Fr-Fu

Fragile (USA): The Album (Big Cheese LP 1001, 1983)
Rock/Metal
Jane Bray (principal vocals)
Although the band presumably christened itself after the Yes album of the same name, this isn’t prog but straightforward AOR. Unlike most private and minor label albums of this type, this one has lively, energetic performances, well-written songs and an excellent production. GRADE: C+.

Franti (Italy): Luna Nera (No label, cassette, 1983)
New Wave/Jazz/Blues
Marinella Ollino (principal vocals)
Fronted by vocalist Marinella ‘Lalli’ Ollino and some very John McGeoch-like guitar work, this Italian anarchist band has a basic style somewhere between Crass and early Siouxsie & The Banshees. Unlike those bands, they have a strong interest in blues and jazz (with the RIO number ‘Joey’ sounding uncannily like a Dagmar Krause solo piece) and they’re not afraid to experiment (including an eight-minute instrumental improvisation). Demonstrating some nimble playing, it’s an odd and interesting record that’s clearly rooted in seventies punk yet completely dissimilar from it, incorporating all kinds of other influences. A vinyl reissue (Blu Bus BLU BUS 002, 1985) adds two bonus tracks. GRADE: C+.
Contrazione/Franti (Italy): Contrazione/Franti (No label, 1984)
Rock
Marinella Ollino (principal vocals)
Franti’s second album was a split effort with the anarchist punk band Contrazione. The Franti side takes them further from their punk roots, opening with a weird, trippy deconstruction of Bob Dylan’s ‘Gates Of Eden’, before taking in a soft proggy number with an RIO edge (‘Questa E L’Ora’) and a piece featuring only voice, drums and saxophone (‘Quesiti Da Sciogliere’) on which Ollino sounds uncannily like Doris Norton. The result is an interesting and inventive experimental rock album, but one on which the band still sound like they’re finding their feet. GRADE: C+.
Franti (Italy): Il Giardino Delle Quindici Pietre (Blu Bus F003, with book sleeve, 1986)
New Wave/Jazz/Rock/Psychedelic
Marinella Ollino (lead vocals)
Album number three is all over the place, with everything from Catherino Ribeiro & Alpes-like psychedelic jams with political sprechgesang to jazzy instrumentals to straight punk and snatches of sound effects. It’s an odd record through and through, and consistently interesting whilst never being particularly cohesive. All their albums were compiled, along with the more experimental 1987 EP Nel Salto Dell’Ascia Sul Legno and some bonus material as the triple LP and double CD Non Classificato; this was later reissued as a triple CD with more bonus cuts. GRADE: C+.
See also Environs, Howth Castle, Ishi, Lalli, Orsi Lucille, Yuan Ye

Frantz (France): Peut-Être Aux Yeux-Silence… (Cat CR 2001, 1972)
Progressive
This album’s book sleeve is among the most beautiful and psychedelic I have ever seen: an absolutely stunning work of surrealism. Hardly any disc could live up to that promise, and in some ways this one doesn’t, although it’s a very accomplished and enjoyable album in its own right. Frantz was apparently a poetess and musician, and the music from backing band Prospective is song-based progressive with soft keyboard-led arrangements and definite late sixties influences (the Beatles, the Moody Blues and Procol Harum immediately spring to mind). There are also some avant-garde touches and sound effects, giving the impression that this may be a concept album of some sort, and the feel is very French and sensual. GRADE: C+.

Frayle (USA): The White Witch (Seeing Red SRR019, CD, 2018)
Metal
Gwyn Strang
With four songs totalling 19½ minutes, this EP isn’t the world’s most substantial release. However, there’s no doubting its quality – Frayle’s combination of ethereal singing and majestic, crushing doom riffs is a winner from the first note to the last. GRADE: B–.

Frayle (USA): 1692 (Aqualamb/Lay Bare Recordings ALR023/LBR - 028, CD, 2020)
Metal
Gwyn Strang (principal vocals)
This doesn’t feel quite as consistent as their earlier EP – or maybe I’m more familiar with their style now so it’s simply less startling. Nonetheless, there is plenty to enjoy here and their almost psychedelic blend of fuzzy doom riffs and angelic vocals should thoroughly fans of the genre. GRADE: B–.

Free Winds (UK): From A New Direction (MJB REV LP 397, 10”, 1966)
Folk
Margaret Scott (joint lead vocals)
Only three copies are known of this terminally obscure act’s 10" album: it has sold for huge money, despite being fairly typical mid-to-late sixties folk-club stuff, with strong American influences and a slight hippie edge. On the plus side, the disc does include excellent versions of ‘Ballad Of Springhill’ and ‘Sparrow’. They also issued a non-album four-track EP and a 45, which are equally hard to track down. GRADE: C.

Freedom Fighter (UK): Freedom Fighter Lives Forever (Studio 95 FST 95001, with booklet and insert, 1982?)
Rock
Claudette Evans (keyboards)
Mainly comprising paraplegics, Freedom Fighter recorded in the eighties but played late sixties-style garage rock and pop. The standard is fairly variable, with some notably weak tracks (especially the underwhelming opener ‘Learning How To Cry’), but there are three or four strong fuzz guitar-based cuts with angry political lyrics. Claudette Evans wrote the bulk of the material and produced the album as well as playing keyboards. GRADE: C+.

Freedom North (Canada): Freedom North (Aquarius AOR 501, 1970)
Rock/Psychedelic
Franki Hart (joint lead vocals, piano, recorder)
This obscurity opens with a soulful, horn-driven rocker and a rural-flavoured cut (the first not bad, the second pretty good), but really takes flight with the third number, ‘Losing You’ – a snotty garage punker driven by a distorted guitar riff and overlaid with squalling leads. A high standard is maintained thereafter, with highpoints including the eerie extended ballad ‘Lonely Man’ (complete with mournful recorder solo from the band’s superb female singer Franki Hart), the melodic rocker ‘Dr. Tom’ (with more shrieking acid leads) and the fuzz-laden closer ‘Vancouver’. Hart later went on to the brilliant Riverson. GRADE: C+.
See also Riverson

Frequency Drift (Germany): Personal Effects (Part One) (Muséa Parallèle MP 3057, CD, France, 2008)
Progressive
Katja Hübner (lead vocals)
This is rather more interesting than the band’s earlier incarnation as Echofields, dropping the pop and trip-hop elements for an atmospheric rock sound. Relaxed, stately and often quite minimalist, including a lengthy and effective piano solo, this is an enjoyable album that is once again very understated.

GRADE: C+.

