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The combination of blues-rock with psychedelic rock formed much of the original basis for heavy metal.One of the most influential bands in forging the merger of genres was the British power trio Cream, who derived a massive, heavy sound from unison riffing between guitarist Eric Clapton and bassist Jack Bruce, as well as Ginger Baker's double bass drumming. Their first two LPs, Fresh Cream (1966) and Disraeli Gears (1967), are regarded as essential prototypes for the future style. The Jimi Hendrix Experience's debut album, Are You Experienced (1967), was also highly influential. Hendrix's virtuosic technique would be emulated by many metal guitarists and the album's most successful single, "Purple Haze," is identified by some as the first heavy metal hit. Vanilla Fudge, whose first album also came out in 1967, have been called "one of the few American links between psychedelia and what soon became heavy metal."


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COVEN Blood On The Snow

Album · 1974 · Proto-Metal
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COVEN returned a bit to its Satanic rock origins of its debut “Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls” as evidenced by the devil playing the violin on the album cover however COVEN’s third and final album BLOOD ON THE SNOW which came out in 1974, three years after its self-titled sophomore album only hinted at the occult themes of the 1969 debut which featured a complete recorded black mass along with an a gatefold spread on the original vinyl that featured a weird occult ritual. It seems the band simply invented occult rock and then got cold feet but then wanted to revisit those days without fully committing. The result is that BLOOD ON THE SNOW is a combo of the band’s first two albums.

The first obvious different on BLOOD ON THE SNOW comes in the form of a slicker production job courtesty of Shel Talmy who worked with The Who. While the musicians provide the same hard and folk rock instrumentation, the tracks offer a more symphonic backing with all those tricks you can accomplish with a more advanced mixing job. COVEN proved a potential marketability with their cover of the song “One Tin Soldier” which was featured on the film soundtrack for “Billy Jack” and cracked the US top 40 singles hits however despite the attempts to follow in these commercial footsteps however once again the band sounds a bit dated offering a more polished 60s bluesy country rock sound than something contemporary.

Once again the star of the show is the eccentric vocal style of Esther “Jinx” Dawson whose vocal range was impressive. Also guitarist Christopher Neilsen also shares lead vocals resurrecting the flashback to the 60s psychedelic rock of Quicksilver Messenger Service however this time around there’s a greater emphasis on the Elton John style piano parts which gets this album tagged as piano rock by some sources. The album also featured a guest saxophonist and a few conga parts. While the album is more focused than the self-titled predecessor, this one also jumps around from pop piano rock to hard rock, blues rock and kitschy over-produced pop. Whereas the previous albums had catchy melodies that you could grasp onto, this one feels more forced however once again nothing is really bad once you adapt to the stylistic shift.

While the musical side of the equation was clearly geared towards marketability, on the lyrics side that’s where the band revisited its occult past with bizarre cryptic references and a gatefold spread that featured the the band in full Halloween regalia. The song “Blue Blue Ship” displays lyrics that suggest Dawson has already passed away and is left haunting the world from another realm. Despite the attempt the occult themes, the musical deliveries are more on the jocular side with honky tonk piano rolls, countrified slide guitars, easy on the ears blues rock grooves and Dawson sounding as if she had just enough to drink at a party and having the time of her life. The band seemed to throw caution to the wind following a hit single and in the process lost the gamble in following up the momentum created by spawning a hit.

In many ways this album sounds a lot better than the previous ones. The pop songs are more consistent, there are no lame filler songs (i’m talkin’ bout you “Jailhouse Rock”) and the musicians seem more confident and competent this time around however on the flip side none of these tracks are as memorable either as the first two albums featured some better songwriting skills that stood out. This one is more formulaic albeit with a much slicker production job. Once again Dawson shows she can do her best Grace Slick turned Janis Joplin at the drop of the hat but this album as with all album only gives one the impression that this band was highly misdirected and had so much more potential than they ever were allowed to capture. If you ask me, COVEN is the perfect example of a talented band that was dumbed down by the record labels to exploit. This is a good album but by no means one of the seminal releases of 1974. In the battle of COVEN vs Satan, looks like COVEN lost.


