The Hungarian band Omega was formed in Budapest in September 1962 by core members' keyboardist/flautist/trumpeter/vocalist László Benkő and vocalist János Kóbor. Strangely enough both have survived several line up changes and are still nowadays present in the band. But you'll have to know that the band dissolved in 1987, but reformed again in 1994. To celebrate their 55th anniversary an anthology double album was released by the American label Purple Pyramid. Very appropriately they named it Anthology 1968-1979. Starting with the years the band seriously started to record their music behind the iron curtain. Why they stopped in the year 1979 and not continued until the present time is a bit strange. But I will explain this later on!
The more older progheads fans will know this band. Mainly from when they released the single Russian Winter and visited the Western European parts. Their first albums were heavily influenced by the music of The Beatles and psychedelic rock. Later on they developed a style which had influences of hard rock, progressive rock and space rock. Between 1968 and 2010 the group recorded 17 albums. Many of these were released both in Hungarian lyrics and in English lyrics, in the hopes of generating wider interest in their music. However, the contents of the English albums often differed from their Hungarian counterparts, sometimes assembling tracks from several different albums and nearly always changing the song order.
Omega achieved great international success through releases in multiple languages, and tours in England and Germany in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Their 1969 song Gyöngyhajú Lány - Pearlhaired Girl became an international hit, and was later covered by Griva on their 1987 self-titled album, with the title Devojka Biserne Kose, and by Scorpions on a 1995 live release, with new lyrics and the title White Dove. The Hungarian title officially was translated as Pearls In Her Hair. In 2013 Kanye West used the song in a sample for his track New Slaves.
With Anthology 1968-1979, Purple Pyramid's mission was to introduce us, in two stages, to the music created by the Hungarian formation during the first two decades of its existence. The first disc has the subtitle The Beaty Sixties, and features seventeen tracks which were mainly recorded in the 1960s. The psychedelic, playful and naive style is quite typical of the time and recalls more often The Beatles as the progressive rock giants. And just like The Beatles did in those days the band comes up with songs sung in the German language. The rest of the songs are sung in English and not in their native tongue. What surprises me is that the keyboards in the bands early period are very well present throughout the songs. Although the guitars rule the way and shine most of the time by giving us some very well played solos. The songs on the first CD are not world shocking and are not too complex. Maybe radio friendly is the word I should use to describe them.
The second disc has the subtitle The Spacey Seventies and moves more towards the music we like to hear. It offers us a collection of titles much more consistent. The band listened to the big names of the golden years of progressive rock in the seventies, but always tried to stay close to their own style. This did lead to very good prog rock releases such as The Hall Of Floaters In The Sky (1975), Time Robber (1976), Skyrover (1978) and Gammapolis (1979). Many songs are taken from those releases and are the most enjoyable.
However as always on any anthology some certain titles are just missing. For instance the piece with the great synthesizer solos. Help To Find Me is in many ways a classic Omega performed this song many times in concert. The same goes for the earlier mentioned Russian Winter, which also does not appear on this collection.
On the other hand for the nostalgics of the time and those hungry of musical culture, Anthology 1968-1979 is a very nice tribute to this group which, let us recall, was courageous enough to propose a typically western music to its compatriots while they were subject to the cultural restrictions imposed by the communist governments of the time. Therefore respect to this band that has survived 55 years in the music industry, even if they were split up several years.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Dave Smith)
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