Mar Aun (Argentina): Aunque El Dia Sea De Atra (Viajero Immovil MARAUN041VIR, CD, 2010)
Maria Belén Firrincieli (saxophone), Natalia Oronel (flute, backing vocals)
This is characteristic South American progressive, with rich folky and symphonic textures, some jazzy edges and lots of complex acoustic guitar work. It’s not entirely consistent, but there is some good – if not particularly distinctive – music here. GRADE: C+.
Marble Sheep & The Run Down Sun’s Children (Japan): Big Deal (Captain Trip CTCD-001, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and insert, 1992)
Kimi (backing vocals), Miss Hirano (backing vocals)
Offering some lovely West Coast-styled guitar jamming, interspersed with a few odder moments, this is a lovely LP. Although beautifully crafted, it’s ultimately perhaps just a little insubstantial, but it’s certainly a fine example of its genre. GRADE: C+.
Marblewood (Switzerland): Marblewood (Taliesyn Productions TAL-003, CD, with digipak, 2014)
Sarah Weibel (occasional vocals), Ariane Bertogg (bass)
On their website, the band describe themselves as ‘psychedelic’, but this is actually jamming stoner rock with a strong early seventies vibe. The band is a classic power trio, with a number of guests (including vocalist Sarah Weibel, who sings part of ‘Splendour’) and the album offers a procession of lengthy songs, culminating in the 21-minute instrunental ‘In The Beginning’. The result isn’t the most original album in the world, but it’s beautifully done and consistently enjoyable. GRADE: B–.
Marchandelle (France): À L’Ecoute D’Un Pays (Geste Paysanne UP 19, 1979)
Dominique Passebon (occasional vocals), Brigitte Chaine (occasional vocals), Mireille Conte (occasional vocals)
Alternating songs and instrumentals, this is pleasant French traditional folk. Whilst it doesn’t have any of the rock edges and experimental elements of, say, Malicorne and never attains the same heights, it’s all quintessentially Gallic and thoroughly enjoyable. GRADE: C+.
Marchandelle (France): Menteries (Geste Paysanne UP 26, 1981)
Dominique Passebon (joint lead vocals), Brigitte Chaine (joint lead vocals), Mireille Comte (joint lead vocals)
Whilst not dissimilar to their first, this has a mildly spacy edge that sets it apart and could make it more appealing to those who are not keen on pure traditional folk. In fact, it’s a lovely album throughout, with both the songs and instrumentals working very well. GRADE: C+.
Marchandelle (France): 3/Moments Musical Du Spectacle Aline (Geste Paysanne, 1983)
Dominique Passebon (occasional vocals), Martine Lerch (piano)
As the title makes clear, their third and final album was the soundtrack to an ambitious stage show that apparently involved some 500 people. Mostly instrumental and with partly electric backing, it incorporates sound effects to create a concept album feel, though once again their music is firmly rooted in French folk. GRADE: C+.
Maria Luisa Marchiorello (Italy): Tempi Luminosi (MP MPCD001, CD, 1992)
Maria Luisa Marchiorello (lead vocals, keyboards, percussion)
With a spacy, atmospheric and sepulchral sound and some high-tech arrangements, this singer/songwriter’s sole album at times recalls Nico and at others seventies pioneers like Pierrot Lunaire. This isn’t in the same league as their work, but it’s a creative and atmospheric album with lots of intriguing diversions. GRADE: C+.
Marfuz (Argentina): Estampas (No label 001, CD, 1996)
Patricia Falappa (principal vocals, bass, keyboards)
Mixing mainstream, hard and progressive rock, this Argentine trio has a strongly South American sound, frequently recalling the Chilean outfit Sol Y Media Noche. Whilst this isn’t a great album, it is a fairly good one, with some decent songs and instrumental breaks.
Marfuz (Argentina): Último Eclipse (No label CD 002, CDR, 1999)
Patricia Falappa (joint lead vocals, bass, keyboards)
In a similar style to the first, this contains some good riffs, hooks and guitar work. Oddly, the disc comes with an undersized booklet, rather like the one on fellow South Americans Parthenon’s album. GRADE: C+.
Marge Litch (Japan): Fantasien (K-Machin KM-005, CD, with poster booklet and obi, 1991)
Junko Nakagawa (lead vocals)
Quite different from the plethora of female-fronted neoprogressive bands that emerged from Japan in the late eighties, Marge Litch offer manic and ferociously complex progressive metal on this concept album. Metal is only part of the equation though, as this has lots of baroque and neoclassical touches, constant and unpredictable shifts of moods and tempo, and virtuoso performances from all the instrumentalists (but particularly the outstanding bassist). It may be too intense and relentless for some ears, and Junko Nakagawa’s shrill, piercing voice may not endear it to many listeners, but this is a remarkably diverse and adventurous record, with music that is frequently stunning. GRADE: B–.
Marge Litch (Japan): The Ring Of Truth (Made In Japan MCD-2924, CD, with obi, 1992)
Junko Nakagawa (lead vocals)
As bombastic as their first, but much more symphonic, The Ring Of Truth places more emphasis on keyboards (perhaps surprisingly, since none of the band members played the instrument). The result is an album that’s more mature and more consistent than its predecessor, with Nakagawa’s voice used to much better effect, but the sheer audacity of their debut is sadly missed. GRADE: C+.
