Io-Iz

 

IO Earth (UK): IO Earth (No label, double CD, 2009)
Progressive
Claire Malin (joint lead vocals), Louise Brabbins (joint lead vocals)
A 94-minute double CD as the band’s debut could have gone one of three ways: it could have offered unmitigated bombast, been a straightforward snoozefest, or used the extra space in an interesting and creative way. Thankfully IO Earth’s first album falls into the latter category. This is of that modern, understated, sometimes almost ambient style of prog favoured by bands like Frequency Drift, so there are no ostentatious time changes or spidery solos. However, there’s a lot more happening here, with passages borrowing from free jazz, hard rock and classical music, and several contrasting vocalists – the countertenor doesn’t work too well, but overall this is a remarkably ambitious, and remarkably successful, debut. GRADE: B–.
IO Earth (UK): Moments (No label IOEARTHMOMENTS1, CD, with digipak, 2012)
Progressive
Claire Malin (joint lead vocals)
Their more compact second album (still fairly lengthy at around 66 minutes) scales back their ambitions somewhat, and reminds me of Frequency Drift even more strongly. This time round, the instrumental sections clearly outclass the songs and the harder rocking passages work better, but despite a few bland moments this is another enjoyable and involving tapestry of music. GRADE: B–.
IO Earth (UK): Live In The USA (No label IOEARTHUSA1, CD, with digipak, 2013)
Progressive
Claire Malin (joint lead vocals)
Their music translates effectively to the stage, with this live document testifying to the rock strength at the heart of their arrangements. Their affable stage demeanour also impresses, and the audience unsurprisingly sounds delighted. GRADE: B–.
IO Earth (UK): New World (No label, double CD, with digipak and booklet, 2015)
Progressive
Linda Odinsen (joint lead vocals)
I’m not sure whether it’s new singer Linda Odinsen, the orchestrations or the decision to use mostly discrete tracks, but this occasionally reminds me of Magenta – and once heard, the comparison is difficult to unhear. That said, I like this a lot more than Magenta, though I like it less than their earlier work – whilst this contains some fine moments, it sounds like a band treading water whilst becoming steadily more pretentious and overblown. GRADE: B–.

IO Earth (UK): Solitude (No label IOEARTHSOLITUDE1, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2018)
Progressive
Rosanna Lefevre (principal vocals), Neve King (occasional vocals), Wendy Viggers-Hagenbeek (occasional vocals)
Having changed female vocalist for the second time in as many albums, IO Earth seem to be emulating Karnataka in the personnel department. They’re a better band than Karnataka, though – this is another excellent album of sympho-prog, punctuating dreamlike keyboard passages with just the right level of heavy riffing to deliver music that’s dynamic and constantly involving. GRADE: B–.

IO Earth (UK): Aura (No label, CD, with digipak, 2020)
Progressive
‘This is an album to listen to with your feet up and relax to’ announce the band on their website, and they’re not far wrong – Aura is all about mood and texture rather than riffs and tempo changes. That could be a good or bad thing, depending on your tastes – from the point of view of mine, there’s nothing exactly memorable here but then again that’s not the point: this is all about atmosphere, and on that score it succeeds with aplomb. GRADE: B–.

Iona (UK): Iona (What? WHAD 1266, CD, 1990)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Joanne Hogg (lead vocals, keyboards)
This Christian band owe an obvious debt to Clannad, but their music is a little less ethereal, with more obvious influences from soft rock and jazz. It’s also decidedly more progressive, alternating songs and instrumentals, with the longest piece stretching to eight-and-a-half minutes. The whole thing is pleasant and mellow, with good instrumental performances throughout, but it’s occasionally a little cheesy and never has the spark of brilliance that characterised Clannad at their best. GRADE: C+.
Iona (UK): The Book Of Kells (What? WHAD 1287, CD, 1992)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Joanne Hogg (lead vocals, keyboards)
Album number two opens rather poorly, with a couple of minimalist Clannad-gone-ambient songs followed by the twelve-minute epic ‘Matthew – The Man’, whose tempo changes are poorly handled and whose various parts simply fail to hang together. However, the second half of the LP is almost entirely instrumental and is far superior, although for the most part it’s still pleasant rather than compelling.