Frequency Drift (Germany): Personal Effects (Part Two) (Cyclops CYCL 176/FD002, CD, UK, 2009)
Progressive
Nicole Scharnagl (joint lead vocals), Christine Mettner (joint lead vocals), Kerstin Leidner (joint lead vocals), Nerissa Schwartz (harp)
Like their first, this is a varied and atmospheric album, with everything from orchestrated ballads to fairly heavy rock and even a drum solo. Also like their first, it’s all rather understated, with sound effects linking the songs to create a concept album (though without printed lyrics it’s difficult to identify the theme of the story). GRADE: C+.
Frequency Drift (Germany): Ghosts… (ProgRock PRR152, CD, with digipak, USA, 2011)
Progressive
Antje Auer (lead vocals), Nerissa Schwartz (harp)
The band are adept at creating contrasting moods – the passages of intense, post-psychedelic rock are as effective as the lighter acoustic moments with gently echoing vocals. However, as with their earlier albums, the overall mood is impressionistic and dreamlike, with the music drifting by in an atmospheric haze. GRADE: C+.
Frequency Drift (Germany): …Laid To Rest (Gentle Art Of Music GAOM 010, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2012)
Progressive
Antje Auer (lead vocals), Nerissa Schwartz (harp)
Like their previous albums, this is atmospheric and understated – sometimes folky, sometimes neoclassical and occasionally quite dynamic. As on Ghosts… the latter moments are superb, but much of the album is so relaxed and tranquil that it barely seems to exist at all.

GRADE: C+.
Frequency Drift (Germany): Over (Gentle Art Of Music GAOM 024, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2014)
Progressive
Isa Fallenbacher (lead vocals), Sibylle Fritz (cello), Nerissa Schwartz (harp)
This is decidedly their best album to date: still very low-key and almost undefinable, but with greater energy and rock strength to counter the more ambient moments. Strings are used effectively on several songs, adding a mournful and classical edge, and the effect is often quite elegiac. GRADE: B–.

Frequency Drift (Germany): Summer (No label, CDR, 2014)
Progressive
This limited edition CDR features six songs by Frequency Drift and one apiece by offshoots Coronal Rain and Echofields. It’s nice stuff, with some good dynamic rock moments, though it’s inevitably not as cohesive as a conventional studio album. GRADE: B–.
Frequency Drift (Germany): Last (Gentle Art Of Music GAOM 043, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2016))
Progressive
Melanie Mau (lead vocals), Nerissa Schwartz (Mellotron, harp)
Whether this is merely titled Last or is their final album is unclear, but either way it’s their best. Leaving the slightly hesitant, soporific sound of their early work in the dust, this is powerful and quite heavy rock with lots of Mellotron, hinting towards the style of Swedish bands like Anekdoten and Paatos. Pre-ordered copies came with a bonus download (or occasionally CDR) featuring alternate versions of the song ‘Scan’. GRADE: B–.

Frequency Drift (Germany): Letters To Maro (Gentle Art Of Music GAOM 056, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2018)
Progressive
Irini Alexia (lead vocals), Nerissa Schwarz (keyboards, harp)
Last clearly wasn’t their last, but this apparently is – and, appropriately for their label name, Frequency Drift have gone pretty gently into that good night. Whilst they’re German, this somehow sounds Scandinavian: I could imagine these eerie, slightly austere songs soundtracking ‘The Bridge’ or a similar noirish thriller. Unlike ‘The Bridge’, not much actually happens here: variety isn’t one of the band’s hallmarks, so this is all atmosphere and mood, but it certainly lives up to its concept and captures the atmosphere of a desolate city at night. GRADE: B–.

See also Coronal Rain, Echofields, Flaming Row, Melanie Mau & Martin Schnella, Rachel's Memory

Sally French (UK): Beyond The Sky (No label SF001, cassette, 1992)
Singer/Songwriter
Sally French (lead vocals, keyboards)
From French’s vocal mannerisms, it’s obvious that she modelled herself on Kate Bush (though she actually sounds like more Tori Amos). However, the music – mellow symphonic rock that never crosses over into prog – suggests a completely different set of influences. GRADE: C+.

Sally French (UK): The Other Side (SI SIMPly 39, Holland, CD, 1994)
Rock/Progressive
Sally French (lead vocals)

Her progressive ambitions are much more obvious second time round, and here she appears to be channelling Annie Haslam as well as Kate Bush. She also favours a much more dramatic vocal approach, which doesn’t work too well: her phrasing on ‘Inside The Tower’ is so arch that I feel embarrassed for her. As undemanding symphonic rock goes, this is pleasant enough, but it’s notable that the least ambitious track is probably the best: the straightforward rocker ‘My Time Has Come’. Her only other release was a 2002 CDR Destiny, which compiles material from both her albums plus three unique cuts of unknown provenance (though I’m pretty sure they’re outtakes from The Other Side). GRADE: C+.

Fresa Acida (Mexico): Exitos Con La Fresa Acida (Arcano DKL1-3213, 1972)
Pop/Rock
Despite the trippy-sounding name, this is for the most part fairly mainstream harmony pop with a late sixties West Coast sound and some rather middle-of-the-road orchestrations here and there. However, the closing cut is a psychedelic pop gem with a great melody and roaring fuzz guitar. GRADE: C.

Fresh Air (UK): Fresh Air (Marshalls MRT 1006, with inner, 1982)
Pop
Sue McClellan (occasional vocals)
Sue McClellan’s post-Parchment band bears no resemblance to her previous band, mainly because Christian rock veteran John Pantry is firmly in charge – he shares the vocals, plays keyboards, produces and writes almost everything. Musically, this is sophisticated soft pop, occasionally hinting towards Renaissance’s Time-Line, but ultimately the cloying sweetness becomes irritating, as with many Christian albums. GRADE: C.
See also Parchment

Fried Chicken Band (West Germany): The First Time Ever We Met The Blues (B-Record TSE 5791, 1979)
Rock
Elizabeth Burns (joint lead vocals, guitar, percussion)
The band name and album title make obvious that this isn’t any kind of Krautrock, but it’s not really blues either. Instead Fried Chicken Band took their influences from American singer/songwriters and offered folky rural rock with a West Coast feel. It’s nice, laid-back stuff, with some very good guitar work, but it’s not especially exciting and quite odd to hear from a German band. I’d imagine that Elizabeth Burns was actually American, but know nothing about this outfit’s history. GRADE: C+.

Friend & Lover (USA): Reach Out Of The Darkness (Verve Forecast FTS 3055, 1968)
Pop/Soul
Cathy Conn
The title track gave them a big hit, but most of the rest is more soulful – lively, accomplished but rather sterile horn-driven pop. It’s undeniably well done, however, and ‘Room To Let (To Rowena With Love)’ has a nice psychedelic edge, featuring some sitar. GRADE: C.

Friends (UK): Fragile (Merlin HF 4S, unreleased test pressing, 1974)
Pop
Ruth Cubbin (occasional vocals)
‘Released’ only as a single-copy test pressing, Fragile was the final musical collaboration between Peter Howell and John Ferdinando of Alice Through The Looking Glass, Tomorrow Come Someday, Agincourt and Ithaca. After the disc was sold to a Japanese collector for £2000, rumours began to spread that it was their magnum opus, and a Record Collector article even compared it to Dark Side Of The Moon. That’s complete nonsense, of course: basically a Peter Howell solo album, Fragile is nothing like the fully-realised masterpiece of Ithaca, sounding more like a songwriter’s demo and offering a pleasant but inconsequential selection of lightweight, melodic pop songs. GRADE: C+.

