Ciccada (Greece): A Child In The Mirror (Fading FAD-001, CD, Italy, 2010)
Evangelia Kozoni (lead vocals, accordion, tambourine)
Drawing in influences from folk, jazz and mediaeval music, this beautifully crafted album mixes haunting ballads featuring plenty of woodwind with some powerful, dramatic progressive rock. Its detractors could accuse it of being overly dainty, but to these ears it’s lush without being overly soft and consistently surprising without being ostentatious. GRADE: B–.
Ciccada (Greece): The Finest Of Miracles (Fading FAD-18, CD, with digipak and poster booklet, Italy, 2015)
Evangelina Kozoni (lead vocals)
Änglagård’s Johan Brand plays bass on one track, and that band influence is obvious on this somewhat heavier second album. As with their first, it’s all very ornate and it clearly benefits from the added rock heft and the greater ambition (including an 18-minute suite) but it’s perhaps a touch less distinctive than their first. However, both are impressive examples of creative modern prog and definitely worth hearing. GRADE: B–.
Ciccada (Greece): Harvest (Bad Elephant Music BEM086, CD, with digipak and booklet, UK, 2021)
Evangelia Kozoni (joint lead vocals), Dimi Spela (joint lead vocals)
This is again perhaps a touch more robust than their earlier work, and a mite jazzier too, on occasions hinting towards early King Crimson. Yet it’s all very folky and ornate at the same time, with pronounced use of woodwinds remaining their more distinctive feature. Most importantly, it’s once again excellent. GRADE: B–.
Cilibrinas Do Éden (Brazil): Cilibrinas Do Éden (Philips 8025 658, CD, with minisleeve, 2008?, recorded 1973)
Rita Lee, Lúcia Turnbull
This collaboration between Lee and former Everyone Involved associate Lúcia Turnbull was rejected by Philips and remained unreleased for around 25 years, when it appeared as a limited edition LP and CD (both in runs of 500 numbered copies). Opening in an almost avant-garde vein, the disc is a fractured mixture of psychedelia, rock and roll and fragile folk; interesting and frequently quite captivating, but uneven and fragmented even by Lee’s usual standards. The reissue adds two bonus Mutantes cuts: a studio outtake from 1972 and a live recording from the same year. GRADE: C+.
See also Everyone Involved, Rita Lee, Mutantes, Lúcia Turnbull
Cincinatti Joe & Mad Lydia (USA): Cincinatti Joe And Mad Lydia (River Witch RW-001, 1971)
Lydia Wood (principal vocals, guitar, organ)
Like Jade Stone & Luv, to whom they’re sometimes compared, Cincinatti Joe & Mad Lydia are often classified as ‘lounge’ or ‘incredibly strange music’. Also like Jade Stone & Luv, this classification doesn’t really work, as they give no hints of being a covers band (aside from the closing live medley of ‘Aquarius’, ‘Let The Sunshine In’ and ‘I Want To Take You Higher’, everything is self-penned, mainly by Lydia Wood). The backing is slick and professional, with none of the amateurishness of the ‘real people’ genre, but the songs mostly have an odd, detached feel, as though Wood is simply pastiching the styles of the day in a rather mechanical way. Soulful, funky rock with mild psychedelic edges is the most common style, but the record also takes in slightly mystical early seventies folk; for the most part it sounds like the kind of thing mainstream TV shows of the day (such as 'Ironside') would have used as incidental music in a hip nightclub scene. Finally, the duo look as odd as the album they produced: the rather gaunt Cincinatti Joe looks like a refugee from Sly & The Family Stone whilst Lydia resembles a cross between Cher and a a member of a modern doom metal band. GRADE: C+.