GRADE: C+.
Iona (UK): Beyond These Shores (What? WHAD 1300, CD, 1993)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Joanne Hogg (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards)
It all comes together on their third, with far stronger songwriting and a more cohesive overall sound. That said, they still sound like Clannad crossed with elements of seventies sympho-prog and they’re still turning out music that, at its best, is good rather than great. GRADE: C+.
Iona (UK): Journey Into The Morn (Alliance Music ALD 050, CD, 1995)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Joanne Hogg (lead vocals, guitar)
Clannad’s Máire Brennan actually appears here, on harp and backing vocals, which is appropriate as the opening ‘Bí-se Mo Shúil’ is a virtual plagiarism of Clannad’s style. Elsewhere the band asserts its individuality a little more, with some uptempo and rocking tracks that are more robust than Clannad’s work, plus an excellent 12-minute epic in ‘Encircling’. Nonetheless, at nearly 79 minutes, this is on the long side: they’re not the most varied outfit, despite alternating between uptempo numbers, trip-hop-influenced ballads and ambient pieces. As a footnote, Steeleye Span’s Tim Harries was their bassist at this point, whilst Robert Fripp contributes some guitar. GRADE: C+.
Iona (UK): Heaven’s Bright Sun (Alliance Music ALD 092, double CD, 1997)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Joanne Hogg (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, shaker)
This live album offers energetic performances of a good cross-section of material, acting as an excellent introduction to Iona. Anyone liking their style should love this, although to my ears each successive release simply confirms that they’re nowhere near peak Clannad in the composing department. GRADE: C+.
Iona With The All Souls Orchestra (UK): Woven Cord (Alliance Music 1901802, CD, 1999)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Joanne Hogg (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards)
The pairing of Iona with an orchestra might not seem obvious, but this recording of a one-off show is easily their best album. With the All Souls Orchestra giving their material the epic dimensions it deserves, Iona are on top form and the ghosts of Clannad are for once exorcised. GRADE: B–.
Iona (UK): Open Sky (Alliance Music 1901772, CD, 2000)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Joanne Hogg (lead vocals, keyboards)
With a few well-judged orchestrations, this is more ambient and less Celtic than their previous albums, and shows them continuing to move away from their influences. Although beautifully done, it’s too unassuming to be truly memorable, but it’s a nice LP by any standard.

GRADE: C+.
Iona (UK): Iona (Open Sky OPENSKYDVD1, DVD, 2003, recorded 1990)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Joanne Hogg
Recorded shortly after their first album, this DVD has a running time of around half-an-hour, mono sound and grainy, amateurish picture quality. Mixing interviews, live footage and badly filmed images of Scottish islands, accompanied by remixed excerpts from their debut album, it was presumably shot for a Christian TV channel and later preserved on DVD when the band saw the chance to make a fast buck. GRADE: C–.
Iona (UK/Holland): The Circling Hour (Open Sky OPENVP11CD, CD, UK 2006)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Joanne Hogg (principal vocals, keyboards)
At its best – the dramatic ‘Sky Maps’ and the classically influenced ‘Wind, Water And Fire’ – this is a brilliant album on which Iona create bold, original and distinctive music. Sadly, much of the rest is more good than great, but this still demonstrates how far they’ve come from the underwhelming Clannad pastiches of their early work. GRADE: C+.
Iona (UK/Holland): Live In London (Open Sky OPENSKYDVD2, double DVD, UK, 2006, recorded 2004)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Joanne Hogg (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion)
Iona’s second DVD release is somewhat more substantial than their underwhelming first, comprising a full live set on the first disc and a shorter acoustic set plus some interviews on the second. They may not have much stage presence, but there’s some excellent music here, and this confirms Woven Cord’s impression that Iona are probably better live than in the studio. As a bonus, the material is well filmed and recorded, though why black-and-white footage is occasionally interspersed I have no idea. GRADE: B–.
Iona (UK): Live In London (Open Sky OPENSKYVP12CD, double CD, UK, 2006, recorded 2004)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Joanne Hogg (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion)
The CD version of the set – featuring the main electric show only – confirms that Iona are really in their element on stage. Along with Woven Cord, this is easily the best introduction to their work. GRADE: B–.
Iona (UK/Holland): Another Realm (Open Sky OPENSKYCD16, double CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, UK, 2011)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Joanne Hogg (lead vocals, keyboards, shaker)
This double album allows the band to display all its facets, from Clannad-like ambience to uptempo symphonic folk/rock, a classical string piece and even an instrumental fronted by shofars – ancient wind instruments formed from rams’ horns. But only the latter two cuts offer anything new or particularly interesting, although the album is uniformly pleasant and would doubtless work well live. GRADE: C+.

Iona (UK): Edge Of The World – Live In Europe (Open Sky OPENSKYCD17, double CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2013)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Joanne Hogg (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion)
I’ve always preferred live Iona to their studio recordings, and this beautifully recorded double set confirms that impression – whereas their records can be lethargic and unexciting, they sound positively energised here. The instrumental performances are outstanding too, especially the dexterous drumming of Frank Van Essen. GRADE: B–.