Frisco (UK): Frisco (Westwood WSR 053, 1974)
Lounge/Country/Pop
Kookie (keyboards, violin, backing vocals)
The band name and multi-coloured sleeve might lead you to expect something with a West Coast flavour, but this is actually gruesome lounge and cabaret stuff with a strong country influence. The cover notes that they were an ‘award-winning group’ and that this was their ‘first album on Westwood’; so far as I am aware, it was also their last, and I can’t say I’m surprised. GRADE: E.

Frock (UK): Silkie (Frock Music FM 7838, 1978)
Folk/Rock
Valerie Parker (lead vocals, recorder), June Rowland (violin)
The pinnacle of electric folk albums, having sold for four figures in the past, Silkie is also among the best. Bringing to mind Deirdre, Fairport Convention, Ragged Heroes et al, the LP includes superb interpretations of traditional material like ‘Blackleg Miner’ and ‘Lovely Joan’. At the same time, the band maintains its own identity, particularly through the use of two classically trained violinists, giving a symphonic edge to much of the material. 250 copies were pressed, four or five of which have resurfaced on the collectors’ market, with none remaining at the source. GRADE: B.

Frogmorton (UK): At Last (Philips 6308 261, 1976)
Folk/Rock
Lucy Sharpe (joint lead vocals, guitar, spoons, mandolin, whistle)
The sleeve notes state that ‘everyone who saw them compared them to Steeleye Span’, but unlike Steeleye they mostly composed their own material and had a more morris-influenced style recalling the Albion Country Band. Nonetheless, Steeleye loomed large in their lives and career as they gained a major label deal in the wake of All Around My Hat’s success, as did their contemporaries Spriguns. Nobody is likely to prefer this to Spriguns at their best, but aside from the kazoo-powered singalongs ‘Grimaldo’ and ‘Mr Darwin’ this is a fine electric folk album, with well-crafted compositions and rich arrangements. In particular, ‘Judas And Mary’ is a progressive folk masterpiece with stunning vocals from Lucy Sharpe, making this inexpensive LP a worthwhile purchase for folk/rock fans. GRADE: B–.

From West To East (UK): From West To East (ECHO ECR 301, 1972?)
Folk
Christine Tankins (joint lead vocals), Carole Boast (joint lead vocals)
Bogstandard seventies Christian folk with a rather formal, churchy feel. GRADE: D.

Fromage (Japan): Ondine (Belle Antique 8401, 1984)
Progressive
Manabu Higashizawa (lead vocals, flute), Yoshie Shimamura (keyboards)
Characteristic eighties Nippon soft prog, with varied moods and a side-long track; whilst not of any particular distinction, it’s a pleasant and consistently enjoyable set. GRADE: C+.
Fromage (Japan): Ophelia (Belle Antique 8806, 1988)
Progressive
Manabu Higashizawa (lead vocals, flute)
Their second and final album is a bit better than their first, offering some lovely symphonic progressive (though still without any real identity of its own). The band’s only other release was a rather odd compilation called Tsuki-Ni-Hoeru, which featured the Ophelia album in its entirety plus two tracks from Ondine. The band’s keyboardist and drummer later formed Cinema. GRADE: C+.

Phil & Emmanuelle Fromont (France): La Maumariée (Sonopresse 36.000, with booklet, 1974)
Folk
Emmanuelle Parrenin
Recorded by the prolific Emmanuelle Parrenin and her husband, this is a considerable improvement over the previous year’s Chants À Répondre Et À Danser. Whilst firmly rooted in traditional folk, with a couple of tracks being virtually acapella, this has an eerie atmosphere and a few Eastern tinges hinting at her more exploratory later work. GRADE: C+.
See also Chants À Répondre Et À Danser, Confrèrie Des Fous, Galant Noyé, Gentiane, Yvon Guilcher, Emmanuelle Parrenin, Phil Fromont &

Claude Lefebvre

Frank W Fromy (France): Quatre Axes Mutants (Muséa Parallèle 540981, 1989)
Avant-Garde/Progressive/Jazz
Lucie Ferrandon (joint lead vocals), Laurence Kopelovitch (occasional vocals)
The Shub-Niggurath guitarist’s solo album (released as ‘Frank W Fromy’ rather than ‘Franck Fromy’) is a substantial ensemble piece with cuts of up to 21 minutes. At the more minimalist, neoclassical end of RIO, this hints at Art Zoyd, Henry Cow and Shub-Niggurath themselves, but generally has a more austere and eerie feel. Lucie Ferrandon contributes some suitably ghostly vocals to the long suite on side one, while Laurence Kopelovitch delivers some more experimental and operatic singing on the flip and a number of other female musicians participate on piano, violins, saxophone and tuba. GRADE: B–.

Frühlingserwachen (West Germany): Focu Qui Ti Si Magna (Nicolai 005355, with insert, 1979)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Packaged in an absolutely stunning art sleeve depicting a serpent and apple, this mostly consists of singer/songwriter-styled folk/rock that often reminds me of the British band Intensity. There are also a couple of nods towards prog, including a strange harder rocking passage with bells on the first side and some acid-folk and avant-garde touches on the flip. The insert credits an all-male line-up, but ‘Passing And Leaving’ features some very amateurish female vocals. GRADE: C+.

Fruitcake (Norway): Fool Tapes (Briskeby BY-06, CD, 1992)
Rock/Progressive
Siri M Seland (occasional vocals, bass, keyboards)
Fronted by former Folque drummer Pål Søvik, Fruitcake included musicians from his 1989 solo album and his pre-Folque project Villblomst. This is melodic mid-paced rock, taking most of its influences from early eighties Genesis; the guitar and keyboard work draws on symphonic progressive in its sound, but the song structures are pretty simplstic. However, whilst this is one-paced and unadventurous, the band creates a nicely mellow mood with some good hooks and riffs. GRADE: C+.
Fruitcake (Norway): How To Make It (Cyclops CYCL 016, CD, UK, 1994)
Rock/Progressive
Siri M Seland (occasional vocals, bass, keyboards)
Their second is a marked improvement, with much more fleshed-out instrumental sections. This is still not complex or challenging music by any standard, and the band eschews flashiness or virtuosity at every turn. But whilst some listeners might dismiss the procession of relaxed, midtempo songs as monotonous, their sheer quality shines through and they even manage to summon up a few spectres of the early seventies Norwegian greats. GRADE: C+.
Fruitcake (Norway): Room For Surprise (Cyclops CYCL 032, CD, UK, 1996)
Progressive
Siri M Seland (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
This is more progressive still, with the band now appearing to take its cues from late seventies Pink Floyd rather than eighties Genesis. On the downside, it’s a rather sombre record, with the vocals often buried quite deep in the mix, so it’s simultaneously better and worse than its predecessor. GRADE: C+.
Fruitcake (Norway): Power Structure (Cyclops CYCL 073, CD, UK, 1998)
Progressive
Nina C Dahl (flute)
Album number five (their fourth and sixth were recorded with all-male line-ups) is a further step forward, again with a more progressive feel but still with the band’s usual mellow, tuneful vibe. Despite being credited as a full band member, Dahl does not appear prominently on the LP. This is overall the best of their four albums that I have heard. GRADE: C+.