Cinderella Search (Japan): Cinderella Search (Made In Japan MCD-2926, CD, with obi, 1993)
Junko Minobe (violin, backing vocals)
They may have named themselves after a Marillion song, but thankfully Cinderella Search sound nothing like them, more closely resembling a Nippon neoprogressive twist on Camel. That’s not to say I like this album: Akihisa Nakamura’s high-pitched vocals and odd, disjointed songs do nothing for me. At least Junko Minobe’s violin adds some nice folky and neoclassical textures to their sound. GRADE: C–.
Cinderella Search (Japan): Stories Of Luminous Garden (Fuefuki FFRCS-4112, CD, with obi, 2001)
Yukieda Okuaki (guitar), Junko Minobe (keyboards, violin, programming, backing vocals)
Their second album (though the catalogue number confusingly implies otherwise) is a good deal more cohesive, dynamic and lively than their first. That said, this is still average neoprogressive with pleasant melodies but little invention, and once again the lyrics are far too ambitious for a vocalist with a good but far from perfect grasp of English. GRADE: C.
Cinderella Search (Japan): Old Materials (Fuefuki FFRCS-4110, CD, with obi, 2003)
Junko Minobe (violin, backing vocals)
As the title suggests, this mixes unreleased older recordings with new ones: according to the notes, three tracks were recorded in 1991 and the remainder between 2000 and 2003. However, the back cover states that the album was released in 2001 and the catalogue number is earlier than that for Stories Of Luminous Garden, so it’s hard to know what to believe. In any case, this is their best and most assured album, with a procession of pleasant and melodic soft progressive songs. GRADE: C+.
Cinderella’s Party Songbook (UK): Cinderella’s Party Songbook (Blue Angel Sounds, 1968)
Jennifer Branch, Brenda Blundell
This earlier project by Keith Hughes and Roger Moore of Alice Island Band is even rarer, with only 25 copies apparently having been produced. Like Alice Island Band, it’s essentially underground singer/songwriter fare with slight psychedelic edges and lashings of period atmosphere; comparisons could be drawn with some of the folkier Holyground releases or the theatrical projects by Peter Howell and John Ferdinando. GRADE: C+.
Cinema (Brazil): Cinema (No label SP54R, 1979?)
This odd, unclassifiable record draws heavily on progressive music, but offers exclusively short tracks. These range from atmospheric instrumentals with a definite classical touch through offbeat rock (occasionally hinting at the more mainstream end of Nurse With Wound or Throbbing Gristle) to more conventional songs with a strongly Brazilian flavour. The result is an interesting album containing material likely to please psychedelic, progressive and new wave fans alike, but without any overall sense of unity or direction. GRADE: C+.
Cinema (Japan): The Seven Stories (Belle Antique 95115, CD, 1995)
Hiromi Fujimoto (lead vocals, synthesiser), Tokiko Nakanishi (violin, viola)
Formed by the former keyboardist and drummer of Fromage, Cinema also play typically sumptuous (and wholly anonymous) Nippon sympho-prog. The style is a little more ornate, which is a plus, and also more modernistic (with lots of programmed percussion), which isn’t. Nonetheless, Hiromi Fujimoto has a lovely voice and this is a very pleasant listen. GRADE C+.
Cinema (Japan): Into The State Of Flux (Muséa FGBG 4346.AR, CD, France, 2000)
Hiromi Fujimoto (lead vocals), Tokiko Nakanishi (violin, viola)
Whilst still mostly identikit Japanese prog, this is a definite step up from their first. The electronics have been toned down considerably, and there are some lovely relaxed instrumental passages with Tokiko Nakanishi’s violin well to the fore. On the downside, the twenty-minute ‘Color Of Soul’ is pretty dull, and the album would definitely have benefited from some judicious editing. GRADE: C+.
Cinema (Japan): Mindscape (Muséa FGBG 4575.AR, CD, France, 2004)
Hiromi Fujimoto (lead vocals, piano), Tokiko Nakanishi (violin, viola)
Their third and final album is very much in their usual style, with some lovely symphonic moments dominated by synthesisers and violins. Despite Hiromi Fujimoto’s fine singing, the disc definitely works best during the instrumental sections, as the band were no more than average songwriters. GRADE: C+.