Iona (UK): The Book Of Iona (Open Sky OPENVP12-20CD, 17 CD, with booklet, poster, photographs, certificate and box, 2020, recorded 1990-2020)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Joanne Hogg (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards)
It’s always unfair, and a mite lazy, to describe one band’s sound purely in terms of another’s: however, in this case ‘Clannad-gone-prog’  perfectly sums up Iona’s sound. This lavish boxed set is an object lesson in how to do things properly: each studio album has its own companion disc featuring demos and outtakes, and the set is rounded off by the soundtracks disc Snowdonia from their earlier boxed set The River Flows plus The Sound Of Iona, effectively a new solo album from Dave Bainbridge. The packaging is excellent too: an oversized box houses a series of double CDs, each with its own booklet featuring lyrics, credits and track-by-track notes, and there’s also an oversized booklet (a bit flimsy, but you can’t have everything), a poster, several band photographs and a numbered and signed certificate. But what of the music? Again, we come back to Clannad: Iona were never innovators in the same way as Clannad between the early seventies and the mid-eighties, and they’ve never written anything of the calibre of ‘Newgrange’ or ‘Blackstairs’ or even ‘The Wild Cry’; on the other hand, they were never content simply to repeat themselves ad infinitum like Clannad post-1990. Whilst my preference is for Iona’s live work, where they stretch out and experiment more, the music here is unfailingly pleasant and beautifully crafted; so whilst the box as an artefact is comfortably worth a B, the actual music falls short of such greatness. GRADE: C+.
See also Dave Bainbridge, Joanne Hogg

Ipe & Laza (Yugoslavia): Stizemo (RTV LD 0475, with inner, 1978)
Progressive
Gordana Ivandic (joint lead vocals)
With a rich keyboard-led sound and chunky rock drumming, this unpretentious progressive LP breaks no new ground but offers some great riffs and instrumental performances. There is also a high level of energy in parts, so despite one rather bathetic cut (‘Top Hit Lista’), this is a very worthwhile listen. GRADE: B–.

Irene Christina Rut-Mari (Sweden): Jesus Är Vägen Sanningen Och Livet (MR’s Musikproduktion MRL 2106, 1975?)
Folk/Pop
Irene Dahlberg (joint lead vocals), Rut-Mari Dahlberg (joint lead vocals), Christina Sonesson (joint lead vocals, guitar, keyboards)
No prizes for guessing from the group name and album title that this is a Christian LP by three young girls. With full band backing and a light, breezy feel, it recalls Welsh outfits like Diliau or Eleri Janet Diane more than anything, and has nothing to offer psychedelic or progressive fans. About half the material is original, penned by Rut-Mari Dahlberg. GRADE: C.
See also Västkustteamet

