Mai-Maz

 

Maiden Voyage (USA): FR Dickinson Presents Maiden Voyage In New York (No label FRD-102, 1974)
Lounge/Rock
Terry Sausville (joint lead vocals, keyboards, trumpet, flute), Nancy Pollock (joint lead vocals, guitar, trumpet, trombone), Missy Wolcott (joint lead vocals, bass, keyboards, banjo), Hetsilla Sharkey (occasional vocals, keyboards, saxophone, flute), Leslie LaRonga (occasional vocals, drums)
The thin, amateurish recording of this all-female lounge quintet’s live album does them few favours, but they were clearly accomplished and capable musicians. The highpoints for most listeners will be their versions of Jethro Tull’s ‘Bourée’ and Yes’s ‘Roundabout’, but they cover a bizarre range of pop, jazz, soul and rock material from the fifties to the seventies. In summary, it’s a patchy album and frequently quite disposable, but there are several good cuts on offer. GRADE: C.

Main Attraction (USA): And Now The Main Attraction (Tower ST 5117, 1968)
Pop/Soul
Jeanne Salo
Soul meets harmony pop with some period baroque production touches on this enjoyable and well-executed LP. Jeanne Salo wrote half the material, with the remainder being familiar covers. Beware of dealers describing the album as ‘psychedelic’ – this one is very definitely nothing of the kind. GRADE: C.

Major Parkinson (Norway): Blackbox (Karisma, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2017)
Progressive/Metal
Linn Frøkedal (occasional vocals), Claudia Cox (violin, backing vocals)
Here’s a real oddity: a gothic progressive metal album with virtually no overt metal elements. Instead, the backing is largely electronic and partly orchestrated, with vocals alternating between an understated, almost conversational, male growl and delicate, airy female singing. Reference points could include Depêché Mode, Lacrimosa (without the metal content) and Theatre Of Tragedy (ditto), though there are plenty of baroque and even pop elements thrown into the mix. The results are atmospheric, intriguing, unusual and very distinctive. GRADE: B–.

Major Parkinson (Norway/Australia): A Night At The Library (Apollon AP107CD, CD, Norway, 2022)
Singer/Songwriter
Claudia Cox (occasional vocals, violin)
If Major Parkinson’s studio album was an odd and almost indescribable proposition, how about their music performed live and unplugged? The results are virtually unclassifiable: singer/songwriter music might come closest, but with prominent chamber-rock, gothic and neoclassical elements. As such, this frames their material in a completely different way, but whilst startling in its own right isn’t quite as memorable as the studio set. GRADE: C+.

Major Stars (USA): Rock Sounds Of People (Twisted Village TW 1042, one-sided LP, 1997)
Garage/Psychedelic
Kate Biggar
This single-sided LP sees Wayne Rogers and Kate Biggar (who had previously recorded as BORB, Crystalized Movements, Magic Hour, Vermonster and Wormdoom) returning under yet another moniker. Why the new name change, I have no idea, as the mixture of lo-fi songs and acid-rock jamming here is indistinguishable from their earlier work. GRADE: C+.

Major Stars (USA): The Rock Revival (Twisted Village TW-1044, CD, 1998)
Garage/Psychedelic
Kate Biggar (guitar)
Artistic development has never been a key concept of Crystalized Movements and its offshoots, and this offers the outfit’s usual mix of garage rock and psychedelic jams. It’s certainly one of their better outings, however. GRADE: C+.

Major Stars (USA): Space/Time (Twisted Village TW-1048, CD, 1999)
Garage/Psychedelic
Kate Biggar (guitar)
This is another solid album of garage rock and acid-rock jams in the band’s usual style. Oddly, one short song (‘It’s A Blessing, Brother, I Cannot Lie’) is lifted from the earlier Rock Sounds Of People; even more oddly, this is mastered much more loudly than the rest of the LP. GRADE: C+.
Major Stars (USA): Distant Effects (Squealer SQLR036, CD, with obi, 2002)
Garage/Psychedelic
Kate Biggar (guitar)
The blurb on the obi (noting that they ‘combine an interest in mid-sixties folk/rock, free jazz and Hendrix-oid guitar riffage’ to ‘create tuneful compositions that rapidly lift into the stratosphere’) rather oversells the disc. Nonetheless, it’s another enjoyable (if fairly short) album of psychedelic garage rock, and it is indeed more melodic than usual. GRADE: C+.

Major Stars (USA): 4 (Twisted Village TW-1059, CD, 2003)
Garage/Psychedelic
Kate Biggar
Whilst the differentiations between Rogers and Biggars’s various projects (and their various releases) tend to be fairly slight, this is a serious contender for their best release. Both the songs and the jams work very well, being richly melodic as well as deeply psychedelic.

GRADE: C+.

Major Stars (USA) Syntoptikon (Important IMPREC089, CD, 2005)
Garage/Psychedelic
Sandra Barrett (lead vocals), Kate Biggar (guitar)
The addition of a female singer is a sensible one: Sandra Barrett has a solid voice and lends the material more of a late sixties West Coast ambience. Everything works well here, with the band’s foray into early seventies-style hard rock on ‘Black Road’ being especially good (and quite a treat for stoner fans). GRADE: C+.
Major Stars (USA): Mirror/Messenger (Drag City DC355CD, CD, 2007)
Garage/Psychedelic
Sandra Barrett, Kate Biggar
This is slightly punkier than its predecessor, with a heavier acid-rock feel and again some stoner rock leanings. It’s another good album, and again lifted by the female vocals, with the ten-minute title track providing a suitably apocalyptic climax. GRADE: C+.

Major Stars (USA): Return To Form (Drag City DC418CD, CD, 2009)
Garage/Psychedelic
Amanda Bristow (lead vocals), Kate Biggar (guitar)
This is possibly the best album to emerge from the Crystalized Movements stable, with some great riffing and some powerful high octane jams. It’s not what you’d call varied or adventurous, but that’s arguably missing the point with this band. GRADE: C+.
Major Stars (USA): Decibels Of Gratitude (Important IMPREC 37, CD, with digipak, 2012)
Garage/Psychedelic
Hayley Thompson-King, Kate Biggar
The hype sticker describes them as ‘like Jefferson Airplane rattling Motörhead’s PA’ and cites Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, the Who and Cream as influences, but only the Who, Cream and (more marginally) Airplane references really make much sense here. Mixing retro-psychedelia and early seventies-style hard rock, this is another enjoyable and unassuming set. GRADE: C+.