Marge Litch (Japan): Crystal Heart In The Fountain (Made In Japan MJC-1010/11, double CD, with obi, 1995)
Junko Nakagawa (principal vocals)
This double album isn’t the magnum opus it first appears: the total running time is a mere 71 minutes, with the first disc (the ‘Crystal Heart In The Fountain’ suite itself) totalling only 21. That disc sees a further softening of their style, offering typical sumptuous Nippon neoprogressive, whilst the second is heavier and more manic, though again quintessentially Japanese and ultimately pretty anonymous. GRADE: C+.
Marge Litch (Japan): Fantasien 1998 (Made In Japan MJC-1017, CD, with obi, 1998)
Junko Nakagawa (principal vocals)
As the title indicates, this is a remake of their debut album, with some restructuring and a few new bits (including a full-blown operatic section) interpolated. Like the original, this is manic, virtuosic and constantly surprising, almost approaching a total sensory assault at times, but packed with ideas and innovation. GRADE: B–.
Marge Litch (Japan): Particuliöh (ML MLHR-0001, CD, with obi, 2000)
Junko Nakagawa (lead vocals)
The band’s final album comprises re-recordings of ‘Perfect Regulated City’ from Fantasien, ‘The Haunted Woods’ from The Ring Of Truth and ‘Wings For The Future’ from Crystal Heart In The Fountain, plus two new numbers (a song and an instrumental). The re-recordings are very well done and the new material is excellent, making for one of their better releases. GRADE: B–.
See also Alhambra
Margo (West Germany): Margo (Blackbird A-5908, 1981)
Else Nabu (lead vocals)
This slick horn-and-synthesiser-led jazz-fusion album is far from my taste, but it’s undeniably well done (if also undeniably formulaic and sterile). Else Nabu went on to cut a solo album, which I haven’t heard. GRADE: C.
Luciano Margorani & Elaine Di Falco (Italy/USA): Home Is Where The Art Is (No label, CDR, Italy, 2013)
Elaine Di Falco (lead vocals, keyboards, glockenspiel, ukelele)
This odd, minimalist, inconsequential little album mostly consists of gentle, folky improvisations, occasionally with wordless vocals, occasionally interspersed with sound effects. It’s a nice enough set, avoiding most of the atonal excesses of avant-garde music, but it never really does much or goes anywhere, though that’s perhaps not the point. GRADE: C+.
See also 3 Mice, Caveman Shoestore, Combat Astronomy, Empty Days, Ligeia Mare, Thinking Plague, Dave Willey & Friends
Mariah (Japan): Utakata No Hibi (Shan-Shan YW-7411è2BD, 2 x 12” singles, with insert, 1983)
Oddly packaged as two 12" 45 rpm discs (in a beautiful Arabian-influenced sleeve), this obscure album blends influences from electropop and progressive music. Thus you get strange, largely instrumental compositions with Oriental elements and plenty of synthesisers and drum machines. It’s something of an acquired taste, and I can’t imagine it ranking among anyone’s favourite albums (even anyone’s favourite albums of the eighties), but it is quite unusual and interesting. As a footnote, the band had previously cut two albums with an all-male line-up. GRADE: C+.
Marie Celeste (UK): And Then Perhaps (No label, 1971)
Tricia Jenkins (joint lead vocals), Mary Bishop (joint lead vocals, guitar)
Possibly the rarest UK folk album, this opens promisingly with the excellent self-penned ‘Prisoner’. However, much of the rest is cover versions of familiar folk club material (including a decent ‘Sally Free And Easy’ and unremarkable stabs at ‘Night In The City’, ‘I Am A Rock’, ‘Summertime’ and ‘Ruby Tuesday’). GRADE: C+.
Mark & Bonnie (USA): Wandering The Woods (Studio 5073, 1979)
Bonnie Branciaroli (occasional vocals, guitar, handclaps, harmonica)
I’m not normally keen on American folk, but this is a delight. Whilst drawing on their own rural traditions, Mark & Bonnie (mostly) avoid the cornball, and are equally adept composing or offering sensitive interpretations of traditional material. The arrangements are beautifully judged too, with some effectively trippy lead guitar, synthesiser, Mellotron and percussion occasionally added to their own acoustic guitars. Side one is given over to shorter pieces, including several around the 60-to-90 second mark (one of which, oddly, is composed and sung by one Cathy Terrell), whilst they stretch out on the superb second side. The only drawback is that Bonnie is mostly restricted to harmony vocals: whilst Mark has an excellent voice, her lovely ethereal tones really deserved more exposure. GRADE: B.
Marlène & Nuages (France): Marlène Et Nuages (No label ADV 8227, 1985?)
Marlène Calatayud (lead vocals), Carole Dampeirou (drums)
This obscure album consists of pleasant folkish soft rock with a singer/songwriter vibe, with a rather hard-edged production reflecting its era. On the downside, the somewhat mechanical drumming sometimes intrudes and the reggae number probably wasn’t a great idea, but for the most part this is very listenable. GRADE: C+.
Marsupilami (UK): Marsupilami (Transatlantic TRA 213, 1970)
Jessica Stanley-Clarke (flute, backing vocals)
This interesting psych-into-prog period piece has some strong guitar and flute-led arrangements and a powerful jamming feel. The chops are often more impressive than the actual compositions, though a high level of energy carries it through. Nonetheless it’s an excellent period piece and rightly regarded as a classic of early progressive rock. GRADE: B–.