Album · 1972 · Proto-Metal
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After the Chicago based COVEN unleashed the mother of all occult rock records just as the 1960s were ending with its debut album “Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Sous,” the band disappeared for a couple years before reinventing itself a more straight forward pop rock band. Most of this was due to an article published in Esquire magazine which was titled “Evil Lurks In California” which wrongly associated the entire counterculture to the Charles Manson murders. Apparently the subject of Satanism that found an entire recorded Satanic black mass tagged onto the end of COVEN’s debut was more than the god-fearing public could stomach and the band received a lot of backlash.

Rather than simply disappearing forever, COVEN underwent a new branding of sort and completely distanced themselves from witchcraft imagery. COVEN released its eponymously titled album signifying a new beginning and this followup came out in 1971. In many ways the album symbolized the ultimate selling your soul to Satan thing which is the fate of many who seek fame and fortune which is symbolized by the faceless / soulless representations of the band members on the album cover along with a black cat that displays only one eye open (the all seeing eye). The band pretty much jettisoned all the overt occultism and opted for more subtle references with music that was more of a hangover from the 1960s than anything cutting edge art nouveau for 1971.

COVEN was a talented band in crafting instantly catchy pop songs based on blues rock motifs steeped in 60s hard psych charm. Lead singer Esther “Jinx” Dawson showcases her extraordinary vocal abilities more freely on this sophomore release as she retains her Grace Slick 2.0 style of ballsy West Coast heavy psych complete with blood curdling screams and Janis Joplin inspired bravado. While this formula of West coast bluesy acid rock and gritty diva deliveries appears at first to be the winning formula for COVEN’s success, the problem is with this album is that it never really latches onto any particular formula and feels like it is grasping for straws.

The album is most famous for spawning COVEN’s only top 40 hit “One Tin Soldier” which musically speaking was the best track they ever recorded. This instantly catchy song recounted a tale of two neighboring tribes that finds the war-mongering Valley People conquering the peaceful Mountain Kingdom. This track was not an original at all but a cover from the Canadian pop group The Original Caste and ironically the track was first released by that group in 1969, the year of COVEN’s debut album. The COVEN version of the song was featured on the soundtrack of the film “Billy Jack” which had a plot similar to “One Tin Soldier’s” lyrics.

While competent in delivering decent pop-infused heavy psych with a 60s zeitgeist and a stray top 40 hit that these musicians would never repeat, this self-titled sophomore release is fairly uneven in its style and consistency. For example, Jinx Dawson provides the lead female vocals but guitarist Christopher Nelson sings on quite a few of the tracks with Dawson taking on the role of backing vocalist and in the process sounding more like Quicksilver Messenger Service than Jefferson Airplane. The uninspiring Elvis Presley cover of “Jailhouse Rock” is the ultimate filler track on this one. Whereas the rest of the album retains a retro late 60s West Coast psychedelic rock feel, this track from the 1950s flails and as it was placed smack dab in the middle of the album derails the consistency.

In the end this COVEN album is saved by strong songwriting and a more energetic delivery of instrumentation which found more ambitious lead guitars, excellent piano rolls and a more diverse delivery of percussion and the top 40 hit “One Tin Soldier” was a brilliant song and a great choice to cover however that song sounds unlike anything else on this album is a fish out of water thus ending the album on a head-scratching note. The moral of the story is that even selling your soul to Satan is no guarantee for musical talent and financial success. COVEN would return with the Satanic imagery in 1974 with the ill-fated “Blood On The Snow” but the world moved on and COVEN would become utterly irrelevant once its one and only top 40 hit fell off the charts. This album is better than its reputation leads to believe but nothing spectacular either.


Album · 1972 · Proto-Metal
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One of the many German Krautrock bands to merge the psychedelic 60s with the hard rock 70s TYBURN TALL emerged from the small city of Speyer having formed out of the ashes of a 60s band called The Screamers. The bizarre band name appears to come from a tall tree that existed in the English city of Tyburn. The band only released this one self-titled album in 1972 but existed from 1969 - 1975 and was quite prolific in the live scenes where TYBURN TALL opened up for a multitude of bands including Golden Earring, Space Odetty (who became Frumpy), Renaissance, Amon Düül II, Taste, East of Eden, Hardin & York, Kin Ping Meh, Ekseption, Renaissance and Nine Days Wonder.