Major Stars (USA): Motion Set (Drag City DC660, 2016)
Garage/Psychedelic
Hayley Thompson-King, Kate Biggar
Another album from the Crystalized Movements/Magic Hour/numerous other incarnations people; another accomplished collection of guitar-driven garage psych grooves (this time entirely song-based); another amusing sleeve with references to sixties packaging. Other than that, there’s not much to say. GRADE: C+.

Major Stars (USA): Roots Of Confusion Seeds Of Joy (Drag City DC750, 2019)
Garage/Psychedelic
Noell Dorsey (lead vocals), Kate Biggar (guitar)
Major Stars albums are very much of a piece – they’re the dictionary definition of a one-trick pony, but sometimes ponies perform their solitary trick better than others. This is a prime example: high-octane psychedelic rock with sludge and doom metal edges that doesn’t exactly go anywhere but provides one hell of a ride. New vocalist Noell Dorsey is far from a passenger, too – she’s possibly the best thing to happen to the band in years. GRADE: B–.

See also BORB, Crystalized Movements, Heathen Shame, Magic Hour, Various ‘Deep Funnels Of Entry – A Twisted Village Compilation’, Various ‘Marvelous Sound Forms’, Vermonster, Kate Village & Wayne Rogers, Wormdoom

Makajodama (Sweden): Majokodama (The Laser’s Edge LE1055, CD, with digipak, 2009)
Progressive/Avant-Garde
Karin Larsdotter (percussion, cello)
The hype sticker compares them to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, King Crimson, Can and Univers Zéro and isn’t far off the mark, though I can detect more influences from Can and (especially) Univers Zéro than the other two. This instrumental quartet (plus guests) straddle the borderline between modern classical and avant-rock, with quite a few folky influences and some ethnic touches, all backed with plenty of heft and dynamism. 

Carmen Maki (Japan): Poems In The Midnight – Till The Candle Goes Out (CBS/Sony SOND 66010, with insert, 1969)
Folk
The obscure debut album by this longstanding singer immediately establishes her class as a vocalist – Maki has a truly beautiful voice whether she’s crooning gently or adopting a sensual, semi-spoken tone. The backing ranges from mostly acoustic settings to some baroque touches and occasional well-judged usage of an electric band, and the material is excellent throughout. The end result is one of the most beautiful, tranquil albums imaginable, even though the disc may strike some listeners as a little precious. GRADE: C+.
Carmen Maki (Japan): Adam And Eve (CBS SOND 66013, 1969)
MOR/Psychedelic/Pop
Maki’s very different second album has a peculiarly Japanese style; it’s hard to imagine this kind of music being made anywhere else in the world. For the most part, this features gentle ballads backed by lush strings, harp, percussion and occasional choirs, but there’s also a fair amount of acid guitar work scattered around, giving the disc a hip, woozy, underground edge. There are also a couple of more uptempo cuts with a Swingin’ London pop flavour, making for a nice if decidedly odd album. This is by far the most sought-after of her solo LPs. GRADE: C+.
Carmen Maki ’70 (Japan): Goodbye, My Memories (CBS/Sony SOND 66029, 1970)
Rock/MOR
Maki’s third album is less interesting than her first two, consisting of gentle, orchestrated soft rock and folk/rock with a decidedly middle-of-the-road edge. Nonetheless, this is a pleasant LP, containing some good material and occasional strong guitar work. In particular, the dreamy penultimate track, with its relaxed hand percussion, is quite delightful. GRADE: C+.
Carmen Maki & Blues Creation (Japan): Carmen Maki And Blues Creation (Denon CD-5030, 1972)
Blues/Rock/Psychedelic
The last thing anyone would have expected Carmen Maki to do at this stage in her career was join forces with a heavy blues/rock band with pronounced metal and acid-rock edges. However, as her subsequent recordings would demonstrate, she was hugely fond of swapping genres and collaborators in the most unpredictable ways. The opening cover of Fantasy’s ‘Understand’ is superb, with frenetic hard rock backing, but Maki struggles badly with the English lyrics. Subsequent material is mostly more restrained, with Maki doing a far better job, and the end result is a powerful and striking album. GRADE: B–.
Carmen Maki & Oz (Japan): Carmen Maki And Oz (Polydor MR-5053, with insert, 1975)
Progressive
Carmen Maki (lead vocals)
Changing band and direction, Maki returned with an excellent album of melodic progressive rock. The opening track in particular is sublime, alternating gentle verses featuring voice and piano with a rock-oriented chorus and a superb instrumental break featuring some of the most fluid bass playing imaginable. Not everything works so well – I could have done without an eleven-minute Whitney Houston-style power ballad and a jaunty two-minute cut with barrelhouse piano – but overall this is a very good LP. GRADE: B–.
Carmen Maki & Oz (Japan): Tozasareta Machi (Kitty MKF 1005, with insert, 1976)
Progressive
Carmen Maki (lead vocals)
The second Oz album confirms Maki’s fondness for power ballads, but also takes in everything from atmospheric instrumentals to a lengthy epic that starts as a Black Sabbath-like slow riff-driven number before becoming a symphonic progressive rocker. It’s a curious record, but this is very adventurous, intriguing and creative. GRADE: B–.
Carmen Maki & Oz (Japan): III (Kitty MKF 1025 with insert, 1977)
Rock/Progressive
Carmen Maki (lead vocals)
Oz’s third and final album is a bit short of inspiration, mainly consisting of straightforward rock with little invention or originality. Only the lengthy ‘Mukashi’ has any strong progressive elements, and even that isn’t particularly exciting or creative. GRADE: C+.
Carmen Maki & Oz (Japan): Live (Kitty MKA 9003/4, double, with insert, 1977)
Progressive/Metal
Carmen Maki (lead vocals)
Rounding off the band’s career, this live double features material from all three studio sets, mostly played in a much heavier rock style. It’s not the most subtle of records, and not everything works well, but for raw, guitar-driven heavy prog this is very solid stuff. GRADE: B–.
Carmen Maki (Japan): Night Stalker (Kitty MKF 1050, with insert and poster, 1979)
Rock
Carmen Maki (lead vocals)
Maki’s first solo album in almost a decade is quite different from anything she had done before. With Carmen Appice producing and writing almost everything, and with the vast bulk of the lyrics in English, this is dumb AOR, drawing on everything from metal to disco and even reggae. The backing musicians include a number of prominent American session players, as well as two members of Fanny. Clearly this was a big-budget project, with lavish packaging to match (featuring both a poster and a lyric sheet) but musically it’s her worst release to date. GRADE: C.
Carmen Maki & Laff (Japan): Carmen Maki And Laff (Kitty MKF 1064, with booklet, 1980)
Rock/Metal
Carmen Maki (lead vocals)
Maki’s new band is nowhere near as ambitious as Oz, offering straightforward heavy rock. Nonetheless, despite a couple of rather weak tracks, this is a big step up from the mannered Night Stalker LP and frequently rocks out in no uncertain style. GRADE: C+.
5X (Japan): Human Target (Eastworld WTP-90152, with insert, 1981)
Metal
Carmen Maki (lead vocals)
5X is basically Laff renamed, but moving in a heavier direction sometimes recalling Motörhead (especially on the frenetic opening cut ‘Movin’ On’). Ultimately, this is as bonehead and unambitious as heavy rock can get, but it’s done with real energy and passion, making for an enjoyable LP. GRADE: C+.
5X (Japan): Live X (Eastworld WTP-80151, with insert, 1982)
Metal
Carmen Maki (lead vocals)
Mixing familiar and new material plus a couple of slightly proggy short instrumentals, this is a solid and very listenable live set. GRADE: C+.

