Underrated albums

By progfan97402 progfan97402
updated 22 days ago

It's as it is described. Some albums are given a bad reputation, and to my ears they're not as bad as reputation has them. And these are those kinds of albums. Of course many other people compiled similar lists according to their tastes, mines is no different. Most of my selections are prog releases, as that's what I'm most familiar with, but I will occasionally venture out of the prog spectrum (usually psych or electronic albums).

  1. Church Of Hawkwind* - Church Of Hawkwind

    Hawkwind appeared to be on a rocky path in the 1980s, and Church of Hawkwind doesn't get a lot of love. I guess many people dislike the electronic approach of this album, but I love electronic music so the album's electronic leaning appeals to me. Of course, some feel this should have been a Dave Brock solo album. Of the three albums Hawkwind did in RCA in 1981-'82, this is by far my favorite of the three

  2. Mahavishnu Orchestra / John McLaughlin - Inner Worlds

    OK, so the cover is utterly ridiculous. I kept thinking John McLaughlin must have had Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad in mind posing shirtless. Of course Mark Farner could get away with that, Grand Funk Railroad was, after all, rock and roll. McLaughlin was a well-respected jazz fusion guitarist. It doesn't help with that silly haircut he was forced to have while being a disciple of the Sri Chimnoy. OK, so I'm sure Mark Farner isn't who he had in mind for the album cover, as I'm sure he'd have little use for music like Grand Funk. On the other hand I wondered if he was thinking of Herbie Mann who also posed barechested on his 1971 album Push Push? Who knows?! What I do know is Mann certainly had a much hairier chest than McLaughlin.

    This was the end of the line for Mahavishnu Orchestra (some feel McLaughlin should have retired the name after the breakup of the original band, but the second lineup still gets lots of support). Inner Worlds features the third (and final) lineup of this group, with Jean Luc Ponty and Gayle Moran departing, in coming Stu Goldberg (Ralphe Armstrong and Narada Michael Walden from the previous lineup still remained). What went wrong here? McLaughlin experimenting with an guitar synthesizer he had little control over? Four songs featuring vocals? Actually I was totally blown away by the instrumental stuff, showing McLaughlin and company can still make great fusion, although when he starts toying with the ring modulation on his guitar synthesizer is when it gets a bit out of control. The vocal songs sounded like soft rock/soul ballads, but then they grew on me, except for the awful "River of My Heart". Plus I found the short "Morning Calls" interesting, a Scottish-influenced song played on a guitar synthesizer, probably reflecting McLaughlin's Celtic heritage (as his surname is common to both Scots and Irish). Obvious Mahavishnu newbies must start with the original lineup, like The Inner Mountain Flame or Birds of Fire, as for the second edition, Visions of the Emerald Beyond is easily the best. Personally I enjoyed Inner Worlds, some do, many don't, it's up to you.

  3. Scorpions - Lonesome Crow

    Of course, this album deserves to be on the list. I am no fan of the extremely popular 1980s version of the Scorpions. I lived through the 1980s and the last thing I needed to hear was "Rock You Like a Hurricane" the umpteen-million times on the radio. Given my aversion to hair metal, I dismissively lumped the Scorpions in the same batch as groups like Motley Crue, Poison, Warrant, Quiet Riot, Ratt, post-makeup-era KISS (ie. Lick It Up, Animalize, Asylum, etc.), Twisted Sister, Skid Row, etc. I also realize Scorpions fans object to them being referred to as "glam" or "hair" metal, and given their history, even I can see that. Still, 1980s Scorpions never appealed to me.

    What don't appeal to the usual Scorpions fan is their 1972 debut Lonesome Crow. This was the very first album ever released on the Brain label and it's a drastically different Scorpions than the chart topping, all-over-MTV type of band they later became. OK, so Rudolf Schenker and vocalist Klaus Meine are still here. What really blew me away about this album is the more underground psychedelic heavy rock direction they were going here, with some Krautrock elements. Michael Schenker was on this album, but quickly jumped ship for UFO (his presence on UFO improved that band's fortunes immensely). Because it's not "metal" enough for the regular Scorpions fan, it gets dismissed. To me this is a great album, and there are a few defenders out there, thankfully, even from non-fans of the Scorpions, but too often this album gets low ratings.