Although the lineup changed considerably during the band’s six year run, the quintet that appeared on this album featured Stefan Kowa (bass), Hanns Dechant (drums, percussion), Klaus Fresenius (vocals), Werner Gallo (guitar) and Reinhard Magin (keyboards). The original vinyl remains one of those highly collectibles with only 200 copies having been pressed and approximately half of those having been destroyed in a fire. The album has also been notoriously horrible in the production department and since the master tapes went missing the 1999 CD reissue on Garden of Delights was lifted from the original vinyl.

As far as the sound is concerned TYBURN TALL was sort of a more hard rock version of The Nice with its classical infused organ riffs which were the dominant of the feature of the band. The guitar, bass and drum triumvirate were primarily blues rock based with an extra dosage of energetic performance thus allowing the band to fall under the umbrella term of early 70s hard rock. The original vinyl featured four tracks, three of which raced passed the 10-minute mark. The music was basically extended jamming sessions that incorporated classical keyboard riffs and hard rock bravado. The CD reissues feature an extra two bonus tracks which makes the entirety of the TYBURN TALL experience available around an hour of music.

Despite being released in the peak prog year of 1972, TYBURN TALL sounded a couple years behind the prog game. The organ tones are similar to those of Cressida and the late 1960s and this style of rocking the classics was very much en vogue with The Nice in the late 60s before the 70s were ushered in however there were a few hold outs including the other German band called The Pink Mice which existed from 1970 - 1973. TYBURN TALL gets kudos for their energetic performances as they must’ve put on one excellent show and many Germans who still remember them from those days claim as much however the band lacked creativity and the production is fairly blah.

Basically this is an album’s worth of heavy blues rock that adds classical organ runs however the aspect i appreciate the least on this album are the goofy vocals of Klaus Fresenius who sounds like a precursor to those famous heavy metal screams and wails of the 1980s. Sounding like a less competent Klause Meine of the Scorpions at times, he didn’t quite have the vocal stamina or the ability to obtain the correct pitch at key moments. The guitar soloing is also fairly generic. In fact the album makes me think of some generic band that played at Woodstock in 1969 as the vibe is very much rooted in that timeframe. Overall there is nothing really bad about this album but it does sound rather amateurish and considering the band had already existed for three years before this was released doesn’t make me believe that they ever really got their act together. As it is, an interesting relic from so long ago and not much else.


Album · 1971 · Proto-Metal
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EULENSPYGEL was a bit different than most of the early German Krautrock bands that emerged in the beginning of the 1970s. While most European bands with the exception of the Italian ones were opting to ditch their mother tongue in lieu of English lyrics, a few steadfast bands chose to stick to what they knew best and sang in their own national lingo. This particular band was one of the few who stuck it out in German and paid the price of marketability in the process. Apparently a variation of the spelling that came from Till Eulenspiegel, a protagonist of a German chapbook that was published in 1515 however the 20th century band EULENSPYGEL was actually the next step of The Royal Servants who released a single album and then changed their name, hence this debut album being titled with the number 2.

Considered one of the politi-rock bands of the era, EULENSPYGEL’s lyrics dealt with criticism of Western society, capitalism, environmental degradation and not surprisingly the Vietnam War. Unlike many Kraut bands of the 70s, EULENSPYGEL stuck it though the entire decade and disbanded in 1984 although it only released four albums in the timeframe. Initially, the line-up consisted of Detlev Nottrodt (electric guitar, vocals), Matthias James Thurow (electric guitar, violin, mellotron, sitar), Ronald Libal (electric bass), Mulo Maulbetsch (vocals), Günter Klinger (drums), Cornelius Hauptmann (flute, saxophone) and Karl-Heinz Großhans (keyboard). That’s right, seven members but it was Haptmann and Großhans with their classical training that were the primary songwriters of the band.

Despite the disturbing album cover art of a baby chick sitting in a frying pan with another dead chick and frying egg which caused an uproar, EULENSPYGEL’s musical style was somewhat of a mix between the keyboard driven hard rock of bands like Birth Control and Frumpy only with moments of jazz and folk added for flavoring. Despite the classical training, EULENSPYGEL 2 sounds more like a jamming process with some improv thrown in for good measure. The general melodic constructs are closer to Deutschrock than progressive Krautrock but there were enough twists and turns, time signature deviations and psychedelic organ runs to let them into the prog club. The band Lied des Teufels comes to mind as the closest musical relative due to the German lyrics, melodic hard rock motifs and prog accoutrements however Rufus Zupall also may be warranted as a comparison.

