The Austrian Eela Craig was active as a band during the seventies and eighties. They combined progressive rock, jazz and influences of classical music with Christian lyrics. They were founded in Linz in 1970 and recorded their first eponymous album in 1971 selling 1500 copies. On this debut album you can occasionally hear influences of bands as Emerson, Lake & Palmer, King Crimson, Gentle Giant and Colosseum.
Eela Craig signed a contract with Virgin Records in 1975 to release a number of singles and albums including the Christian concept album Missa Universalis and a signalized cover version of Chris de Burgh's A Spaceman Came Travelling, both released in 1978. Missa Universalis is a musical translation of a Catholic high mass, which embrace lyrics in Latin, German, English and French. The compositions resemble the works of Anton Bruckner mixed with elements of rock and electronic music. Eela Craig were largely inactive between 1982 and 1986, but the two founding members Hubert Bognermayr (keyboards, vocals) and Harald Zuschrader (keyboards, guitar, vocals) produced also solo music under the name of Bognermayr/Zuschrader on Bognermayr's own new age label Erdenklang. In 1987 three singles were released, which were targeted to match the contemporary pop style of music. The band released their last album Hit Or Miss in 1988. November 1995, they reunited for a single live performance. At the same time, Hubert Bognermayr published- four years before his sudden death in 1999 - a compilation of the band's music entitled Symphonic Rock. This album contained a collection of songs from their six studio albums including songs from One Niter, originally released in 1976 and re-released in 2010.
Listening to One Niter thirty-four years later I realized that Eela Craig recorded outstanding music with elements taken from many other musical genres. The album starts with the first epic piece Circles which is divided into four parts. The first part begins very bombastic with Mellotron brass sounds which sometimes gave me the idea of listening to a classical orchestra. However, as soon as the other band members join in you know you're dealing with progressive rock music. The clavinet provides for a kind of funky sound that reminded me of the way the late Rick van der Linden played this instrument on the albums he recorded with Trace. As soon as I heard the voice of the lead singer I got the idea of listening to an album recorded by Yes because he sounds a lot like Jon Anderson. The second piece Loner's Rhyme starts as a song of the Dutch band Supersister due to the sound of the flute, but again the clavinet provides for a funky touch. Due to the bass guitar and the organ parts the music tends to the music of bands like Santana or Titanic. However, the strong synthesizer solo and the Mellotron brass parts indicate that prog rock is never far away.
The third track One Niter Medley once more is an epic piece divided into five parts. The first part starts with classical influences, but soon the guitarist gets a leading role by playing a fine solo. The funky style of the band's playing dominates the music on the next parts again, but also the progressive rock sound returns in full glory with a leading role for the guitar player. The flute parts provide for the classical touch. Venezuela is a mellow acoustic piece performed on acoustic guitars, flute and tablas. The final track Way Down starts with some flute parts before the music changes to a more funky style. Again they manage to transform their music to progressive rock after some minutes, sometimes reminding me of PFM. The classical influences are very noticeable on this piece. It's a perfect ending of a great seventies album.
I hope that after this first re-release of One Niter all the other albums recorded by this Austrian band will follow. This band certainly deserves a much larger audience. People who enjoy the music of bands like Yes, PFM or Genesis should try to get hold of this release. I think they won't regret it.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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