    To be fair, I also enjoyed their next album, Fly to the Rainbow, as it's probably their most "prog" album, helps that future Eloy drummer Jurgen Rosenthal appears on the album, and even the Mellotron makes a small appearance too. But since that one does get better reviews, I'm not including that one on this list.

  4. UFO (5) - UFO II: Flying-Spacerock

    While I'm on the subject of Michael Schenker, the pre-Schenker-era UFO is frequently dismissed as "bad space rock" (but then those same rock critics disliked them as a heavy metal band too), but as a lover of space rock, like Hawkwind, I very much enjoy this album. This sounds more like a more bluesy/jammy version of Hawkwind, with extended jams, and without the synthesizers, with a rather underground sound. I like how it's advertised as "One Hour Space Rock" and that's basically what you get. Hawkwind finds might dig this, finding it strange UFO once attempted such a thing, but after two albums, they felt the "bad space rock" phase couldn't go any further. So into the hard rock/heavy metal phase with Michael Schenker by 1974, and all was history, the band received tons of popularity (but still no love with the rock critics who now referred to them as a "bad heavy metal band").

  5. Starcastle - Citadel

    Nothing seems to irk the prog community more than Yes or Genesis clones, and Starcastle is the epitome of a Yes clone. This Illinois band appeared right when Yes were dormant and all five of their members were recording solo albums. I simply included their first three albums in this batch, because, yes, it's true, they sound like Yes. Even Terry Luttrell (former REO Speedwagon vocalist) sounds much like Jon Anderson, and Herb Schildt does Rick Wakeman riffs. So much reminders of Yes, it's little wonder this band often don't get much respect in the prog community. Luckily this band did receive some Midwestern success in the late '70s, apparently "Lady of the Lake" (off their self-entitled debut) did receive some FM radio airplay. October 1977's Citadel was their third album, and it was plain obvious that the band still wanted to do prog material, but was forced to include "Can't Think Twice" and "Could This Be Love", which were more pop-oriented than anything they ever did before. Luckily the rest is as prog and as good as anything they did before. 1978's Real to Reel was unfortunately a big dive into generic AOR and it's where even the fans got off the boat (the band wasn't pleased with that album). Luckily for their first three albums, if you like Yes and don't mind another band trying to sound like them, give them a try. Of the albums they did, early 1977's Fountains of Light is probably their best.

  6. Alice Cooper - Pretties For You

    Just like the Scorpions, Alice Cooper had psychedelic beginning as Pretties For You clearly demonstrates. One of the earliest releases on Zappa's Straight label, it demonstrates Alice Cooper his early stages. The back cover surprisingly shows them looking like a glam rock act circa 1972, even if this was released in 1969! Instead of the face paint, Alice Cooper himself is seen wearing a dress! In '69 he hasn't gotten his shtick together, but surprisingly he and his band dishes out some rather good heavy psych music. Alice Cooper hasn't yet discovered his voice, so you can barely recognize him as the same guy who sang "I'm Eighteen". There is some humorous and quirky elements, no doubt the Zappa influence (even though he never produced the album). Here you get an early version of his 1972 single "Elected" called "Reflected", plus some other great stuff like "Fields of Regret" and the silly "Apple Bush". Listening to this album you'd not recognize this is the same guy who inspired the likes of KISS, as well as tons of hair metal acts in the 1980s. I'd more recommend this album to fans of psychedelia than of heavy metal, as it's a very good album in that style!

  7. Paul Kantner, Grace Slick - Sunfighter

    While Airplane devotees tend to praise Blows Against the Empire, for some reason, the followup (this time credited as Paul Kantner and Grace Slick, rather than Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship), Sunfighter gets perhaps a little less praise, but for my tastes I actually prefer Sunfighter over Blows Against the Empire. This album uses many of the same musicians as before (the Crosby, Stills & Nash guys without Stills, Jerry Garcia, various Jefferson Airplane members), but also a certain 16 year old of Portuguese descent named Craig Chaquico playing guitar on "Earth Mother", he obviously one of the permanent members of the later Jefferson Starship incarnation. Plus Papa John Creech who already appeared on Airplane's Bark. While Bark clearly shows Airplane as a post-hippie band, Sunfighter, released about two months later, surprisingly shows them still holding on to '60s hippie values. Even the inner gatefold depicts psychedelic artwork like it came straight out of 1968. Honestly this isn't too different from late '60s Jefferson Airplane, although "China", regarding Grace Slick and Paul Kantner's new baby, naturally, is a strangely uncharacteristically soulful ballad from Grace Slick. It's obvious that Slick and Kantner were still wishing to hold on to hippie values, even though it was becoming passe in late '71.