Marsupilami (UK): Arena (Transatlantic TRA 230, 1971)
Jessica Stanley-Clarke (occasional vocals, flute)
Their second and final album, produced by Peter Bardens, is more varied and mature than their first, with the furious rock sections contrasting with atmospheric moments dominated by keyboards and flute. Once again, the musicianship is impressive, as is the band’s dynamism and passion. GRADE: B.
Mike & Pam Martin (USA): Fernwood Pacific (Augustus, 1975?)
This private pressing is sometimes offered as folk/rock but it’s actually country/rock, with lots of steel guitar. A couple of rather MOR cuts don’t work too well, and I’m not too keen on side one’s rockabilly-flavoured closer ‘The King Takes The Queen’, but for the most part this is a good example of the genre, containing some pleasant and mellow songs. GRADE: C+.
John & Beverley Martyn (UK): Stormbringer (Island ILPS 9113, 1970)
Beverley Martyn (joint lead vocals, guitar)
The thing that immediately struck me about Stormbringer, listening to it nearly 40 years after its release, was how evocative it all sounds. The album perfectly captures the wistful, questing nature of late sixties music, with an atmosphere and sound very similar to Fairport Convention’s What We Did On Our Holidays (not surprising, considering they shared the same producer, engineer, studio and label). This isn’t as varied as Fairport’s outing, alternating delicate ballads and bluesy folk/rockers, which could either be an advantage or a drawback depending on your perspective. However, I can’t imagine anyone in either camp not rating this wonderful collection of songs highly.
John & Beverley Martyn (UK): The Road To Ruin (Island ILPS 9133, 1970)
Beverley Martyn (joint lead vocals)
Whilst this is as atmospheric as their first and rather more varied and adventurous, it’s also less consistent, with several songs being good rather than great. That said, it also contains possibly the duo’s best recording in the rather psychedelic six-minute ‘Auntie Aviator’, which achieves an impressive level of intensity However, it’s given a run for its money by the fuzz guitar-driven acid-rocker ‘Here I Am’, included as a bonus track on the CD reissue. GRADE: C+.
Beverley Martyn (UK): No Frills (One World OW112CD, CD, 1998)
Beverley Martyn (lead vocals, guitar)
Martyn’s first solo album, recorded after almost 30 years’ absence, is aptly titled: this consists entirely of her own songs, accompanied by her own acoustic guitar, recorded in a single take. It’s accomplished bluesy folk, with her world-weary voice in excellent condition, but as with most albums of this type it’s rather low on variety and somewhat uniform in mood. GRADE: C+.
Beverley Martyn (UK): The Phoenix And The Turtle (Les Cousins LC018, CD, with digipak, 2014)
Beverley Martyn (lead vocals)
Her voice may have receded slightly, into a pleasing Marianne Faithfull-esque smoky croon, but this is the logical follow-up to her late sixties and early seventies albums that No Frills wasn’t. In fact, it’s every inch their equal: wonderfully atmospheric bluesy folk/rock with beautifully judged sparse yet rich arrangements. She even manages a searing version of ‘When The Levee Breaks’ that’s completely different from Led Zeppelin’s whilst being almost as memorable. GRADE: B–.
Maru & Mikael (Finland): Destination Nowhere (Hi-Hat HILP 103, with insert, 1975)
Marianne Nyman (joint lead vocals, guitar, keyboards)
From the faintly psychedelic cover, this looks like hippie folk, but in fact it’s West Coast soft rock with jazzy influences and strong progressive elements. Among the songs, which bear a slight resemblance to contemporary Joni Mitchell but are a little trippier, there are several excellent instrumentals. The album ends with a spare, jazzy, rather psychedelic nine-minute version of the traditional Japanese number ‘Sakura’, which is quite impressive. Their only other release was a 1990 EP (Olarin Musiikii Oy OMS 1011) featuring four lovely, wistful folk songs, including a re-recording of 'Sakura'. GRADE: C+.
Mary Jane (UK): Hazy Days (September Gurls SGCD 10, CD, with insert, Germany, 1996)
Jo Quinn (lead vocals, guitar, recorder, flageolet)
This young British band’s biggest influence was clearly Trees, and at its best Hazy Days recalls the long jamming tracks from The Garden Of Jane Delawney. A couple of slightly weaker cuts notwithstanding, this is a truly great electric folk album, with both the original and traditional songs being delivered with aplomb. Jo Quinn’s fey, high-pitched singing style is something of an acquired taste, however, and could grate on some listeners. GRADE: B.
Mary Jane (UK): The Gates Of Silent Memory (September Gurls SGCD 21, CD, Germany, 1999)
Jo Quinn (lead vocals, violin, flute, flageolet)
Amazingly, their second album is every bit as good as their first, although I still find some of Jo Quinn’s singing a little difficult to stomach. The vinyl version, issued the following year (September Gurls SGLP 27, with insert) came with a bonus picture sleeve EP, and hence featured two more tracks in total than the CD. GRADE: B.
Mary Jane (UK): Tacit (Seventh Wave 7W001CD, CD, 2001)
Jo Quinn (lead vocals, percussion, violin, flute, recorder, flageolet)
Billed as ‘live sessions’, this features two slightly different line-ups (one including hand percussion, the other drums). Perhaps a touch lighter than its predecessors, this is another fine album that duplicates a few cuts from their earlier career but mostly showcases new material. GRADE: B.