Carmen Maki’s 5X (Japan): Carmen Maki’s 5X (Eastworld WTP-90213, with insert, 1983)
Metal
Carmen Maki (lead vocals)
5X’s second and final studio set (though one cut was recorded live) is another solid hard rock effort, sometimes resembling the heaviest moments from Grace Slick’s Dreams and Welcome To The Wrecking Ball. Maki is in fine voice throughout and all the songs are well-assembled, ranging from an unusual version of the lounge standard ‘Sunny’ to the sole ballad ‘Love Is Fading’. GRADE: C+.
Carmen Maki (Japan): Moon Songs (Toshiba-EMI TOCT-8068, CD, 1993)
Chanson
Carmen Maki (lead vocals)
Maki’s first album for ten years marks a radical change of direction, returning her to her original chanson style. This collection of gentle orchestrated ballads (including Japanese versions of ‘Que Sera Sera’ and ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ and a number with a children’s choir) is as far removed from rock as one can imagine, but it’s beautifully done and very listenable. GRADE: C+.

Carmen Maki & Moses (Japan): Voice Of Moses (VideoArts Music VACV-2502, CD, 1995)
Rock/Metal
Carmen Maki (lead vocals)
Quite different from Moon Songs, this is a solid mainstream rock album with a definite seventies vibe. A few songs are close to metal, bringing to mind her work with 5X, whilst others are softer; both styles work well, though there’s nothing exactly mouldbreaking here. GRADE: C+.

Carmen Maki (Japan): Unison (Pioneer PICL-1135, CD, with obi, 1996)
Jazz/Folk/Rock
The always unpredictable Maki returns with an album of soft jazzy and occasionally folky rock. With a few sixties edges here and there, this partially returns her to her original style, and it’s all very pleasant if not particularly distinctive. GRADE: C+.
Carmen Maki (Japan): Split (Pioneer PICL-1171, CD, with obi, 1998)
Rock
A bit of a step up from its predecessor, Split mixes lively contemporary rock with a few more symphonic numbers with a strong seventies feel. In particular, ‘Sky Was Blue’ is a superb piece of prog, complete with Mellotron, that wouldn’t have been out of place on an Oz album. The following number ‘1999’ is more than a little Oz-like too, with its psychedelic panned guitars, so this contains some pretty impressive moments. GRADE: C+.

Carmen Maki & Oz (Japan): One Night Legend (No label, CDR, with minisleeve, 1998)
Rock/Progressive
Carmen Maki (lead vocals)
Despite the legend ‘advance reviewer copy confidential’ on the back cover (which has led to this being offered as a ‘promo’) I’m 99% certain that this is nothing more than a straightforward bootleg. The sound quality is more than adequate for a bootleg, despite a few recording problems, and the performances of the band’s seventies material are excellent, making one wish that Oz had reunited on a more permanent basis. GRADE: B.

Carmen Maki (Japan): Live (Eye:Network EWCC-86035, CD, with obi, 2001)

Rock

This official live album is split into an ‘acoustic side’ with six songs and a ‘rock side’ with four songs, though I’m not aware that a vinyl version exists. The acoustic material is beautifully recorded, superbly performed and, in one case, surprisingly rocking. In contrast, the sound quality of the rock numbers is merely adequate – better than a bootleg but below what one would expect from an official release – and the performances are rather muted, notwithstanding an excellent 14½-minute version of an Oz number. Rather strangely, the final song on the ‘rock side’ is actually acoustic. GRADE: C+.

Carmen Maki & Salamandre (Japan): Carmen Maki And Salamandre (W-in BJCW-1002, CD, with obi, 2003)

Rock/Psychedelic

Carmen Maki (lead vocals)

Backed by a new band including Natsudi Kido and Yuji Katsui from Bondage Fruit, Maki offers an unusual album of spare, slightly experimental rock. Five of the six songs last for more than eight minutes, but this isn’t progressive, instead having more of a contemporary funky, slightly jazzy jamming flavour. The reinterpretation of ‘Over The Rainbow’ is odd to say the least, whilst the longest cut, at over fourteen minutes, includes plenty of acid-rock guitar. GRADE: C+.

Carmen Maki (Japan): Another Way (W-in BJCW-1003, CD, with obi, 2004)

Folk

Carmen Maki (lead vocals)

In another radical change of direction, Maki offers an album of gentle acoustic folk songs. It’s frequently quite beautiful, containing some genuinely lovely moments, but with seven songs totalling around 37 minutes this is a fairly slight LP. GRADE: C+.