Irolt (Holland): De Gudrun Sêge (Universe Productions HOT 1-07, with booklet, 1975)
Folk/Rock
Inez Timmer (lead vocals), Geppy Haarsma (accordion)
The debut LP by this long-running folk/rock band offers pleasant original songs drawing on traditional sources. Whilst the group could be viewed as the Dutch equivalent of Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span or Folque, the music here is far less varied and creative. The disc came with a broadsheet-sized booklet-cum-poster on newsprint, featuring the lyrics and the background to the story. GRADE: C+.
Irolt (Holland): Kattekwea (Philips 6416 113, with insert, 1977)
Folk/Rock
Inez Timmer (principal vocals, recorder), Geppy Haarsma (accordion)
Packaged in an attractive textured sleeve, their second album has the same modus operandi as their first. Once again, their strengths are obvious: Inez Timmer’s lovely voice and their ability to create wistful moods with relaxed, mid-paced electric backing. However, their lack of variety is again evident, as wistful and relaxed is all they can do, whereas the greats of the genre used different vocalists and set short acapella numbers against heavy progressive folk excursions. This makes the two moments when they break out of their framework especially noticeable: the more singer/songwriter-styled ‘Frijdon’ (marking Timmer’s composing debut) and the energetic guitar solo at the end of ‘De Winkel’. GRADE: C+.
Irolt (Holland): De Smid Fan Earnewald (Philips 6423 300, with insert, 1979)
Folk
Inez Timmer (principal vocals, recorder)
Album number three introduces the variety lacking on their first two, with a higher proportion of male vocals, a few short acapella pieces and a decent instrumental. They’ve also dropped the electric guitar and drums for a much more acoustic sound, varying between whimsical and beautiful moments. Overall, this is decidedly their best LP to date. GRADE: C+.
Irolt (Holland): Bûtertsjerne (Universe Productions DLS 89, 1981)
Folk
Inez Timmer (joint lead vocals, tambourine, recorder), Ankie van der Meer (joint lead vocals)
Like its predecessor, this is an enjoyable and reasonably varied album of traditional folk. Its most notable feature, however, is probably the remarkably beautiful gatefold sleeve. GRADE: C+.
Irolt (Holland): Spylman (Universe Productions DLS 90, 1983)
Folk
Inez Timmer (joint lead vocals, recorder), Ankie van der Meer (joint lead vocals, bodhrán, whistle)
Although recorded live, this consists entirely of new material, with the second side being given over to an ambitious and theatrical song suite. As usual, the disc is virtuosic, melodic and beautifully crafted, but also as usual for Irolt it’s a bit lacking in excitement. GRADE: C+.
Irolt & Brouwer’s Akkordeonorkest (Holland): Doarmje (Universe Productions DLS 91, 1984)
Folk/Progressive
Inez Timmer (joint lead vocals, tambourine, recorder), Ankie van der Meer (joint lead vocals), Wieke Brouwer (accordion), Aukje Boonstra (accordion), Lizzy Biegel (accordion), Sytske van der Sluis (accordion), Carolyn van der Zande (accordion), Clara Dotinga (accordion), Anneke Wijma (accordion)
As the artist credit makes clear, this sees Irolt teaming up with a large ensemble of accordionists. The accordion is not among my favourite instruments, so I didn’t have high hopes for this, but this is actually the best Irolt LP. The accordions really do add a symphonic, almost orchestral, dimension, whilst the material is more ambitious than their normal fare, with some progressive diversions and moments of great beauty. GRADE: C+.
Irolt (Holland): Wêr Sile Wy Ús Wenjen Sette? (Universe Productions DLS 92, 1985)
Folk/Progressive
Inez Timmer (joint lead vocals, recorder), Ankie van der Meer (joint lead vocals, bodhrán)
The band’s final album is their most varied, from upbeat and whimsical to haunting and beautiful material. There are also some progressive touches, particularly on the two best numbers (‘Boelguodsdei’ and ‘Stêd Sûnder Moederaasje’) and some intriguing lyrics tackling unusual themes. Whilst Irolt were never the most thrilling band in the world, they were pursuing some interesting ideas at this stage, so it’s a pity they didn’t record again. GRADE: C+.
See also Perelaar, Inez Timmer

Asa Irons & Swaan Miller (USA): Asa Irons And Swaan Miller (No label, CDR, 2003)

Folk

Swaan Miller
Asa Irons was a member of the acid-folk band Feathers and this is more his album than Swaan Miller’s, with several tracks not featuring her vocals at all. Musically, it’s relaxed, melodic folk with simple acoustic guitar backing, and is very pleasant. Miller was also a member of Nightmare Air. GRADE: C+.
See also Nightmare Air

Ishi (Italy): Sotto La Pioggia (Blu Bus BB27, CD, 1996)
Folk/Rock
Marinella Ollino (lead vocals)
This offshoot from Howth Castle, Orsi Lucille et al offer an accomplished mix of folk/rock and gentle ballads. With full band arrangements on the former, this is decidedly more rocking than their other incarnations (besides the original Franti, of course) but it’s far less weird and rather less memorable than Howth Castle’s studio work. GRADE: C+.

See also Environs, Franti, Howth Castle, Lalli, Orsi Lucille, Yuan Ye

Hiroyuki Ishizawa & Io (Japan): Glass Castle (No label LMCD-1140, CD, with digipak and booklet, 1990)
Progressive
Akiko Hiragaki (principal vocals)
This scarce Japanese soft progressive album features some rather shrill vocals, a few stinging guitar leads and a really excellent recording (so that even the drum solo is very listenable). Overall it’s a touch uneven and occasionally a bit amateurish, but it does have its moments. The band later mutated into Fairy, under which guise they issued a second LP. GRADE: C+.
See also Fairy

Islaja (Finland): Meritie (Fonal FR-32, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, inner and obi, 2004)
Folk/Psychedelic
Merja Kokkonen
Islaja is a pseudonum for one Merja Kokkonen, who here offers lo-fi folk with all kinds of ethnic, psychedelic, ambient and avant-garde edges. This genre of folk isn’t one of my favourites, and the album is typically diffuse and rambling, almost running the gamut from Charalambides to Azalia Snail, but it’s occasionally very beautiful. It’s also superbly packaged with a triple foldout minisleeve with lovely artwork, printed inner and a belly band. GRADE: C+.