The album featured six tracks of varying length with the two tracks “Son My (My Lay)” and the multi-suite “Das Lied vom Ende” with playing times of over ten minutes. The album is fairly uniform in its approach with incessant organ driven hard rock not unlike the Deep Purple or Atomic Rooster sound only with occasional flutes, violins and harmonica which at times sound out of place. The musicianship is generally top notch but the band never really reached the level of virtuosity of similar styled bands of the era. At times tracks like “Staub auf deinem Haar” are a bit funky with receptive bass grooves so the album offers a tightrope act between super accessible and marginally experimental. Overall EULENSPYGEL was not one of those cosmic trippers but rather played it safe with a style of psychedelic hard rock that happened to adopt a few jazz and folk elements.

Perhaps my least favorite aspect of EULENSPYGEL are the lead vocals. They are neither horrible nor pleasing. They are just average and although they get the job done i’m not too keen on this guy’s German pronunciation. German doesn’t have to sound so harsh and this singer exaggerates the harshness. All is pleasant but really EULENSPYGEL 2 doesn’t really excel in any particular way either. This is a play it safe sort of album where the band applies a prog by the numbers approach and i’m talking the most accessible prog of the early 70s. This has never been a band that offers a lot of appeal but yet when i listen to this album it’s not offensive or misconstrued in any way. It’s just not as good as countless other albums from the same era. Oh and that album cover really is awful! WTF, chuck? LOL

KING CRIMSON The Night Watch

Live album · 1997 · Proto-Metal
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A large number of high-quality live releases have been put out documenting the King Crimson lineup that existed from Larks' Tongues In Aspic to Red; one wonders whether Fripp went out of his way to make sure that live shows were recorded to perfection after the whole Earthbound debacle. Why, then, should you pick The Night Watch over any of the others?

Well, for starters it presents a complete show from start to finish without any edits or overdubs that I can detect, unlike the abbreviated and mildly touched-up USA. Likewise, as a double CD set it's a far less overwhelming prospect than the gargantuan Great Deceiver boxed set, and obviously has less redundancy than that box because it only covers one show instead of half a dozen.

Secondly, it's a show with particular importance to the band's history - parts of it were extracted and touched up in the studio (and, on occasion, fused with studio tracks) to yield much of the material on Starless and Bible Black. This does mean that if you have Starless you've already heard some of the material on here, but the raw material and the engineered product are obviously very different propositions and there's enough material that wasn't issued elsewhere on here to be of interest even to those who already own S&BB. The mid-70s incarnation of King Crimson put improvisation at the centre of their performances (one improv here, the excellent Fright Watch, hasn't been issued on any other KC album), and so there's not only original material here but also unique renditions of classic King Crimson songs that are often startlingly different from their studio versions. The only pre-Larks' Tongues track on offer here is the closing rendition of 21st Century Schizoid Man, which is at once instantly recognisable and on a par with the debut album's version, but at the same time is quite different as the heavier, rawer, more aggressive King Crimson of 1973 tear into the song and absolutely make it their own.

But the best reason to get this album is simply that the band were on fire on the evening in question. This is a scorching, heavy, loud as hell performance from the group, who to my mind prove themselves to be superior to any earlier King Crimson lineup with this set. At the very least, they blow the material from In the Wake of Poseidon up to Earthbound completely out of the water, so I think the decision to remove all of that material from the live setlist entirely was the sensible and right choice. The ghost of In the Court of the Crimson King had haunted the band for three years before Fripp decided to stop trying to make a followup to it and to take the band in a completely different direction; it was performances like The Night Watch that exorcised it.

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BLIND FAITH London Hyde Park 1969

Movie · 2006 · Proto-Metal
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Blind Faith -London Hyde Park 1969 dvd. An excellent concert.Quite simple concert.A beautiful day and a hundred thousand people in London´s central Hyde Park listens Blind Faith in their first big gig.Absolutely wonderful.For me the historic value of this concert.Rating 4,0 stars for me.Concert will be held 07/06/1969.Performers lineup eric clapton lead guitar,steve winwood phenomenal vocal and keyboards, rick grech on bass and of course phenomenal ginger baker on drums.This is an example of the unique combination of two large groups of Cream and Traffic rights in the Great introducetd in London´s Hyde Park.Really very interesting concert series watch it again on dvd.I highly recommend.

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