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Mystic Records

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Mystic Records, Unit 16, Rathbone House, 24 Tanfield Rd, Croydon, CR0 1AL, Great Britain.

Web: www.mysticrecords.co.uk

Stray - Live: In Yer Face! (MYS CD160)

Stray - Live: In Yer Face!

Stray are a band that I can dimly recall from my pimply youth back in the 70s - a hard rocking band, they enjoyed more success in America than here in their own homeland, and it comes as something of a surprise to find that they are still going strong and making albums [this is their fifth on Mystic]. The current line-up is Del Bronham [gtr & vcls], John Bootle [bass] and Paul Watson [drums], and they seem to have evolved into a hard rocking blues-rock trio.

With a title like Live: In Yer Face! you know exactly where you are with this album. Recorded at the Robin Hood RnB Club in the West Midlands, The band are on blistering form and tear through ten tracks from their current songbook, including a medley of [I assume] their early hits. I can't say that I was a fan in the band's early years, my tastes lay in other directions of rock music, but this album is a downright antidote to the anaemic state that pop and rock music are currently floundering in. It is such a joy to just hear a riffing guitar solo wailing away, instead of the quivering non-voice of a "Pop Idol" or other manufactured no-talent but cute looking boy or girl bands. Just a few seconds listening to this album and you know you are listening to a hard working band that have crafted and grafted over the years to refine their music and performance skills. If you like your rock music vital and loud, harking back to the days of Rory Gallagher, Cream, Wishbone Ash etc, then this album should bring tears to your eyes. Buy with confidence!

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Ken Hensley - A Glimpse Of Glory
(MYS CD 157)

Ken Hensley - A Glimpse Of Glory

Not so much a sequel to Ken Hensley's last album, Running Blind, this latest album, A Glimpse Of Glory, is a much more personal affair. It explores the ex-Uriah Heep keyboard player's Christian beliefs and also rocks pretty well too, so anyone expecting a Cliff Richard wimp out will be severely disappointed. This is probably the least preachy 'Godrock' album I've heard in a long time - most of the tracks have the same structure as the earlier prog-rock albums, full of big riffs, keyboard wizardry and dramatic vocals, only the lyric content is different. Sadly, there are no sleevenotes so I can't tell you who else is playing on the CD, whoever they are they can certainly rock. A case in point is Jesus (Again & Again), a beefy mid tempo rocker with some deeply booming drums that propel it along. The country rocker The Joy of Knowing Jesus follows, framed in slide guitar and a hoedown beat. That classic 'unplugged' moment comes on the intense Guard Your Heart. Shakey Ground, with its southern blues-rock feel and gospel choir backing reminds me of the Allman Brothers - pass the chitlins! Well, I must admit that I usually cross the road when anything with a religious connotation hoves into my view, but I surprised myself by playing this album more than the customary couple of plays for reviewing purposes. So I guess that says something profound about A Glimpse Of Glory. The album works on two levels, a standard solo album that Heep fans can savour, plus something rocky and daring for the believers. Try and listen before you buy - the Rev Ken will have your soul within thirty seconds.

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John Butler - Worthless Bastard Rock
(MYS CD 145)

This is the second solo album by John Butler, a musician I've not heard of before but he was a member of an early 90's group, Diesel Park West who I have heard of. The album begins with the slightly Dylanesque Ticket To Heaven, which has a hint of Knocking on Heaven's Door to it. Indeed, Butler has a voice that seems to be part Bob Dylan rasp, part Bruce Springsteen roar, and a dash of Graham Parker's soul. So it's a soulful, rocky voice and all the songs have what used to be called AOR potential. My Brother There continues the album with a hook-laden song that would be too damn classy for single release in the current climate of manufactured boy bands. Perfect Love is another 'big rock' sound track. There are no listings of the musicians in the cd inlay so I don't know if John Butler played everything himself, if he did then I am very impressed as the album has a tight cohesiveness that usually only comes about with a well-rehearsed band. This is damn fine album with some lovely songs and a lot of attitude - it should be on any discerning mature rock fans shopping list!

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Ken Hensley - Running Blind
(MYS CD 153)

Ken Hensley - Running Blind

Ken Hensley is the ex-keyboard player for veteran prog-rockers Uriah Heep, and this is his latest solo album. The album opens in true prog-rock style with an Overture: "Las Tristeza Secreta De UnCorazon Gitano" Pt 1, followed by Prelude: A Minor Life - the former is a nice quasi-classical instrumental which morphs into a prog-rock guitar and keyboards workout in the Heep style. The remainder of the fourteen tracks are songs, from the rocking Out of My Control and You've Got It [The American Dream] and It's Up To You, to the gentler and more personal Finney's Tale, I Close My Eyes and A Little Piece Of Me [Julia's Song].

