Linda Hoyle and her first album in 44 years

Linda Hoyle — The Fetch
★★☆

Do you remember the band Affinity and their only album released in the 1970?

Linda Hoyle sang on that wonderful album, and their music sounds like The Zombies stepping out from their sunshine psychedelia towards mellow, jazzy prog. The band sadly disbanded while they were recording their second album, leaving behind such classics as their 7-minute wonderland visit called Night Flight and their 11-minute cover of All Along The Watchtower.

Below is their cover of Eli’s Coming (originally sung by Laura Nyro and covered by Three Dogs Night)

One year later in 1971 Linda released an album of her own called Pieces of Me. This album is a very personal exclamation, in which Linda unleashes her strong feminist side. Each song is a statement, such as Hymn to Valerie Solanas especially (read more about Valerie Solanas and her relationship to Andy Warhol here) and once I discovered the album, it immediately became one of my favourites. Compared to the sweet prog Affinity had, this album has some unusually rough and heavy material. Black Crow is paying tribute to Beatles‘ Hey Bulldog and the featured song of the album Pieces of Me is one of the heaviest pieces (pieces of me are so heavy!) yet released at the time, while still preserving its somewhat jazzy structure.

The opening track to Linda‘s solo album, Backlash Blues:

Now, that was to remain Linda‘s last release for 44 years, which is a real shame, since she has such a marvellous voice, said by some to be a crossover of Grace Slick‘s grace with the power of Janis Joplin.

But then!

Suddenly, while I was discussing Affinity on one of the prog forums and bringing up Linda Hoyle‘s solo production, I couldn’t help but notice that a new album was released — in August of 2015, just one month ago!

That was an even stronger surprise than seeing Robert Plant perform on stage in Pori Jazz. I had to immediately have a listen to the album, and so I did. Even if just for a while, it felt like I was living in the 70’s! It was not just a fantasy anymore — all the music that was made then, all the artists, they suddenly became a reality. And I was a part of that reality.

The opening track The Fetch from the album The Fetch:

Let’s not bring up that Linda‘s new album The Fetch wasn’t really that good. Most of the songs were not interesting musically, rather resembling Christmas carols concentrating on the quality her voice — which had lost quite a bit of its shine due to the years. Yet there were a couple of very good, proggy songs, and the voice was good enough to clearly hear that it’s still her singing, Linda Hoyle, in person, true to her style! Some of the lyrics also had some of that feminism left in them (even the word “fuck” was heard, quite abruptly so amidst a relaxing, jazzy piece), and the first song of the album is pleasingly different from all the prog I’ve heard until now. I just hoped that the whole album would be just like its first piece, however this album gave me more than just music. It gave me new feelings, just like Hoyle‘s first solo album. “Affinity fans spanning generations will surely be overjoyed. It’s as if Linda never left…”, Tom Semioli writes in Huffington Post.

An interview with Linda Hoyle promoting her new album:

What is more, Linda states in the interview above that she’s writing “a lot, so much that I have to restrain myself” and that she’s already working on her next album. This is surely happy news for anyone respecting her style.

I’m considering writing her a fan letter, there is a whole lot that I would like to convey. I also think I’ll drop by the store today and see if I can find either a copy of The Fetch or Pieces of MeAffinity will also do.

p.s.

By the way, do you have any idea who is responsible for the album cover art of The Fetch? That’s right, it’s Roger Dean himself! The person who’s famous for painting the surreal album covers of Yes and a great deal of other prog bands. Just another little thing that was done right for Linda‘s album.

Electric Light Orchestra – Electric Light Orchestra (album)

Electric Light OrchestraElectric Light Orchestra (album)
★★★★

(known as No Answer in US)

Somehow I’ve been avoiding ELO albums until now, and I’ve been missing a lot! Their first record is full of creative and experimental pieces that are at least as good as any of their popular stuff. As an album it was somewhat rough, but a pleasantly different experience that expanded my understanding of music.

Even though I was already familiar with the 1st Movement instrumental, which I hold in high regard, my favourite piece ended up being the classical-sounding Battle of Marston Moor (July 2nd 1644). Enjoy!