Islanders (UK): The Islanders (RCA Victor RD-7950, 1968)
Folk
Nancy (joint lead vocals, tambourine)
This is pleasant enough Scottish contemporary folk, though very dated and clearly rooted in the coffeehouse movement. They made two other albums that I haven’t heard. GRADE: C.

Isproject (Italy): The Archinauts (Ams AMS 284 CD, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2017)
Progressive
Ilenia Salvemini (occasional vocals)
Lush, mellifluous and well-crafted, this Italian album hints towards the Rock Progressivo Italiano greats, but ultimately its neoprogressive roots show through. Oddly, Ilenia Salvemini barely appears on the album, although she gets a credit for co-arranging; the other half of the duo Ivan Santovito writes everything and takes most of the lead vocals. GRADE: C+.

It’s A Beautiful Day (USA): It’s A Beautiful Day (Columbia CS 9768, 1969)
Progressive
Patti Santos (joint lead vocals, percussion), Linda LaFlamme (keyboards)
This classic early progressive rock album sets its stall out immediately, opening with the band’s most famous song ‘White Bird’ – a mesmerically beautiful piece, with floating male and female vocals borne aloft on a bed of classical guitar, hypnotic organ, virtuosic violin and Latin-esque percussion. A similar style is maintained for most of the first side, though ‘Wasted Union Blues’ is heavy psychedelia, built around a harsh distorted guitar riff. Side two is given over to more overtly progressive and complex material, with the instrumental ‘Bombay Calling’ giving way to the ghostly ‘Bulgaria’ and the dynamic, ten-minute ‘Time Is’ (complete with drum solo). A superb West Coast artefact, this brilliant LP suggested the emergence of a colossal new talent – but subsequent albums told a rather different story. GRADE: B.
It’s A Beautiful Day (USA): Marrying Maiden (Columbia 1058, 1970)
Rock/Folk/Country
Patti Santos (joint lead vocals, percussion)
There are two ways of approaching the second It’s A Beautiful Day album. The first is to pretend it’s the work of an entirely different band, in which case it’s mostly a lovely, gentle West Coast LP, albeit spoiled by several irritating, rather MOR country-flavoured cuts (‘The Dolphins’, ‘Hoedown’ and ‘It Comes Right Down To You’). The second is to compare it to their debut, in which case the band’s diminished ambitions become painfully obvious, with only the opening and closing tracks (‘Don And Dewey’ and ‘Do You Remember The Sun?’) really recapturing the flavour of their earlier classic. GRADE: C+.
It’s A Beautiful Day (USA): Choice Quality Stuff/Anytime (CBS 30734, 1971)
Rock
Patti Santos (occasional vocals, maracas)
Bizarrely, their third album is as different from their second as their second was from their first, partly because band leader David LaFlamme undertakes little of the writing this time around. Two delicate instrumentals and some Latin-flavoured songs aside, the LP largely contains hard-edged West Coast rock, with some good guitar leads. It’s all decidedly inconsequential, and their level of invention has dropped to virtually zero, but taken on its own terms it’s a perfectly pleasant listen. GRADE: C.
It’s A Beautiful Day (USA): Live At Carnegie Hall (Columbia 31338, 1972)
Rock/Progressive
Patti Santos (joint lead vocals, percussion)
Their only contemporary live LP covers all aspects of their career, but unsurprisingly leans heavily on their first album (three tracks out of seven included, all around the nine-minute mark). The opening cover of Taj Mahal’s ‘Give Your Woman What She Wants’ demonstrates just what a powerful singer Patti Santos was, making it odder that she was so rarely given solo lead vocal duties with the band. Overall, the live interpretations aren’t a patch on the delicate studio originals (although I do like the extended ‘Bombay Calling’), but this is still preferable to any of their later studio albums. GRADE: C+.
It’s A Beautiful Day (USA): Today (Columbia 32181, 1973)
Rock
Patti Santos (joint lead vocals)
LaFlamme had jumped ship altogether by the time of the band’s fourth and final studio set. New vocalist and bassist Bud Cockrell stepped up to fill the gap, and divides the songwriting fairly equally with keyboardist Fred Webb. The loss of their leader notwithstanding, Today actually sounds like a logical follow-up to Choice Quality Stuff, with a similar if less varied sound. Again, it’s inoffensive enough Californian soft rock, but inevitably one retains a sense of bafflement about how a band that started out so original ended up so generic. GRADE: C.
It’s A Beautiful Day (USA): Live At The Fillmore ’68 (Classic Music Vault CMV0220, CD plus DVD, 2013, recorded 1968)
Progressive
Patti Santos (occasional vocals, percussion), Linda LaFlamme (keyboards)
This superb archive releases couples a 79-minute concert from 1968, in remarkably good sound quality, with a 41-minute DVD documentary The David LaFlamme Story. Any fan of the band should enjoy it from start to finish, with the CD clearly indicating how ahead of their time they were. GRADE: B.