Cinnamonia (Germany): The Scarlet Sea (QuiXote CD 19, CD, 2002)
Sandra Werner (lead vocals)
Doubtless marketed at the time as progressive rock, this is actually slightly ambient folky pop with some psychedelic edges and mainly electronic backing. Their original songs – plus versions of two traditional numbers – are pleasant and catchy enough, with some slight acid-jazz edges and a few rather lovely psychedelic guitar leads, but ultimately this falls just on the wrong side of the divide between ‘ethereal’ and ‘lightweight’. GRADE: C.
Cinnamonia (Germany): Songs In The Trees (QuiXote CD 59, CD, 2007)
Sandra Werner (principal vocals)
This is slightly different from their first, dialling down the pop elements in favour of a folkier and more gothic sound. Again, I don’t find it terribly compelling, with the electronic backing (bordering on trip-hop in places) failing to anchor their material, but it’s certainly a step up from their first. GRADE: C+.
Cinque (UK): Souvenir (No label, 1973?)
Wendy, Nici, Helen, Katy, Sandy
Featuring five-part harmony vocals set to simple acoustic guitar and piano backing, this sounds uncannily like an unplugged version of the Welsh band Sidan. With its haunting, spacy, slightly churchy feel, this has leanings towards light classical and MOR as much as folk, and the end results have a sepulchral beauty. Nothing is known about the band historically, but I’d be very surprised if the members were not Welsh and in their teens. GRADE: C+.
Ciolkowska (Russian Federation): Pistolet Budushchego (RAIG R091, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2015)
Alesya Izlesa (ukelele)
The striking cover artwork – a man cycling on an alien planet with a gigantic golden gun in the background – indicates that this album is going to be rather unusual. Russian instrumental space-rock bands aren’t exactly uncommon, but when did you last encounter one using ukelele as a lead instrument? With some folky edges and a wide range of moods, this isn’t the most consistent album, but when it’s good (which is most of the time) it creates some impressively powerful and trippy grooves. GRADE: B–.
Circulus (UK): Giantism (Instant Farma IF 003, CD, 1999)
Emma Steele (principal vocals, recorder)
Limited to 500 copies and woefully obscure today, this long-running band’s debut offers outstanding electric folk drawing influences from Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Trees and all the usual suspects. With a mixture of original and traditional material and wide-ranging instrumentation (including banjo, lute, saz, violin and crumhorn) it’s a highly impressive, if decidedly short, album. GRADE: B.
Circulus (UK/France): The Lick On The Tip Of An Envelope Yet To Be Sent (Rise Above RISECD63, CD, UK, 2005)
Marianne Segal (occasional vocals, guitar), Lo Polidoro (harmonium, backing vocals)
Circulus returned after a six-year absence with a significantly different line-up and an equally different style. This time round, Michael Tyack is writing and singing almost everything and their sound is far more psychedelic, with whimsical edges and some early music elements. Surprisingly, Jade’s Marianne Segal wrote, sang and played guitar on the lovely ‘Swallow’, which was also released as a single. GRADE: B.
Circulus (UK/France): Clocks Are Like People (Rise Above RISECD093, CD, with digipak and booklet, UK, 2006)
Lo Polidoro (occasional vocals)
Like its predecessor, this is whimsical, trippy and beautifully crafted psychedelic folk/rock. The first LP pressing on white vinyl (Rise Above RISELP093) came with a bonus one-sided single ‘Tapestry’; this song was also featured on the CD single of ‘Song Of Our Despair’ (Rise Above RISEMCD94) along with another non-album track, ‘Honeycomb’. GRADE: B.
Marianne Segal Featuring Circulus (UK): The Gathering (Snow Beach SBCD001, CD, 2007)
Marianne Segal (lead vocals, guitar)
This is more Segal’s album than Circulus’s, although they provide all the musical backing and Michael Tyack co-produces. It’s lovely, haunting stuff, drawing on both folk and blues music, and utilises wide-ranging arrangements, with everything from Mellotron to saz. GRADE: B–.
