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No Jive 5 (USA): Migrant Family (NJ5 Productions, no sleeve, with insert, 1970)
Toni Barnes, Marion Brinkley
Only a couple of copies are known of this sleeveless private pressing, which was recorded in San Francisco and is dated ‘Christmas 1970’. The album consists of hippie folk with backing from multiple acoustic (and occasionally electric) guitars; the use of Eastern tunings creates an acid-folk feel in parts and the playing is quite intricate. Overall, this is a strong album, containing some excellent material, and I would love to know more about its history. GRADE: C+.

No Right Turn (UK): No Right Turn (Chelful CHE 0001, 1983)
Jayne Marsden (principal vocals, percussion, vocoder)
One of the rarest eighties private pressings, this excellent album offers strong electric folk with progressive edges. Mixing original and traditional material, it features some surprisingly modernistic production touches, including use of vocoder, that give it a very distinct identity. Most copies come with a single sleeve, but one has resurfaced with a gatefold cover and numerous photocopied inserts.


No Secrets In The Family (Switzerland): In A Certain Light We All Appear Green (Ex Libris EL 12517, 1987)
Annette Schönholzer (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
Operating at the lighter and more playful end of RIO, this Swiss band quote lyrically from AA Milne, Lewis Carroll and John Gay and musically from their own Alpine traditions as well as all kinds of folk and chamber-rock. The results may be a little whimsical for some ears, and the electronic drums certainly do not delight, but this is admirably inventive and creative stuff, and in turn they were clearly a strong influence on their excellent countrymen Die Knödel. GRADE: B–.
No Secrets In The Family (Switzerland): Play And Strange Laughter (Rec Rec Music reCDec 23, CD, 1989)
Annette Schönholzer (joint lead vocals, keyboards, melodica)
Whereas their first album sounded distinctly Swiss, this one sounds American, with its satirical pop edges and sardonic delivery. It’s still firmly in the RIO mould and still quite creative, but the songs are packed with lyrics, leaving little room to stretch out. One also gets the impression that they’re designed to be deliberately irritating, and sometimes they succeed, leaving the closing instrumental coda as possibly the best thing on the disc. GRADE: C+.

No Secrets In The Family (Switzerland): Kleinzeit (RecRec Music reCDec 905, CD, with poster booklet and wrap, 1992)
Annette Schönholzer (joint lead vocals, keyboards, accordion, melodica)
Again, this sounds American and sometimes puts me in mind of Talking Heads in terms of its sardonic delivery. They’re undeniably a clever band – this oddball concept album is packed with unpredictable tempo changes and wonky hooks – but their music is never going to rank among the greats of the RIO pantheon for me. GRADE: C+.
No Secrets In The Family (Switzerland): Henry Chard – A Christmas Opera In 5 Acts (No label NoSe 003, CD, with minisleeve, 1994, recorded 1989)
Annette Schönholzer (joint lead vocals, keyboards, accordion, melodica)
Recorded before their third album but released afterwards, this odd little item might best be described as a mini-concept album or perhaps a concept single. With seven vignettes totalling seven-and-a-quarter minutes, it’s both good and inventive musically, but there’s not much to judge here, so it’s still a C+. It also strikes me as slightly cynical to issue something like as a standalone release (as opposed to a bonus on an album). GRADE: C+.

NOA (France): NOA (NOA 1, 1980)
Claudie Nicolas (lead vocals)
This fascinating and very creative record falls somewhere between zeuhl and RIO, with long, elegant, exploratory tracks dominated by Claudie Nicolas’s excellent singing and some virtuosic saxophone. There are also hints of modern classical, opera, folk and chamber music in their sound, and another comparison could be a dark and sombre (rather than bright and playful) twist on Cos. GRADE: B–.

Nochnoy Dozor (Greece): Nochnoy Dozor (Prophecy Productions PRO251, with digipak, Germany, 2018)
Lina Koshka (principal vocals), Revekka Tsou (occasional vocals, keyboards)
I expected this to be doom metal with progressive edges, and it is – sort of. However, it’s also extremely difficult to describe. The riffs are heavy but the soundscape is open and spacious, the songs are short but atmospheric, and the two female vocalists, most surprisingly, have a strongly soul-inflected style. It all adds up to an odd and intriguing mini-album that’s not hugely memorable but is certainly quite original. GRADE: C+.

Nodo Gordiano (Italy): Sonnar (Lizard LIZARD CD 0168, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2021)
Natalia Suvorini (lead vocals)
This Rock Progressivo Italiano album is quite difficult describe: despite the line ‘21st century schizoid girl’ it doesn’t sound like King Crimson and despite the song title ‘Pale Gallery’ it doesn’t resemble Amon Düül II either. It’s firmly in a symphonic vein, though with an unusually dense sound and definite post-punk influences in both the guitars and saxophone; it’s also quite ambitious, with a suite of 21 minutes, though it’s never ostentatious or particularly fiery. Ultimately, this is the sort of album that will require repeated plays to digest, so my grade – bordering on B– but on balance a very high C+ – could easily change. GRADE: C+.