Frumpy (West Germany): Frumpy (Philips 6305 067, with plastic outer, 1970)
Progressive
Inga Rumpf (lead vocals, percussion)
Taking a heavy influence from Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity, this classic progressive album blends soul, blues and rock influences to stunning effect. The opening ‘Life Without Pain’ indicates Inga Rumpf’s enormous talent as a songwriter, whilst the unusual arrangements – featuring no guitar whatever – give keyboardist Jean-Jacques Kravetz plenty of chance to stretch out and display his Hammond organ skills to the full. The extended percussion break does outstay its welcome, but otherwise this is a superb LP full of great melodies and brilliant instrumental improvisations. GRADE: B.
Frumpy (West Germany): Frumpy 2 (Philips 6305 098, with foldout circular sleeve and plastic bag, some on green or blue and black splatter vinyl, 1971)
Progressive/Blues/Rock
Inga Rumpf (lead vocals)
Their rather different second album adds a guitarist and moves towards a more conventional blues/rock style. With just four long tracks packed with invention and manic soloing, it’s a fine LP but not as original or distinctive as its predecessor. Nonetheless, ‘How The Gipsy Was Born’ is simply a stunning composition, and the album does avoid the more ponderous moments from their first. GRADE: B.
Frumpy (West Germany): By The Way (Vertigo 6360 604, with poster, 1972)
Blues/Rock/Progressive
Inga Rumpf (lead vocals, guitar)
Whilst there are still some powerful progressive moments and instrumental breaks, this shows them moving towards mainstream blues/rock and eschewing the experimentation of their first LP and the wildness of their second. The opening and closing cuts are straight seventies rock of no particular distinction, presaging the direction the band would later take as Atlantis, but in between there are some excellent passages. GRADE: B–.
Frumpy (West Germany): Live (Philips 6623 022, double, 1972)
Progressive/Blues/Rock
Inga Rumpf (lead vocals, guitar, percussion)
This live double sees the band stretching out on much of the material, with running times of up to 22 minutes. This leads to some quite incendiary moments, although much of the jamming is surprisingly uninspired and all of this is far more blues-based than their studio work. Nor are the two unrecorded cuts ‘Backwater Blues’ and ‘To My Mother’ anything better than pedestrian. After this, the band changed its name to Atlantis and continued recording into the mid-seventies. GRADE: B–.
Frumpy (West Germany): Now (Mercury 842 517-2, CD, 1990)
Rock
Inga Rumpf (lead vocals, guitar, programming)
This is one of the most unfortunate reformations imaginable, since this album sounds absolutely nothing like classic Frumpy. With progressive rock influences abandoned more than fifteen years ago, the band sounds like latterday Atlantis, Rumpf’s seventies solo work or (more than anything) contemporary Tina Turner. In fairness, it’s not that bad; it’s just not Frumpy, and the closing remake of ‘How The Gipsy Was Born’ graphically depicts the decline in Rumpf’s songwriting abilities. GRADE: C+.
Frumpy (Germany): News (Mercury 510 259-2, CD, 1991)
Blues/Rock
Inga Rumpf (lead vocals)
News is both slightly better and rather bluesier than its predecessor. However, once again it would be a great album for Tina Turner and a solid album for Atlantis, but should never have been issued under the Frumpy banner. GRADE: C+.
Frumpy (Germany): Live Ninety Five (SPV 084-89892 CD, CD, 1995)
Blues/Rock
Inga Rumpf (lead vocals, guitar)
This live set reunited the entire original Frumpy line-up, with early Atlantis member Frank Diez contributing lead guitar, but most of the material is from Now and News. Whilst it sounds like a lively gig, there was no way they could make silk purses from these particular sows’ ears. GRADE: C+.
See Atlantis, City Preachers, Frumpy, ID Company, Rockship, Inga Rumpf

Frunk (USA): If At First… (RPC Z 69822, 1972)
Folk/Pop/‘Incredibly Strange Music’
Mary Anna Anderson (joint lead vocals), Terry Wadlinger (joint lead vocals), Kathleen Anderson (joint lead vocals), Mary Ann Baptiste (joint lead vocals), Dee Graulich (occasional vocals)
Packaged in a strange black-and-white sleeve depicting a close-up of a navel, this is one of the bigger ticket ‘real people’ items. The concept is simple but strikingly odd: a few friends entered a recording studio with some of their favourite records, sang over the top, and issued the results as a tiny private pressing. The end results are both sweet and slightly baffling, sometimes resembling an amateurish, surreal twist on outfits like Cinque and Sidan. GRADE: C+.

Clifford Fry (USA): For The Players Of Nights Games (No label FYSKIL 101, 1979)
Singer/Songwriter
Darelyn Fry (joint lead vocals)
Although credited as a solo album, this was mainly the work of three musicians: Clifford Fry (vocals and guitar), Darelyn Fry (vocals) and Paul Killam (vocals, guitar, bass, synthesiser and drums). Musically it ranges from pleasant acoustic folk to light rock with electric band backing; there’s nothing really special on offer but it’s solid throughout, especially on the cuts fronted by Darelyn Fry. As a footnote, the sleeve credits the album as For The Players Of Nights [sic] Game, while the label adds a final ‘s’. GRADE: C.

Limpe Fuchs (West Germany): Via (Dom V77-10, some on blue vinyl, 1988)
Progressive/Avant-Garde
Limpe Fuchs (lead vocals, synthesiser, percussion, violin)
Extensive use of synthesiser gives Fuch’s first solo album a different feel from Anima, though in many ways this is closer to the original spirit of Stürmischel Himmeland Müsik Für Allethan the band’s subsequent work. Links can be drawn with the electronic side of Krautrock, and she also works in lots of ethnic influences, alongside the clattering percussion for which she is known. GRADE: C+.

Limpe Fuchs (Germany): Muusiccia (Metal/Stones)(Streamline 1004, CD, 1993)
Avant-Garde
Limpe Fuchs (lead vocals, percussion, violin)
Fuch’s second solo album is weird in the extreme, but (as with all her work) surprisingly compelling. It mostly consists, as the title suggests, of clanging metal and stone percussion, gigantic home-made instruments and field recordings of everything from dogs to cows. The results are intriguing, to say the least. GRADE: C+.