On the whole this is good old fashioned rock music, the sort that I listened to in my formative years back in the late 60's and early 70's - the days when rock was ROCK and hadn't fragmented into God knows how many segments that confuse me now. The musicianship is as high as you'd expect but thankfully the usual overblown prog-rock solos are mostly missing, so none of the tracks overstay their welcome. Running Blind is an album of real music and songs created by an individual and not the dreaded committee that seems to have taken over the pop genre lately. The bottom line is that Running Blind will appeal to music fans of my generation - and course the legion of Uriah Heep fans out there.

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Dave Greenslade - Going South
(MYSCD 137)

Dave Greenslade has been around a long time: originally the keyboard player for Coliseum, he left and formed his own eponymous band for many years before going solo. He may not have had Rick Wakeman's flash but he was as good a composer and multi-keyboard player. His new album Going South is a musical portrait of the birds that migrate south every year. Completely instrumental, and pretty low key in structure and tempo, I guess this could be classed as 'new age', though it seems a little too jazzy for that - every so often you get a little jazz fusion/funk riff ripple through the themes. It's a very pleasant album to listen to, but I'm not sure who it is aimed at - obviously Greenslade fans will seek it out, and it deserves a wider audience, but I fear it will get lost amongst the anonymous-looking new age stuff that is tucked away at the back of HMV.

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ReGenesis - Lamb For Supper
(MYS CD 149)

Regenesis - Lamb For Supper

The cd cover proudly proclaims that ReGenesis are "The UK Genesis Tribute Band" and this live album was recorded at G2 - the 2001 Genesis fan convention in March this year [2001]. I have to admit that I was never a fan of the original band but I think the material on this album dates back to the Peter Gabriel period, a classic one for early Genesis fans. A time when they were one of prog-rock's finest and not Phil Collins backing band. Not knowing this material from the first time round I'm not really in a position to judge how authentic ReGenesis are in recreating it. The audience on the cd seem to be enthusiastic though.

The tracks covered are Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging, Chamber of 32 Doors, The Lamia, Silent Sorrow In Empty Boats, The Colony Of Slippermen, Supper's Ready, Dance On A Volcano/Drum Duet/Los Endos. As far as I can tell the musicians, Tony Patterson, Stev Marsh, Andy Hyam, Doug Melbourne and Jamie Fisher, are a good carbon copy of the real thing. But I'm not sure why you'd want this if you have the original albums - mind you, if you were at the gig or seen the band when they toured this makes a handy souvenir of the night.

Samson - Live In London 2000 (MYS CD 154)
Paul Samson - Live: The Blues Nights (MYS CD 155)

Samson - Live in London 2000Somehow, in my 48 long years on this planet, I seem to have missed out on the joys of Samson. Born in the flames of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal [NWoBHM] back in the 80's, Samson had a lot of success then vanished into music history. But now, guitarist Paul Samson has reformed the band and Live In London 2000 is a live [obviously!] album recorded in 2000, testifying that they can still rock hard and loud. Overall, the first impression is that Paul Samson's guitar style is rooted in the blues and that this is nothing more than cranked up, overdriven blues-rock not too far removed from what Free and Bad Company used to do. I love it!

I'm not sure if this is the classic line-up, though I'm sure the fans will know. Samson is on guitar, Nicky Moore on vocals, Chris Aylmer on bass and Thundersticks on drums - the latter is caged and masked, which I assume is some sort of gimmick [or perhaps its someone moonlighting!]. As live albums go this is a pretty robust affair, the sound is boxy and raw and actually sounds like it was recorded in the London Astoria 2 and has not been touched up in the studio. The track selection is, I assume, the Samson songbook writ large - Test of Time, Vice Versa, Room 109, Turn Out The Lights, Brand New Day, Don't Get Mad Get Even, Red Skies, Earth Mother, Riding With The Angels, Tomorrow Or Yesterday and Mr Rock 'n' Roll. This album will be snapped up by the fans but I think it would also appeal to the blues-rocker who is missing a fix of that Delta mojo.

The second album featuring Paul Samson [Live: The Blues Nights] is a collection of blues-rock tracks that have been recorded from live sessions by the various blues-based projects Samson was involved in mostly outside of his own heavy metal band. So we have tracks such as Reconsider Baby, Sweet Home Chicago, Not Guilty and Crossroads by Ric Lee's Breakers, Albatross, Black Magic Woman and Love That Burns from a Peter Green tribute show, Hot Girls, The City Blues and Cherokee Mist from sessions with the Richard Black Project, and finally A Fool For Your Stockings and Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) from Samson's own band.