Noel–Richard–Gail (Australia): Sage To Colleen (AWA Custom Recording AW-33133, with insert, Australia, 1973)
Gail Davey
This obscure private pressing showcases a rather old-fashioned folk trio who sometimes sound like they hail from the mid-sixties coffeehouse boom and at others add influences from classical music. The material includes quite a number of familiar staples (‘Catch The Wind’, ‘The Water Is Wide’, ‘Leaving On A Jet Plane’, ‘Crow On The Cradle’, ‘Suzanne’), some of them reinterpreted in an almost liturgical style. The disc comes in a printed sleeve with a photocopied insert. GRADE: C–.

Clive Nolan & Oliver Wakeman (UK): Jabberwocky (Verglas VGCD014, CD, 1999)
Tracy Hitchings (joint lead vocals)
A neoprogressive rock opera with narration from Rick Wakeman, quite a bit of Tracy Hitchings in full theatrical mode and a few neoclassical touches in the music wouldn’t be likely to figure among my favourite albums, and this doesn’t. Nonetheless, despite reams of lyrics and an absence of memorable tunes, this is a solid enough venture. GRADE: C+.
Clive Nolan & Oliver Wakeman (UK): The Hound Of The Baskervilles (Verglas VGCD022, CD, 2002)
Tracy Hitchings (occasional vocals), Michelle Young (occasional vocals)
Like Jabberwocky, this is a progressive rock opera interpretation of a classic novel, this time with none other than Robert Powell providing the narration. Unlike Jabberwocky, it’s genuinely impressive – rock opera is not a genre I enjoy, but this is extremely well crafted, with some great hooks and some effective instrumentals linking the songs. In fact, it might be one of the best albums I’ve heard in the style. GRADE: B–.

Clive Nolan & Agnieszka Świta (UK/Poland): Closer (Attic 001, CD, 2006)
Agnieska Świta (lead vocals)
This mini-album by Clive Nolan (formerly of Strangers On A Train) and his new collaborator Agnieszka Świta is both similar to, and different from, his earlier band. Świta’s voice somewhat recalls Tracy Hitchings’s, though she’s more accomplished and less theatrical, whilst the material also somewhat recalls Strangers – though Nolan's ability to craft hooks and arrangements has increased significantly, resulting in a suitably anthemic set of symphonic rock. GRADE: C+.

Clive Nolan (UK): Alchemy (Metal Mind Productions MMP CD 1469 DGD, double CD, with digibook, 2013)
Agnieszka Świta (joint lead vocals), Victoria Bolley (occasional vocals), Tracy Hitchings (occasional vocals)
The Hound Of The Baskervilles succeeded where most rock operas fail as it was neither too overblown nor too theatrical and because the music never played second fiddle to the concept and the vocals. Alchemy fails on all these counts. It’s frequently too arch for its own good, it’s peppered with spoken dialogue, and the music is so frequently so perfunctory and pro forma as to be almost an irrelevance. Nonetheless, given Nolan’s illustrious musical background, it is at least competent. GRADE: C.

Clive Nolan (UK): Alchemy Live (Metal Mind Productions MMP 5 CDBOX 008, double DVD plus triple CD, with digipak, booklet and slipcase, Poland, 2013)
Agnieszka Swita (joint lead vocals), Tracy Hitchings (occasional vocals), Victoria Bolley (occasional vocals), Soheila Clifford (occasional vocals)
This is a suitably grandiose package for a grandiose staging of Alchemy at a theatre in Poland, complete with Victorian costumes, dramatic lighting and a choir. In addition to the two-hour concert, which is very well filmed and recorded, the main DVD includes nearly an hour’s worth of bonus material, comprising a ‘making-of’ documentary, several interviews and a photo gallery. A second DVD, running for just over an hour, features further bonus material: a trailer for the work, brief backgrounds to the characters, prformances from a charity fundraiser, backstage and rehearsal footage and further interviews. Meanwhile, the first two CDs feature an audio version of the entire show, whilst the third features demos and alternate takes of the material. The whole thing is very well put together, in terms of both the stage show and this comprehensive set, hence the plus in my rating. However, the actual music – closer to sub-Andrew Lloyd-Webber than neoprog – is no more interesting than on the studio version, hence the C. GRADE: C+.

Nomads Of Hope (Sweden): Breaking The Circles For A While (Papaver PAP1401, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2014)
Ingemo Rylander (lead vocals, bass, saz, harp, recorder, whistle)
This project by former Kultivator leaders Ingemo Rylander and Johan Hedrén is somewhat different from their previous band. With the duo providing all the instrumentation themselves, it’s sparse, minimalist and slightly eerie, with some trip-hop elements and more of a psychedelic than progressive atmosphere. The lack of rock elements makes this less immediate than Kultivator, but it’s interesting, well-crafted and quite varied, with a few Kultivator-like moments of Mellotron and recorder. GRADE: B–.
See also Kultivator

Nominees (USA): Waiting A Time (No label S80 312, 1975?)
I’d expected this to be folk from the sombre black-and-white cover, but a closer look at the male members’ matching outfits and the female’s ruffles give a clue as to its real nature. This is polished, loungy soft rock with a slight jazz edge and a wistful mood that sets it apart from most other albums in the genre. An accomplished LP, with very professional arrangements and production, it’s surprising that this doesn’t sell for more. GRADE: C+.