Limpe Fuchs (Germany): Nur Mar Mas (Streamline 1016, CD, USA, 1999)
Avant-Garde
Limpe Fuchs (lead vocals, drums, percussion, violin)
Slightly less weird than its predecessor, this largely consists of tinkling percussion and echoing clangs and knocks, though Fuchs also contributes some violin and a couple of tracks are jazz trio performances. As always with Fuchs, the results are minimalist, hypnotic and perversely fascinating. GRADE: C+.
Limpe Fuchs (Germany): Pianobody 2002 (Seven Legged Spiders SLS 01, CD, with minisleeve, 2002)
Classical/Avant-Garde
Limpe Fuchs (lead vocals, keyboards, ring modulator, effects)
As its title suggests, Pianobody 2002focuses on Fuchs’s piano playing rather than her percussion, though she also contributes some harpsichord, harmonium, metal and sound effects. Delicate, tranquil and haunting, it’s one of her most interesting albums. GRADE: C+.

Limpe Fuchs (Germany): Tier, Pflanzer, Mensch Und Gerät Die Miteinander Eine Gesellschaft Bilden – Limpe Fuchs In Kunstraum Klosterkirche Traunstein (No label, DVDR, Germany, 2003)
Avant-Garde
Limpe Fuchs (lead vocals, percussion, violin, horn, effects)
Limpe Fuchs live is more akin to performance art than a conventional gig: appearing in an art gallery attached to a church, she works entirely solo, contributing a bizarre range of percussive and metal sounds. Her concentration throughout is obvious, and as always with her it’s quite fascinating, going far beyond a free-jazz assemblage of random knocks and bangs. GRADE: C+.

Limpe Fuchs (Germany): Im Exploratorium Berlin (Nikolai Jakobs, DVDR, 2008)
Avant-Garde
Limpe Fuchs (lead vocals, piano, percussion, violin, horn, effects)
This is similar to her last live DVD, but better: more eccentric, more intense and more hypnotic and spellbinding. The more Limpe Fuchs one sees or hears, the more one realises that she really is one of a kind. GRADE: C+.

Limpe Fuchs (Germany): Unterwegs/It’s Up To You (Male Bonding #5, cassette, with wooden case and insert, Serbia 2012)
Avant-Garde/Jazz
Limpe Fuchs (lead vocals, drums, percussion, zither, effects)
This unusually packaged set features a new improvisation from clanging metal percussion on side one and Fuchs’s contributions to the 1974 set It’s Up To You (dubbed from vinyl rather than the master tapes) on side two. The 1974 material, with contributions from Paul Fuchs and Friedrich Gulda, is closer to Anima in its exploratory free-jazz style, making this one of Fuchs’s more varied solo outings. GRADE: C+.
Flamingo Creatures & Limpe Fuchs (Germany): Trampelpfad (SicSic sicsic030, cassette, with inserts, 2012)
Avant-Garde
Limpe Fuchs (lead vocals, percussion, violin, effects), Ruth-Maria Adam (electronics)
This split cassette offers one side of clanging percussion from Limpe Fuchs (similar to her live shows, but far less interesting without the visuals) and one of freeform electronics from the Flamingo Creatures. The results are not without merit, but you definitely have to be in the mood for something like this. GRADE: C+.

Flamingo Creatures & Limpe Fuchs (Germany): Der Wind Der Wind Der Winter Kimmt (No label SPAM-2, cassette, 2012)
Avant-Garde
Limpe Fuchs, Ruth-Maria Adam
Fuchs and the Flamingo Creatures seem to be collaborating this time round rather than splitting the album, and the results are more interesting and varied than their last album. Based on their contributions to the previous cassette, this certainly sounds more like Fuchs’s albums, and less like a series of random knocks and clangs, with an almost shamanistic feel in parts. GRADE: C+.
Limpe Fuchs, Christoph Heemann & Timo Van Luijk (Germany/Holland): Macchia Forest (Streamline 347, 2013)
Avant-Garde
Limpe Fuchs (lead vocals, piano, percussion, violin, horn)
Again, this is one of Fuchs’s more fascinating outings, with Christoph Heemann’s electronics and Timo van Luijk folky and jazzy stylings adding an extra dimension to her glossolalia and clangs. With three long improvisations, this is a weird and atmospheric set that goes in all kinds of different directions. GRADE: C+.
Limpe Fuchs (Germany): Lithophonia (Wild Flesh Productions WFP05, cassette, USA, 2014)
Avant-Garde
Limpe Fuchs (lead vocals, bass, percussion, effects)
This solo EP (about 18 minutes) consists of two side-long pieces for tuned percussion and effects – both very minimalist and hypnotic, tranquil and unassuming. GRADE: C+.

Limpe Fuchs (Germany): Gestrüpp (Play Loud pl-61, 2016)
Avant-Garde
Limpe Fuchs (lead vocals, bass, percussion, viola horn, effects)
This is possibly Fuch’s oddest album, and at its worst embodies the free-jazz cliché of sounding like a random collection of bangs, knocks and screeches. Even at its best, it simply repeats ideas she’s done better before. GRADE: C/
Limpe Fuchs (Germany): String Stone Weight (Ana Ott AO016, marbled white vinyl, with inner and download card, 2017)
Avant-Garde
Limpe Fuchs (lead vocals, percussion, cello, horn, effects)
This live album is also fairly minimalist and challenging – clangs, knocks, bowing, effects, yells and even a baby crying. But as with all her better work, it has a certain something that makes it intriguing and sets it apart from run-of-the-mill avant-gardism. GRADE: C+.

See also Anima

Fuchsia (UK): Fuchsia (Pegasus PEG 8, 1971)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Madeleine Bland (occasional vocals, keyboards, cello), Janet Rogers (occasional vocals, violin), Vanessa Hall-Smith (occasional vocals, violin)
The short-lived Fuchsia was notable for both its unusual line-up – a conventional three-piece band plus a three-piece chamber orchestra – and highly literate, surreal, Mervyn Peake-inspired lyrics. Tony Durant’s plaintive voice and haunting songs provide fascinating counterpoint to the lush backing, creating an unusual and highly successful progressive folk album that is simultaneously melodic yet weird and delicate yet slightly sinister. GRADE: B.
Fuchsia (UK): Fuchsia, Mahagonny And Other Gems (Night Wings NWRCD 004, CD, 2013, recorded 1971-1978)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Jan Pulsford (occasional vocals), Angela Pulsford (violin), Janet Rogers (violin, backing vocals), Vanessa Hall-Smith (violin, backing vocals), Philida Ahearn (cello), Madeleine Bland (cello)
This interesting album compiles recordings from throughout the seventies, tracing the development of Tony Durant’s musical career. It opens with three songs from Fuchsia: a superb heavy number from their original demo acetate (without the string section) and two lo-fi post-LP demos with the full six-piece line-up. It then offers five songs by Durant’s mid-seventies project Mahagonny, fronted by Nick Pallett, formerly of Principal Edwards, and Jan Pulsford, whose sister Angela contributes violin whilst Philida Ahearn plays cello. This material is far more conceptual and theatrical than the Fuchsia LP, and actually resembles Principal Edwards more closely. Finally, the disc is rounded off with two cuts written and sung by Durant’s friend and occasional co-writer Robert Chudley and a single number from 1978 session with members of the Albion Band (John Tams on vocals, Pete Bullock on piano and Durant’s long-time collaborator Michael Gregory on percussion). With excellent sound quality on everything except the Fuchsia demos, this is a fascinating set containing some fine music. As a footnote, the liner notes indicate that Durant’s career was even broader than this: he joined a post-LP line-up of Punchin’ Judy and was at one point considered for the Pretenders, when James Honeyman-Scott mooted quitting prior to their debut album. GRADE: B–.
Fuchsia (Australia/UK): Fuchsia II (Sound Practices 001, CD, with digipak and booklet, Australia, 2013)
Folk/Rock
Tracy Wan (violin), Lidia Bara (violin), Jo Bara (cello), Emily Duffill (cello)
Fuchsia’s second album – released 32 years after the first, with a mainly Australian line-up – fails to recapture the eerie fragility of their first, with a much more robust and rock-oriented sound. That’s the bad news. The good news is that this offers a strong crop of songs, with some nice acid guitar and here (though more of it would have been extremely welcome). GRADE: B–.