  8. Golden Avatar - A Change Of Heart

    Golden Avatar seemed to be an enterprise of the Los Angeles branch of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) aka Hare Krishna. It was also the name of a music project by Michael Cassidy, unsurprisingly a Krishna devotee. Apparently this album was printed in large amounts to where, in the late '70s it would be difficult not to spot a copy, be it Hare Krishnas peddling copies of it on the street and at airports along with copies of the Bhagavad Gita As it Is, at well as record stores carrying it. This became something of a thrift store staple, sitting in between Herb Alpert and Barry Manilow lps. Because of this, the album is frequently dismissed, because of Michael Cassidy's voice is frequently too close to John Denver territory, the lyrics are often ridiculous reflecting his spiritual beliefs, and some of the music bordering on folksy soft rock, but there are several songs with rather creative passages and even proggy at times. It's not the kind of album that set my world on fire and the flaws are obvious, but I still find it enjoyable.

  9. Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso - Garofano Rosso (Colonna Sonora Originale Del Film)

    Of all albums that frequently get unfavorable reviews, this 1976 soundtrack album is one I can't figure for the life of me the negative reception. OK, so it's an instrumental album without Francesco Di Giacomo present letting Vittorio and Gianni Nocenzi shine. It sounds like, well an instrumental Banco album, with theme that frequently repeats given it's a soundtrack. It also gives one a reminder that there's more to the Banco sound than just Francesco Di Giacomo.

  10. Iron Butterfly - Ball

    Everyone knows about the groundbreaking success of "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida" we all know that would be a tough act to follow. At the beginning of 1969 they released their following album Ball, and many people felt this album was a big letdown. Many people felt they were becoming more pop-oriented, and I do think "Lonely Boy" isn't exactly a favorite of mine, Iron Butterfly doing a soulful ballad isn't their thing, but the rest is much better than I expected. Even Doug Ingle still uses the Vox Continental organ. This album still sounds stuck in 1968, probably because it was recorded late in '68.

  11. Iron Butterfly With Pinera* & Rhino* - Metamorphosis

    I can understand why this album is called Metamorphosis. Erik Braun had departed, in comes Mike Pinera and Larry "Rhino" Reinhardt. It's called Metamorphosis as the band made a big change in their sound. In this case, a more bluesy sound, it really sounds like they had Steppenwolf in mind. Doug Ingle ditched the Vox organ in favor of a Hammond organ (even Ray Manzarek reduced the use of the Vox Continental in the Doors around this time period too) and his voice sounds a lot like John Kay. The band seemed to take on a biker image, or at least inspired by Easy Rider, as the gatefold depicts Lee Dorman riding a Harley Davidson. The band even recorded a song called "Easy Rider". This album also gets maligned, mainly because of the change in sound, and I'm sure many were put off by "Butterfly Bleu". Strangely they still sound stuck in '68, but the 1968 of a different band: Steppenwolf. Anyways I actually find the album quite enjoyable, like "Best Years of My Life". "A New Day", and "Soldier in Our Town". I really like the change they did here, they probably knew they couldn't repeat "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida", and made a conscious decision not to. It's too bad this band is too associated with "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida" that people tend to forget there are other songs and albums they have done.

  12. Yes - Drama

    As far as people are concerned, Yes should have thrown in the towel once Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman departed. Instead Chris Squire, Alan White and Steve Howe still wanted to continue on as Yes and brought in the Buggles guys, who just had a hit with "Video Killed the Radio Star", Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn. Honestly I felt this an improvement over Tormato. Certainly it's not as good as their best stuff, but better than expected. In 1980 they hadn't forgotten prog as "Machine Messiah" clearly proves. New wave elements were starting to show, especially on "Does it Really Happen", sounding a bit like a prototypical Asia. "Into the Lens" I really don't care for, perhaps it's the chorus and the enunciation of the words that rub me the wrong way (it appears I'm not the only one who feels that). "Tempus Fugit" sounds like classic Yes, the only thing is Geoff Downes is handling the vocals, he doesn't quite have the high register of Jon Anderson. It's also nice to see a Roger Dean cover, since he hadn't graced a Yes album cover since 1975's Yesterdays.