I have to admit that I prefer the blues recordings myself, perhaps because I'm more familiar with the material. And despite the various band line-ups on these tracks Paul Samson is fiery blues guitarist who can hold his own up there with all the other blues rockers. If you enjoyed Gary Moore's exploration of the blues during the 90's then I think you'll really enjoy this album - it's got the same intensity and drive. Recommended!

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Melbourne - Night Star (Mystic MYS CD 159)

Melbourne - Night StarMelbourne are a trio of musicians: Carrie Melbourne, Doug Melbourne and Jamie Fisher, who between them play a whole orchestra of instruments. Between the three of them they have a wealth of musical experience playing with Mike Oldfield, Babylon Zoo, Regenesis and Tricky. This sequel to their debut album Indian Ocean is a continuation [I assume, not having heard the first album] of their mixture of trippy vibes and world music rhythms. Night Star moves into a middle ground where eastern rhythms meet dance beats alongside a mixture of ethnic instrumentation and samples and a standard set of electronica beats. It makes for quite an interesting mix, restrained enough [in this format] to be for the 'chill out' room, rather than the dance floor - though several tracks could be remixed for maximum effect. For some reason Carrie Melbourne's dreamy, whispy vocals remind me a little of a cross between St Etienne's vocalist and Bjork. The tracks that I tended to replay include Shanti, Numbskull, End of the Line, Love Remains and Nexus 6. Night Star is one of those albums that sheds its light over several plays - superficially it sounds a little bland but dig deeper and it has its moments of interest. The overall effect is of a collection of dreamlike songs that are most effective listened to with the lights low and the listener relaxed.

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Amon Duul II - Once Upon A Time: Best Of 1969-1999
(MYS CD 144)

Amon Duul II are one of those rock groups that I know only from the reference books as I was too young to really hear 'Krautrock' and its main proponents when it first invaded these shores in the late 60's/early 70's. Once Upon A Time purports to be the best of this seminal German rock band, and I can't dispute that as I'm not that familiar with their 'ouvre'.

However, what we have here is a fine album of fully whigged out prog-rock, starting with a fiery Phallus Dei that brought up a few sci-fi apocalyptic visions in the old brainbox while listening to it. Soap Shock Rock carries on the same sort of sci-fi rock opera thrash and indeed the way the album is mixed, all ten tracks segue into each other in such a way that the albums sounds like one long track. In fact there is little sense that you are listening to a collection of the best of one group's output of thirty years - it all sounds as if it was recorded at the same sessions.

Amon Duul II - Funky Krautrockers!The Amon Duul sound is very heavy on the drums, multi-tracked and echoing - no more so than on the amazing Surrounded by the Stars, a pounding drums and brass laden seven minutes of out of your skull rhythmic mayhem. Nada Moonshine # also rocks loud with lots of drums, percusion and samples - extremely funky and with some Indian influences at the same time!

For Amon Duul II fans here is a complete tracklisting: Phallus Dei, Soap Shop Rock, Archangel Thunderbird, Syntelman's March of the Roaring 70th, C.I.D. In Uruk, All the Years Round, Surrounded by the Stars, Wolf City, Cerberus, Nada Moonshine #. The 8 page inlay booklet contains an interesting introduction to the group [though some notes on the tracks themselves would have been helpful], plus a selection of photos. This is an excellent package, there's some amazing out of your head music on this cd that you won't believe until you hear it! Highly Recommended.

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Canned Heat - Live in Oz
(MYS CD 148)

Canned Heat - Live in OzOriginally released in 1981 as Boogie Assault: Live In Australia, this Canned Heat album is something of a historical record of a band in transition. Vocalist Bob 'The Bear' Hite had died earlier that year and the band had all but dissolved by the time an invitation to tour the antipodes was made. So original band drummer Fito de la Para reformed the band with legendary blues guitarist Walter Trout, and some other new members. The Australian tour was a successful one and the band still tour today. Walter Trout's reputation as a primo blues guitarist has grown many fold since 1981, including a stint with the equally legendary John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, and he's recently toured as a solo act here in the UK, hence this re-release. But what of Live in Oz? Well, it isn't the classic line-up but the band rock and boogie and give it the maximum welly. All the hits are there: On The Road Again, Amphetamine Annie, Goin' Up The Country, Let's Work Together, plus a selection of tasty blues boogies, not least the twenty-two minute epic Refried Hockey Boogie. One misses The Bear's gruff voice but this is a good band, they're tight and the Australian audience obviously are enjoying the gig. And so did I - a belt of the blues every so often is good for the system and this album does the business.