It’s A Beautiful Day (USA): Workin’ The Goldmine (Classic Music Vault CMV9902, CD, with digipak, 2014, recorded 1968 & 2000)
Rock/Progressive
Linda LaFlamme (occasional vocals), Patti Santos (occasional vocals), Linda LaFlamme (keyboards)
Coupling an excellent 2000 live set by the reformed band (featuring the second Linda LaFlamme) with the four 1968 demos that gained them a deal with Columbia (featuring the first Linda LaFlamme), this is a superb archive release. The sound quality of the live set is considerably better than a bootleg though far below studio standard, but there’s no denying the band’s virtuosity and energy. Meanwhile, the demos are as fascinating; in particular, ‘Wasted Union Blues’, which is more than twice the length of the album version, with the signature riff played on organ instead of distorted electric guitar. GRADE: B.
It’s A Beautiful Day (USA): Creed Of Love (Strawberry SRCD 117, CD, 1998, recorded 1971)
Rock/Progressive
Patti Santos (occasional vocals, percussion)
Far superior to their Carnegie Hall performance, this live set really shows It’s A Beautiful Day at their best, including lengthy and radically reworked versions of ‘White Bird’, ‘Don And Dewey’ and ‘Wasted Union Blues’. GRADE: B.
It’s A Beautiful Day (USA): Live At The Fillmore West (Keyhole KH2CD9009, double CD, 2014, recorded 1971)
Rock/Progressive
Patti Santos (percussion, backing vocals)
The lengthy, jarring gaps between tracks (although the songs are clearly in sequence) make me think this was mastered from MP3s, which seems likely given that Keyhole is at best a grey-market label. The label’s carelessness (and the mediocre sound quality of the first couple of songs) aside, this is another important archive release that documents the entire set cherry-picked on Creed Of Love. Ultimately, this really makes one wonder how the band could be so good on stage yet so mediocre in the studio back in 1971. GRADE: B.
See also Cockrell & Santos, Various ‘5th Annual Pipe Dream’

Ithaca (UK): A Game For All Who Know (Merlin HF 6, 1973)
Progressive/Pop
Lee Menelaus (joint lead vocals)
One of the rarest and most expensive British private pressings, this is controversial for two reasons. First, some collectors hate its mixture of naïve sunshine pop, dreamy soft progressive rock and attempts at avant-gardism via unusual use of sound effects. Personally, I find it a masterpiece, with some brilliantly catchy songs, clever production and arrangements and a unique, almost indefinable atmosphere. Some people’s second objection is easier to refute: Ithaca was certainly not a record dealer’s joke, recorded and pressed up in the late eighties and offered for sale to an unsuspecting public as a long-lost mega-rarity. Mainman Peter Howell most definitely existed, and was for years a prominent member of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. GRADE: A–.
See also Agincourt

Itziar (Spain): Itziar (Elkar, 1979)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Itziar Egileor (principal vocals)
This obscure Spanish album blends unusual progressive folk with jazzy edges (particularly in the fretless bass work) and some psychedelic fuzz guitar here and there. Despite the electric leads, the instrumentation is largely acoustic, creating a delicate and intricate sound. The opening ‘Ameskoi’ is probably the best thing on offer, but this is a good album throughout, if a little short and insubstantial. GRADE: B–.

Ivar Avenue Reunion (USA): Ivar Avenue Reunion (RCA LSP 4442, 1970)
Blues/Rock
Lynn Carey (principal vocals)
One of several blues/rock projects by singer Lynn Carey and her bassist partner Neil Merryweather. It’s by far their best outing, being more traditional and authentic in parts and more dynamic and exciting in others. In particular, the squalling lead guitars on the brief instrumental ‘Magic Fool’ are quite thrilling, whilst Carey is in fine voice throughout. GRADE: C+.
See also CK Strong, Merryweather & Carey, Mama Lion

Iveria (Georgia): Iveria (Melodiya C60-14453, USSR, 1980)
Rock
This later album offers a mixture of ballads and light rockers, with pop and occasional slight progressive edges. It’s listenable enough, but ultimately very safe and pretty undistinguished. GRADE: C.