Non Credo (USA): Reluctant Hosts (No Man’s Land nml 8814, with insert, West Germany, 1988)
Kira Vollman (principal vocals, bass, keyboards, clarinet)
This multi-instrumental duo’s album reminds me more than anything of the post-punk bric-à-brac music of French experimentalists like Les I and Look De Bouk. However, there’s a lot more going on: singer/songwriter and progressive influences underpin a few of the songs, keyboards are frequently the dominant instruments, and Kira Vollman’s vocals range from quasi-operatic to Brechtian. It’s all intriguing, odd and deceptively melodic, though it can be disturbing too (notably the depiction of child abuse on ‘Thank You Mommy’), adding up to a fascinating debut. The CD reissue (No Man’s Land nml 8814 cd, Germany, 2000) adds numerous short bonus tracks that are much weirder than the album proper. GRADE: B–.
Non Credo (USA): Happy Wretched Family (Victo VICTO cd033, CD, Canada, 1995)
Kira Vollman (lead vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, clarinet)
Their second is similar yet different: with free jazz elements creeping into their work, they sound more like a cross between the Art Bears and Débile Menthol. The results are more challenging than their debut and more fragmentary too, creating a decidedly uneasy listening experience, so it’s moot which is better. GRADE: B–.
Non Credo (USA): Impropera (Gazul GA 8383.AR, CD, France, 2006)
Kira Vollman (lead vocals, percussion, clarinet)
Their third album is different yet again – as the title implies, it’s a kind of mutant rock opera, with Kira Vollman’s spoken and soprano vocals backed mainly by samplers. As such, it sounds like an odd hybrid of earlier Non Credo, Thinking Plague and later Art Zoyd – not always successful and not brilliantly recorded either, but certainly quite interesting. GRADE: B–.

Norbottens Järn (Sweden): Drömmarnas Värld (Manifest MAN 003, with booklet, 1975)
Maria Rosén (joint lead vocals, fagott)
This Swedish polit-rock album is lively and varied, largely consisting of bluesy rock, with excellent guitar leads that add a slight psychedelic and progressive edge. A few more whimsical numbers with accordion and a bit of a music-hall feel are less successful, but for the most part this is an enjoyable and unassuming set. GRADE: C+.
Norbottens Järn (Sweden): Jarnet (Manifest MAN 008, with inner, 1977)
Maria Rosén (joint lead vocals)
The opening ‘Gamarna’ makes you think they’ve moved in a more progressive direction, but this is actually more whimsical than their debut. There’s everything here from country-rock hoedowns to calypso, tango and waltz rhythms – all very countercultural, no doubt, but whilst some of this is excellent, some is decidedly annoying. At least it ends with two of its best songs, ‘Chile’ and ‘Vaggvisa’. GRADE: C+.

Erik Norlander (USA): Stars Rain Down (Think Tank Media TTMD-1039, CD, 2004)
Lana Lane (joint lead vocals)
Compiling live recordings from between 2001 and 2003, this offers Norlander’s usual mixture of plodding heavy rock, AOR and pomp-rock. The three cuts fronted by Lana Lane are the highlights, as male vocalist Kelly Keeling’s old-fashioned heavy metal wailing fails to impress and none of the instrumentals is up to much. GRADE: C–.
See also Lana Lane, Roswell Six

Norma & Tony (UK): You’re Always Welcome At Our House (No label, 1974?)
Judging by the handwritten labels and sleeve, no more than a few dozen copies of this were pressed, presumably for family and friends. Musically, it covers various strands of acoustic folk, from rather twee Christian-influenced material through the beautiful traditional folk of ‘Polly Von’ to the hippie whimsy of the title track (with its stoned lyrics about committing murder) and the haunting, spacy acid-folk of ‘Dark-Eyed Gypsies’. Only one copy has surfaced on the collectors’ market. GRADE: C.

North County Rock Association (USA): Sampler (Nut House VC 5083, 1971?)
Gina Flores (joint lead vocals), Mari Boyer (occasional vocals)
This album received a scathing write-up in the ‘Acid Archives’ reference book; I find this baffling, as it’s easily one of the most exciting private pressings to have been discovered in recent years. For most people, the obvious highlight will be the very Amon Düül II or Hawkwind-like space-rocker ‘Mind Trek’, which closes side one, but ‘LA Home Sweet La Costa’ and ‘Gina’s Song’ are also powerful female vocal acid-rockers with more than a touch of Jefferson Airplane. Another interesting cut is ‘Lounge Lizard’, with an unusual, semi-spoken vocal by Mari Boyer over more relaxed rock backing. The male-sung numbers are gentler rural (though never country) rock with a bit of a mid-seventies Grateful Dead feel; these songs are thoroughly enjoyable too, due to a high standard of songwriting and some excellent lead guitar, resulting in an accomplished album all through. A rare record, this justifiably sells for big money. GRADE: B.