Cleves — The Cleves [1970]

ClevesThe Cleves [1970]
★★★☆

Been a while since I last wrote a review. This album is claimed to be prog rock by multiple sources (Youtube & Allmusic), and when I couldn’t find the album on progarchives.com, the mother of all progsites, my interest grew. Moreover, the band turned out to be Australian, and there was nothing Australian that could come to my mind except for AC/DC. That’s when I knew I had to fix this gap in my knowledge, and fix it quick.

As it turned out, the only album by Cleves wasn’t anywhere near prog, although they obviously have a certain twist in how they groove. The Cleves is a pleasant mix of psychedelic rock and heavy-going solo jams, resembling somewhat the style of Argent. The steady beat on the background seems to unite the whole album. A nice listen, but nothing too special.

Below is the third song from their LP, Keep Trying, which I consider to be the highlight of the album.

Unnkerr Swéghléoðras: Part 1 — Distant Melodies

So Grooveshark was shut down two weeks ago on Friday, forever. Together with its playlists, databases and broadcasts. I still haven’t completely gotten over it. Yet my knowledge and passion for music remains—so I thought I might employ a similar tactic to Rich Aftersabbath and release my own one hour mixes of songs from different artists. Rich has done a great job of compiling rare heavy psych, yet it doesn’t always need to be rare, heavy or psych, does it?

This first release is called Distant Melodies and consists solely of progressive material. For now, the medium I’m using is Youtube, perhaps later I’ll change to something better. I’ve tried to choose best quality I could find. Enjoy!

Unnkerr Swéghléoðras: Part 1 — Distant Melodies

Track listing:

  1. Weed — My Dream
  2. Yes — Then
  3. Starcastle — Diamond Song (Deep is the Light)
  4. Julian Jay Savarin — Child of the Night
  5. Emerson Lake & Palmer — In the Beginning
  6. Jade Warrior — Lady of the Lake
  7. Camel — La Princesse Perdue
  8. Greenslade — Sundance
  9. Caravan — But Where for the Caravan Would I?
  10. Premiata Forneria Marconi — Impressioni di Settembre

Play time: 1h 3min 34s

If you have a moment to spare, I would love to hear your thoughts on this project. Thanks!

 

Next release: Unnkerr Swéghléoðras: Part 2 — The Dark Book of Love

Album Saturday? — Rush Hour, part 2

I was really tempted to write “Rush Hour, part 3” and leave you all wondering where did the part 2 go. But then I figured that would be too cruel. Anyway, let’s Rush it down!

It’s been a while since I last visited the 80’s decade when listening to music, because that’s when the music got towards unbearable with all those electronics and other mindless crap. Of course there are exceptions like that of Tom Waits, but not everybody knows him. So far, Rush is a popular rock band that I tend to like. Let’s see if they’re going to break that 80’s boundary for me, since Hemispheres was their last 70’s album.

Rush — Permanent Waves
★★☆

Well, what can I say… I don’t know if it’s just me, but did Rush turn towards pop rock right as the 80’s have begun? Because the Spirit of the Radio, the first track of the Permanent Waves was and is the ultimate Rush hit. And you can hear that they aimed for it to become one. Shortish solos and many elements cramped together, not what I was seeking after Hemispheres. The next track on the album, Freewill feels rotten inside as well. It features a guitar solo that is going overboard, and the catch line “I will choose free will” doesn’t even feel genuine. Jacob’s Ladder, on the other hand, gets Rush back on track, even if it doesn’t beat the previous epics they had made, and the track feels very empty and unfinished. Same thing can be said about Entre Nous, the slightly Different Strings, and even the 9 minute long Natural Science. Did they lose all their imagination? At least they’re losing all that credibility they’ve managed to attain from 2112 through A Farewell to Kings to Hemispheres. This was their weakest album so far.

Rush — Moving Pictures
★★★☆

Moving on to the Moving Pictures, supposedly their best album, if one can judge by the ratings on progarchives.com. First thing I notice is the simple beat on background of Tom Sawyer, and the whole album features poor and simplistic drumming. Yet Rush seem to regain some of their complexity they had lost in their previous album. Red Barchetta features a couple of tasty riffs, failing to achieve anything special nevertheless. The third, instrumental track named YYZ is perhaps the best one on the album and it gets points for feeling quite different from their other stuff, but it doesn’t beat La Villa Strangiato. Limelight isn’t even worth discussing, whereas I tended to enjoy The Camera Eye in spite of most of it being built on solely two chords. The Witch Hunt would be a decent addition to a Halloween playlist, and Vital Signs sounded like a song made by The Police (an indication of all that is boring, so I’ve been told). Not quite what I was expecting from their best rated album.

