Aon (UK): Aon (Big Life BLRCD 22, CD, 1993)
Annie Burton (lead vocals)
In the unlikely event that you ever wondered what Graham and Annie Burton did after issuing a terminally obscure album in 1985 as Life After Life, here’s your answer. Moving away from Life After Life’s Renaissance-like borderline prog style, this is modernistic Celtic folk/rock with lots of synthesised bass and programmed percussion, including trip-hop and trance elements. I normally hate these kinds of trendy cross-genre fusions, but this is extremely well done, with some lovely vocals from Annie and an almost psychedelic ambience in parts (especially with the didgeridoo on a trippy reading of ‘I Once Loved A Lad’). GRADE: C+.
See also Life After Life
Aon Teanga:Un Chengey (UK/Isle of Man/Ireland): One Tongue (Watercolour Music WCMCD059, CD, with digipak, booklet and slipcase,
Ruth Keggin (joint lead vocals, piano), Mary Ann Kennedy (joint lead vocals, harmonium, harp)
Bringing together Ruth Keggin from the Isle of Man, Mary Ann Kennedy from Scotland and Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin from Ireland, this lovely, delicate folk album features material in Manx, Scots and Irish Gaelic. With slightly fuller backing than Keggin’s solo albums, it brings to mind early Clannad – and at its best, actually succeeds in equalling them. GRADE: C+.
See also Ruth Keggin
Apes (UK): Apes (Leicester Recording Co LRS LS1, with booklet, 1972)
Ruth Ballard (joint lead vocals), Stephanie Ballard (joint lead vocals)
Only two copies have resurfaced of this obscure private pressing, each featuring a different hand-painted cover and one also coming with a booklet. Seemingly recorded as a school project by a teenage band, it is amateurish even by the standards of the genre, and most tracks feature inept rock backing, badly recorded horns and meandering, off-key massed vocals. However, the completely uncharacteristic ‘Velvet Fist’ and ‘Fantasy Man’ are hauntingly beautiful acid-folk pieces, with eerie, hesitant female vocals backed by electric guitar (plus organ and bongos on the former). GRADE: C+.
Apes Of Wrath (USA): Apes Of Wrath (Media Music TDD-41482, 1982)
Karen Litsey (keyboards)
Although a core five-piece band (plus numerous guests, including three female backing singers, one of whom duets on one song), the oddly-titled Apes Of Wrath were very much the brainchild of singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer Ted Dodson. Musically, this is enjoyable guitar rock with a hippie commune sound, drawing on both psychedelia and more contemporary new wave stylings; sometimes it resembles the male vocal tracks on the North County Rock Association LP and at others hints towards early Talking Heads. Perhaps surprisingly, no fewer than 5000 copies were pressed. GRADE: C+.
Apocalypse (Israel): Apocalypse (CBS 65271, 1972)
This rare and sought-after album covers a broad spectrum of territory – from pounding hard rock to trippy folk to slow bluesy rock and mainstream pop. The one constant is the powerful acid guitar work, which pops up almost everywhere. Whilst this isn’t the most consistent LP, even the weaker tracks are very listenable. There is also another pressing known (Embassy EMB 31173); I assume this to be a mid-seventies or early eighties budget reissue. GRADE: B–.
Apostrophe (France): La Brebis Perdue (Trinité TRN. 10.006, 1973?)
I didn’t have high hopes for this rare Christian album, expecting it to be straight folk. In fact, it’s an excellent LP of garage rock and lo-fi underground folk, with a lost-in-time innocence and a rather trippy atmosphere that will appeal to private pressing collectors. The album is also known as À Celui Qui… after the heading in the inner gatefold. GRADE: B–.
Apostrophe (France): Soyez Mes Témoins (Trinité TRN 10014, 1975?)
The first three songs are short, inconsequential and rather underwhelming, but side one closes with two strong numbers: the haunting ballad ‘Je Veux Chanter’ and the heavier, psychedelic ‘La Guerre’. Side two offers a procession of charming, lightweight folky pop numbers, so overall this is a huge step down from their much more unusual debut. GRADE: C+.
Apoteosi (Italy): Apoteosi (Said 145, with inner, 1975)
Silvina Idà (principal vocals)
This is a classic album of Italian progressive rock: lush, romantic, complex without being pretentious, and dominated by superb multilayered keyboard arrangements. With a slightly less disjointed feel, this could have been an all-time classic, but it’s still a fine example of its style. GRADE: B–.
