of Peter Hammill. Still, this sounds like his natural way of singing. Two saxophone players also add to the Van der Graaf Generator feel, and there's something which sounds almost exactly like the screaming keyboards of the early incarnation of the British band. However, Circus didn't use any keyboards. My guess is that it's a saxophone or guitar as distorted as this site's update frequency. If you like the most aggressive parts of VDGG's The Least We Can Do is Wave to Each Other, there's plenty of delight in sight here. The bass must also be mentioned - it has that grinding sound of Magma's bass (but what is actually played differs substantially - most of the time, at least). The highlights are scattered throughout the record, but the 21 minutes long title-track is extremely good all the way through. The track "Dawn" reminds me a little of the sinister, almost ambient music of Island. The opening track "The Bandsman" must also be mentioned - this is symphonic rock at its best. Unfortunately, some of the five and a half minutes long "Loveless Time" can be characterised as progressive SOUL (ARGH), but thankfully not very much of it - and it's impossible to hear anything similar to this on the rest of the record. In fact, the compositions are outstanding enough to make Movin' On a must-have. This is one of the best symphonic rock records I've ever heard.
Coltrane, Alice - Journey in Satchidananda (70) - 7.5/10 Coltrane, John - Ole Coltrane (62) - 8.5/10 Coltrane, John - The John Coltrane Quartet Plays (65) - 7.5/10
Alice Coltrane was by this time the widow after the much more famous John Coltrane. One might think that her last name, and not necessarily her musical skills, has given her a name in avant-garde jazz. On hearing this record, however, one finds out that this is definitely not so. Journey in Satchidananda is an easy-going mix of jazz and Indian music. As far as my knowledge goes, this music must be very, if not totally, unique. This excerpt from Coltrane's own liner-notes may give you a hint of what to expect - the record is inspired by her "own beloved spiritual perceptor" Swami Satchidananda: "Anyone listening to this selection should try to envision himself floating on an ocean of Satchidanandaji's love". You can't write that kind of thing in the liner notes unless you have some excellent music in stock, and this record does. What may first strike you is Cecil McBee's excellent repetetive bass lines on the backdrop of Rashied Ali's rich-sounding drums and some percussion. The Indian-flavoured instruments here are tamboura, played by a certain Tulsi, and Alice Coltrane's harp. These two instruments provide a wall of sound present throughout, at tremendous effect. On top of this comes Pharoah Sanders' saxophone solos. While he's famed for his crazed playing on his own Karma and several of John Coltrane's records (Ascension in particular), he plays more calmly here. Most of the record is soothing and in a relaxed tempo, but still makes a powerful impression because of the massive sound coming particularly from the tamboura and the harp. The tracks are a little similar to each other, but the music is of such high quality that it never gets off-putting or boring. The tamboura must be given much of the credit for this - a great instrument which mysteriously manages to give both punch and a meditative feel to the music. Eleven and a half minutes of the record (the live-recording "Isis and Osiris") sees bassist Cecil McBee replaced with Charlie Haden, and the tamboura replaced with the string instrument oud. This yields some of the sought-after variation, and the jam is outstanding, with the audience applauding midway through and all. Most prog fans will probably enjoy this more than most prog.
Okayokayokay, this is a progressive rock site. And it's obvious that this is more jazz than rock. Still, that can be said about lots of other stuff that conventionally is classified as progressive "rock" - for example Quella Vecchia Locanda's Il tempo della gioia and Area's Arbeit macht frei, Magma's first records etc. Much of what Coltrane did can at least be called "progressive" in the same sense that the term is used in "progressive rock". Never mind about genres, mind the music. And don't mind the rather silly title of this record. And don't mind that half the record is quite straightforward lent-back jazz either. The track "Ole", lasting 18 minutes, is what makes this record excellent. Maybe the jazz sound requires some getting used to for many symph fans, but still: This track is some of the [insert your favourite superlative] jazz put on CD. It all goes in a Spanish scale and has a distinct Spanish atmosphere (hence the title). The musicians get into a hypnotic groove and instruments fade in and out with their solos. Drums, two upright basses and a piano make up much of the rhythmic aspect. If you've been browsing Coltrane's music trying to find similarities with Magma without finding any, check out the dramatic piano playing here. The introduction includes an excellent flute solo, then a trumpet solo, and then things get nasty. A literally incredible double bass solo (well, they mostly sound like cellos and violins instead) played all out of tune makes the listener think that things can't get any better. Well - wrong: After several minutes of ecstasy - out from nothing comes Coltrane with the saxophone and shows who's be chief of the ensemble with an unforgettable saxophone solo. Dramatic? Yes. Passionate? Ohh yes. Cheesy? No. Then the entire thing ends, and it's impossible to listen to the rest of the record afterwards because it's not near to being of the same quality (but then, what is?). Still, try to get the CD version with a bonus track (that is, a total of four tracks) as the bonus track has its moments, particularly some nice flute playing. But it's the drama of the LP's side A that's truly indispensable here.
Excellent jazz. Everyone seems to hold A Love Supreme as Coltrane's best. This record has much of the same very pleasant, tense but relaxed, "spiritual" atmosphere. I actually think it's better than A Love Supreme. Excellent all the way through. My CD has some great bonus tracks. Prog fans, once you get used to the jazz way of doing things, you will appreciate this - a lot!
Coltrane, John - Ole Coltrane (62) - 8.5/10
Coltrane, John - The John Coltrane Quartet Plays (65) - 7.5/10