Habibiyya (UK/USA): If Man But Knew (Island HELP 7, with inner, UK, 1972)
Susan Archuletta (joint lead vocals, guitar, viola, shakuhachi, koto)
Following a visit to Morocco, Ian Whiteman, Mike Evans and Roger Powell of Mighty Baby cut this haunting, beautiful album of Islamic-inspired acoustic music along with expat Californians Conrad and Susan Archuletta. One of the earliest British forays into world music, it may be both too serious and too tranquil for some, but the performances are beautifully judged and frequently spellbinding. If anything, some of the outtakes on the Sunbeam CD reissue are even better than the album proper, especially the floating, organ-driven jam ‘Bird In God’s Garden’. GRADE: C+.
Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra (USA): Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra (Impulse AS-9183, 1969)
Carla Bley (piano, tambourine)
Despite Haden’s star billing, this is as much Bley’s album – she arranges almost everything and writes three of the shorter pieces. Musically, this often sounds like a run-through for Escalator Over The Hill, but whereas that epic mixed free-jazz instrumentals with psychedelic rock, electronic experimentation and more, this – despite being wildly creative – is a bit heavy on the free-jazz. GRADE: C+.
Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra (USA): Not In Our Name (Verve B0004942-02, CD, 2005)
Carla Bley (piano)
The first Liberation Music Orchestra was cut in 1969 as a protest against the Vietnam War; this time they’re protesting against the ‘War on Terror’. However, everything has changed musically: like Bley’s own albums, this has swapped free-jazz experimentation for mellow contemporary big-band jazz. As such, it’s a lot less interesting than the first instalment, despite an eclectic track selection (everything from Dvorák to David Bowie, ‘Adagio For Strings’ to ‘America The Beautiful’) though it’s arguably more listenable. GRADE: C+.
See also Carla Bley, Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, Michael Mantler
Hail (USA): Gypsy Cat And Gypsy Bird (No label P8288, with inner, 1988)
The duo formerly known as Corpses As Bedmates return with a new identity and an album that’s a logical continuation of their new wave-ish avant-rock style yet slightly different at the same time. Like their earlier incarnation, this is highly experimental, with all manner of weird instrumentation and electronic effects. However, it tones down the industrial edges considerably, replacing them with a mutant song-based style that recalls the Art Bears (though without the Brechtian and jazz edges) in its eclecticism. They even take on hard rock on ‘Storm Of Dirty Minds’, and the results are pretty convincing. GRADE: C+.
Hail (USA): Turn Of The Screw (RéR HCD, CD, some with poster, UK, 1990)
Susanne Lewis (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, drum programmes, violin, mandolin, recorder, dulcimer, tapes)
Slightly more conventional than its predecessor (though still very weird in parts), this mostly offers lo-fi garage rock with a psychedelic edge, with nearly the instruments played by Lewis and Drake. A ‘subscription edition’ of 75 numbered copies also included a poster. GRADE: C+.
Hail (USA): Kirk (Rér HCD2, CD, UK, 1992)
Susanne Lewis (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, violin, sampler)
Surprisingly straight for an RéR release, this offers a procession of subtly weird but consistently melodic songs. The results are pretty varied, bolstered with some clever arrangement ideas and production touches, and prove that Susanne Lewis is a fairly talented singer/songwriter. GRADE: C+.
Hail/Snail (USA): How To Live With A Tiger (Funky Mushroom FM-025, CD, 1993)
Susanne Lewis (joint lead vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, violin), Azalia Snail (joint lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion, harmonica)
This collaboration between Lewis and psychedelic folk singer/songwriter Azalia Snail is much trippier and weirder than Kirk. With plenty of electronic effects, delicate folky diversions and lively lo-fi rockers, it’s a varied set with interesting and creative contributions by both musicians. Perhaps oddly, there are no songwriting collaborations between them, with three songs featuring Lewis entirely solo.
Hail (USA): Hello Debris (RéR H3, CD, UK, 2006)
Susanne Lewis (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, programming)
Susanne Lewis and Bob Drake’s first collaboration in 14 years is a good one, mixing Lewis’s usual garage-rock songs with a few experimental edges. In fact, the varied songs are so richly arranged that it’s often hard to believe this is a two-person band. GRADE: C+.
See also Corpses As Bedmates, Kissyfur, Susanne Lewis, Azalia Snail, Thinking Plague
Haizea (Spain): Haizea (Herri Gogoa HG-49 LS, 1976)
Amaia Zubiria (joint lead vocals)
Using simple instrumentation of acoustic (and occasionally electric) guitar, contrabass and tuned percussion, this Spanish band create some spellbinding and slightly psychedelic atmospheres on their impressive yet understated debut. Gentle, haunting and subtly spacy, their material is as beautiful and beatific as the stunning cover art. GRADE: B–.