Apotheosis (UK/USA): Synchronized KAOS (Poor Person Productions PPPR9, CDR, UK, 1996)
Mandie Tor (keyboards, flute)
This three-piece offshoot of Earcandy et al, led by the inimitable Dave Tor, offer another vast cosmic opus, with his echoey spoken vocals backed by synthesised soundscapes drenched in reverb. Without anything in the way of songs, this is likely to divide opinion, but to these ears it’s very effective and quite an achievement for what it is. GRADE: C+.
Apotheosis (UK/USA/Belgium/Germany): Assorted Tails From The Duckpond (Poor Person Productions PPPR14, CDR, with feathers, UK, 1997)
Mandie Tor (principal vocals)
This concept album combines narration from Mandie Tor with tripped-out backing dominated by synthesisers and heavily treated guitars. The end result could be seen as a mutant cousin of Mother Gong’s Fairy Tales, though this is far more instrumental and has none of that album’s melodic and folky leanings. Using repetition and riffs to great effect, the various sections reveal themselves to be surprisingly carefully constructed, adding up to one of the most interesting ventures from the Poor Person Productions stable. As a final innovation, every copy finishes with a personalised message from Dave Tor. GRADE: B–.
See also Bus Trip, Earcandy, Famous Unknowns, Mynd Muzic, Ozley’s Acid
Applejacks (UK): The Applejacks (Decca 4635, 1964)
Megan Davies (bass)
This pop act enjoyed a top 10 hit with ‘Tell Me When’ and a couple of other chart singles, but their LP made little impression and they quickly returned to obscurity. It’s hardly surprising: whilst they were a competent beat band, they didn’t bring anything new to an overcrowded genre, and – not being songwriters – they had no real edge over hundreds of bands playing the pub and club circuit at the time. GRADE: C.
See also Cenotaph Corner
Apsara (France): Archives (Soleil Zeuhl 47, CD, with minisleeve and booklet, 2015, recorded 1983)
Sandrine Fougère (joint lead vocals), Ann Stewart (joint lead vocals), Véronique Verdier (trombone)
Apsara was a seminal early eighties zeuhl band that split into two factions before issuing any recordings – with one becoming the more experimental and classically-influenced Shub Niggurath and the other Altaïs. Whilst there are hints of Shub Niggurath’s avant-gardism here, these five recordings from 1983 (one in the studio and four live) are closer in feel to the driving, energetic, dual female vocal zeuhl of Eider Stellaire or early Eskaton. With surprisingly good sound quality considering the cassette sources, this is a superb archive release, packaged alongside a minisleeve copy of the Altaïs EP (a B– in its own right) to complete the story. GRADE: B.
See also Altaïs, Offering, Shub Niggurath
Aquaplan (Finland): Paperimeri (No label AQCD-03, CD, 2003)
Maarit Saarenkunnas (lead vocals)
Offering a mellow mixture of symphonic folk/rock and neoprogressive, this very pleasant album sometimes recalls a mix of latterday Renaissance and Carol Of Harvest, with hints of Clannad. GRADE: C+.
Aquaplan (Finland): Old Waves New Seas (No label AQCD-07, CD, 2007)
Maarit Saarenkunnas (lead vocals)
Whilst their follow-up album is broadly in the same style as their début, the songwriting just doesn’t seem as good second time around. GRADE: C.
Aquarell (West Germany): Aquarell (Nature 0060.0226, with inner, 1979)
Angelika Winkler (joint lead vocals), Kathrin Lemmen (occasional vocals)
With its rich dual female harmonies, robust folk/rock sound and extensive use of flute and tuned percussion, this excellent album is heavily influenced by Ougenweide (though I have no idea whether band leader Michael von Henko was related to that band’s Wolfgang). With a more modern and commercial sound, it never quite equals peak Ougenweide, but it’s a clear step up from that outfit’s last couple of LPs. The band went on to cut a second and final album with an all-male line-up. GRADE: B–.
Aquarelle (Canada): Sous Un Arbre (Atlantic 50 493, 1978)
Anne-Marie Courtemanche (lead vocals)
While rooted in jazz fusion, this obscure band’s sole studio album also draws heavily from folk and classical music on seven varied and mainly instrumental tracks. The material is virtuosic and accomplished, if occasionally a little shallow and sterile, and should mostly please those enjoying the genre. GRADE: B–.
Aquarelle (Canada): Live À Montreux (Atlantic KCA 25002, with insert, 1979)
Sharon Ryan (lead vocals)
Duplicating only one cut from their studio set, this live album is in the same vein, but inevitably a little less subtle and a little more rock-oriented. Whilst the playing is impressive throughout, the material isn’t very captivating and overall this is not particularly exceptional for the style. GRADE: C+.