  13. Hawkwind - Hawkwind

    Wow! This album is seriously underrated. When I first bought this album in 1995 it simply blew me away, but I didn't realize this album is frequently dismissed, and many felt it was only with their next album, In Search of Space that they found themselves. The album is bookended by a couple of acoustic bluesy songs with "Hurry On Sundown" and "Mirror of Illusion", they are great songs, but in between those songs are just amazing and intense instrumental jams with space sound effects, there are times the band just doesn't let up, in fact this album seems closer to Krautrock like that of Tangerine Dream's Electronic Meditation or "Amboss" off Ash Ra Tempel's 1971 debut than what I usually expect out of a British band. This is one of those albums that don't always get favorable reviews that just blew me away!

  14. Big Brother & The Holding Company - Big Brother & The Holding Company

    It's clear that Cheap Thrills was Janis Joplins huge breakthrough, as being signed to a major label, in this case Columbia, surely helped big time. Previously Big Brother was on Mainstream (an ironically named label as the label scarcely received much any mainstream recognition) and in 1967 they released their debut, just shortly after their appearance at the Monterry Pop Festival. It's obvious when you compare this debut to Cheap Thrills, it's clear on their debut that it's Janis Joplin, a member of Big Brother, and on Cheap Thrills, it was Janis, the star (she then left Big Brother and pursued a solo career). The debut was basically a folk rock album, but elements of blues and soul still surface. It sounded like Janis wasn't totally confident, so she doesn't totally belt it out like she does later in, but it's still full of great songs. "Down on Me" is definitely a classic, while "Easy Rider" definitely shows that Janis was still unsure of herself. "Light is Faster than Sound" demonstrates that Big Brother was a band, not a band that happened to back up Janis, as she is clearly not singing lead, but some of the other band members are handling vocal duties here. This is a really nice piece of psychedelic, as far as I'm concerned. A few other songs other band members sing, and Janis simply sings backing vocals. While it's obvious everyone has Cheap Thrills and Pearl (I Got Dem Cozmic Blues Again Mama, while loved by many, had its detractors as it was too soul-oriented for some), it's also nice to have the debut to see where it all started.

  15. Country Joe & The Fish* - Electric Music For The Mind And Body

    Country Joe & the Fish often gets a bad reputation when it comes to Bay Area psychedelia, and sometimes even I feel their politics take center stage and musical quality goes awry (a complaint I also level at the German band Floh de Cologne). Although they released a couple of super-obscure EPs in 1965-66 (including an original version of "I Feel Like I'm a Fixin' to Die Rag"), Electric Music for the Mind and Body was their debut LP. This is probably their best one, where the politics hadn't taken over (the problem I have with later albums is when it gets overthrown by too many "joke" songs trying to convey a politic message, I can handle "I Feel Like I'm a Fixin' to Die Rag", but that should not be repeated, but they did (and noticed how they never get the same recognition). Anyways, this isn't the best Bay Area psych album you'll hear all year, but at least they stuck to music and not do some cheesy politically-oriented ragtime. "Flying High" and "Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine" are the more recognized songs on this album. "Section 43" and "Grace" are really nice songs, a bit experimental, with some organ to go with it.

  16. The Doors - Waiting For The Sun

    This was their third album, and many believe the band had slumped, given how the best material was all used up on their first two albums. Their first two album were difficult to beat, so it's hard not to think of Waiting for the Sun as a disappointment. You know what? The album is actually very good! In fact there are only two songs on here that I can do without, that is "Wintertime Love" and "Yes, the River Knows", the latter written by Robbie Krieger. The latter features such cringe-inducing lyrics like "I promise I would drown myself in mystic heated wine" (I thought Morrison sang "Mysticated wine", but classic case of mishearing it). Honestly one of those songs should have been replaced by the title track, which was recorded during the same sessions, but did not appear until 1970's Morrison Hotel. I'd go call Waiting for the Sun (the album) a classic has the title track made it onto this album. "Hello, I Love You" is the hit single, to me it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Kink's "All Day and All of the Night" although the band would deny that (they had Cream's "Sunshine of your Love" in mind). The band had a more experimental nature here like "Not to Touch the Earth", "The Unknown Soldier" and the flamenco-influenced "Spanish Caravan". "Not to Touch the Earth" was meant to be included in a 17 minute "The Celebration of the Lizard King", but the band (or Morrison) didn't feel confident to do such (but a full live performance of the song did surface a little later on 1970's Absolutely Live). "Summer's Almost Gone" has a nice atmospheric vibe, with some nice organ playing from Ray Manzarak. "We Could Be So Good Together" is another fine song. Just two songs I don't care for, but honestly it's actually mainly a great album.