Rush — Signals
★★★

As if this progression wasn’t evident before, Rush have gone fully pop in this album, which was a sad, final blow to my heart (will I be able to survive?) Although in the end, since all the songs sounded pretty much the same and the sound was quite full to my surprise, it was quite an enjoyable album because of its consistency. The album had some Chemistry of a kind that kept the songs together. Digital Man even featured a nice kind of solo. And the 80’s electronics weren’t that bad, but I wish they had experimented more with that style. Yet shifting from an accomplished prog band to some second-grade background music is not the right way to go…

Rush — Grace Under Pressure
★★☆

Why to invent more, when it sounds all mighty and powerful with a basic beat and an appregiator like in the Red Sector A? Spice it up with some seemingly meaningful and touching lyrics, a lame guitar solo, and the job is done. There are still some nice parts shining through, like the sync between the drums and the guitar picks in The Enemy Within, but the whole picture lets me down. What should I call it… Progressive pop? Even Starcastle were more creative when they went pop in their third album. I’ve had enough of this kind of Rush.

 

To sum up, this day was a grand disappointment. I made a right decision to stop at Hemispheres on Saturday. All the motivation to listen to the Rush albums that I had acquired has gone now. It might just be that I won’t be rushing on with the part III of the Rush Hour saga.

Read the reviews on first 6 Rush albums here.

Amon Düül II — Carnival in Babylon ; Premiata Forneria Marconi — Per un amico

Amon Düül IICarnival in Babylon
★★★★☆

This album by Amon Düül II is extremely underrated. The only reason I can think of is that this band’s fan base grew too accustomed to their crazy music. Amon Düül II are a krautrock band that is well known from their surrealistic themes and a very distinctive, experimental style. Their music often feels to be completely out of this world — but less so in this album (yet still very much out of this world). In spite of all the listeners’ expectations, Carnival in Babylon contains music that is harmonic, coherent and understandable.  This eccentric team has proven here, that they can make “normal” compositions which sound full and entertaining, yet are easier and more pleasant to the ear (if only you forget about the awkward voice of their male singer, the only reason why this album hasn’t scored full points). And there isn’t anything wrong with sounding pleasant — I had a wonderful, blissful time listening to this pack of joy.

 

Premiata Forneria MarconiPer un amico
★★★★

On the other hand, I was a little surprised to find that Per un amico, the second album by Premiata Forneria Marconi is considered to be a classic in the Prog Rock world (#15 on progarchives.com). Even on Allmusic, a full mark was given by most of the listeners. And I can partly agree with that, since there are some pretty amazing parts on this album, like the bestowing beginning of the first track Appena un ‘po, which to my disappointment worsened along the way. The follow-up Generale doesn’t fuse together with the previous track and disturbs the listening experience. Il Banchetto is quite good, and sounds like something Emerson, Lake and Palmer would make, but lesser. When I was listening to that track, I kept imagining all the different passages that felt as if they were left out. The album ends, however, with the brilliant Geranio, in which the alterations in the volume level become a significant part of the melody. Therefore don’t get the wrong impression: 4 stars is still a very high score, and Per un amico is an album definitely worth listening to. But in my opinion it just doesn’t stand among the best there is.

Eloy — Eloy (album)

EloyEloy (album)
★★★☆

This is the eponymous debut album by the German symphonic rock band Eloy, released in 1971. Later on they have adopted a more melodical approach to music, but in this album they still sound close to what most Krautrock bands did: crude and powerful. Yet, even though I usually like this “raw” sound, here it gets somewhat tiresome, feels somehow out of place, and the compositions feel like they are missing something instead. Due to this reason I couldn’t pick any track that would actually shine amongst others. Nevertheless, I quite enjoyed this album, and I’m keen on exploring Eloy‘s other works as well.