Mary Jane (UK): To The Prettiest One (Seventh Wave 7W002CD, CD, 2001)
Jo Quinn (principal vocals, bodhrán, violin, flute, recorder, flageolet), Isabelle Lydon (occasional vocals)
Whilst all their albums are impressive, this is their best: a true folk/rock classic with great acoustic and electric guitar interplay, a solid rhythm section and extremely well-judged use of hand percussion, violin and flute. Even Jo Quinn’s vocals come across as ethereal rather than irritating this time around. For no obvious reason, one Isabelle Lydon sings lead on ‘Journey’. GRADE: B.
Mary Jane (UK): Eve (Talking Elephant TECD168, CD, 2010)
Jo Quinn (joint lead vocals, violin, flute, recorder, flageolet), Lucy Rutherford (joint lead vocals), Gillie Hotston (violin, mandolin, backing vocals)
Returning after a nine-year absence with a slightly different line-up, Mary Jane prove themselves still to be at the forefront of electric folk. Some of this is more acoustic and pagan in feel than before, but they can also rock out in no uncertain style (as ‘The Great Silkie’ ably demonstrates). From start to finish, this is another classic album. GRADE: B.
See also Zaney Janey
Mary-Anne (UK): Me (Joy JOYS 162, 1970)
Rather strangely issued on Joy (the budget sub-division of President, and not a label noted for its folk repertoire), Me is a mesmerising album of acoustic acid-folk. Most tracks are traditional, with sparse accompaniment from guitar and flute, although some electric instrumentation occasionally adds excellent counterpoint. Whilst I love her traditional interpretations, her original composition ‘Love Has Gone’ is even better, though the highpoint is ‘Black Girl’, which reaches an almost Comus-like level of intensity. GRADE: B–.
Maschere Di Clara (Italy): Anamorfosi (No label, CD, 2011)
Laura Masotto (joint lead vocals, violin)
The opening cuts are cacophonous RIO of a high standard, with the chamber music arrangements (bass, piano, violin and drums) delivering a surprisingly hefty rock punch. But it’s the more restrained, though equally intense, neoclassical passages that really impress, placing the band somewhere between Art Zoyd, Shub-Niggurath and King Crimson. GRADE: B.
Maschine (UK): Rubidium (InsideOut 0506548, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2013)
Georgia Lewis (occasional vocals, keyboards)
Whilst this sometimes resembles the interconnected Tangent, Maschine have clear roots in progressive metal and are a much more adventurous proposition. In fact, there are some fine instrumental passages here, though some sections work better than others. If there’s an underlying problem, it’s the actual songwriting: it’s by no means bad, but its neoprogressive roots show through most of the time. GRADE: C+.
Maschine (UK/Belgium): Naturalis (InsideOut 88985376222, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2016)
Marie-Eve de Gaultier (occasional vocals, keyboards, flute)
Like its predecessor, this is very close to being a B– without quite crossing the threshold. It’s hard to say what holds it back: the music is more adventurous than most neoprog, the hard rock riffs are worked in effectively, the drumming is particularly sensitive and the recording is beautiful. Maybe it’s because it has that same old neoprog guitar tone; perhaps it’s because the drummer (unusually) stumbles on opener ‘Resistance’’s knotty tempo changes. More likely, it’s because once again the singing and songs show a definite influence from Andy Tillison, whose own music falls into the same nearly-but-not-quite category. GRADE: C+.
See also Tangent
Maschine Nr 9 (West Germany): Headmovie (Philips 6305 221, 1974)
Olimpia Hruska (joint lead vocals), Renate Knaup-Krötenschwanz (occasional vocals), Petra Schümann (occasional vocals), Mascha Rabben (occasional vocals)
This unusual one-off project offers a kind of audio play, constructed mainly using minimal electronic backing. There are spoken words, weird singing, snatches of psychedelic guitar work, bits of classical music and all kinds of sound effects, plus an interesting guest list including Renate Knaup-Krötenschwanz and Danny-Secundus Fichelscher. While too unmusical to merit repeated listens, it’s a very bold and creative album, and it’s a testament to the spirit of mid-seventies Germany that it found release on a major label. GRADE: C+.
See also Amon Düül II, Popol Vuh
Mask (UK): Heavy Petal (Mandalic MDC001, dual disc, with digipak, 2005)
Sonja-Kristina Linwood (lead vocals, guitar)
Although marketed as new age (with the DVD side being described as ‘Healing Senses’), this is a closer to a sort of neoclassical progressive-cum-gothic folk hybrid. Mixing songs and pieces with wordless vocals, the album occasionally recalls Dead Can Dance, whilst covering a wide range of musical territory with varying degrees of success. Nonetheless, there is some excellent music on offer, and it’s easily Linwood’s most interesting and creative album since the early days of Curved Air. The DVD side features two songs from the album plus ‘Healing Senses’ itself, all in surround sound with some fairly rudimentary visual accompaniment. GRADE: B–.
Mask (UK): Technopia (Repertoire RAR 1005, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2009)
Sonja-Kristina Linwood (principal vocals, guitar)
The title is confirmed by the pounding electronic beats that open the album: completely different to their first, this is largely uptempo pop/rock with lots of synthesisers. A few neoclassical, new age and acoustic elements are thrown into the mix, but overall this is far less interesting and creative than its predecessor. GRADE: C+.