Fuckin Wild (Germany): The Raven’s Cry (Art Voice 4740, CD, 1996)
Psychedelic
Anja Fritzsche (lead vocals, guitar, percussion, flute)
This unusually named band offered an excellent album of dark, atmospheric psychedelia, with folk, ethnic, blues and post-new wave edges (particularly in Anja Fritzsche’s very Patti Smith-like voice). The result is an interesting and creative album. GRADE: B–.

Fuji-Yuki (Japan): Orient (Bam Balam BBLP 044, some with obi, 2017)
Psychedelic
Fuji-Yuki (lead vocals)
The Sarry member’s solo debut isn’t far removed from her band’s work – this is all cosmic wordless vocals with epic, swirling backing (though with a wider sonic palette – I can hear keyboards, guitars and percussion here, though nobody is credited with playing them). In fact, this sounds like Sarry at its very best, and at its finest is a remarkable listen. GRADE: B–.
Fuji-Yuki, Michel Henritzi & Harutaka Mochizuki (Japan/France): Shiroi Kao (An’archives An’15, CD, with 7" minisleeve, inner, inserts, postcard and obi, France, 2018)
Jazz/Avant-Garde
Fuji-Yuki (lead vocals)
This collaboration between Fuji-Yuki and two free-jazz musicians (Frenchman Michel Henritzi on guitars, percussion and banjo and Harutaka Michizuki on saxophone) takes her music into slightly different realms. She appears on only two of the four improvisations, accompanied by Henritzi, whilst Michizuki’s saxophone fronts the other two cuts. Her two numbers aren’t a million miles removed from Sarry, with some ethnic and psychedelic elements, whilst the saxophone-fronted pieces are more obviously jazzy. Overall, it’s an intriguing album, but nowhere near as consistent, or as cosmic, as Orient. GRADE: C+.
See also Sarry

Fulano (Chile): Fulano (Alerce ALC526, cassette, 1987)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Arlette Jequier (joint lead vocals, clarinet)
This experimental jazz/rock album covers quite a bit of ground, mostly operating in RIO and borderline free jazz territory but also taking in occasional forays into zeuhl and more mainstream jazz-fusion. As with most albums of this type, some moments work better than others, but the level of invention and energy remains remarkably high throughout. GRADE: B.
Fulano (Chile): En El Bunker (Alerce ALC638, cassette, 1989)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Arlette Jequier (joint lead vocals, clarinet)
Album number two is much more instrumental their first and often more relaxed, but frequently even weirder. The music takes in soprano vocals, snatches of ‘Carmina Buranna’ and almost every imaginable style of jazz and jazz/rock; there’s even a nine-second track that ends so abruptly it made me think my CD player had malfunctioned. The results put me in mind of the French avant-prog underground, with a similar level of eccentricity, and the album should delight those with adventurous ears. GRADE: B.

Fulano (Chile): El Infierno De Los Payasos (Alerce CDAL 0172, CD, 1993)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Arlette Jequier (principal vocals, saxophone)
Album number three isn’t quite as audacious as its predecessor, though the songs and instrumentals here deliver more than a few surprises. Once again, this is eclectic, invigorating stuff, with plenty of imagination and subtle humour. GRADE: B–.
Fulano (Chile): Trabajos Inútiles (No label 0001, CD, 1997)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Arlette Jequier (principal vocals, clarinet)
Whilst still varied and experimental (with one track dedicated to Frank Zappa), this continues the band’s move away from the crazy RIO-cum-French new wave stylings of their first couple of albums towards a more relaxed jazz-fusion style. As a result, this doesn’t really break any new ground for them, but it’s both consistently good and consistently interesting. GRADE: B–.
Fulano (Chile): Vivo (No label, CD, with digipak, 2002)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Arlette Jequier (principal vocals, clarinet)
This live album is beautifully recorded (which certainly helps during a lengthy drum solo) and covers most facets of the band’s sound. Unsurprisingly, they give the craziest stuff from their early albums a wide berth, but this is still an impressive set throughout, with some outstanding musicianship. GRADE: B–.

Fulano (Chile): La Farsa Continúa (No label, DVD, with booklet, 2009)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Arlette Jequier (principal vocals, clarinet)
This live reunion, staged to mark 25 years of the band’s existence, showcases all aspects of their sound and boasts some marvellous musicianship. Constantly inventive, surprising and imaginative, Fulano are an impressive proposition on stage, though a little more theatricality would not have gone amiss. GRADE: B.

Fulano (Chile): Animal En Extinción (El Templo, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2015)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Paquita Rivera (principal vocals)
The loss of long-term vocalist Arlette Jequier doesn’t seem to have affected their sound significantly, as this offers their usual RIO and Canterbury hybrid. Complex, surprising and beautifully recorded, it’s another impressive addition to their discography. GRADE: B–.

Fulano (Chile): En La Batuta, 1993 (El Templo, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2016, recorded 1993)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Arlette Jequier (lead vocals, clarinet)
Considering this live set was recorded on a cassette, the sound quality is remarkably good. So is the music, with bassist, guitarist and band leader Jorge Campos on particularly fine (and funky) form. GRADE: B–.