Haizea (Spain): Hontz Gaua (Xoxoa 111 05, with booklet, 1979)
Amaia Zubiria (principal vocals)
The band’s radically different second and final album saw them adopting fully electric instrumentation and moving in a far more exploratory and experimental direction. Side one is given over to four shorter numbers: two lively electric folk instrumentals plus the gentle opener ‘Anderea’ and the eerie ‘Argizagi Ederra’, which sounds, as nearly as one can describe it, like a meeting between Clannad and Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus. Meanwhile, the second side is given over to the remarkable 14-minute title track, which starts with Gregorian-like chanting and moves through tripped-out rock jamming and borderline musique concrète before reaching a tranquil coda. This remarkable piece takes the band far beyond folk music and makes one regret that they never recorded again. GRADE: B.
See also Angel Illarremendi, Amaia Zubiria & Pascal Gaigne, Various ‘Zatoz, Inspiritua! – Euskal Elizaren Tradizio Berritua’
Haley & Holland (USA): Buyer Beware (CZ, 1980)
The cover makes this look as though it might be country/rock, but in fact it’s relaxed mainstream rock with some hard rock and rural edges and some progressive touches in the florid instrumental work. Overall this is a pleasant and unassuming set, with well-written and arranged songs. GRADE: C+.
Half Past Four (Canada): Rabbit In The Vestibule (No label, CD, 2008)
Kyree Vibrant (principal vocals)
The opening ‘Missing Sevenths’ has a messy, riff-driven approach recalling Leger De Main, and doesn’t get the album off to a promising start. However, things quickly improve, with some varied and interesting prog with a faint jazzy edge, sometimes hinting at Canterbury but not really falling into the genre. There are also a few hard rock touches, elements of surreal humour and a distinctly sixties-tinged songwriting style, with a procession of fairly short songs. Not everything works well, and there are no individually outstanding tracks, but this is rarely less than good and frequently closer to excellent. GRADE: C+.
Half Past Four (Canada): Good Things (No label, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2012)
Kyree Vibrant (principal vocals)
Like their debut, this consists entirely of melodic short songs, drawing on both jazz/rock and hard rock, once again with touches of surreal humour here and there. Polished, unambitious and typically North American, it’s a pleasant enough set but doesn’t contain anything really memorable. GRADE: C+.
Halloween (France): Merlin (Muséa FGBG 4084.AR, CD, 1993)
Géraldine Le Cocq (joint lead vocals)
Whilst most of the music is of a high quality – inventive, baroque and mildly experimental – this is precisely the sort of progressive album I don’t like: a disjointed patchwork of motifs and themes that leaps wildly from one segment to another. In the hands of more skilled composers, these disparate elements could probably have been woven into an excellent set, but as it is this sometimes feels more like an endurance test. GRADE: C.
Halloween (France): Silence… Au Dernier Rang! (Muséa FGBG 4257.AR, CD, 1998)
Géraldine Le Cocq (lead vocals)
Surprisingly, the material on their live album is every bit as disjointed as the previous studio set. Again, this contains some fine musical passages, but it simply doesn’t hang together. GRADE: C.
Halloween (France): Le Festin (Muséa FGBG 4635.AR, CD, 2001)
Géraldine Le Cocq (joint lead vocals)
Against my expectations, this album works for me: the sudden transitions between sections are handled much better, and there are some passages of considerable intensity. With a record this varied, it’s impossible that everything could work well, but for the most part this is a majestic and dramatic piece of modern prog. As a footnote, Géraldine Le Cocq presumably left the band during the recording sessions, as she is credited only as a guest; however, she is the most prominently featured singer. GRADE: B–.
Hamacas Al Río (Argentina): Hamacas Al Río (UltraPop ULTRA 060, CD, 2006)
Laura Ciuffo (lead vocals, guitar, synthesiser, metallophone)
Serving as the vehicle for talented singer/songwriter Laura Ciuffo, Hamacas Al Rio offer a procession of mellow, folky, symphonic numbers that are as refined and relaxing as the mountain landscapes depicted in the booklet. The well-judged full band backing creates a dreamlike mood to complement her singing, and the results are haunting, pleasant and atmospheric. GRADE: C+.