Circulus (UK): Thought Becomes Reality (Mythical MYTHCAKE001, CD, with poster booklet, 2009)
Holly-Jane Shears (occasional vocals)
In parts (notably the science fiction-themed opener ‘Transmuting Power’ and ‘Michael’s Garden’) this is far too whimsical for its own good, but they’re on much surer ground elsewhere. That said, the production is overly bright to my ears, so this is somewhat less enjoyable than their earlier albums. GRADE: B–.
Circulus (UK): Birth (Mythical MythCake003, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2018)
Holly Rose Wood (occasional vocals), Caraline Collett (occasional vocals)
Down to an all-male trio (plus occasional female guests on space whisper and flute), Circulus return with an unusual album that sounds like a fusion of the Incredible String Band, the Smell of Incense, Gong (at their most ambient and electric circa You) and Second Album-era Curved Air. This is beautiful, majestic, intricate music, but perhaps the sung and spoken vocals – not to mention the lyrics – are becoming a little too precious for their own good. GRADE: B–.
Circulus (UK/France): Live At Dingwalls 2005 (No label, download, 2019, recorded 2005)
This excellent live set, which runs for about 51 minutes, features material from the band’s then-current album The Lick On The Tip Of An Envelope Yet To Be Sent as well as several songs that would appear on Clocks Are Like People. Whilst I wish they had given this a physical release, it’s still a very nice surprise, and hopefully there may be more archive releases to follow. GRADE: B–.
See also Jade, Lo Polidoro, Marianne Segal
Circus 2000 (Italy): Circus 2000 (RiFi RFL-ST 14049)
Silvana Alliotta (principal vocals, percussion)
Unusually for an Italian band, Circus 2000 took most of their influences from West Coast psychedelia, and their debut album offered ten short songs (totalling under half an hour). They don’t sound much like Jefferson Airplane, though, with a very dramatic style; some cuts are highly impressive whilst others are comparatively unremarkable (although the album is never less than enjoyable). GRADE: B–.
Circus 2000 (Italy): An Escape From A Box (RiFi RDZ-ST 14215, 1972)
Silvana Alliotta (lead vocals, percussion)
Somewhat different from their first, this has longer songs with progressive elements and a more European feel. However, the psychedelic and hard rock influences are still strong, and this concentrates on power and atmosphere rather than instrumental histrionics. Once again, there are no keyboards, leaving plenty of room for the excellent guitar work. GRADE: B.
See also Streghe
Cirrus Bay (USA): The Slipping Of A Day (No label 7567-82344-2, CD, 2008)
Sharra Acle (occasional vocals), Anisha Norflet (occasional vocals), Fay Thoeny (occasional vocals)
Although credited as a band project, this was largely the work of singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Bill Gillham, who overdubbed guitars, bass, keyboards, drum programmes, percussion, mandolin and recorder on a tapestry of songs and instrumentals. Like many one-man projects, the end result is thin-sounding and hesitant, stitching together folky songs (with a bit of a late sixties feel) with elements of progressive rock, including some quite complex passages. With amateurish singing and playing, the results are frequently quite bizarre to behold; perhaps the best thing I can say about the disc is that it occasionally resembles Ithaca, though with none of that band’s quality or charm. GRADE: C–.
Cirrus Bay (USA): A Step Into Elsewhere (No label 0525-02009-2, CD, 2009)
Sharra Acle (joint lead vocals), Anisha Norflet (joint lead vocals)
This is a huge step forward from their first for two reasons. For a start, it’s a proper band effort, with the two female vocalists handling all the singing, real bass and drums, and Bill Gillham sensibly sticking to instruments. Secondly, instead of grafting progressive elements onto singer/songwriter-style material, they’ve integrated the two approaches. The end result is beautifully crafted, sumptuous and mellow, if not exactly challenging or thrilling; that said, the harder rock elements of ‘Walking In Shadows’ work extremely well and there are no obvious weak moments. GRADE: C+.
