Hungary Anyone ?
From Hungary came one very talented prog band called Omega. I only had two of their albums as they became a bit difficult to acquire in our neck of the woods at the time. This band was tight, precise, and had the ability to write songs that felt immediately familiar.Omega would have been one of my most favorite bands if it weren't for the fact that their albums were just too hard to track down. Apparently they released albums in English, Hungarian, and German languages to reach a more vast audience. Talk about your hard working band! From the album titled "Omega", some of the best tunes in my opinion are "Help to Find Me", "Remembering", and "Spanish Guitar". What I admire most about Omega was what I learned just recently: the lineup below spanned 30 years of togetherness.
- János Kóbor--lead vocals
- György Molnár--guitars
- László Benko-- keyboards, vocals
- Tamás Mihály--bass, vocals
- Ferenc Debreceni--drums
For complete ear candy, check out their first LP simply titled "Omega." Then move to the album "200 Years after the Last War." For the time period, there was no relevant information available about Omega. Rumors abound had them as communist defectors seeking political asylum in various countries. Better rumors yet had them hiding out in Switzerland, then rotating around the world escaping communist bounty hunters. I personally know very little of their history except that they put out exceptional albums and were serious contenders for the prog heavyweight championship.
Fun with Jane
Touted as a psychedelic band, their music was remarkably simple in structure, but so heavenly. Jane was one of the most listened-to prog bands in my entire 70's discography, up there with Pink Floyd, Genesis, and Nektar. Jane was absolutely incredible. The music was very low key in my opinion, and the musicianship seemed mediocre at best, but then that only proves that it didn't have to flashy and nuclear to be great. Jane's slow grind technique only helped to beef up their ambiance, and to this day have an incredibly strong and loyal following. "Jane LIve at Home" is a two record set of probably some of the best Jane material ever put to stage and the live performances were awesome. I listen to it today and remember those great days when I was heavily into Jane."Here We Are" is a fantastic Jane album and features a song I haven't heard for over thirty years: "Redskin." I'd love to get my hands on a copy of this one again.
Jane III was an ass-kicker of an LP. Strong on guitar and grinding chords, this album features two of their strongest cuts to date: "Early in the Morning" and "Jane Session." A jam session is exactly what it feels like. Another album, though later in the 70's, was "Between Heaven and Hell". was interesting and presented their signature style of lonely guitar work carried upon the gentle winds of synthesizer in the background. Strong drumming helps to push Jane's music forward and when the listener falls in and out of dreamland, one can't help but remember that this is one of the greatest bands of all time.
"Fire, Water, Earth & Air" was a great LP, and I remember wearing it like my skin. The title track is a memorable song which leads to an odyssey of 4 very long chapters of music. The only problem with this record was the same problem that plagued any Jane album: it just wasn't long enough! Their music was so good that you just never wanted it to end. There was a hypnotic presence to Jane's music that bordered hard rock and a twinge of psychedelia. One of the best portions of the record made it to "Jane Live at Home" as a song titled "River." Performed live it's probably my favorite Jane song, and still holds strong today.
Aaah, Such Sweet, Sweet Nektar
Things were beginning to get very serious. Guitar players were now accomplished geniuses. With that said, I now present to you Mr. Roye Albrighton of Nektar. My first experience with Nektar was with the album "Remember the Future." I bought this album out of experimentation for $1.99 on the cut-out rack at Music Millennium in 1974. As it turned out, it was one of the best buys of my life. The album itself is technically pure with fantastic performances by each band member. Lead guitarist Roye Albrighton is a 6-string wizard and a decent singer. This album became one of these most played albums for me in 1974. However, an excerpt from the second side of the album often referred to as "Lonely Roads" is incredible and beautiful, but also contains a section that strongly resembles an obscure Pink Floyd tune called "The Embryo." Still, "Remember the Future" is a marvelous experience and seeing it live could only have been breathtaking.
Each song on this excellent album seems to get better and better as each track plays on. "I Can See You" is my favorite, a sort of winding blues that sounds as if it bends more new age notes than blues. The song appears to be based off a series of minor and 7th chords, and is melancholy and profoundly deep. Excellently performed, it features a chorus of soft vocals that open the track that builds to a hard crescendo of a hammering lead guitar that opens the album's B side. The finale, "Let it Grow", feels like half-Motown, half rock, but has a distinct trail of notes, and follows a purposeful riff. Again, live, this whole piece would be a monster of a set.
1974 was my year of discovery for many then barely known prog rock bands, but Nektar was so good that I just had to keep buying their albums. Interestingly enough, Nektar was among the very few bands that offered up a lighting technician on their album credits. Mick Brockett toured with the band providing that ever-popular 70's water-light ambiance on projection screen. "Down to Earth",featured more raw and gutsy tunes but retained the Nektar recipe of spacey detours and awesome composing ability. "Nelly the Elephant" is a particular standout. As a guitarist, Roye Albrighton is supreme and has a unique style that can be picked out of a crowd. His particular flavor is heavy on quick strumming and long chord jams then blasting into fire-eating leads. Roye's tech skills were dynamo then and have only improved over the years.
"Journey to the Centre of the Eye" was outstanding, and in my honest opinion, the classiest work ever from the band. I always felt that the album was a strong debut, and in 1971, the competition was fierce. A strong bit of psychedelia mixed with hard rock and innovative songwriting skills, the entire foundation of "Centre" was a long and glorious statement on the limitless boundaries of progressive rock. This album offers many memorable pieces and passages. My favorites are: "Astronaut's Nightmare", "Countenance", "Burn Out My Eyes", and "The Dream Nebula 1 & 2".
White hot and live was Sunday Night at London Roundhouse." This LP was an impeccable live performance and decent recording. Side one is recorded live at the Roundhouse, and side two is a studio jam session. It's hard for me to decide which side is better, but I generally opt for side two for "Mundetango" & "Oop's (Unidentified Flying Abstract):. The guitar solo on "Oop's" is superfine, and it sounds like the band was having a great time. This performance came about as it was Derek "Mo" Moore's birthday, and they had a birthday jam session at the Chipping Norton studios.
For me, the most disappointing Nektar LP of all was their "Live in New York." Performance-wise, it was excellent. Sound quality-wise, it was pure garbage, probably a half step above most bootlegs out there. Plus, being a 2-record set-and at the time-only available as an import which brought top pricing, this was the disc equivalent to the Edsel. It was pure sadness as the album had so many of their best songs pressed as a tinny and toneless tragedy.
"Recycled" was a fair album that spawned a truly magnificent and melancholy tune called "It's All Over." Again, I bought this LP as a cut-out, but it was worth more than full price just for this song. Nektar was a serious bookmark of the 70's for me. The LP A Tab in the Ocean was a fantastic release. The title track is ethereal, backed with heavyweight guitar work and misty vocal harmonies which lend an eerie, psychedelic mood to it. The piece is a marvel of musical structures and meanders back and forth from a hearty thrust to an enhanced anthem that remains solid every step of the way. The song is one of Nektar's finest works and, Nektar was clearly one of the finest and most technically creative prog bands of the 70's hands down.