Hamacas Al Río (Argentina): Mitad De Junio (UltraPop ULTRA 067, CD, 2007)
Laura Ciuffo (lead vocals, guitar)
Their second album makes the singer/songwriter elements underpinning their sound more obvious, whilst also being more overtly progressive in parts, with an excellent instrumental and a couple of lovely extended breaks. Overall, it’s sweet and charming stuff, hinting towards Iamthemorning, though without that band’s studied sense of melancholy. But whilst this is a fine LP – melodic, atmospheric and accomplished – a few more progressive touches would have lifted it to the next level. GRADE: C+.
Hamacas Al Río (Argentina): Al Final, El Parque (No label, CD, 2007)
Laura Ciuffo (lead vocals, guitar)
Like their first two, this is delicate, melodic, richly textured and relaxed, with only one or two moments of intensity. It may be too inoffensive for many ears, but there’s no doubting their craft or their admirable restraint. GRADE: C+.
Sara Hamilton (UK): Someone Ought To Care (Polydor 2310-261, with insert, 1973)
Sara Hamilton (lead vocals)
Heavily influenced by Carole King, this obscure singer/songwriter offers pleasant if rather anonymous material on her sole album. With tinges from soul, jazz and contemporary pop, it’s a real potpourri of seventies styles but completely lacking any identity of its own.
Hamilton Face Band (USA): Kabbalat Shabbat – Sing Unto The Lord A New Song (No label TJU-1001, 1968)
Ruth Underwood (drums)
Their first album is by far their most obscure, and was presumably issued privately for members of their synagogue. With a rabbi, cantor and soprano singer all taking part, this is a rock interpretation of a Jewish religious service, complete with spoken elements. Musically, it’s pleasant enough, but not the most exciting LP in the world, despite a fairly dramatic start to side two. GRADE: C.
Hamilton Face Band (USA): The Hamilton Face Band (Philips PHS 600 308, 1969)
Ruth Underwood (drums)
The band’s major label debut is naturally very different to its predecessor. Opener ‘High Why And Die Company’ is a great rocker with fierce fuzz guitar and drum work, but the remainder is jazzy proto-prog: quite good and quite creative, but not ideally suited to the three-minute song format. Had the whole album been devoted to longer pieces like the eight-minute closer ‘Speed Song’, this could have been an impressive piece of prog. Unusually, the band had both a female drummer and a female producer (Anne Tansey, who also produced tracks for the Buddy Miles Express). GRADE: C+.
Hamilton Face Band (USA): Ain’t Got No Time (Bell 6042, 1970)
Ruth Underwood (drums)
The group’s third and final album mixes rock and jazz like its predecessor, but it’s much poppier, with catchy tunes and conventional chord progressions. It’s rather good, with a high standard of writing and playing throughout, but they never stood any realistic chance of becoming a major band. GRADE: C+.
Hammers Of Misfortune (USA): The Bastard (Tumult, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2001)
Janis Tanaka (joint lead vocals, bass)
Given the basic instrumentation of guitars, bass and drums, this concept album is surprisingly varied, throwing in all kinds of mediaeval touches and progressive diversions. Three differing vocalists heighten the oddness quotient, and the whole thing is simultaneously polished and professional yet strangely amateurish and hesitant. In conclusion, this isn’t a brilliant LP, and nor is it anywhere near the cutting edge of experimental metal, but it’s certainly distinctive and quite interesting. GRADE: C+.
Hammers Of Misfortune (USA): The August Engine (Cruz Del Sur Music CRUZ05, CD, with digipak and booklet, Italy, 2003)
Janis Tanaka (joint lead vocals, bass), Lorraine Rath (occasional vocals)
With a heavier and more stately sound, their second album takes the band in slightly different directions. Overall it’s more professional and accomplished than its predecessor, containing some fine moments, though I still find their songwriting style (this time taking in folky and classical references and borrowing heavily from doom metal) quite odd. For no obvious reasom, Lorraine Rath of Amber Asylum sings ‘Rainfall’. GRADE: C+.
Hammers Of Misfortune (USA): The Locust Years (Cruz Del Sur Music CRUZ15, CD, with digipak and booklet, Italy, 2005)
Jamie Myers (joint lead vocals, bass), Sigrid Sheie (keyboards, backing vocals)
Easily their best album to date, this ups the prog quotient considerably, with Sigrid Sheie’s keyboards deepening their sound enormously. I still don’t find the songwriting world class, but there are some fine riffs and strong melodies here, coupled with interesting lyrics that appear to concern current affairs in the Middle East. GRADE: C+.