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Ike & Tina Turner - Ultimum Maximum
(MYS CD143)

Ike & Tina Turner - Ultimum MaximumThe deification of Tina Turner as a Rock Goddess since she became a solo performer back in the early 80's has tended to ignore the music she made with ex-husband Ike. Ignoring the details of their life together let's concentrate on the music they made together. This new compilation brings together 18 tracks recorded between 1969 and 1974, with most being studio cuts interspersed with the odd live track. This period was a transitional one for the Ike & Tina Turner Review - they still performed for their core rhythm and blues black audience, but they had also crossed over to the white rock audience thanks to support stints for the Stones and other rock bands. Ike Turner was nothing if not a believer in giving the punter what they wanted, so the bands' repertoire for the white audiences included a lot of cover versions of rock hits such as Get Back, Proud Mary, With A Little Help From My Friends, and Honky Tonk Woman. These were mixed in with the bands' own hits: River Deep Mountain High, Nutbush City Limits and Sexy Ida, and some of the best soul and r'n'b cuts doing the rounds at the time. So what we have here on Ultimum Maximum is a typical playlist for a Review performance - a blistering mix of rock, r'n'b and soul played by one of the hottest bands of the time, backing one of the rawest and inspiring voices in pop music. Ultimum Maximum is a very impressive collection of tracks, with little padding - it rocks like shit and doesn't let up. Ever!

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Tim Rose - American Son
(MYS CD 150)

Tim Rose - American SonThis is the first time I've really come across singer/songwriter Tim Rose - I was aware of his reputation, forged in the heady days of the sixties folk activism, when his reputation matched Bob Dylan's as a sharp wordsmith. But this is the first time I've actually heard HIM! And what an experience - that gravel-laced growl is extraordinary, and when allied to a set of ten new songs that pretty much strips off the veneer of many of the absurdities of modern life in America and elsewhere. The sleevenotes suggest that Rose has been living in Europe for many years [indeed, this album was recorded in Norway and the UK], and that reinforces the overall feeling that this album is a letter of hope, rage and sorrow from an ex-pat [I have this mental image of the singer broadcasting frantically to America, trying to find a chink in its shield of insular consumerism]. The musicianship by the small Norwegian band backing Rose is exemplary, fitting the lyrics with an amazing empathy. It's very difficult to pick out just a few songs from this collection, the quality is so high, but American Son, Ageing Soldier, Tiger In Cages, and world-weary Where Did The Good Times Go will do as highlights. If you think Tim Rose vanished into obscurity years ago, then think again - American Son is all the evidence you need to know he's back and in great form!

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Popol Vuh - Future Sound Experience
(MYS CD151)

Popol Vuh - Future Sound ExperienceMy only experience of Popol Vuh before this album was on the soundtracks to assorted Werner Herzog movies starring Klaus Kinski. That was back in the 70s/80s, and as one does I assumed PV had split up long ago. And yet here is their latest album, their 27th!

Future Sound Experience was originally recorded back in 1993, but the new version here has been re-mastered and with newly recorded musical links to join the tracks into one entirety. The Mystic Records press sheet would have you believe that Popol Vuh are a "New Age" group, but in truth they always were a mix of Krautrock and Prog-Rock, now with added World Music elements. There is no way that the brilliant music on this cd could be cast into that most anodine of musical categories: New Age. Okay, so what have you got on this album? The ingredients are: synths, ethnic percusion and other instruments, drones, chants, choirs, sampled sounds, acoustic/electric guitars, flutes. All mixed into this exhilarating symphony depicting a haunting [and perhaps haunted?] timelessness - a dreamworld created by the Ancients. There are eight tracks, or parts, to this symphony [if you like]: Gutes Land, Kleiner Kreiger, Morgengruss, Hungern und Duersten, Liedklagen, Reines Herz, Weinen und Lachen, and finally Tanz. For me, the most evocative section of the album is from Liedklagen onwards, where the various drones and chants resolve into a compulsively tuneful melody that stays long in the mind. Future Sound Experience is a masterful album, hitting all the right buttons consistently. The musicians involved [Florian Fricke, Holgar Trülzsch, Frank Fiedler, Bettina Fricke and Gerhard Augustin] have aptly moulded so many different strands of music genres and created something uniquely theirs. It may only be a week or two into the new year but I have no second thoughts about making this the Album of the Year here @ The Borderland. I have to complete this review by adding a sad footnote, Popol Vuh's composer and group leader Florian Fricke died on December 29th, 2001, the result of a stroke suffered prior to Christmas. The world has lost a musical visionary.