Fulano (Chile): En Vivo De Los Ángeles De Chile 2002 (El Templo, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2017, recorded 2002)
Jazz-Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Arlette Jequier (lead vocals, clarinet)
This is towards the straighter end of Fulano’s repertoire, though it’s still pretty weird, mostly offering mutant funk with jazzy edges and industrial undertones. With decent, though not exceptional, sound quality, it’s a fine archive release and a worthy addition to their discography. GRADE: B–.
Fulano (Chile): EnDirecto! FestivalAlternativo2010 México (Luna Negra CDLN-55, CD, with digipak, 2017, recorded 2010)
Jazz-Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Arlette Jequier (principal vocals, clarinet)
This is a touch jazzier, and in parts a touch weirder, than the 2002 set. It’s also considerably more varied, taking in everything from relatively straight jazzy ballads to symphonic prog to RIO freakouts. GRADE: B–.
See also MediaBanda

Full Moon Ensemble Featuring Claude Delcloo (France): Crowded With Loneliness (CBS S 64267, 1970)
Jazz/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Sarah Touati (lead vocals, percussion), Martine Tourreil (piano)
Mixing free jazz backing with declaimed vocals recalling a higher-pitched Catherine Ribeiro, this is a dramatic and often quite chaotic LP. It’s far from formless, however, and should appeal to those liking the wilder and more experimental end of jazz/rock. GRADE: C+.
See also Utopic Sporadic Orchestra

Full Moon (UK): Full Moon (No label, cassette, with insert, 1985)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Liz Hopkins (lead vocals), Angie Walker (bass)
Consisting of just six long songs (five studio and one live), this offers elegant and trippy progressive rock, with the emphasis on atmosphere rather than ostentation. However, it’s all undercut by the dreadful sound quality, and it would have been nice to hear what the band could achieve with a bigger budget. GRADE: C+.
Full Moon (UK): Full Moon (Voices Of Wonder/VOW 011, CD, Norway, 1989)
Progressive/Psychedelic/Metal
Angie Walker (bass)
Album number two has the strong sound quality their debut didn’t, and the substitution of a male singer with a more aggressive approach highlights the metal element of their sound. For the most part, this sounds like a more metallic sidestep from Hawkwind: powerful if derivative style, peaking on side one’s excellent closer ‘Euphoric Dance’. GRADE: C+.
Full Moon (UK): A Live Encounter (Moon LUNAR 14, 1990)
Metal/Psychedelic/Progressive
Angie Walker (bass)
Their live album unsurprisingly emphasises their metal roots even more strongly, resulting in a power and dynamic album. Though their music lacks the nuance and subtlety that make Hawkwind masters of the genre, this is still good space-metal by any measure. GRADE: C+.
Full Moon (UK): Euphoria (Demi Monde DMCD 1031, 1992)
Psychedelic/Progressive/Metal
Angie Walker (bass)
New vocalist John Killeen’s strangulated yowl is pure heavy metal, but the music is pure heavy space rock – powerful, diverse and superbly realised. This was the point where everything came together for Full Moon, making it all the more regrettable that this was their final work. GRADE: B–.
Full Moon (UK): Archives (Moon LUNAR FMCD 333, 1994, recorded 1986 to 1992)
Metal/Psychedelic/Progressive
Angie Walker (bass)
The band’s career was rounded off by this worthwhile (if incomplete) compilation, which features three songs from 1989’s Full Moon, four from 1992’s Euphoria, both sides of their 1987 single ‘The Eternal Now’/‘Nemesis’ (also featured as bonus tracks on the CD version of Full Moon) and four demos from 1986 recorded with yet another vocalist. This confirms my impression that Euphoria was by far the band’s highpoint (as much for the production as the material and performances), but the B-side ‘Nemesis’ is excellent, as are the 1986 demos (which have better sound quality than either their first tape or first CD). GRADE: B–.

Fungus (Italy): Careful! (Mellow MMP 473, CD, 2004)
Progressive
Vittoria Mezzano (principal vocals), Cinzia Bernardi (occasional vocals, flute)
This is an odd record, to say the least: the first third is light, mildly folky songs with nice acoustic guitar and some quirky touches (the lyrics to ‘Eight Days’ are mainly compiled from Beatles titles), let down only by the heavily-accented Italian vocals. The remainder is mostly instrumental and far more energetic and intense, with ‘Share Your Suicide’ featuring some impassioned wailing and the jamming psychedelic title track a monologue followed by weeping. ‘Latin Circle’ then lives up to its name by offering a sort of psychedelic jazz-fusion hybrid, before the proceedings climax with ‘Hypnopotamus’, a more relaxed but still powerful jam recalling Gong circa You. The album remains enjoyable across its disparate styles and at its best manages some quite impressive moments. The band subsequently cut several further albums with an all-male line-up. GRADE: B–.

Yuka Funakoshi (Japan): Pool No Nioi No Natsu (OMP Company, CDR, 1998)
Pop
This singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (I assume: none of her albums have any musician credits) offers a debut that’s all over the map stylistically. Most of it could be described as electropop, with some cuts having jazzy edges and others being straight singer/songwriter fare; much of it sounds more eighties than nineties. Whilst Funakoshi clearly has talent (most obviously demonstrated on the straight ballads) you’d have to like cheesy J-pop a lot more than I do to get much out of this. GRADE: C.

Yuka Funakoshi (Japan): Silent Sun (OMP Company, CDR, 1999)
Pop/Rock
A definite step up from her first, this is a solid symphonic pop and AOR album with a few very minor progressive edges. There’s nothing particularly original or hugely inventive here, but this is certainly a good album of its type. GRADE: C+.
Yuka Funakoshi (Japan): Morning Bird (OMP Company, CDR, 2000)
Pop/Folk/Rock
A little folkier than her earlier work, Morning Bird sees Funakoshi developing the softier, more symphonic side of her repertoire, and even includes some Mellotron on the lovely proggy ‘Bloody Moon’. Overall, this may be her best release to date, and it clearly conveys her growing interest in progressive music. This was Funakoshi’s final album before she concentrated on her Chronoship progressive rock project, but she released one further single in 2003, coupling the excellent nine-minute prog number ‘Mizu No Rinne’ with the five-minute ‘Hoshi No Travelers’. GRADE: C+.
See also Yuka & Chronoship
See also Yuka & Chronoship

Funin (Norway): Unsound (Karisma KAR057, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2010)
Progressive/Electronica/Pop/Avant-Garde
Marit Elisabeth Svendsbøe (principal vocals, programming, flute, cornet), Sissel Ørstavik (violin)
Starting out as an electronica duo, this unusual band had expanded into an eight-piece (plus guests) by the time they cut this album. It’s an unusual disc, showing strong influences from Portishead and Bjørk (especially in Svendsbøe’s mannered singing) but mixing these influences with ethnic elements, borderline folk and progressive rock. The end result is frequently startling, sometimes compelling but only occasionally really stunning. GRADE: C+.

Furekåben (Denmark): Prinsessevaerelset (Spectator SL 1017, 1970)
Folk/Psychedelic
Vivi Jo Heede (joint lead vocals)
This Danish band’s album has more in the common with the weirder end of the Krautfolk underground than English contemporaries – these three jams are long, formless, rambling and lo-fi. Ethnic elements, hand percussion and even faint proto-industrial edges weave in and out of the music, which is frequently fascinating but ultimately too lacking in variety and melody to join the upper echelon of the genre. GRADE: C+.
Furekåben (Denmark): Furekåben (Røde Roser RR1, 1971)
Folk/Psychedelic
Vivi Jo Heede
Like their debut, this consists of three long improvisations; also like their debut, it’s all very ethnic, rambling and diffuse. However, the music here is better in every way – better melodies, better structures and a better recording too. As a footnote, both their albums were tiny pressings, with hand-painted covers; their second is a contender for the rarest Danish LP of all. The band subsequently mutated into Hyldemors Grønsaligheder, which issued a cassette-only album in 1975. GRADE: C+.