Peter Ivers’ Band With Yolande Bavan (USA/Sri Lanka): Knight Of The Blue Communion (Epic BN 26500, 1969)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive
Yolande Bavan (lead vocals)
Avant-garde jazz/rock, with the instrumentation centred on drums, saxophones and woodwind (although Ivers was actually a harmonica player). It’s an interesting and creative piece of work, but the sound is unflatteringly thin and Bavan’s voice is an acquired taste, ranging from a rather tuneless semi-spoken tone to falsetto interludes. The album sounds as though it could have been an influence on European seventies bands such as Slapp Happy (with Bavan bearing more than a passing resemblance to Dagmar Krause), though this is more obviously rooted in modern jazz. GRADE: C+.

Iviron (West Germany): Iviron (Silent Sun SS 7103, 1981)
Progressive/Folk/Jazz/World Music
Eva Meindl (joint lead vocals), Gerlinde Mayr (joint lead vocals)
This unusual progressive album blends influences from world music, jazz, classical and folk on spare, intricate, largely instrumental tracks (although there are some wordless vocals and a couple of actual songs). For the most part it’s acoustic, but there is also some quite ostentatious electric bass playing and a few rock elements here and there. Finding comparisons for their sound is difficult: they don’t resemble Popol Vuh much, whilst working in broadly the same area, and at one point recall the Norwegian band Ruphus, while being less slick and polished. Overall it’s an interesting and varied record displaying some fine musicianship, but the only really memorable composition is the eerie, rather psychedelic ‘Sister Magic’. As a footnote, the disc plays at 45rpm despite having a normal running length. GRADE: C+.

Ivor & Sheila (UK): Changing Times (Eron 027, with insert, 1981)
Folk
Sheila Mosley (joint lead vocals, guitar)
This obscure later release on the Eron label (best known for its multi-artist compilations of Kent folk acts) features a pleasant set of self-written material with mainly acoustic backing. Both Ivor Pickard and Sheila Mosley are excellent singers, guitarists and writers, making for an enjoyable LP of contemporary folk with a few bluesy edges. GRADE: C+.

Ivory (USA): Ivory (Tetragrammaton T-104, 1968)
Psychedelic
Chris Christman (joint lead vocals)
This is a likeable melodic psychedelic LP with a near-pop sensibility on some cuts, and a bluesy, almost funky, rock base on others. The material, mostly written by vocalist Chris Christman and guitarist and singer Ken Thomure, is of a high standard, and Christman has an excellent voice, often sounding like a slightly higher-pitched Grace Slick. However, pleasing as it is, it’s a short and not very ambitious LP, and it’s easy to understand why they didn’t achieve the commercial profile or critical reputation of, say, Jefferson Airplane. GRADE: C+.

See also Chris Christman

Ivory (Germany): Keen City (Ipso Facto Music IPSCD 0040, CD, 1996)
Progressive
Sylvia Zangenberg (occasional vocals), Girls’ Choir Of Eiselfing Secondary School (occasional vocals)
The one-man-band project of veteran film composer and classical conductor Ulrich Sommerlatte, Ivory offer synthesised neoclassical music ranging from the symphonic and pastoral to the more uptempo. Unsurprisingly, the former works better, with an appropriately widescreen mood; the more rock-oriented sections mercilessly expose the shortcomings of Sommerlatte’s purely electronic approach and tinny drum machine. There are also four songs (two sung by Sylvia Zangenberg and one apiece by Christian Mayer and a girls’ choir), which are also pretty variable, adding up to a curate’s egg of an album mixing some sublime moments with a few that are faintly ridiculous. GRADE: C.

Ivory Tower (USA): Steppin’ Out (Goldband LP-7778, 1977)
Lounge
Amy Rentrop (joint lead vocals)
Straightforward lounge stuff, and not terribly exciting, but given distinction by all-original material (very unusual for the genre) and some good guitar and keyboard solos (suggesting some members may have come from prog backgrounds). The best cut by some distance is the organ-led instrumental ‘Menace’. GRADE: C–.