  17. The Doors - The Soft Parade

    This is the fourth album from the Doors and usually considered the weakest from the Jim Morrison-era. I guess the reason for that is basically "Tell All the People" and the hit single "Touch Me" (released in December 1968, several months before the album). These songs are plastered with horns and strings with a rather obvious pop-oriented direction. You can't blame Jim Morrison for these, these were written by Robbie Krieger, and in fact this is the only Doors album (Morrison-era, that is) that clearly give credit to who wrote the song, rather than crediting the band (unless of course, the song is a cover). While I can't say "Touch Me" is bad, in fact I'm rather used to it from radio airplay, "Tell all the People" seem a bit too lounge-like for my liking. The rest of the album isn't like that. "Shaman's Blues" seems more traditional Doors, clearly a Morrison song. "Wild Child" is the b-side to "Touch Me" and also thankfully more traditional Doors, more blues-based. "Runnin' Blue" is another Krieger song, but luckily it sounds more traditionally Doors, except for that strange country-influenced break, some bluegrass musician makes an appearance here on banjo. The title track is the highlight of the album, basically a multimovement suite (without any suites listed). 1969 wasn't exactly a good year for the Doors, given the Miami incident, and the fact band received heat from the mixed reviews The Soft Parade had received. Jim Morrison's alcoholism really affected the band, and it took nine months to finish it, as compared to the debut which took only six days to finish it. That's why their next album, Morrison Hotel was a bit more "conservative" album, sticking to more blues-based material (although a couple of old leftovers from their debut and Waiting for the Sun, namely the title track to the latter, and "Indian Summer" from the former, make an appearance here). Really, if you can get past the first two songs, The Soft Parade is actually a rather good album. It's a rather diverse offering and a rather satisfying album despite the flaws.

  18. The Doors - Other Voices

    Three Doors albums I consider underrated. Now with Waiting for the Sun and The Soft Parade, it's because they're considered the worst they done with Jim Morrison, and I don't find them that bad (although I found whatever flaws on The Soft Parade rather glaring, it's good outweighs the bad). For many people, that's it with the Doors after Jim Morrison's passing. Except it wasn't. The three recorded two more albums, Other Voices being the first. These two albums had been ignored, and been out of print for a long time, until recently. Every rock critic was not too kind with the post-Jim version of the band, and even many fans think that way. Is it really that bad? Well I'll be lying if I think this is on par with the albums they did with Jim. Of course not! But none of the album I found particularly cringeworthy. It sounds, to my ears, the ideas of Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger, not Jim Morrison, so their styles show up front, although Ray attempt a Jim Morrison vocal imitation from time to time, but you can tell he don't got what Jim had. Surprisingly three songs really stand up. "Ships W/ Sails" could easily pass for classic Doors had Jim sung this, rather than Ray, but even so, I love this song. You can see why Ray attempted to sing like Jim here. Robbie's "I'm Horny, I'm Stoned" is just plain silly. Here the band is clearly not taking themselves seriously. This song is extremely blatant that the three surviving band members were just simply stating that the band was WAY TOO serious when Jim was around (to be honest, "Runnin' Blue" off The Soft Parade also didn't take itself serious, especially from the Dylan vocal and country/bluegrass section of the song, but to be fair, it was also written by Robbie Krieger). "Hang On You Your Life" has a jazzy Latin influence, with help from Afro-Cuban percussionist Francisco Aguabella. "Down on the Farm" has a rather folk feel, sounding, to my ears, like if Peter, Paul & Mary had no female vocalist, and it was all male vocals, and was electric (OK, so I realize "I Dig Rock and Roll Music" was electric, but it remained on the soft-end of folk rock, and they weren't rock musicians, unlike the Doors). As for the rest, those songs weren't bad, but aren't exactly classics. At least they're listenable. I consider it underrated if the album is frequently maligned, but when I hear it, nothing offended my ears, and in fact a couple of brilliant songs pops up ("Ship W/ Sails" being one), that's when I feel it's underrated. Don't expect a masterpiece here, and you're fine.

    By the way, in 1991 Owen O'Donnell and Jimmy Guterman published a book called The Fifty Worst Rock and Roll Records of all time. On one section of the book is a list of bands they felt were outstaying their welcome because a key member had left. Such as the Who after Keith Moon died. Or Genesis without Peter Gabriel. The Doors were also mentioned, but to be fair, these guys never liked the band (they did include Alive, She Cried in the main list of fifty worst albums). In this section, they stated, "Ray Manzarek couldn't play organ without sounding full of himself. Imagine how he sang". I guess these guys felt Ray Manzarek's singing sounded more like that of a vanity recording. They did mention Ray's second solo album, The Whole Thing Started With Rock and Roll, Now It's Out of Control.

  19. Grand Funk* - Phoenix

    Grand Funk's last album with Terry Knight, E Pluribus Funk is simply a great album, it certainly demonstrated how much Grand Funk rocked in those early days, and for fans of their early sound, that was their last worthy album. Phoenix was a band in transition, without a manager, and with a new member, Craig Frost, to help with keyboard duties, so that Mark Farner can stick to guitar when performing live (after all, "Footstompin' Music" works much better live if Mark can play the guitar and someone else the organ, since Mark played both guitar and organ on the original). With Phoenix, it's clear the band mellowed out quite a bit, so they just end up as a '70s rock band. I have also noticed that Mel Schacher had ditched that fuzz bass sound he was using ever since their second album (an approach no doubt inspired by Jack Bruce). So many fans ended up a bit disappointed. It's not that bad. "Flight of the Phoenix" is a strange opening for GFR, all instrumental, organ-driven with some fiddle from Doug Kershaw. To have someone associated with Cajun, folk and country music in Grand Funk is a bit strange. "Someone" is a rather laidback folk-influenced number, so that really threw off many fans (although I did forget there was a rocking middle part). "She Got to Move Me" is about a groupie, no doubt Mark Farner wrote this. "Rain Keeps Fallin'" is a really nice sing. "I Just Gotta Know" is a bit more rocking, and one of those anti-Vietnam War songs (Mark Farner, despite many of his political views, at least been very honest about the Vietnam War, unlike Ted Nugent, he even considered fleeing to Canada, but instead played in rock bands). "Gotta Find Me a Better Way" is nice, and there's the minor hit "Rock 'n Roll Soul", which I honestly don't remember hearing that song on the radio. I don't find the album all that bad. I don't have the rock energy of earlier albums, and it's frequently laid back, but this album only paved way for even greater success with their next album, We're an American Band.

  20. Grand Funk Railroad - Good Singin' Good Playin'

    Grand Funk Railroad was at the end of the rope in 1976. Many long time fans had felt long alienated from the band after they broke paths with Terry Knight, although their albums still continued to sell, at least until 1974. Born to Die wasn't exactly a big seller, although "Take Me" was a minor radio hit. So just when they thought they were to throw in the towel, in comes Zappa, he wanted to produce an album with them (I'm sure the GFR guys were really surprised given they were certain Zappa would have little use in their music). So they did, and MCA released it. Yes, it's more mainstream than say, their early stuff like On Time, the Red Album or Closer to Home, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed this. The band wasn't known for not taking themselves seriously, here the band does just that, not take themselves always seriously, the Zappa influence, no doubt. That really shows with their cover of the Contours' "Can You Do It". "Don't Let 'Em Take Your Gun" has Mark Farner written all over it. You can imagine him singing this song with Ted Nugent. "Big Buns" is a tasteless apacella piece, again showing the Zappa influence. "Out to Get You" features a guitar solo from none other than Zappa. "Crossfire" is simply a nice, enjoyable song, as well as "Release Your Love" *(which sounded like it belongs on We're An American Band), and I really dig the closing song, "Goin' For the Pastor". What can I say? The album does have some flaws, but much of it I find quite enjoyable. The band was just doing this for fun, given they had expectations it won't sell any better than their previous album, Born to Die, and they were going to break up anyways. The cover could easily pass for a Zappa album cover, by the way.

  21. Van Der Graaf Generator - The Aerosol Grey Machine

    Compared to following albums, The Aerosol Grey Machine seems to get glossed over. For one thing, this was intended as a Peter Hammill solo album, but since Guy Evans, Hugh Banton, and then-current bassist Keith Ellis appeared, it was released by Mercury in the US as a Van der Graaf Generator album. Manager Tony Stratton-Smith felt that Hammill was being screwed, since the album didn't get a UK release, and that's where Charisma Records came to be, to help artists under Stratton-Smith's umbrella get a chance to record (his label certainly gave Genesis a better deal than with Jonathan King). Big loss for the British, at least the Americans got to hear The Aerosol Grey Machine. This album is not as bad as one might think. In fact, you can tell it was meant as a Hammill solo album. The album has a more proto-prog vibe than the full-on thing, and it's more psychedelic in a '60s manner (that '60s psych element can still be felt as late as H to He Who Am the Only One, though). The doomy nature hasn't been totally perfected, but it's definitely there with "The Necromancer" and "Octopus". There's also a lighter side like "Afterwards" which has an almost pop psychedelic feel to it. Hugh Banton's organ playing is still unmistakable as ever, and piano provided by Peter Hammill. "Running Back" is a nice acoustic song, but a nice flute solo is included by some anonymous figure just named "John". "Aquarian" may seem like hippie psychedelia, but you can sense something more unsettling within the music and lyrics, given this is Peter Hammill (as much as this song sounds a bit flower power, I can tell he's the kind of guy who never bought into that, not even in the late '60s). The title track is just plain silly. I guess Hammill himself realizes how deadly serious he (and VdGG, for that matter) is, so why not a song that don't take itself so seriously. "The Necromancer" has these weird electronic effects (I doubt it was a VCS-3, I don't believe they came out until November 1969, and this album was recorded August of that year). "Octopus" definitely shows all the brilliance that VdGG were all about on subsequent albums. Every time I hear this, I find there is nothing really wrong with this album. A couple songs might be a bit more "hippie" or "flower power"-like, but all the elements and potential are definitely there! Think of this as like Trespass from Genesis or the first two Yes albums, similar albums where the bands were getting their feet wet, with better things to come. I really think The Aerosol Grey Machine deserves a chance, it's well worth having.

  22. Gabriel Bondage - Angel Dust

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    What a rather unfortunate name for a band! What on earth were they thinking? Of course their Facebook page had to let everyone know about their name that it had no sexual connotation, as to avoid getting trolls on their page mocking their name. Gabriel Bondage has been frequently maligned, I believe a whole lot of that has to do with their second (and final album) Another Trip to Earth. To be honest, except for "Take it on a Dare" (sounds like they were trying to compete with local Chicago contemporaries Styx, on that particular song), much of that album was really unappealing to me, so when I heard Angel Dust, my expectations weren't particularly high, but I actually found it quite enjoyable. Nothing is as mindblowingly great as "Take it on a Dare", on the other hand, at least it doesn't have anything as wretched as "Long Time" either, although "Take My Eyes" I can do without. A lot of it sounds like a more progged version of CSN(Y). Some of those Christian lyrics I could do without, though.

  23. Dr. Z (3) - Three Parts To My Soul (Spiritus, Manes Et Umbra)

    Dr. Z was an obscure prog rock band lead by Welsh professor Dr. Keith Keyes that explored occult themes. The album is generally thought of as a rarity and little else. It's been said only 80 copies or so of the Vertigo original were said to be pressed, but that I seriously doubt given that some seller selling their LPs for Discogs always seems to have a copy, although ridiculously expensive, but I'm willing to believe only 80 copies were sold upon release. Rumor stated the rest were destroyed. I doubt that given if only 80 copies existed, copies will only show up very sporadically, not 4 copies being available as of typing (January 22, 2017). Regardless, most people don't think it's all that good, but you know what? I find it very enjoyable, rather melodic prog with sinister overtones. Not too often do you come across harpsichord-dominated albums (harpsichords are usually included along with organs, pianos, synths, and Mellotrons), although even this album does feature piano and organ. It's actually not too terribly different from labelmates Gracious, Cressida, and Beggars Opera. I only think the drum solo on "Spiritus, Manes et Umbra" is a bit unnecessary, but this album really is a lot better than I expected it to be, it's nowhere as bad as one could be lead to believe.