Northern Cross (France): Some Stories Never Told… (No label 59190, with insert, 1986)
Agnès Coqueriaux (occasional vocals)
With a very home-made sound, this album offers garage folk/rock, with strong influences from the third Velvet Underground album. On ‘Lady And The Highway’ (the only song fronted by Agnès Coqueriaux) and the closing suite ‘The End Of The Road’, they add in a few progressive rock influences. Although this was a seven-piece band, the full line-up rarely plays together and the LP was mostly the vehicle of singers, songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Philippe Picquet and Didier Mathieu. In keeping with the times, there are also some new wave edges and some rather chintzy keyboards and saxophone. However, the biggest drawback is the singing, with pronounced French accents making the material sound faintly ridiculous; this would have been so much better performed in French. The band subsequently changed name to Légende and recorded a couple more albums. GRADE: C+.
See also Légende

Northern Lights (Canada): Vancouver Dreaming (Natural Resources NR107L, USA, 1973)
Carol Hutchinson (joint lead vocals, keyboards), Yvonne Solomonides (joint lead vocals, flute, recorder)
From the colourful graphics on the sleeve and the relaxed band photograph on the reverse, one would expect this to be some kind of hippie rock or folk. In fact it’s soft pop, sounding about five years earlier than its release date. None of the material is self-written, although the band of two men and two women play the bulk of the instruments. As a footnote, from the band name and album title I’d assume they were Canadians, but this was recorded in California and issued only in America on a Motown subsidiary. GRADE: C.

​Northern Song (UK): Northern Song (No label, with booklet, 1977)


Louisa Cotley (joint lead vocals), Ann Moore (joint lead vocals), Esme James (occasional vocals), Karen Morgan (occasional vocals), Louise Nelmes (occasional vocals), Joanne Nelmes (occasional vocals), Susan Didcot (occasional vocals), Gail Franks (occasional vocals), Rebecca Singleton (effects), Fran Singleton (occasional vocals)

This school project album, concerning the plight of mill workers, during the Victorian era, is a good example of the genre, with professional singing and full electric band backing. If it’s a little too whimsical in parts, that comes with the territory, and at its best it recalls more ambitious ventures like Mountain Ash Band’s The Hermit. GRADE: C+.

Doris Norton (Italy): Parapsycho (Disco Più DP 39021, 1981)
Doris Norton (lead vocals, synthesiser, sequencer)
The Jacula and Antonius Rex member’s first solo album is a bizarre set that sees her pulling in all kinds of different directions. It opens with a punchy hard rock song with snotty fuzz guitar, then offers a mellow sympho-prog instrumental led by synthesiser and acoustic guitar, before moving in a slightly avant-garde electronic direction (hinting at the career in house and techno music that Norton would later pursue). Subsequent tracks blend elements of the latter two styles, and the album is consistently good even if one is left wondering who it was aimed at. ‘Tears’ is a remake of a cut from Tardo Pede In Magiam Versus, whilst Antonio Bartocetti (confusingly credited as ‘Antonius Rex’) plays bass and participates in all the songwriting. Norton herself maintains that this was her second solo LP, the first being 1980’s Under Ground, but since no copies of that set have ever resurfaced, it has to be assumed not to exist (an impression confirmed by the spine’s description of this as ‘Vol. 0’). GRADE: C+.
Doris Norton (Italy): Raptus (Durium DAI 20286, with inner, 1981)
Doris Norton (lead vocals, synthesiser, drum programmes, sequencer, computer)
Album number two drops the progressive rock elements to focus on the electronica/dance side of Norton’s repertoire. The majority of cuts sound like they take their inspiration from the backing track of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’, but the feel of the music is much more formless, with little in the way of songs. Antonio Bartocetti provides some guitar and bass and there are some live drums, but most of the music is synthesised or computerised. In any case, the longest and most rock-oriented number ‘Erosraptus’ is also by far the best.