Cirrus Bay (USA): Whimsical Weather (No label 7567-82344-2, CD, 2012)
Sharra Acle (joint lead vocals), Anisha Norflet (joint lead vocals)
Like its predecessor, this is a pleasant album of melodic sympho-prog, occasionally hinting towards Renaissance. Despite a slightly underwhelming beginning, it’s a solid set with some fine moments. GRADE: C+.
Cirrus Bay (USA): The Search For Joy (No label 631597209523, CD, 2014)
Anisha Norflet (principal vocals), Sharra Acle (joint lead vocals)
A pleasant and atmospheric album, this peaks on the instrumental breaks, as I don’t find the songs particularly inspiring. Nonetheless, it’s all well crafted and effectively arranged, and there are plenty of nice instrumental textures on offer. GRADE: C+.
Cirrus Bay (USA): Places Unseen (No label CBCD5ARTVSRL, CD, 2016)
Tai Shan (lead vocals)
Alternating songs and instrumentals, this is – typically for later Cirrus Bay – beautifully crafted, arranged and performed, with lovely vocals and some well-judged jazzy edges. However – also typically for Cirrus Bay – I don’t find any of it terribly exciting, so it never crosses the line from ‘good’ to ‘great’. GRADE: C+.
Cirrus Bay (USA): The Art Of Vanishing (No label CBCD6RLISART, CD, 2019)
Tai Shan (lead vocals), Sharra Acle (backing vocals)
Cirrus Bay are a fair-to-middling C+ band if ever I’ve heard one, but here they’ve produced an album that’s just about a B–. So what’s changed? Better material, for one thing: this is genuinely atmospheric stuff, with their late seventies Renaissance influence edging out the neoprogressive elements (though the latter clearly remain, hence the ‘just about’). It also helps that this is much better mixed and mastered than their last. I still have the odd reservation – if they blended their discrete songs and instrumentals into suites, they could produce something much more accomplished than this – but I’m nonetheless amazed they’ve produced something this good. GRADE: B–.
City Preachers (West Germany/Ireland): Folklore (Decca SLK 16382-P, West Germany, 1965)
Inga Rumpf, Sibylle Kynast, Marianne Therstapen
This German band were one of the country’s most influential mid-to-late sixties outfits: not only did they kickstart the nation’s burgeoning folk boom, but they also introduced Inga Rumpf and (later) Dagmar Krause to the world. Their coffeehouse folk (and sometimes blues) style, with its strong Bob Dylan influence, could sound desperately dated today, but their eclectic taste in material and an exceptionally good stereo recording mean this is still fresh and enjoyable nearly half a century on. GRADE: C+.
City Preachers (West Germany/Ireland): Die City Preachers (Decca SLK 16435-P, West Germany, 1966)
Inga Rumpf, Sibylle Kynast, Marianne Therstapen
Their second is a game of two halves, with side one concentrating mainly on American material and the second (far superior to these ears) largely on European numbers. Once again, this is bold, eclectic stuff, with highpoints including ‘Pure Religion’ (with some powerful singing from Rumpf) and the raga-like ‘Sulima’, which adds hints of folk/rock. GRADE: C+.
City Preachers (West Germany/Ireland): Warum? (Philips 483 798 PY, West Germany, 1966)
Inga Rumpf (joint lead vocals), Sibylle Kynast (joint lead vocals)
Subtitled ‘Deutsch Protestsongs’ and ‘Lieder Gegen Der Krieg’, their third is slightly different, concentrating on original songs by Michael Kunze and Ralph Siegel Jnr (neither of them band members). Musically this takes them closer to folk/rock, adding drums as well as occasional keyboards; the result is their best album to date. GRADE: C+.