Carmen Maki, Fumio Itabashi & Keisuke Ohta (Japan): Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child 2007 (Solid/Ultra-Vibe CDSOL-1174, CD, with obi, 2007)

Jazz

Carmen Maki (principal vocals)

This live album sees Maki accompanied only by a pianist and a violinist; the results are closer to jazz than anything else, but frequently don’t fit into any particular category. On ‘Over The Rainbow’, the violinist adds a few avant-garde edges, and the results are frequently more interesting than I was expecting. GRADE: C+.

Carmen Maki (Japan): Persona (Zipangu ZIP-0030, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, booklet and obi, 2009)

Folk/Jazz/Classical

Carmen Maki (principal vocals)

Building on the sound of the previous album, Persona offers delicate chamber music drawing on classical, jazz and folk traditions. With a few spoken-word pieces interspersed, the result is an intriguing and relaxing album. GRADE: C+.

Malaavia (Italy): Danze D’Incenso (Ma.Ra.Cash MRC 002, CD, 2003)
Progressive
Solimena Casoria (joint lead vocals, flute)
The instrumental passages here are a delight, offering pastoral symphonic sounds recalling classic seventies Italian prog. However, for the most part, this is song-based, with the material drawing on everything from Middle Eastern music to borderline disco, seemingly with conceptual lyrics about comparative religions. As a result, this is a bit of a curate’s egg, with the occasional flashes of brilliance making one wish they had taken a slightly different direction. GRADE: C+.
Malaavia (Italy): Vibrazioni Liquide (Contamination CNT 08.01, CD, 2008)
Progressive
Helèna Biagoni (principal vocals), Chiara Boldreghini (occasional vocals)
Whilst similar to its predecessor – and once again including Middle Eastern tinges and lyrical references to Judaism – this is a bit of a step up. It’s still very song-based, however, and my conclusion remains unchanged: Malaavia’s music is mostly good but rarely great. GRADE: C+.
Malaavia (Italy): Frammenti Compiuti (Ma.Ra.Cash, CD, 2014)
Progressive
Shana Stucci (joint lead vocals), Michela Carobbio (occasional vocals, keyboards, effects)
Slightly different from their first two, this is a touch poppier, a good deal more electronic and slightly more experimental. With an interesting blend of styles and textures, the result is an enjoyable and unassuming set. GRADE: C+.

Didier Malherbe & Yan Emeric (France): Melodic Destiny (Ottersongs OT1, cassette, 1981)
Jazz/Folk/Rock/Progressive
Gilli Smyth (occasional vocals)
This offshoot project from Mother Gong involves most of the rest of the band: Gilli Smyth on ‘space whisper’ (on one song only), Dayne Cranenburgh on bass, Guy Evans on drums and Harry Williamson producing. It’s quite different from Mother Gong, however, with a varied collection of instrumentals ranging from mediaeval-tinged folk (hinting towards the Fairy Tales album) through to driving jazz/rock, world music and some avant-garde moments. At least half of it is really excellent, and my grade reflects its lack of cohesion more than its lack of good material. GRADE: C+.
See also Acid Mothers Gong, Daevid Allen & Gilli Smyth, Glo, Goddess Trance, Gong, Invisible Opera Company Of Tibet, Mother Gong, Planet Gong, Gilli Smyth, Various ‘1989 GAS Tape’, Various ‘An Odd Acts Event’

Malicorne (France): Malicorne (Hexagone 883002, 1974)