Doris Norton (Italy): Norton Computer For Peace (Durium DAI 30408, with inner, 1983)
Doris Norton (lead vocals, synthesiser, sequencer, computer, vocoder)
Once again this is mostly electronic music, displaying influences from both Donna Summer and Kraftwerk. However, the ten-minute ‘Don’t Shoot At Animals’ adds elements of progressive rock, Antonio Bartocetti contributes some powerful lead guitar to ‘War Mania Analysis’, and the B-side displays some influences from symphonic and folk music. Overall this is a better and more varied LP than its predecessor. GRADE: C+.
Doris Norton (Italy): Personal Computer (Durium DAI 30413, with inner, 1984)
Doris Norton (lead vocals, synthesiser, computer)
Her fourth was commissioned by Apple to demonstrate the potential of their computers, and was mainly recorded using the Apple IIe (as well as some synthesisers and a guitar synth). It’s pure electronica, similar to Kraftwerk without the songs, and yet again nearly all instrumental. GRADE: C+.
Doris Norton (Italy): Artificial Intelligence (Globo ZL34305, with inner, 1985)
Doris Norton (keyboards, computers)
Here Norton begins to repeat herself: this is very similar to Personal Computer, only with a stronger emphasis on electronic percussion (reflecting her increasing leanings towards dance music). Bartocetti doesn’t appear at all this time around, and there are no rock or progressive elements of any kind. GRADE: C.
Doris Norton (Italy): Automatic Feeling (Nuova Era 043.6901, CD, 1985)
Doris Norton (computer)
Almost entirely put together using a computer with an alphanumeric keyboard, this is an innovative album for its era. However, despite a more symphonic approach in parts, it’s musically very similar to its two predecessors, without much in the way of variety. GRADE: C.
Doris Norton (Italy): The Double Side Of The Science (Musik Research CD/MR 0148, CD, some copies autographed, 1990)
This is slightly better than her last couple, reintroducing some elements of symphonic and progressive music (notably on the ten-minute ‘Protect And Survive’). The album features a guest appearance from Norton and Bartocetti’s teenage son Rex Anthony, who would go on to a successful musical career of his own (with most of his material being co-written with and produced and arranged by one or other of his parents). Interestingly, the CD booklet includes an illustrated discography of Norton’s work (with some very optimistic valuations – $200 for this CD immediately after its release?). Significantly this does not mention any of the contentious Jacula or Antonius Rex releases, strongly implying that none were really sixties or seventies recordings. GRADE: C+.
Doris Norton (Italy): Techno Shock (SOB SCD 129, CD, 1992)
Doris Norton (synthesiser, computer)
As the title makes clear, this was Norton’s first album aimed squarely at the dance market. It’s a pretty sorry affair too, embodying most of the worst clichés of techno music: woozy pitch-shifted keyboards, simplistic riffs repeated endlessly, seemingly random samples and nothing that even approaches a melody. Most readers will find this unlistenable. GRADE: E.
Doris Norton (Italy): Techno Shock 2 (SOB SCD 148, CD, 1992)
More hard techno from Ms Norton; once again, any resemblance to music is usually fleeting and often non-existent. GRADE: E.
Doris Norton (Italy): Technoshock 3 (SOB SCD 180, CD, 1993)
Doris Norton (synthesiser, computer)
Norton scores a hat trick – the first artist I’ve written about to issue three consecutive albums that are almost completely intolerable. GRADE: E.
Doris Norton (Italy): Obiettivo Futuro (SOB SCD 210, CD, 1993)
Doris Norton (joint lead vocals, synthesiser, computer)
Thankfully for my long-suffering ears, Doris Norton stopped trying to shock us with her techno and moved in more of a trance direction. With some good melodies, moments reflecting her prog background and guests on guitar, keyboards and saxophone, this is a pretty good album, although it’s somewhat overlong and the quality drops noticeably as it continues. Two tracks consist of Norton’s biography (now including mention of Under Ground for the first time) read aloud over musical backing, indicating her (and Bartocetti’s) fondness for self-mythologising. GRADE: C+.
Doris Norton (Italy): Next Objective 2 (SOB SCD 260, CD, 1994)
Doris Norton (synthesiser, computer)
As with its predecessor, this is another solid and enjoyable album. The disc is divided into three suites of music – ‘Trancegression’, ‘Virtual Ambient’ and ‘Progressive’ – with the former probably being the best. GRADE: C+.
Doris Norton (Italy): Next Objective 3 (SOB SCD 290, CD, 1995)
Doris Norton (synthesiser, computer)
Norton’s final solo album blends the more melodic trance style of her last two LPs with harder techno elements recalling the Techno Shock series. The result is never unlistenable and occasionally quite good, but also very patchy. After this, she concentrated on writing, arranging and producing for her son Rex Anthony before relaunching Jacula and Antonious Rex. GRADE: C–.
See also Antonius Rex, Jacula

Nostalgia (Italy): Is Your Spirit Free? (Mellow MMP 248, CD, 1994)
Stephania Bejma (principal vocals)
For the most part, this rather obscure Italian album offers gentle acoustic folk, peaking on the stunning wordless ‘I’ll Never Stop Thinking’ and an excellent cover of Hunter Muskett’s ‘Silver Coin’. However, they also had clear progressive pretensions, with the seventeen-minute opener ‘My Spirit Is Free’ having an electric rock arrangement and lots of tempo changes (none of them handled well). It’s a pity they didn’t play to their strengths and drop the neoprog stuff as this is a patchy and often mediocre record, but it also contains some superb moments. As a footnote, this was actually the band’s second album, with 1993’s Never Too Late having been recorded as a male duo. GRADE: C.
Nostalgia (Italy): Welcome To Edo’s Land (Mellow MMP 318, CD, 1996)
Daniela Blundo (occasional vocals), Stephania Bejma (occasional vocals)
For their final album, the band sported a different female vocalist (although she doesn’t do much and Stephania Bejma sings the best number ‘The Fault Is Mine’). The two styles of the band’s music are much better integrated here, making for a more consistently enjoyable set, although I wish they’d used a real drummer rather than a drum machine. The disc closes with two pleasant Camel covers, indicating one of their key influences. GRADE: C+.

Nostradamos (Greece): Nostradamos (Zodiac SYZP 88032, 1972)
Chris King (joint lead vocals), Despina Glezou (joint lead vocals, guitar)
This charming folk/pop LP sounds a couple of years earlier than its release date, with some definite beat leanings but also a mildly psychedelic atmosphere, including some hazy flute. With 12 songs in around 36 minutes, this isn’t the most substantial album, but at its best it’s a genuinely charming and atmospheric period piece, with haunting melodies, excellent harmonies and a fine recording.