See also Curved Air, Sonja-Kristina
Mason Steel Connection (USA): Early Morning Sunshine (GMS Sound Studios 6383, 1981)
Mary Beth McGuire, Jeri Cartee
For the most part, this rather average lounge rock album is distinguished only by having all-original material. However, ‘Stonehaven’s End’ is rather interesting, being a progressive hard rocker with lots of synthesiser and helium-pitched singing; the sleeve notes that this is ‘abridged’, which is a pity as more ‘Stonehaven’s End’ and less of the rest could have created a much better LP. GRADE: D+.
Nick Mason’s Fictitious Sports (UK/USA): Nick Mason’s Fictitious Sports (Harvest SHSP 4116, with inner, UK, 1981)
Karen Kraft (occasional vocals), Carla Bley (keyboards)
Don’t expect anything Pink Floyd-like here: this is a Carla Bley album with Mason on drums. But don’t expect anything typically Bley-like either, since this consists entirely of songs rather than instrumentals. How much you like it may depend on how much you like Robert Wyatt’s voice, as he sings almost everything. To these ears, this pleasant set of satirical Canterbury pop songs is likeable enough, but it’s not a patch on Carla Bley at her best – or on Pink Floyd. GRADE: C+.
See also Carla Bley, Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, Michael Mantler
Tina Mason (USA): Tina Mason Is Something Wonderful! (Capitol T / ST 2785, 1967)
Tina Mason (lead vocals)
I’m not so sure about ‘wonderful’, but this is as good as sixties MOR pop gets. Mason has a rich, sultry voice and she’s backed by top session players of the era, with David Axelrod producing and HB Barnum arranging. Those who like the style will find much to enjoy here.
Colin Masson (UK): Isle Of Eight (Headline HDL 505, CD, 2001)
Cathy Alexander (lead vocals, keyboards, recorder)
The solo debut of Morrigan’s Colin Masson, assisted by his wife and bandmate Cathy Alexander, consists of just three lengthy tracks of 26, 27 and 13 minutes. It’s very much a showcase for Masson’s multi-instrumental talents as he contributes guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion, drum programmes and trombone to create lengthy, constantly changing soundscapes. The material is well crafted, with great dynamics, sometimes hinting towards Mike Oldfield, and only occasionally do the limitations of the one-man-band approach become obvious. GRADE: C+.
Colin Masson (UK): The Mad Monk And The Mountain (Morrigan Music MMU1081, CDR, 2010)
Cathy Alexander (joint lead vocals, keyboards, recorder)
Masson’s second solo album is slightly different from his first, as well as slightly more accomplished: The Mad Monk And The Mountain features six tracks, with running times between 2½ and 17 minutes, including a mixture of instrumentals and actual songs. Cathy Alexander again makes a significant contribution on vocals, keyboards and recorder, and co-wrote ‘The Ends Of The Earth’. Overall, this is another solid and satisfying LP. GRADE: C+.
Colin Masson (UK): The Southern Cross (Morrigan Music MMU 1083, CDR, 2011)
Cathy Alexander (occasional vocals, keyboards, recorder)
The reinterpretation of Morrigan’s ‘The Wreckers’ is no accident: this is a very different album from its predecessors, swapping suites for discrete songs, which are mostly pretty long. On ‘The Heart Of The Machine’, Masson tries his hand at heavy rock, whilst the two closing cuts (totalling 27 minutes) hark back to the style of his first two LPs; the remainder is strongly influenced by Celtic folk, sounding like a lower-budget Morrigan. GRADE: C+.
See also Morrigan
Mastermind (USA): Angels Of The Apocalypse (Avalon MICY-1153, CD, with booklet and obi, Japan, 1999)
Lisa Bouchelle (lead vocals)
With a typically American feel, this progressive metal album offers a song-based style driven by knotty riffs (which thankfully never get too angular). However, it’s notable that they only really come alive on their over-the-top twelve-minute cover of ELP’s ‘The Endless Enigma’. As a footnote, the American and European releases on the InsideOut label were issued early the following year, and feature one different song. GRADE: C+.
Mastermind (USA): Prog, Fusion, Metal, Leather, And Sweat (StellarVox SV 2001-2, CD, 2000)
Lisa Bouchelle (lead vocals, guitar)
I can’t comment as to the level of leather, or indeed sweat, on offer, but this is certainly much more progressive than their studio set. In fact, if you love hell-for-leather (sorry!) progressive metal, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here. GRADE: C+.
Mastermind (USA): Broken (No label MM 200512, CD, 2005)
Tracy McShane (lead vocals), Laura Johnson (bass, backing vocals)
The cover and spine note that this is a ‘single/EP’, but with over 44 minutes of music it’s more realistically an album. For certain, it has the feel of a stopgap release – there are two versions of the title track, a re-recording of a number from Angels Of The Apocalypse and covers of ‘I’m So Glad’ and the ‘William Tell Overture’ – but musically this is strong enough to stand on its own merits. In particular, new vocalist Tracy McShane is an excellent addition to the band, with her clear voice providing excellent counterpoint to the band’s heavy rock and progressive jamming. GRADE: C+.