Folk/Rock
Marie Yacoub (joint lead vocals, dulcimer, bouzouki, vielle)
Sometimes known as ‘Colin’ (after the brief instrumental that bookends it), the band’s debut is an impressive piece of folk/rock. Their high level of talent is immediately obvious, making them the French answer to Steeleye Span (whom they rather resemble circa Please To See The King or Ten Man Mop…) or Fairport Convention, although on ‘La Pernette’ they recall Stone Angel, with an eerie mediaeval edge. Their relentlessly doomy singing and minor key arrangements, coupled with a lack of variety in the approach, makes them less easily accessible than their British counterparts, but by any standards this is a bold, creative and successful album. GRADE: B.
Malicorne (France): Malicorne (Hexagone 883004, 1975)
Folk/Rock
Marie Yacoub (joint lead vocals, dulcimer, psaltery, vielle)
Their second – also self-titled – is even better than its predecessor, upping the rock quotient in parts (notably the scorching fuzz guitar on ‘Branle-La Peronelle’) and adding a spacy edge on the superb ‘La Fille Aux Chansons (Marion S’y Promène)’. It’s still largely acoustic and again very doomy, deftly incorporating strong mediaeval influences in a completely different way from, say, their German counterparts Ougenweide. GRADE: B.
Malicorne (France): Almanach (Hexagone 883007, with book sleeve, 1976)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Marie Yacoub (joint lead vocals, dulcimer, psaltery, épinette des Vosges)
This concept album, with a song for each month of the year, was where it really all came together for Malicorne. The early Steeleye Span-like musical base remains on some tracks, with brutal use of electric guitar heightening the tension, and as usual there are plenty of mediaeval elements, but they also add baroque strings, touches of progressive rock and even a stunning excursion into psychedelia (the eerily beautiful ‘Le Luneux’). The result is a marvellously atmospheric, deeply doomy suite of folk/rock music rivalling anything in the genre. GRADE: A.
Malicorne (France): Malicorne (Hexagone 883015, 1977)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Marie Yacoub (joint lead vocals, vielle, épinette des Vosges)
Malicorne’s fourth album – also known as M after the design on the front cover – saw them expand to a five-piece and significantly evolve their sound. The music here is much closer to rock, with some heavy electric guitar parts, significant use of drums and plenty of progressive touches. Conversely, it also sees some of their most breathtaking acapella arrangements, especially on ‘La Blanche Biche’, which adds an avant-garde edge through the sampled and keyed backing vocals. The nine-minute ‘Le Jardinier Du Couvent’ takes its cues from Now We Are Six-era Steeleye Span, whilst ‘Misère’ resembles Shirley & Dolly Collins, and ‘La Fiancée Du Timbalier’ is the most epic of their mediaeval-styled pieces. From start to finish, this is a remarkable tour de force of electric folk. GRADE: A–.
Malicorne (France): L’Extraordinaire Tour De France D’Adélard Rousseau, Dit Nivernais La Clef Des Coeurs, Compagnon Charpentier Du Devoir (Ballon Noir 13006, with book sleeve, 1978)
Folk/Rock
Marie Yacoub (occasional vocals, dulcimer, vielle)
The album has an interesting concept, explained through the copious liner notes, but musically it’s not a patch on their earlier work. Adopting a simpler and more mellifluous sound, at times incorporating funk bass, synthesiser and rock drums, Malicorne created a well-assembled album where nothing surprising ever happens; even the eight-and-a-half minute ‘L’Auberge Sanglante’ maintains a steady and sedate tempo. Further, their acapella excursions aren’t very inspired this time around, which is remarkable considering their earlier work in this area. GRADE: C+.
Malicorne (France): En Public (Ballon Noir BAL 13010, with inner, 1979)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Marie Yacoub (occasional vocals, dulcimer, vielle, épinette des Vosges)
Their live album is much more traditional and acoustic than their studio sets, giving it a quite different flavour. Whilst the music is frequently complex and intricate, this is nowhere near as adventurous or exciting as their best studio work, though it’s still a fine set in its own right. GRADE: B–.
Malicorne (France): Le Bestiare (Ballon Noir BAL 13012, with inner, 1979)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Marie Yacoub (joint lead vocals, dulcimer, vielle, épinette des Vosges)
An impressive return to form after its disappointing predecessor, this sees the band venturing into some entirely new musical areas. The opening ‘Les Sept Jours De Mai’ manages to fuse a traditional folk song, blues harmonica, funk clavinet and metronomic drumming into a propulsive whole, whilst ‘Les Transformations’ is eerie and psychedelic (with a stunning outburst of electric guitar in the middle). The addition of a dedicated drummer moves their sound much closer to rock, but there are still plenty of mediaeval and neoclassical elements (partly thanks to the addition of Gryphon’s Brian Gulland to the line-up). What’s more, they’ve rediscovered their talent for complex acapella arrangements (the sublime ‘La Mule’). GRADE: B.
Malicorne (France): Balançoire En Feu (Elektra 52 280, with inner, 1981)
Folk/Rock
Marie Yacoub (joint lead vocals, percussion, dulcimer)
Completing a transition typical for many electric folk bands, Malicorne here write all their own material and shift the balance from folk/rock to mainstream rock with folky edges. Despite some funky basslines and heavy eighties drums, this isn’t at all a bad album, with some very well-written and arranged material, but it’s also a significant step down from the complexity and adventure of their best work. Indeed, only the unusual ‘Le Couteau Blond’, which draws from chamber music, is remotely experimental. GRADE: C+.
Malicorne (France): Les Cathédrales De L’Industrie (Celluloid CEL 66794-2, CD, 1986)
Folk/Rock
Marie Yacoub (occasional vocals, vielle)
Their final album, released a full five years on from Balançoire En Feu, inevitably has a very eighties production, including lots of synthesisers and heavy drumming (although, given the title, this was clearly part of the concept). It’s a more consistent LP than its predecessor, although it’s also quite monotonous, with Gabriel Yacoub singing nearly everything and all the songs having mid-paced tempos with a rock base and folky decorations. The single ‘Big Science (1, 2, 3)’ sees the band attempting to go pop with rather gruesome results, but elsewhere this is a nice album, even if they often sound more like a rockier Clannad than themselves. GRADE: C+.
Malicorne (France): Concert Exceptionnel Aux Francofolies De La Rochelle 2010 (ArtStudio SB 122, CD, 2010)
Marie Yacoub (joint lead vocals, percussion, dulcimer), Claire Diterzi (occasional vocals, guitar)
Seeing the band reunited after nearly 25 years, this is inceed a ‘concert exceptional’. The band’s superb set spans their seventies work with aplomb, whilst three hidden bonus tracks feature the Gabriel Yacoub Trio. With impeccable performances throughout, this remarkable album confirms their position as the leading lights in French folk/rock. GRADE: B.
Malicorne (France): Concert Exceptionnel Aux Francofolies De La Rochelle 2010 (ArtStudio SB 615, DVD, with booklet, 2010)
Folk/Rock
Marie Yacoub (joint lead vocals, percussion, dulcimer), Claire Diterzi (occasional vocals, guitar)
The DVD version includes the full concert, which runs for an hour and three quarters. However, only about two-thirds of that is Malicorne, as Gabriel Yacoub performs solo during the set and they showcase a number of guests, including an extrovert string quartet. Visually this isn’t too spectacular (not that I ever expected Malicorne to be Pink Floyd) but musically it’s outstanding. As a bonus, there’s also a documentary (in French, obviously) running for nearly an hour. GRADE: B.

Merv Maltman & Sue Watson (Australia): The Battler And His Bride (Country CR-LP-7, 1982)
Country
Sue Watson (occasional vocals)
The label name says it all: this is pure country-and-western, so beware if dealers offer this as ‘country/rock’ or ‘rural rock’. For what it is, it’s competently done, with Maltman writing everything and taking nearly all the lead vocals, whilst his wife Watson barely appears. Whilst the cover makes this look like a bargain bin staple, this is actually sought-after by genre collectors and is a rare and expensive LP. GRADE: D.

Mama Lion (USA): Mama Lion (Family Productions FPS 2702, 1972)
Blues/Rock
Lynn Carey (lead vocals)
This is best-remembered for its cover photograph of Lynn Carey suckling a lion cub, but musically it’s solid hard rock and blues/rock, with progressive edges. Parts of the album are very good, but others (the straighter blues/rock bits) plod somewhat, indicating the lack of really first-rate material. GRADE: C.
Mama Lion (USA): Give It Everything I’ve Got (Family Productions FPS 2713, 1973)
Blues/Rock
Lynn Carey (lead vocals)
The first side of their second and final album is in a straighter blues/rock vein, again with good guitar work and mostly original songs. Side two is a little more progressive, and the most interesting cut by some margin is the uncharacteristic, synthesiser-led ballad ‘Dark Garden’, which bears a passing resemblance to contemporaneous Curved Air. GRADE: C.
See also CK Strong, Ivar Avenue Reunion, Merryweather & Carey