Nouvelle Frontière (Canada): La Nouvelle Frontière (Gamma GS 137, 1970)
Marie-Claire Séguin (principal vocals)
Fronted by the gentle, melodic vocals of twins Richard and Marie-Claire Séguin, this is a lovely album of dreamy folk/rock. There are a few psychedelic edges too, including sitar on the opening ‘Pacification’, whilst ‘Sans Légende’ is a beautiful, floating piece of music with some superb wordless vocals from Marie-Claire. In fact, the only real misstep on an otherwise impressive album is the overly jaunty ‘Frontière’, which was also released as a single. GRADE: B–.
Nouvelle Frontière (Canada): L’Hymne Aux Quenouilles (Gamma GS 143, with insert, 1970)
Marie-Claire Séguin (principal vocals)
Their second album is quite different, being progressive rock, although still dreamy and folky. This may be partly because the first album was penned entirely by one of the guitarists, whilst the songs here were mainly written by the keyboardist. At times it resembles Renaissance circa Illusion or Prologue, particularly when Marie-Claire Séguin is singing. This is the stronger and more mature of their two LPs, but they’re both well worth obtaining. After the band’s break-up in 1971 the Séguins issued four albums as a duo. GRADE: B.
See also Neil Chotem, Yvan Ouellet, Séguin, Marie-Claire Séguin

Nova Drive (Germany): Headlong (Think Progressive CD Nr.1.105.055, CD, 2001)
Suse Michel (lead vocals, sequencer)
Crossing psychedelic rock, indie and trip-hop, with lots of electronics and synthesisers, this is an unusual and mostly very effective LP. The best moments are the long, hypnotic grooves and with a bit more stretching out this could have been a truly excellent album. Suse Michel was also a member of an indie band called the Slags, whose music I haven’t heard. GRADE: C+.

Nova Malà Strana (Italy): Nova Malà Strana (Mellow MMP 235, CD, 1994)
Metal/Progressive/‘Incredibly Strange Music’
Antonella Suella (lead vocals, bass)
When I first heard this, the best part of 20 years ago, I considered it one of the worst albums in my collection and was amazed that Mellow chose to release it. Two decades, and countless ‘real people’ private pressings later, my take on it is completely different. Viewed through the prism of ‘incredibly strange music’, this is fascinating stuff: a band with a virtuoso lead guitarist and an erratic singer who can’t decide whether she’s Exene Cervenka, Patti Smith or Donella Del Monaco cobble together a symphonic progressive metal album by throwing in anything they’ve got (judging by the varying sound quality, this comprises everything from home demos to bona fide studio recordings). The results could be heard as an updated Arktis, though devoid of that band’s awareness of its own limitations; or as the missing link between countrymen Crystal Phoenix and Angelblood. Like the more celebrated missing link, this is very, very primitive and it bears about as much resemblance to conventional progressive metal as a barbary macaque does to homo sapiens. I’m still amazed that Mellow chose to release it. GRADE: C+.
Nova Malà Strana (Italy): NeMeSi (Mellow MMP 303, CD, 1996)
Antonella Suella (lead vocals, bass)
Their second and final album is quite different, dropping most of the metal edges for a more complex neoclassical sound, with the emphasis on keyboards and Antonella Suella focusing mainly on the operatic end of her register. Better recorded than their debut and far less amateurish, it’s all quintessentially Italian, hinting towards Antonius Rex on occasion (notably on the lengthy, gothic ‘Opera Macabra IV (Golem’s Nativity)’). Whilst this won’t have as much appeal for ‘real people’ collectors as their more bizarre debut, the disconnect between the band’s ambitions and abilities still makes for a strikingly odd set, heightened by some very strange lyrics (sample verse: ‘scream made asylum apparencies/heil to the mirrors/bones made asylum apparencies/heil to the timewarp’). GRADE: C+.

Now (Belgium): Complaint Of The Wind (Aurophon AU 11239, with inner, 1988)
Véronique Duyckaerts (bass, bass synthesiser, backing vocals)
Archetypal late eighties heavy neoprogressive with lots of stadium rock moves, cheesy synthesisers and busy drumming; Vincent Fis’s rather high-pitched and heavily accented vocals are not an asset either. This is aptly titled, as it’s quite flatulent in parts without offering any real complexity or invention. GRADE: D.
Now (Belgium): Spheres (Muséa FGBG 4040.AR, CD, France, 1991)
Véronique Duyckaerts (bass, bass pedals, backing vocals)
This is in the same broad style as their first, but has much better material (including some long instrumental passages) containing some powerful riffs. In this more mature setting, Fis’s singing is a great deal less annoying too, making this an enjoyable pastiche of early seventies metal, pomp-rock and prog elements. GRADE: C+.
Now (Belgium): Deep (Muséa FGBG 4060.AR, CD, France, 1992)
Véronique Duyckaerts (bass, backing vocals)
Their third and final album is a more laid-back and symphonic affair. The centrepiece is a fourteen-minute reinterpretation of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’, which unsurprisingly is no match for the heavier and more concise original, but overall this is a pleasant album that demonstrates how far they’ve come since the tiresome Complaint Of The Wind. GRADE: C+.

Now (USA): Everything Is Different Now (Yoronkels YOR 287, with insert, 1987)
Barbara Crawford (drums, percussion, whistle, backing vocals)
This American band’s one-off album offers song-based progressive rock that covers a lot of ground. Their influences range from seventies sympho-prog and hard rock to Talking Heads and other new wave acts, with some funky and Afro-rock touches in the rhythms and a typically American satirical feel surfacing here and there. The result is a varied and creative LP containing some quirky and interesting moments. GRADE: C+.