Mastermind (UK): Insomnia (Lion Music LMC279, CD, Finland, 2010)
Tracy McShane (principal vocals)
Aside from the instrumental ‘Night Flier’ and the extended closer, this dials down the progressive elements and offers straightforward metal and hard rock. The best cut by some distance is ‘Broken’, which had already appeared (twice) on the previous album, but this is nonetheless a solid and enjoyable heavy rock set. GRADE: C+.
Materialeyes (UK): In Focus (Davwilmar CD002, CDR, 2019)
Dianne Howes (flute, backing vocals)
In their press blurb, the band compare themselves to Pink Floyd, Camel and Focus, and whilst I can hear references to the latter two there’s nothing very Floyd-like here. Their descriptor of ‘progressive rock… with a chilled feel’ is right on the money, however: this is a collection of mellow, melodic songs with fairly sedate tempos. As that summation indicates, this isn’t an album that delivers any surprises or pushes any boundaries, but it’s certainly very pleasant. As a footnote, they’d previously made an album with an all-male line-up. GRADE: C+.
Materya (Italy): Case (White Knight CDWK0612B, CD, with digipak and booklet, UK, 2012)
Betty Copeta (principal vocals)
This offshoot of AltaVia is quite different from the parent band, offering folky singer/songwriter material. It’s quite a varied album, though haunting, slightly symphonic ballads are the dominant style, and is pleasant and accomplished throughout. GRADE: C+.
See also AltaVia
Matraz (Chile): Gritaré (Mylodon MyloCD107, CD, 2004)
Loreto Chapparo (lead vocals)
Typically South American, this is richly symphonic, heavy-riffing and dark and understated in mood with mildly jazzy vocals. However, it’s a touch above average, throwing in a couple of instrumentals to add welcome variety. GRADE: C+.
Matter Of Taste (West Germany): It’s Only A Matter Of Taste (Flame FL 44010, 1979)
Karin Haug (principal vocals)
For the most part, this is funky, soulful rock, frequently bordering on jazz/funk, but with enough rock elements (including some good guitar) to make it listenable. Inevitably, back in the day some dealers chose to hype it as ‘prog’, probably because of the closing instrumental ‘Berlin’, which really is rather progressive and is by some margin the best thing on the album. GRADE: C+.
Harvey Matusow’s Jew’s Harp Band (USA/New Zealand): War Between Fats And Thins (Head HDLS 6001, UK, 1969)
Leslie Kenton (joint lead vocals, metronome), Anna Lockwood (guitar, percussion, zither, effects)
Although the album was recorded and only released in the UK, Harvey Matusow was an expatriate American, allegedly with some odd connections to the CIA. As the band name suggests, this was recorded mainly using jew’s harps, plus occasional ethnic instrumentation, creating surprisingly spacy and psychedelic results. Overall, this is one of the more interesting and enjoyable avant-garde albums of its era. GRADE: C+.
See also Anna Lockwood
Melanie Mau & Martin Schnella (Germany): Gray Matters (Progressive Promotion PPR- CD037, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2015)
Melanie Mau (joint lead vocals)
The debut album by Frequency Drift vocalist Melanie Mau and Flaming Row leader Martin Schnella is an odd one: everything here is a cover version reinterpreted in a warm and mellow folk/rock style. With the material spanning numbers by Kansas, Peter Gabriel, Yes, Blind Guardian, Mr Big, Toto and others, their influences are clear and at times this fringes AOR and soft rock. With beautifully judged electric arrangements and some superb acoustic guitar playing by Schnella, it’s a nice album, but without any original songs it’s a little lacking in personality. In any case, their long, proggy version of ‘The Pinnacle’ is by far the best thing on offer. GRADE: C+.
See also Flaming Row, Frequency Drift
Maudlin Of The Well (USA): My Fruit PsychoBells… A Seed Combustible (Dark Symphonies Dark 6, CD, 1999)
Maria-Stella Fountoulakis (joint lead vocals)
It’s obvious from the band name, album title and song titles like ‘Undine And Underwater Flowers’ and ‘Catharsis Of Sea-Sleep And Dreaming Shines’ that this is going to be no ordinary metal album. However, they never give rein to self-conscious wackiness or experimentation for its own sake: whilst the album draws from doom and thrash metal, adds in modern jazz touches and offers vocal styles from croons to growls, it’s firmly rooted in well-judged, crunchy and crushing riffs. It also has just enough variety to be surprising but not incoherent and just enough repetition to be hypnotic but never boring. GRADE: B.
Maudlin Of The Well (USA): Bath (Dark Symphonies DARK 12, CD, 2001)
Whilst there are still plenty of hard-riffing sections and death vocals here, this is notably less metallic than its predecessor. There are delicate acoustic passages, relaxed jazzy diversions and strong psychedelic touches, all stitched together by effects of running water. The results are arguably bolder than their first, but they’re also less gripping and cohesive. GRADE: B–.
Maudlin Of The Well (USA): Leaving Your Body Map (Dark Symphonies DARK 13, CD, 2001)
This companion piece to Bath, issued almost simultaneously, similarly mixes metal elements with relaxed jazzy and folky numbers and a few classical elements, hinting towards the direction they would pursue as Kayo Dot. Once again, it’s a fine album, with plenty of variety and a clear and distinctive vision. GRADE: B–.