Mamas & The Papas (USA): If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears (Dunhill 50006, 1966)
Folk/Pop
Michelle Phillips (joint lead vocals), Cass Elliot (joint lead vocals)
Their debut album immediately establishes their strengths (magnificent harmonies, crystalline folk/rock backing, excellent period production, some wonderfully bittersweet atmospheres) and contains some brilliant original songs (especially the seminal ‘California Dreamin’’ and ‘Monday Monday’). But, as on all subsequent LPs, they don’t really bring much to the cover versions, making you wish they’d written everything. Bizarrely, the first pressing was quickly withdrawn and replaced, as the image of a toilet on the cover was considered obscene – personally, I’m more offended by the bizarre punctuation (Mama’s & The Papa’s, indeed!). GRADE: B–.
Mamas & The Papas (USA): The Mamas And The Papas (Dunhill 50010, 1966)
Folk/Pop
Michelle Phillips (occasional vocals), Cass Elliot (occasional vocals), Jill Gibson (occasional vocals)
Only two cover versions this time round is a plus, but the songwriting is nowhere near as good as on their debut. Nonetheless, I do like the haunting, psychedelic ‘Strange Young Girls’ and the eerie ‘Dancing Bear’, which combines Spanish and baroque influences – come to that, I like almost the whole album, as the harmonies and performances are as good as ever. GRADE: C+.
Mamas & The Papas (USA): Deliver (Dunhill 50014, 1967)
Folk/Pop
Michelle Phillips (joint lead vocals), Cass Elliot (joint lead vocals)
This has four covers, and three are pretty inessential (though I do like their version of ‘Dedicated To The One I Love’, which gave them a hit single). But, as on their first LP, some fine original compositions more than make up for them. As a footnote, the album was originally titled Springboard, and press ads appeared for it as such. GRADE: C+.
Mamas & The Papas (USA): The Papas And The Mamas (Dunhill 50031, 1968)
Folk/Pop
Michelle Phillips (joint lead vocals), Cass Elliot (joint lead vocals)
Why they chose to open the disc with a brief version of Shirley Temple’s ‘The Right Somebody To Love’ is beyond me, but this is otherwise their finest album. They cover a wider range of moods than usual, with quite a bit of complexity and invention, from the dreamy, slightly eerie ‘Mansions’ (easily the best track) to the harder-edged, more psychedelic ‘Gemini Childe’. GRADE: B–.
Mamas & The Papas (USA): Historic Performances At The Monterey International Pop Festival (ABC/Dunhill DSX 50100, 1970, recorded 1967)
Folk/Pop
Michelle Phillips (joint lead vocals), Cass Elliot (joint lead vocals)
Historic these performances may be, but they’re certainly far from essential, thanks to ragged singing and playing and sound quality that’s marginally above a bootleg but far below anything you’d expect from a major label. The track listing is attractive, including all their major hits, and it’s interesting to hear them in a stripped-down, raw live setting, but ultimately this sounds like the stopgap cash-in it so clearly was. GRADE: C.
Mamas & The Papas (USA): People Like Us (ABC/Dunhill 50106, with insert, 1971)
Pop
Michelle Phillips (occasional vocals), Cass Elliot (backing vocals)
Recorded long after the band had broken up in order to fulfil a contractual obligation and avoid legal action, People Like Us bears no resemblance to their other work. Their original folk/rock style was already sounding dated by 1968, and would have seemed laughably anachronistic three years on; hence the band substituted a more contemporary West Coast soft rock sound. For those who like their earlier recordings, this is probably the least of their albums, but it’s extremely well done and could send soft rock fans into raptures. As a footnote, this is their only LP not to include any cover versions, and the earliest I’ve ever heard to include a song with clear disco elements (‘Shooting Star’). GRADE: C+.
See also Big 3, Cass Ellliot, Mugwumps, John Phillips. Michelle Phillips

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard (UK): Nachthexen (Tape Worship TWR004, cassette, with poster, sticker, patch and box, Germany, 2015)
Metal/Progressive
Jessica Ball (lead vocals, bass)
Limited to 100 copies, this lavishly packaged release essentially consists of a single 30-minute jam that progresses through various movements – some relaxed and minimalist, others crushingly heavy. It’s all very understated and almost entirely instrumental, with the emphasis on powerful repeated riffs and atmosphere rather than instrumental virtuosity, so some may find it too repetitive or too unambitious, To my ears, it’s hugely successful, though I’d like to hear them stretch out with future releases. GRADE: B–.

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard (UK): Noeth Ac Anoeth (New Heavy Sounds NHSLP018, clear vinyl LP plus CD, with inner and minisleeve, 2015)
Metal/Progressive
Jessica Ball (lead vocals, bass)
This isn’t the band’s second album but their first, as the centrepiece is ‘Nachthexen’, joined here by two even more formless and sludgy pieces of around 10 minutes apiece. This raw and uncompromising yet carefully constructed set certainly won’t appeal to everyone, but I love it. GRADE: B–.

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard (UK): Y Proffwyd Dwyll (New Heavy Sounds NHSCD019, CD, with digipak, 2016)
Metal/Progressive
Jessica Ball (lead vocals, bass, Mellotron, cello)
This is slightly different from their earlier work – they’re now fleshing out their sound with (sampled) Mellotron as well as synthesiser – but at heart it’s their usual sludgy stoner doom, with Jessica Ball’s spacy, ethereal vocals providing unusual counterpoint. Overall it doesn’t add much to the impression created by their earlier releases, but it’s nonetheless a highly enjoyable set. GRADE: B–.

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard (UK): Totems (Black Bow BBOW19, red or green vinyl, 2018)
Metal/Progressive
Jessica Ball
This is a split album, with Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard offering two excellent extended progressive doom numbers on the first side, setting Jessica Ball’s ethereal vocals against über-heavy riffing. The all-male Slomatics, who occupy the second side, are no slouches in the doomy prog department either, and a stunning gatefold sleeve is the icing on the cake. GRADE: B–.

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard (UK): Yn Ol I Annwn (New Heavy Sounds NHSCD026, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2019)
Metal/Progressive
Jessica Ball (lead vocals, synthesiser, cello)
A quick glance at the credits – four out of five band members credited with synthesiser and two out of five with glockenspiel – confirms that this isn’t going to be your typical doom metal album. Indeed this is often as close to space-rock as metal, though bone-crunching riffs are never in short supply, and the band’s predilection for jamming consistently delights. GRADE: B–.