Now Generation (USA): The Now Generation (Spar 3015, 1970)
The band’s only album of original material is good-natured fun, ranging from four throwaway instrumentals (two of which are pretty decent, showing fifties and garage influences) through to enjoyable sunshine pop and borderline rock and roll. But despite the sleevenotes’ typically grandiose claim that this is ‘a montage of music that sometimes tends to confuse the listener who has been accustomed to one sound from one group’, do not expect a challenging listen. GRADE: C.
Now Generation (USA): Come Together (Spar 4806, 1970)
Side one is uniformly soft, inoffensive and rather unexciting, but side two is livelier and more satisfying, opening with a pleasingly brash reading of ‘Little Bit Of Soul’ and taking in a dreamy ‘Never My Love’ and a frenetic ‘My Bonnie’. However, this is the weakest of their three albums reviewed here. GRADE: C.
Now Generation (USA): Hits Are Our Business (Spar 4807, 1970)
Cash-in covers of an eclectic range of material, from ‘Honky Tonk Women’ and ‘Down On The Corner’ to ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’. At least half of it is immediately disposable, but the more rocking stuff has an appealing garage charm. GRADE: C.

Noyes & The Boys (USA): October Palace (No label, with inserts, 1979)
Audrey Noyes (joint lead vocals, guitar, percussion)
Housed in a completely home-made paste-on sleeve, with both lyric and credit inserts, this must have been a tiny micro-pressing. Musically, it channels coffeehouse folk/rock through a late sixties underground folk prism, with the loose playing and occasional modal guitar lines adding a slight psychedelic edge. The results fall somewhere between Tryad and Virgin Insanity, with a definite Velvet Underground influence showing through here and there. Overall, it’s almost impossible to believe that this dates from the late seventies, given both its look and sound. As a footnote, the band is credited as ‘Noyes & The Boyes’ on the label, though it’s not clear why Audrey Noyes got star billing in the first place, since she fronts only two songs and wrote just one. GRADE: C+.

Nptolpqsivrt (France): Nptolpqsivrt (Muséa FGBG 2007, 1987)
Perla Ohayon (tuba)
This unusual instrumental album takes many of its cues from big-band jazz, with lots of horn work, but it’s also notably rooted in rock, with the congas giving it a laid-back, subtly funky edge. In parts it’s quite experimental, but it’s never discordant and doesn’t really approach the avant-garde. Overall it’s an accomplished record and an enjoyable listen, even if some of the prominent trumpet work is occasionally a little clichéd. GRADE: C+.
Nptolpqsivrt (France): Malaise (CELP C.8, CD, 1989)
Airelle VM (percussion), Perla Ohayon (tuba)
Their second and final album is decidedly closer to modern jazz than to rock, often putting me in mind of Carla Bley’s larger-scale works. There’s a definite RIO influence here, and plenty of avant-garde touches, but despite song titles like ‘Peau De Banane Pour Un Enfant De Funk’ and ‘Massacre À La Lime À L’Ongle’, this isn’t a particularly playful record. GRADE: C+.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USA): Reactor (Official OR1180, with poster, 1980)
New Wave
Bobbie Bonnickson (principal vocals)
This is basically a continuation of the Farm Band, but (in keeping with the changing times) is musically a little different, being new wave tinged with hard rock. The powerful lead guitar work remains from their previous incarnation, and this is a solid example of its style, but I definitely prefer their earlier work. GRADE: C+.

Nucleus Torn (Switzerland): Nihil (No label NT 001-2, with digipak and envelope, 2006)
Maria D’Alessandro (joint lead vocals), Rebecca Hagmann (cello), Anouk Hiedl (flute)
I always imagined this band to play some kind of avant-garde metal, but whilst this has some heavy moments it’s frequently delicate and folky too. In fact, it most closely resembles the kind of chilly prog favoured by White Willow and various other Scandinavian bands. In some ways, it’s surprising to hear this sort of music from a Swiss outfit (notwithstanding that Switzerland is the most wintry country one can imagine), but this is superb stuff – every bit White Willow’s equal. GRADE: B–.

Nucleus Torn (Switzerland): Nihil (No label NT 001-2, with digipak and envelope, 2006)
Maria D’Alessandro (joint lead vocals), Christine Schüpbach-Käser (violin), Rebecca Hagmann (cello), Anouk Hiedl (flute)
I always imagined this band to play some kind of avant-garde metal, but whilst this has some heavy moments it’s frequently delicate and folky too. In fact, it most closely resembles the kind of chilly prog favoured by White Willow and various other Scandinavian bands. In some ways, it’s surprising to hear this sort of music from a Swiss outfit (notwithstanding that Switzerland is the most wintry country one can imagine), but this is superb stuff – every bit White Willow’s equal. GRADE: B–.
Nucleus Torn (Switzerland): Knell (Prophecy PRO 093, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2006)
Maria D’Alessandro (joint lead vocals), Christine Schüpbach-Käser (violin), Rebecca Hagmann (cello), Anouk Hiedl (flute)
This is very much in the same vein as their first, with an equally chilly mood, but it’s much closer to metal. One could argue that they’re essentially one-trick ponies – alternating delicate classical-tinged acoustic passages with female vocals with male-sung heavy rock segments – but they’re very adept at both styles, and the whole thing is impressively atmospheric and gothic. GRADE: B–.