Hammers Of Misfortune (USA): Fields/Church Of Broken Glass (Profound Lore PFL 040/040 5, double CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklets, 2008)
Jesse Quatro (joint lead vocals), Sigrid Sheie (keyboards, flute, backing vocals)
Packaged as two separate albums, each with its own artwork and booklet, this is definitely Hammers Of Misfortune’s magnum opus. Unlike their earlier work, this is a progressive album with metal influences rather than the other way round, with some long, more ambitious compositions dominated by Sheie’s assertive Hammond organ. With all traces of their original awkwardness gone, this is a powerful, mature set containing some quite impressive moments. As a footnote, both albums are quite short, so this could have been released as a single CD. GRADE: B–.
Hammers Of Misfortune (USA): 17th Street (Metal Blade 3984-15058-2, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2011)
Leila Abdul Rauf (guitar, backing vocals), Sigrid Sheie (keyboards)
More metal than progressive, this features some of the heaviest music the band has recorded, alongside a number of cuts hinting at an early seventies hard rock style. Powerful, majestic and dramatic, it’s another strong album, even if the ambition of its predecessor is rather missed. GRADE: C+.
Hammers Of Misfortune (USA): Dead Revolution (Metal Blade 3984-15472-2, CD, 2016)
Leila Abdul-Rauf (guitar, trumpet, backing vocals), Sigrid Sheie (keyboards)
A bit of a step up from 17th Street, this mixes fairly traditional metal with lashings of seventies-style Hammond organ, with the whole thing having a suitably epic feel. They even finish with a wonderful electric folk version of the traditional ‘Days Of ’49’, hinting at a whole new direction for the band. GRADE: B–.
See also Amber Asylum, Fireball Ministry, Various ‘The Lotus Eaters – Tribute To Dead Can Dance’
Hand (Switzerland): Everybody’s Own (Evasion EA 100.303, 1972)
Theresa Berens (occasional vocals)
This is a very expensive and sought-after album, but rarity aside I can’t see why. It’s pleasant enough, in a generic early seventies hippie-folk way, with a procession of wistful but unmemorable songs. Theresa Berens barely appears on the album, despite having a much better voice than the main vocalist Marc Osborne; ‘Seven Sad Sisters’, the only track she fronts, is probably the best thing on offer. Beware of dealer lists describing this LP as ‘psychedelic’ as it is very definitely nothing of the kind. GRADE: C+.
Hand On Heart (UK): Hand On Heart (Hand On Heart HOH001, 1988)
Nina Szifris (principal vocals, guitar, bodhrán)
Nina Szifris’s post-Blackthorn band is a little different to her earlier outfit, with a more Celtic sound dominated by violin and flute. Occasionally they resemble Gallery on their first album, whilst offering melodic, haunting but unchallenging music throughout. GRADE: C+.
Hand On Heart (UK): Hearts Are Broken, Heads Are Turned (Hand On Heart HOH CD 002, CD, 1990)
Nina Szifris (principal vocals, guitar)
Their second and final album mixes traditional, covered and self-penned material and contains some truly beautiful moments. The traditional numbers are probably the best, but there is much to enjoy on the disc. GRADE: C+.
See also Blackthorn
Hands Of Orlac (Italy/Sweden): Vengeance From The Grave (No label, CDR, 2010)
No prizes for guessing from the band name and album title (not to mention band members using pseudonyms like the Sorceress, the Clairvoyant and the Executioner) that this is occult-themed metal. This demo tape, offering four songs totalling 25 minutes, resembles both latterday Antonius Rex and Blood Ceremony (with extensive use of flute particularly recalling their Canadian contemporaries). They don’t have the relentless darkness of Antonius Rex or the majestic sound (or songwriting chops) of Blood Ceremony, however, and singer and flautist Ginevra’s Italian accent occasionally gets in the way of the lyrics, so whilst this is a promising debt it’s by no means perfect. GRADE: C+.
Hands Of Orlac (Italy/Sweden): Hands Of Orlac (Horror HOR 031, some on red vinyl, with insert, Denmark, 2011)
Their first album proper has the same strengths and weaknesses as the demo. Once again, I like the flute, which adds a mildly psychedelic atmosphere, and the tempo changes, but once again the vocals are mediocre and their material often seems to drag. GRADE: C+.
Hands Of Orlac (Italy/Sweden): Figli Del Crepuscolo (Horror HOR 042, some on purple vinyl, with insert and sticker, Denmark, 2014)
Whilst this isn’t a huge step up from their first two, everything here is more accomplished – the singing, the riffs and the tunes. At its best, this is majestic stuff, updating Black Sabbath for a new era and giving the cream of the new occult rock bands a run for their money.