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard (UK): The Harvest (New Heavy Sounds NHSCD033, with digipak and booklet, 2022)
Metal/Progressive
Jessica Ball (lead vocals, keyboards, cello, effects)
There’s only so much you can do with MWWB’s formula – sepulchral vocals, sludgy riffs and whooshing synthesisers – and this doesn’t feel like it breaks any new ground for them. However, their doom/space rock crossover certainly works very well, so whilst this isn’t an album you necessarily need it could be well be a disc you love. GRADE: B–.

Man On Fire (USA): Chrysalis (10t 10T100052, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2011)
Progressive
Cameron Harder Handle (trumpet), Jenny Hugh (violin), Elise Testone (backing vocals)
This song-based progressive rock album has a rather funky musical base, but is also quite inventive, with more than a hint of latterday King Crimson and some unusual production touches borrowing from trip-hop. Steadily improving as it progresses, the album climaxes with a majestic instrumental. The band had previously cut three albums with an all-male line-up. GRADE: B–.

Manchester Grammar School Christian Music Group & Heather Jones (UK): Young Folk In Worship (BBC REC 75S, 1971)
Heather Jones (joint lead vocals), Susan Burnett (joint lead vocals)
This album was actually largely the handiwork of the Manchester Grammar School Christian Music Group, with Heather Jones guesting as lead vocalist on six of the sixteen tracks. The Jones-fronted cuts are mainly delicate acoustic pieces in the vein of her early solo EPs, whilst the tracks sung by the group themselves have fuller band accompaniment. These ten tracks are split between twee singalongs (fairly standard for this type of record) and more inventive electric pieces, with a breezy, jazzy feel. Overall, this is worth hearing. GRADE: C+.
See also Heather Jones, Red Brass

Manderley (West Germany): Fliegt Gedanken, Fliegt… (Pläne S 17 F 700, with insert, 1976)
Folk
Helga Schmölter (joint lead vocals)
This mainly acoustic contemporary folk album shows clear influences from Crosby, Stills & Nash, who provide the opening number, though the closest comparison in the German-speaking world might be Austrian band Milestones. The songwriting here is nowhere near as good as Milestones at their best, but this does have subtle charms, with a mildly psychedelic edge on a couple of tracks. For most people, the clear highlight will be their cover of ‘All Along The Watchtower’, clearly influenced by Jimi Hendrix’s version and covered in acid guitar, making it a real pity they didn’t go electric elsewhere. GRADE: C+.

Mandrágora (Peru): Steel Metal Attack (Inkas Noize INR002, CD, with digipak, badge and postcard, Germany, 2015)
Metal
Fátima Natthammer (lead vocals)
The title says it all really: this is old-school eighties-style metal, compiling their six-song 2010 demo tape, two-song 2014 EP and a few video clips. The EP has pretty good sound quality, the demo inevitably a little less so and the video clips even less; it all adds up to a nice overview of a decent, if unambitious, band. GRADE: C+.

Manifest Destiny (USA): Evening All Day (Rittenhouse Custom Recording RCR 1011S, 1969)
Folk/Pop
Elaine Warfel (joint lead vocals)
Despite the rather trippy band name, this isn’t psychedelia: this college band offer gentle folk/rock with hints of Peter, Paul & Mary and to a lesser extent the Mamas & The Papas. The hand percussion keeps it from getting too square, and there are some genuinely lovely moments, including a harpsichord and cello-led instrumental version of ‘Love Is Blue’. Elaine Warfel went to the slightly better known Rebirth.

GRADE: C+.
See also Rebirth

Mannin Folk (Isle of Man): King Of The Sea (Kelly MAN 2, with booklet, 1976)
Folk
Marlene Hendy (joint lead vocals, violin)
Hailing from my home nation, the Isle of Man, this long-running band offer some pleasant Celtic folk sounds on their locally-released debut. They also had some tracks on the compilation The Wonderful World Of Mann, and released an even scarcer EP, Sing, which features slightly more electric instrumentation. GRADE: C+.

Mantis (Canada): Mantis (Sweet Plum MA 952, 1973)
Rock/Progressive
Christine Williams
Housed in a stunning textured silver foil sleeve depicting a praying mantis and a sarcophagus, this Canadian band’s rare album operates in two basic styles. For the most part it’s West Coast-influenced guitar rock, typical of the period and enjoyable without being particularly distinctive (although the opening ‘I Don’t Ever Want To Get Married’ is as good as anything in the style). But for the last track on each side they offer lengthy, complex progressive rock excursions with lots of invention and electronics. Genre fans are advised to seek out the LP for these cuts, plus the beautiful symphonic ballad ‘What Does It Take?’. GRADE: C+.

Karen Mantler (USA): My Cat Arnold (XtraWatt XTRAWATT/3, CD, 1989)
Jazz/Pop
Karen Mantler (principal vocals, keyboards, harmonica)
She may have copied mother Carla Bley’s hairstyle to a tee, and the sense of humour and weird jazzy edges are similar too, but otherwise Karen Mantler is very much her own woman. For a start, she’s a songwriter rather than a composer, with a quirky pop tinge replacing the avant-garde and progressive rock elements. Secondly, mum would never use vocals this heavily, or incorporate occasional elements of Sly Stone-like psych/funk. But with her quirky, deadpan songs (spanning topics from the death of a loved one to her passion for her cat, all delivered with the same flippancy), this is just as likely to divide opinion and annoy purists as anything Carla ever committed to vinyl.

GRADE: C+.
Karen Mantler (USA): Farewell (XtraWatt XTRWATT/8, CD, 1996)
Jazz/Pop
Karen Mantler (principal vocals, keyboards, harmonica)
The cover depicts Mantler in widow’s weeds, and the dear departed is presumably Arnold, since one song ponders sadly on the moggie’s demise. Consequently, this is very much more downbeat than its predecessor, with more instrumental passages and a much closer resemblance to both her mother and Annette Peacock. But the wry humour is never far away, and the quality is equally high. GRADE: C+.