Nucleus Torn (Switzerland): Andromeda Awaiting (Prophecy Productions PRO 107, CD, with A5 digipak, 2010)


Maria D’Alessandro (joint lead vocals)

Their third album drops the metal influences completely, offering a continuous suite of music alternating acoustic and electric passages to superb effect. Haunting, mediaeval and strongly classically-influenced, the music here is frequently stunning, adding up to a landmark work of atmospheric progressive folk. GRADE: B.

Nucleus Torn (Switzerland): Golden Age (Prophecy Productions PRO 120, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2011)


Maria D’Alessandro (joint lead vocals), Anna Murphy (joint lead vocals), Christine Schüpbach-Käser (violin), Rebecca Hagmann (cello), Anouk Hiedl (flute)

The metal elements are back here, resulting in a much more dynamic and varied album than Andromeda Awaiting. Yet that remains their high water mark: I find this slightly less compelling and atmospheric, though by any standard it’s another fine album – eerie, chilly, powerful and engaging. On the downside, I’m less convinced by newcomer Anna Murphy’s rather girlish and faintly soulful style of singing. GRADE: B–.

Nucleus Torn (Switzerland): Street Lights Fail (Prophecy Productions PRO 156, CD, with gatefold sleeve, 2014)
Anna Murphy (lead vocals), Kirstine Strasser (violin), Anouk Heidl (flute)
I’m still not convinced that Anna Murphy was the perfect fit for the band, but she’s not the reason why this might be the weakest of their albums. Whilst this is still highly effective by any standard – the folky passages are effectively haunting and the hard-riffing sections suitably brutal – it ultimately feels more like a recap of their greatest hits rather than an attempt to do anything new. GRADE: B–.
Nucleus Torn (Switzerland): Neon Light Eternal (Prophecy Productions PRO 160, CD, with gatefold sleeve, 2015)
Anna Murphy (lead vocals, hurdy-gurdy), Kirstine Strasser (violin), Anouk Heidl (flute)
Street Lights Fail was that oddest of contradictions – simultaneously impressive and slightly underwhelming – but the band’s swansong succeeds unequivocally. Eerie, haunting and gothic, this is a superb album and a remarkable end to their career. GRADE: B.

Nukli (UK): At Last! (No label, cassette, 1989)
Sue Chewter (principal vocals)
This quintessential eighties psychedelic album blends all the usual influences: lots of Gong (especially You), some dub reggae, a few ethnic moments, a cover of ‘White Rabbit’ and some mild new wave edges. At its best, it’s impressively intense, but at nearly an hour and a half it’s also somewhat diffuse and rambling, though it captures its era in a way that is almost palpable. GRADE: C+.

Number Nine Bread Street (UK): Number Nine Bread Street (Holyground HGS 112/1109, 1967)
Jane Westlake (occasional vocals, guitar), Angie Gough (cello)
This features recordings of twelve performances at a local pub, mainly consisting of original material. I have seen reviews of the album that imply it is in some way psychedelic, but Number Nine Bread Street is a very dated collection of sixties folk, with full band backing that lends it an archaic folk/pop feel somewhat akin to The Seekers. The best numbers are probably ‘College Girl’ (with some unusually risqué lyrics for the time), performed by Piers Johnson, and Chris Carrodus-Coombs’s sarcastic ‘North Country Cinderella’, which he later re-recorded for the Astral Navigations album. GRADE: C.

Nutshell (UK): In Your Eyes (Myrrh MYR 1029, with inner, 1975)
Heather Barlow (joint lead vocals, guitar), Pam May (joint lead vocals, autoharp)
Even by the standards of Christian folk, this trio’s album is particularly dainty, with its featherlight female vocals and gently picked acoustic guitars. However, most of the time they stay on the right side of the line between delicate and fey, with some gorgeous harmonies, and at its best (notably on the title track) this is delightful stuff. They can also rock out effectively, as demonstrated by ‘Living Joy’ and the coda to ‘Stony Ground’. GRADE: C+.
Nutshell (UK): Flyaway (Myrrh MYR 1056, with inner, 1977)
Heather Barlow (joint lead vocals), Pam May (joint lead vocals, autoharp)
Their second album is quite different from their debut, partly because leader and songwriter Paul Field takes the bulk of the lead vocals. The absence of the crystalline female harmonies that dominated their first is a considerable loss, and there’s no lead guitar, so this has far fewer rock elements. Field’s writing style has shifted too: this time round he’s clearly influenced by the slicker end of the singer/songwriter movement, in particular Elton John. The end result is a nicely polished set, but this simply doesn’t have the naïveté or the fragile charm of their debut. GRADE: C+.
Nutshell (UK): Begin Again (Myrrh MYR 1067, with insert, 1978)
Mo McCafferty (joint lead vocals), Annie McCaig (joint lead vocals)
They’ve certainly begun again – only Paul Field remains from the original trio, now joined by two new female vocalists. The opening ‘Love With No Limit’ also makes you think they’ve changed direction, being lively, slightly danceable pop, but overall this falls midway between their first two albums in style. GRADE: C+.
Nutshell (UK): Believe It Or Not (Myrrh MYR 1084, with insert, 1979)
Mo McCafferty (joint lead vocals), Annie McCaig (joint lead vocals)
Their fourth and final album is different yet again, offering a mixture of sophisticated singer/songwriter music and slick pop with horns. If that makes it sound unappealing, think again: most of the material here is of a very high quality. GRADE: C+.

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