Ixion (Holland): Talisman (No label IMCD0602, CD, 2006)
Progressive/Metal
Esther Ladiges (joint lead vocals), Maaike Breijman (joint lead vocals)
This pleasant concept set features some nice chunky riffing, some effective symphonic keyboards and – best of all – commendably understated singing throughout. It’s also a little more varied than the norm, throwing in a few minor experiments. Ultimately, it’s the material here that’s the weak point, as there’s nothing that really sticks in the mind. Nonetheless, this is certainly above average for what it is. GRADE: C+.
Ixion (Holland): Garden Of Eden (No label IMCD0903, CD, 2009)
Progressive/Metal
Esther Ladiges (joint lead vocals)
Ixion’s third and final album (their first had purely male vocals) makes their metal roots rather more clear and opts for a more dramatic vocal approach. Again, it has a rather odd concept (something about a killer virus striking a future United States of Europe) and is overall a shade less satisfying, though this is still a solid enough set. GRADE: C+.
See also Ayreon, Illumion

Izukaitz (Spain): Izukaitz (Xoxoa X-11.103, with booklet, 1978)
Folk/Rock
Odile Kruzeta (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
With a rich palette of acoustic, electric and ethnic instrumentation, this Basque folk band’s debut is varied indeed, from relatively traditional moments to almost psychedelic numbers with hand percussion. Melodic, accomplished and beautifully judged, it’s an impressive set throughout. GRADE: B–.

Izukaitz (Spain): Otsoa Dantzan (Xoxoa X-11-132, with booklet, 1980)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Odile Kruzeta (occasional vocals, keyboards, tambourine, flute)
This is a touch more traditional than their debut, though also somewhat more progressive, with about half the album being instrumental. There are quite a few electric elements too, with the whole thing having a beautiful and refined mood, so it’s moot which of their two albums is superior. GRADE: B–.

IZZ (USA): My River Flows (Doone DR5669563, CD, 2005)
Progressive
Laura Meade (occasional vocals), Anmarie Byrnes (occasional vocals)
IZZ’s fourth album, and their first with female members, is rather a curious beast. I’d classify it as progressive, but aside from the 22-minute closing cut (which draws heavily on classic prog) the unusually structured songs sound more like a polished jam band refining its live set for the studio, with hints of both eighties Grateful Dead and Paul McCartney. Consistently good and often imaginative, this is well worth hearing. GRADE: B–.
IZZ (USA): Live At NEARfest (Doone DR7-669563, CD, 2007)
Progressive
Laura Meade (occasional vocals), Anmarie Byrnes (occasional vocals)
This live album features material from three of their four studio sets, with lively performances emphasising their hard rock and borderline metal roots. It’s not quite as consistent or as distinctive as its studio predecessor, but there is certainly some very solid modern prog here. GRADE: C+.
IZZ (USA): The Darkened Room (Doone DR8-669563, CD, 2009)
Progressive
Anmarie Byrnes (occasional vocals)
As with its studio predecessor, this offers an unusual blend of singer/songwriter material, AOR sensibilities, hard rock arrangements and inventive progressive structures. This mixture doesn’t always work well, but they certainly have a distinctive sound and offer some fine musical moments. GRADE: B–.
IZZ (USA): IZZ Live (Doone DR32112, DVD, with digipak, 2011, recorded 2002-2007)
Progressive
Laura Meade (occasional vocals), Anmarie Byrnes (occasional vocals)
This good value set, running for just over three hours, features two separate live sets and two different live performances in the studio. The musicianship is impressive throughout, but some of the singing is shaky and the band exudes little strange presence. Overall this confirms the impression that their natural environment is the multitrack studio, where they can craft their unusual music to perfection. GRADE: C+.
IZZ (USA): Crush Of Night (Doone DR10-669563, CD, 2012)
Progressive
Anmarie Byrnes (occasional vocals)
This is their typically offbeat style, but this time round I don’t find the songwriting very inspired or the progressive breaks very well incorporated. Overall it’s rather a dull album to these ears, but it is professional and quite distinctive. GRADE: C+.

IZZ (USA): Everlasting Instant (Doone DR12-669653, CD, 2015)
Rock/Progressive
Anmarie Byrnes (joint lead vocals), Laura Meade (joint lead vocals)
IZZ are an unusual band indeed: I can’t immediately think of anyone combing singer/songwriter music and spacy, atmospheric rock in quite the same way. However, this album is business as usual for them, and with the prog quotient considerably toned down is competent rather than challenging. GRADE: C+.

IZZ (USA): Don’t Panic (Doone DR16-669563, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2019)
Progressive
Laura Meade (joint lead vocals), Anmarie Byrnes (joint lead vocals)
Despite track tracks of up to 19 minutes, IZZ are a thoroughly modern prog band – their music is about texture not tempo changes, with spidery soloing kept to a minimum. In this instance, that’s both a blessing and a curse: this doesn’t have much in the way of neoprogressive references, but it also doesn’t have much in the way of variety, let alone really memorable riffs. GRADE: C+.
See also Laura Meade