Michael Mantler with Jack Bruce, Carla Bley & Don Cherry (USA/UK): No Answer (Watt WATT/2, 1974)
Jazz/Avant-Garde
Carla Bley (keyboards)
Whilst Mantler composes the music and co-produces (along with Carla Bley), he doesn’t appear on his own album: for the most part this consists of Jack Bruce (on vocals and occasional bass) and Bley on keyboards, with a few interjections from Don Cherry’s trumpet. With lyrics adapted from Samuel Beckett, this is weird, austere and minimalist, with the electronic treatments on the vocals on the opening cut adding a futuristic edge. Whilst it won’t be for everyone, this is certainly challenging and intriguing stuff. GRADE: B–.
Michael Mantler with Robert Wyatt, Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Jack DeJohnette & Terje Rypdal (USA/UK/Norway): The Hapless Child And Other Inscrutable Stories (Watt WATT/4, 1976)
Jazz/Rock/Psychedelic/Progressive
Carla Bley (keyboards)
Quite different from No Answer, this is acidic rock recalling the heavier moments of Bley’s Escalator Over The Hill or the RIO movement. It’s good stuff: powerful, dynamic and exciting, but there are two drawbacks. First, whilst Edward Gorey’s words are fascinating, there’s too many of them, leaving little room for the music to breathe. Secondly, everything is sung by Robert Wyatt, whom I find tolerable in small doses, but here he’s in industrial quantities. Oddly, Mantler himself neither performs nor produces this time around. GRADE: C+.

Michael Mantler with Carla Bley, Robert Wyatt, Kevin Coyne, Chris Spedding & Ron McClure (USA/UK): Silence (Watt WATT/5, 1977)
Jazz/Rock/Psychedelic/Progressive
Carla Bley (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
Like its predecessor, this is as much rock as jazz, with plenty of acidic guitar lending a psychedelic edge. Also like its predecessor, it’s absolutely packed with lyrics, this time taken from the work of Harold Pinter – again sung by Robert Wyatt (in the right channel) though also by Kevin Coyne (in the left) and Carla Bley (in the centre). This again represents its downfall ­– Wyatt and Coyne are acquired tastes and although she’s less grating than either of them, there’s a reason that Bley rarely sang on her own albums. Nonetheless, the music – a little straighter, slinkier and mellower than last time – is pretty good, and a few more instrumental breaks would have lifted this considerably. GRADE: C+.
Michael Mantler with Larry Coryell, Carla Bley, Steve Swallow & Tony Williams (USA/UK): Movies (Watt WATT/7, 1978)
Jazz/Rock
Carla Bley (keyboards)
Returning to an instrumental format, Mantler offers eight short vignettes presumably intended for use in films. This is solid enough jazz/rock – well-arranged, tuneful and listenable, but lacking in anything really memorable. Once again, Carla Bley produces as well as playing keyboards. GRADE: C+.
Michael Mantler with Philip Catherine, Gary Windo, Carla Bley, Steve Swallow & D Sharpe (USA/UK): More Movies (Watt WATT/10, 1980)
Jazz/Rock
Carla Bley (keyboards)
As the title suggests, this is more of the same – but I find the music more varied, more atmospheric and more catchy this time around. It’s better recorded too, but enjoyable as it is never crosses the line from good into great. GRADE: C+.
Michael Mantler (USA): Something There (Watt WATT/13, 1983)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive
Carla Bley (piano)
After several albums that were nearly-but-not-quite excellent, Mantler returns to top form here. This is powerful, assertive jazz/rock, with some fine ostentatious guitar from Mike Stern, solid drumming from Nick Mason, and Mantler’s own trumpet stabs adding something of a mid-eighties Art Zoyd vibe. Although it’s credited only to Mantler, Bley once again produces as well as playing piano. GRADE: B–.

Michael Mantler with Himiko Paganotti & the Max Brand Ensemble (USA/France/Austria): Comment C’est (ECM 2537, CD,

Germany, 2017)
Jazz/Classical/Progressive
Himiko Paganotti (lead vocals)
Mantler’s first album in decades with a significant female collaborator once again puts me in mind of Art Zoyd. However, whereas Art Zoyd would have topped the minimalist, repetitious orchestral backing with synthesisers and electronic percussion, here we have Himiko Paganotti’s dramatic French vocals, hinting towards Catherine Ribeiro et al. If this has a failing, it’s all very much of a piece, sounding more like a tone poem than a collection of individual pieces, but it’s all effectively mournful, atmospheric and wintry. GRADE: B–.

Mantra Vega (UK/USA): The Illusion’s Reckoning (Black Sand CDBSAND3, CD, UK, 2015)
Rock
Heather Findlay (principal vocals, percussion, whistle)
Five years after leaving Mostly Autumn, Heather Findlay finally comes up with a full-length studio album of entirely new material. Despite rave reviews elsewhere, it's debatable whether this was worth the wait. Despite an epic production, this is pretty straightforward folkish rock that’s mildly atmospheric without being trippy, mildly anthemic without being catchy and mildly progressive without being adventurous – not dissimilar, then, to Mostly Autumn's more mediocre output. On the title track and the coda of the otherwise undistinguished ‘Veil Of Ghosts’ the band briefly catch fire, but elsewhere this is something of a damp squib. Five years on, the CD was reissued as a deluxe expanded hi-res download, and most of the outtakes turned out to be superior to the album proper, especially the gorgeous instrumental 'Lakes', which would have lifted it enormously. GRADE: C+.
See also Heather Findlay, Mostly Autumn, Odin’s Dragonfly

Many Bright Things (USA): Birds Of Impossible Colors… (Aether AELLP-006, with inserts and sparkles, 1999)
Psychedelic
Richelle Toombs (joint lead vocals), Lisa Swanson (occasional vocals)
Many Bright Things cut three albums, but so far as I’m aware this was their only release with female members. They’re closely linked to In The Summer Of The Mushroom Honey, but the music is much more electric here, being heavy jamming acid-rock. There are a few folky moments too, so the album cover a fair amount of ground, adding up to an enjoyable homage to their late sixties influences. The ‘sparkles’, incidentally, were sequins included in the outer plastic wrap holding the sleeve. GRADE: C+.
See also In The Summer Of The Mushroom Honey, Tombstone Valentine