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Big Brother & the Holding Company - Do What You Love
(MYS CD 152)

Big Brother & the Holding Company - current lineupWell now, this is a real name from the archives of rock - most famous for having Janis Joplin as vocalist back in the late 60's, Big Brother are back after a twenty year break with a new album and a new vocalist. She is Lisa Battle and let's get the comparisons over with - no, she doesn't sound like Janis Joplin Mark II and yes, she has a fantastic voice all of her own. Big Brother features original band members Sam Andrew, Peter Albin and David Getz and while they may appear rather grizzled in the promo photos they still have their musical chops and love of the blues. Completing the line up is guitarist Tom Finch.

Do What You Love opens with a blaster of a track, Take Off, all Big Brother & the Holding Company - Do What You Lovepounding drums and psychedelic violin and guitars - reminded me of another San Francisco band, The Jefferson Airplane... The band return to their roots with a Joplin song, I Need A Man To Love, where Lisa Battle makes the song her own. Bo's Bio features a vocal by Sam Andrew and is a belter of a rocker with plenty of fuzz guitar. The ghost of Joplin (via Lisa) returns with a fine performance of Woman Is Losers. The OK Chorale is a short but charming instrumental featuring jazz violin. Do What You Love opens with a funky groove (very 70's thang) and rocks mightily. These few tracks I've mentioned are just some of the highlights - in fact I can't think of any negative ones. I may have been too young for Big Brother first time round but I'm glad I'm here for the curtain call. This is a fine album that should appeal to the mature rock fan - I'd love to see the band winning over the younger crowd at Glastonbury. Recommended.

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Curved Air - Alive 1990
(MYS CD141)

Curved Air - Alive 1990When this cd arrived it brought back memories of a callow youth [a rather stout callow youth, it has to be admitted] who would watch Top of the Pops avidly in the early 70's for a glimpse of Curved Air's rather tasty looking singer, Sonja Kristina. The band had several hit singles, released a few albums and then disappeared, and callow youth that I... Well, you get the picture, I moved on to some other top totty on TOTP. And now the band are back in the guise of this newly released cd based on tapes of a 1990 reunion gig. The orginal line-up are all here: Sonja Kristina, Francis Monkman, Florian Pilkington-Miksa, Darryl Way and Rob Martin. For those who have never heard of the group, and considering the lack of airplay even on nostalgia radio stations that is understandable, Curved Air played a style of prog-rock that was very commercial and chart friendly [at the time]. Alive 1990 starts with a very poor audio quality track that was only recorded by someone in the audience at the time. But once you get past Twenty Years On (Intro) the album proper starts with It Happened Today, and it sounds as good as all those years ago. Sonja Kristina [Like Blondie's Debbie Harry a few years later on] has a great voice with a very wide range. Other hits are there as well: Marie Antoinette, a lovely 'unplugged' version of Melinda (More or Less), a wildly over the top Vivaldi, Everdance and Back Street Luv. According to the inlay card notes the tapes for this gig were only rediscovered recently, and it has to be said by today's audio standards the sound quality is slightly rough in places. But that doesn't detract from an excellent set of songs by a much neglected band who were very innovative at the time. If you're a fan buy this, if you have heard the odd track and want to hear more of this bunch of talented musicians then this cd is a must [once you skip track one!]!

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Greenslade - Large Afternoon
(MYS CD 142)

Greenslade - Large AfternoonLarge Afternoon represents Greenslade as a group effort, rather than a solo one, and a very pleasent affair it is too. Opening instrumental track Cakewalk is a hybrid of prog rock and jazz playing, very cool, very precise. Hallelujah Anyway is the first song on the album, and lyrically is very age-ish, with a cosmic neo-christian [re]take on the Book of Genesis world creation mythos - with lyrics written by Patrick 'Pentateuch' Woodroffe. Large Afternoon is back to the more rhythmic prog rock, a driving keyboards and drums workout. The rest of the album is a similar pattern of fine instrumentals and songs with more secular lyrics. The musicianship is superb, Dave Greenslade, John Young, Tony Reeves and Chris Cozens work well as a tight band, and the twin keyboards, drums and bass guitar line-up offers more variety than you might expect. The overall impression is of smoothness - this album doesn't have any of the rough edges you'd expect a rock album to have. That spark of spontaniety that brings out the magic. Perhaps in live performance the music becomes a bit looser... I do hope so.

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