So, who can I point to for comparisons? I'll spare you all the obscure ones and mention some better known groups for a starting point. Early Blue Oyster Cult, Groundhogs, Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, come to mind right away, but the most obvious to me is Deep Purple, during their first few years. Ritchie Blackmore's influence on the guitar playing is unmistakable. However, in no way are any of these acts being directly copied. In quite a few ways I'm tempted to classify these two albums just as much pioneers of stoner rock as I would call them proto-prog. This is basic raw energy with quite a few fine riffs, some memorable melodies, but nothing bombastic or grandiose. Had they managed to stay together longer, one can only wonder what could have been on another album or two.
Let me clearly say that if you're a fan of highly polished, elegant or precision oriented prog, these albums are probably not your cup of tea. But if you're a collector I'd call both 'musts', and they're certainly a good fit for fans of bands like Dust, Sir Lord Baltimore and even Ten Years After. To me, the only real shortcomings of these albums are the sound of them. The recordings simply leave much to be desired, I hear little in the way of polish. But that has never been a 'stop' for me as a listener. I've learned that there's so much music from the early years of prog rock that's simply superior to many of the more recent products today that I would miss out on too much great music, to use that as a judgement factor. But that's me, so let's put it this way: if you enjoy Carillion, The Pineapple Thief, Airbag, and so on because of how they sound rather than what they play, these albums are probably not for you. On the other side, if you're after some heartfelt and truly inspired music and can be a little forgiving on the sound quality, then here you'll find a very satisfying couple of fine albums.
The band is comprised of brothers Tristan and Gary Markets on bass and guitar respectively, and Tony Brock on drums. The moment I saw Tony's name a little light turned on and I went searching. Where had I encountered his name before? Very quickly I discovered that he continued to become the drummer for The Baby's, where he enjoyed quite a bit of commercial success. That explained the 'click' in my head. Upon the end of The Baby's' commercial success Tony joined Rod Stewart's touring and recording group. Tristan continued his musical relationship with Greg Lake, touring as a member of The Greg Lake Band. He also played on Greg's solo albums Greg Lake (1981) and Man oeuvres (1983).
Personally I've found some degree of enjoyment in each and every track on both albums. However, I feel compelled to mention the one that grabbed me right away. I found myself playing Leaving over and over before I even finished the first complete listen. Yes, it's that good. And then it happened again with Sabre Dance, but then I've always enjoyed this work from the Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian. Both releases have fine booklets; Triad features some nice photos and the lyrics, and the first is filled with comic book style cartoons. Again I offer kudos to Esoteric Recordings for finding gem after gem of lost, overlooked, or underappreciated works of musical adventure to breathe life back into. It's nuggets like these that really brighten my day.
**** Thomas Rhymer (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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