Mauri Toulipa (Greece): Ta Logia Tou Anemou (Wipe Out WOR 055, with insert, 1992)
Although firmly rooted in neoprogressive, this Greek album has a haunting, dreamy feel that makes it quite unusual. Whilst not brilliant, this is a solid and atmospheric set that is worth hearing. All the band’s subsequent work was issued under the variant name of La Tulipe Noire. GRADE: C+.
See also Tulipe Noire
Barbara Mauritz & Lamb (USA): Bring Out The Sun (Warner Brothers WB 1952, 1971)
Barbara Mauritz (lead vocals, guitar, piano)
The opening gospel rocker ‘Old Fashioned Remedy’ does nothing for me, but things quickly improve with the beautiful piano solo ‘The Wish’. Several rather ordinary countryish and bluesy rockers follow, broken only by the lovely ‘River Boulevard’, but the album ends with a haunting classical-tinged ballad (‘The Vine’) and a rather avant-garde Eastern acid-folker (‘Live To Your Heart’). Ultimately, this album makes one wonder two things: who they thought would want to buy a record covering so much territory, and why they didn’t play to their strengths and drop the uptempo rock influences altogether. GRADE: C+.
Barbara Mauritz (USA): Music Box (Columbia KC 31749, 1973)
Barbara Mauritz (lead vocals)
Lamb were always an unpredictable, diverse band and Mauritz an unpredictable, diverse songwriter, so her sole solo album could have been almost anything. However, the last thing I expected was lightweight bluesy rock, like Stone The Crows without the progressive edges and with lots of overbearing horns or maybe Janis Joplin making a cynical bid for the pop mainstream. A few original songs towards the end of the album raise the quality a touch, but not quite enough to lift it to a C+. In fairness, there’s nothing particularly wrong with this; but then there’s nothing particularly right with it either. GRADE: C.
See also Lamb
Mauve Sideshow (USA): Dark Flowers (Refraction Sounds RF-2, 1990)
Treva Dea (lead vocals)
Adding vocals to the mix, this continuation of Kangaroo Kourt follows a similar formula, offering swathes of trippy keyboards with moods varying from the ambient to the psychedelic to the borderline industrial. The vocals certainly add an extra layer to their sound, making for an intriguing if completely formless LP. GRADE: C+.
Mauve Sideshow (USA): Stray Apparitions From The Mauve Sideshow (No label, red vinyl, 1991)
Treva Dea (lead vocals)
This is their most interesting album to date, since it was mainly put together using Mellotrons and covers a wide range of trippy, cosmic and experimental territory. Ultimately, like many avant-garde albums it doesn’t really do anything or go anywhere, but it’s nonetheless a fascinating trip. Selections from both albums were subsequently compiled into the 1991 CD Mauve Sideshow (Refraction Sound) along with the unreleased five-minute ‘Hide In The Rain’; this CD was reissued two years later (Ventricle cd-01) with a different track listing featuring another previously unreleased cut (the nine-minute ‘Absorbed By The Periphery’). GRADE: C+.
Mauve Sideshow (USA): The Girl (Ventricle 5, CD, with poster booklet, 1994)
Treva Dea (lead vocals, electronics)
Moving from (occasional) moments of discordant weirdness to (frequent) moments of ambient weirdness, and balancing Mellotron and electronics, this is another odd, minimalist soundscape that seems to exist its own universe, do its own thing and then disappear without ever really taking a concrete form. GRADE: C+.
Mauve Sideshow (USA): Blood Will Tell (Ventricle 7, CD, 1996)
Treva Dea (lead vocals, effects)
This is their best album by some margin: the drifting Mellotron soundscapes and gentle, folky atmospheres remind me more than a little of the magnificent Emtidi. The songwriting isn’t in the Emtidi class, of course, but Mauve Sideshow are more about mood than composition. For those with the same aesthetics, this should be considered a B–. GRADE: C+.
See also Kangaroo Kourt
Maverick (USA): Maverick (Tomorrow TVI-142, 1977)
This tax scam album offers rootsy underground rock – sometimes bluesy, sometimes country-ish and sometimes soulful. The singer could be described as Joplin-esque, but whilst she and her band are technically accomplished, as is the recording (not withstanding the disconcerting dropout in the second song), this is all slightly generic, which is probably why it didn’t get a full commercial release. GRADE: C+.
Max & 1 (USA): Max And 1 (Western Hemisphere WH 1001, USA, 1976)
Maxine Stone (joint lead vocals, guitar, piano)
Western Hemisphere was the precursor to the notorious (and much collected) Tiger Lily label, leading to suspicion that it too was a tax loss venture. Certainly, all three of its releases are very hard to find today. Packaged in a simple but striking pink and yellow sleeve, this is a winner. Several tracks are bluesy hard rock with some fine guitar leads, but it also takes in some slightly soulful ballads, with all the material being composed by the husband-and-wife duo of Maxine and Ira Stone. Highpoints include the energetic instrumental ‘Rush Hour’ and the hippie folk/rock number ‘You Can’t Shoot Love’, but there are no really weak moments. Contrary to popular belief, the band name and album title are ‘Max & 1’ not ‘Max & I’ (although the latter would actually make more sense). GRADE: B–.
Maxayn (USA): Maxayn (Capricorn CPN 0103, 1972)
Maxayn Lewis (lead vocals, piano, French horn)
The first album by former Ikette Maxayn Lewis and her colleagues offers a high-octane mix of funk, rock, soul and just a little jazz. With five fine original songs, two radical and well-executed Rolling Stones covers and a horn-led instrumental jam, there’s something for fans of all kinds of music here. GRADE: C+.