Fuseboxx (Philippines): Fuseboxx (Universal CDP-941341, with book sleeve, 2005)
Progressive/Metal
Abby Clutario (lead vocals, keyboards)
Evenly blending progressive and hard rock influences, this is a consistently good album that occasionally tends towards messiness or cliché. Nonetheless it’s rare to find prog from the Philippines, let alone prog of a high standard, so this is thoroughly recommended. The disc is also notable for its unusual packaging: a large format foldout thin card sleeve. GRADE: B–.
Fuseboxx (Philippines): Animated (No label FBXX-001, 2011)
Progressive/Metal
Abby Clutario (lead vocals, Chapman stick, keyboards, sequencer)
Despite a sumptuous choral overture, this is generally a more conventional and song-based work than their debut, although still displaying definite progressive influences (including more than a touch of eighties King Crimson). Some may find the soaring choruses a little cheesy, but for me this is another solid and successful album. GRADE: B–.

Fusion Orchestra (UK): A Skeleton In Armour (EMI EMA 758, 1973)
Progressive
Jill Saward (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion, flute)
Like a hyperactive fusion of Jethro Tull, Yes and Janis Joplin, Fusion Orchestra offered furious and extremely virtuosic progressive rock, with constant unexpected changes of mood and tempo, manic jazz and blues-influenced soloing and howling female vocals. The exceptionally talented Jill Saward was responsible for the singing, most of the songs and much of the instrumentation, and this brilliant LP suggested she would go on to a meteoric career. Instead, Fusion Orchestra promptly broke up and Saward drifted through various obscure musical projects before forming Shakatak with fellow progressive rock alumnus Roger Odell (formerly of CMU) at the turn of the eighties. GRADE: B.
Fusion Orchestra 2 (UK): Casting Shadows (No label, CD, 2013)
Progressive
Elsie Lovelock (lead vocals)
Fusion Orchestra without Jill Saward is like the Beatles without Lennon and McCartney, but things are even worse here: Colin Dawson is the sole original member (though I’m guessing that keyboardist Ben Bell is the son of seventies drummer Dave). New singer Elsie Lovelock has a decent though not outstanding voice, but she doesn’t contribute to the songwriting: the female creative force appears to be Jo Hollands, who writes some of the lyrics and co-writes some of the music but doesn’t perform on the album. The good news is that this is solid progressive rather than mainstream rock, with three songs exceeding ten minutes bookended by four short keyboard interludes. The bad news is that whilst this formally recalls A Skeleton In Armour, the element that made that album unique – its unrestrained energy and ferocity – is entirely absent here, leaving a solid and competent album of bluesy prog. The best track by far is ‘Secret Shadow’, which recaptures some of the swagger of old. GRADE: C+.

Fusion Orchestra 2 (UK): Limited Edition Anniversary Bonus Tracks (No label, CDR, 2013)
Progressive
Elsie Lovelock (principal vocals), Jo Hollands (occasional vocals)
Their comeback album was just about on the cusp of a C+ and B–: nearly very good by modern prog standards, but far from the equal of their 1973 set. But what of this limited edition bonus CDR, issued with pre-orders, which features live rehearsals of three Skeleton In Armour tracks fronted by Elsie Lovelock plus an unreleased studio number sung by Jo Hollands? The most striking thing is the stark difference between the old and new material ­– Jill Saward’s compositions are bursting with vitality and packed with unexpected twists and turns, and the new line-up makes a surprisingly good fist of them. The all-new ‘Rapunzel’ isn’t in the same league, but it’s a nice enough ballad and rounds off a thoroughly enjoyable set. GRADE: B–.

Fusion Orchestra (UK): Live At The Marquee 1974 (Secret SECCD183, CD, 2018, recorded 1974)
Blues/Rock/Progressive
Jill Saward (lead vocals, guitar, piano, percussion, flute)
This live recording has surprisingly decent mono sound quality, considered it was taped on a cassette, and showcases a number of songs the band never recorded. Musically, these songs aren’t the equal of those on A Skeleton In Armour, however, suggesting that they would have moved in a straighter bluesy rock direction had they stayed together. Nonetheless, this is a fascinating historical document. GRADE: B–.

Fuzz Manta (Denmark): Moon Stone Sessions (Fuzz Manta Recordings, CDR, with minisleeve, 2006)
Rock/Metal
Lene Kjaer Hvillum (lead vocals)
This 26-minute, five-track EP offers stripped-down early seventies style hard rock that captures the retro vibe perfectly. Whilst I’m in some ways reluctant to award such a high grade to such an unambitious set, it’s hard to see how this could have been performed, recorded or mastered any better. GRADE: B–.

Fuzz Manta (Denmark): Smokerings (Bad Deal BDR001, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2008)
Rock/Metal
Lene Kvaer Hvillum (lead vocals)
Like their first, this is stripped-down hard rock with nothing but voice, electric guitars, bass and drums. Also like their first, it has no higher ambition than recapturing the spirit of early seventies hard rock and metal. Finally, once again like their first, it’s so well performed and recorded that it’s hard to find fault with it. GRADE: B–.
Fuzz Manta (Denmark): Vortex Memplex (Artifact 6, CD, Germany, 2011)
Rock/Metal/Progressive
Lene Kvaer Hvillum (lead vocals)
This isn’t just a great album; it’s a great step forward, with the band stretching out and jamming for the first time. The long tracks here sometimes take them into psychedelic realms, with a nicely trippy feel that always remains anchored in early seventies-style heavy rock. In fact, I can hear more than a hint of the mighty Arktis. GRADE: B–.
Fuzz Manta (Denmark): Opus II (Gateway Music, CD, 2011)
Rock/Metal/Progressive
Lene Kvaer Hvillum
As with Vortex Memplex, this finds the band pushing forwards: incorporating keyboards, adding in a near-drum solo and moving their sound closer to progressive blues/rock. But whilst this is a good album – and sometimes a very good one – it doesn’t have the best-in-class feel of their earlier work. On their previous albums, I couldn’t hear any room for improvement given the constraints they’d set themselves. Here, some editing, better mastering and a few more killer riffs might not have gone amiss. GRADE: C+.

Fuzz Manta (Denmark): The Stonewolf (Artifact 12, double, some on marbled vinyl, Germany, 2014)
Rock/Metal/Progressive
Lene Kjaer Hvillum (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion)
This is their best – the extra space afforded by a double album (with the vinyl version containing a couple of extra tracks not on the CD) really allows them to stretch out. The first disc focuses on long, proggy soundscapes and the second on tauter early seventies-style heavy rock, though there’s a lot of cross-pollination between the styles that make up their reassuringly retro sound. GRADE: B–.
See also Silverleaf