City Preachers (West Germany/Ireland): Cool Water – International Folk Hits (Decca SLK 16482-P, 1967)
Inga Rumpf, Sibylle Kynast
Recorded live, their fourth album does what it says on the tin, taking in everything from ‘Never On A Sunday’ to ‘A Taste Of Honey’ and ‘The Girl From Ipanema’. The music eschews the folk/rock elements of its predecessor for a return to the coffeehouse; there are also some lounge edges and a couple of attempts at humour (including some falsetto vocals) that predictably don’t work well. Despite a few good cuts, this is their weakest and most dated LP by some margin. GRADE: C–.
City Preachers (West Germany/Ireland): Der Kürbis, Das Transportproblem Und Die Traumtänzer (Decca SLK 16575-P, West Germany, 1968)
Inga Rumpf, Sibylle Kynast, Dagmar Krause
Having taken a step back with their last LP, City Preachers took two steps forward with this one, which was the soundtrack to a TV show. They look a lot hipper on the cover, and this is reflected in the music, which adds lots of Swingin’ London and popsike elements to create a charming, whimsical mood. Inga Rumpf had a much higher profile here than before, contributing a couple of songs for the first time, whilst Dagmar Krause made her recorded debut, fronting ‘Betty Dupree’. A lengthy hiatus followed in the City Preachers’ recording career, during which Rumpf and Krause issued a radically different one-off album as ID Company. GRADE: C+.
City Preachers (West Germany): Back To The City (Hör Zu ST-LMLP-15.807, 1971)
Sibylle Kynast, Dagmar Krause, Elga Blask
This reunion effort, with Elga Blask replacing Inga Rumpf (who had departed with several members of the transitional 1970 line-up to form Frumpy) is faithful to the band’s original style in its eclectic selection of acoustic and electric folk sounds. However, the reunion proved shortlived, with Blask later resurfacing in Virus and Krause going on to a lengthy career in avant-prog with Slapp Happy, Henry Cow et al. GRADE: C+.
See also Atlantis, Art Bears, Commuters, Lindsay Cooper, Frumpy, Henry Cow, ID Company, Dagmar Krause, News From Babel, Rockship, Inga Rumpf, Slapp Happy, Virus
City Waites (UK): A Gorgeous Gallery Of Gallant Inventions (EMI EMC 3027, 1974)
This mediaeval folk album, performed by musicians from classical backgrounds, is at the more authentic end of the spectrum, with no rock or contemporary elements whatever. It’s beautifully done, as one might expect, but their habit of performing the vocals in character may make the album appear overly arch to some ears. GRADE: C+.
City Waites (UK): The City Waites (Decca SKL 5264, 1976)
Lucie Finch (joint lead vocals, violin, rebec)
This is perhaps a slight step up from their first, as most of the vocals are performed in a less theatrical style (notwithstanding a very arch interlude of would-be comedy on side two). In fact, this is lovely, sumptuously arranged early music, with arrangements every bit as magnificent as one would expect from the musicians’ track records. GRADE: C+.
City Waites (UK): How The World Wags (Hyperion A66008, 1981)
Barbara Grant (joint lead vocals, guitar, violin, rebec)
Although this is recognisably the work of the same band, their shift from a major label to a classical specialist has significantly altered their sound. With most of the theatrical and whimsical edges gone, this is early music as much as folk music, with a much more reverential and academic feel to the performances. They made several other albums after this, which I have not heard. GRADE: C+.
CK Strong (USA): CK Strong (Epic BN 26473, 1969)
Lynn Carey (principal vocals)
The opening ‘Stormbird’ sounds like Jefferson Airplane circa 1967, but elsewhere this is heavy blues/rock in the style of most of Lynn Carey’s other projects: sometimes taut and exciting, sometimes diffuse and rambling, sometimes dull and formulaic. GRADE: C.
See also Ivar Avenue Reunion, Mama Lion, Merryweather & Carey