Maxayn (USA): Mindful (Capricorn CP 0110, 1973)
Maxayn Lewis (principal vocals, keyboards, percussion)
The weird electronic bleeps and pulses that open the LP suggest they’ve been listening to too much Ruth White, but the funk groove soon kicks in – quieter, more languid and much spacier than before. There are still soul touches, but most of the jazz and rock influences have gone, so this is less varied than its predecessor, but it’s still a fine LP emulating There’s A Riot Goin’ On-era Sly & The Family Stone, though with much catchier tunes. GRADE: C+.
Maxayn (USA): Bail Out For Fun! (Capricorn K 57503, 1974)
Maxayn Lewis (principal vocals, piano)
Sly Stone and friends may have started to lose their funk by this time, but Maxayn still had it in spades. With lots of electronic piano, clavinet and synthesiser, this is funk music at its spaciest, and occasionally suggests what a collaboration between the Family Stone and Kraftwerk could have sounded like. This was the band’s final album, but André Lewis issued three reputedly interesting solo albums as Mandré. GRADE: C+.
Maximum Coherence During Flying (USA): Maximum Coherence During Flying (In-Phase BEMO1 CD, CD, 1999)
Sonya Shaw (joint lead vocals)
The rather odd introduction implies that this could be some kind of theatrical RIO, but for the most part it’s more of a spacy prog/psych hybrid. Low budget and rather ponderous, the material is interspersed with sound effects and electronics and covers a wide range of ground: sometimes messy and sometimes elegiac (notably on ‘Crusade IV’ and the Pink Floyd-like ‘Zoom’). The end results are quite incoherent (in contrast to the band’s name) but after a shaky start this is largely a very good album containing some fine passages; a little judicious editing would not have gone amiss, however. GRADE: C+.
Maximum Coherence (USA): Things The Pillow Told Me (In-Phase, CD, 2001)
Issued under a truncated name, their second album is less distinctive than their first but more confident and cohesive, offering some enjoyable space-rock with Pink Floyd and Hawkwind edges. Nonetheless, there are a few eccentric and theatrical touches recalling their debut. GRADE: C+.
Maximum Coherence (USA): Portal (In-Phase 70003-2, CD, 2003)
Whilst this is recognisably the work of the same band, it tones down the progressive and psychedelic edges somewhat, increases the whimsical and pop elements, and makes clear their new wave roots. Indeed, the synthesiser-led opener ‘Dale Arden’ slightly recalls Blondie. GRADE: C+.
Mazinga Phaser (USA): Cruising In The Neon Glories Of The New American Night (Womb Tunes, CD, 1996)
Wonderfully trippy and impressionistic, this is a varied and quite experimental modern psychedelic album that sets Jessica Nelson’s gentle vocals against all kinds of electronics and effects. More an evolving soundscape than a collection of improvisations, its hazy, jazzy tones and eerie drones really do conjure up the atmosphere of a slightly surreal night in a glitzy, seedy city. GRADE: B–.
Mazzy Star (USA): She Hangs Brightly (Capitol CDP 7 96508 2, CD, 1990)
Hope Sandoval, Suki Ewers, Sylvia Gray
This is basically a continuation of Opal with a much more sensual and sultry singer (Hope Sandoval). Blending rural-tinged folk/rock, forlorn blues, ghostly Doors-style psychedelia and Velvet Underground-like garage rock, this is an extremely atmospheric album containing some wonderful tunes. Most of the material is self-penned, but there’s also an unusual cover of Slapp Happy’s ‘Blue Flower’, performed in the style of the Velvet Underground (complete with the riff from ‘Sunday Morning’ interpolated). GRADE: B–.
Mazzy Star (USA): So Tonight That I Might See (Capitol 0777 7 96508 2 8, CD, 1993)
Like their debut, this offers some wonderful trippy psychedelic folk/rock, once again owing a considerable debt to the Velvets fronted by Nico. Richly melodic and beautifully crafted, it’s simply lovely. In particular, the closing double whammy of ‘Into Dust’ (a forlorn folk number) and the title track (an extended psychedelic jam with a rhythm track very similar to ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’) is nothing short of stunning. GRADE: B–.
Mazzy Star (USA): Among My Swan (Capitol 7243 8 27224 2 7, CD, 1996)
Hope Sandoval (lead vocals, percussion, harmonica), Jill Emery (bass)
Whilst this demonstrates zero artistic development, offering the same kind of hushed, slo-mo, faintly bluesy Velvet Underground pastiches as their first two, it’s another wonderfully atmospheric LP. GRADE: B–.
Mazzy Star (USA): Seasons Of Your Day (Rhymes Of An Hour Rhymes 003, CD, with digipak, 2013)
Hope Sandoval, Suki Ewers
Mazzy Star’s first album for seventeen years concentrates on the folkier side of their repertoire, sounding very similar to Sandoval’s side-project the Warm Inventions. As always with Mazzy Star, it’s delicate, beautiful and frequently mesmerising, with one song adding country influences to sound similar to the Cowboy Junkies, but one might have expected them to learn some new tricks in nearly two decades. GRADE: B–.
See also Suki Ewers, Opal, Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions