The Snow Goose
Janus 7016 (USA)
UK prog outfit’s third album, an instrumental set based on a children’s book. It sounded like an awful idea (and of course it’s only for fans of head-rock), but it ended up being Camel’s best album, and other than Bo Hannson’s take on Lord of the Rings, this is probably the most successful example of a progressive-rock outfit taking on a piece of literature. In fact, this set might have been inspired by Hannson’s work as the two offerings have some things in common.
This Camel album and Bo’s Lord of the Rings are both all instrumental, and both sets effectively capture the elements of a story with low-key instrumentation rather than going over the top for the sake of showing off. Also, both are clearly English, focusing on a classical/rock sound, and it’s always nice to hear English outfits take a break from playing American R&B, West Indies music or Eastern-flavored junk, and focus on sounds closer to home. It often comes across sounding less forced and more natural.
At times, the Pink Floyd influence becomes quite clear, specifically Floyd’s more reflective moments of the early 70s (Meddle & Atom Heart Mother). At one point, they even lift part of “the Albatross,” but ultimately, this is its own bird, essential listening for fans of head rock.
Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express
RCA (LSP 4703)
Rating: **** (Recommended)
Released May 1972 (US & UK)
A sameness runs through the cuts on this album, something that some fans might find boring and uneventful, but the sameness is actually one of the main reasons this set is so strong. While the band stretches out, they never go too far into show-off excesses or try too hard like Traffic at this time, or like on some of Auger’s other material. And this material is not boring like some of his sets. The instrumental bridges push almost into a jam sound as usual, but they flow forward in a groove that owes more to funk than progressive rock. While this band was lacking in the vocal department after losing Julie Driscoll, Ligertwood finally fills the void, with his voice fitting the sound quite well.
Most members assist with the writing, and with the contributions of new members Alex Ligertwood (vocals) and Jim Mullen (guitar), the set has a cohesive sound. The sound clearly owes much to the past, with influences perhaps coming from the Allman Brothers as well as San Francisco funk. Of course, it’s not gritty like those sources, and the sound looks forward as much as it looks back. It continues to fuse rock, jazz, and R&B, and is clearly from the early 70s, but it also foreshadows the direction many artists would take years later. It likely had an influence on many progressive-rock musicians, folks such as Steve Winwood and Peter Gabriel. The music doesn’t sound like Gabriel’s solo work, but it perhaps gave folks like Gabriel some alternative to just continuing in the stereotypical progressive-rock mode.
The album is likely more of a pleasant surprise for fans of early 70s R&B than fans of progressive rock.It’s not a funk album, but it’s closer to Oakland than most albums from Great Britain at this point, and it might have provided ideas and inspiration to funk groups such as the Average White Band from Scotland. It’s not bad for a group of white guys from England.
Considering it comes from 1972, it deserves a note in the books. It’s one of Auger’s more enjoyable albums.— winch
Darryl Way’s Wolf
1974 (Recorded 1973)
This USA release collects cuts from the first two albums, Canis Lupus and Saturation Point, both from 1973. Somewhat similar to Way’s work with Curved Air, these recordings continue to showcase Way’s obsession with Vivaldi and other classical composers, guitarist John Etheridge helping bring out jazz influences.
This is a varied set, but fans of progressive rock will likely find enough to justify the time under the headphones.
Volume II: Les Chevrons
Festival FLD 651
Second set by this French progressive-rock outfit, coming out of the early works of Floyd, Purple, and the Nice, horror-movie soundtracks and classical music, Black Sabbath’s more moody material, all instrumental except chants and yelps and such, the heavy focus on the organ (rather than guitars) giving it the feeling of a mass or a soundtrack for a seance, the rock rhythms running through the dimly lit corridors, the bass slightly understated, the percussion quite pronounced, the music rising out of the sludge for a more airy sound, the instrumentations an integral part of the compositions rather than a reason to show off.
Recommended set for fans of progressive rock.