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Alison O’ Donnell & Isabel Ní Chuireáin (Ireland): Mise Agus Ise (Osmosys OSMO CD 33, CD, 2006)
Alison O’ Donnell (lead vocals, bodhrán), Isabel Ní Chuireáin (guitar, keyboards, accordion, whistle, backing vocals)
This collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Isabel Ní Chuireáin reverses the balance from O’ Donnell’s previous project Éishtlinn: this is mostly songs with a few instrumentals thrown in. A couple of numbers are a little too jaunty for their own good (especially the remake of ‘Armistice Day’ from the Éishtlinn album) but for the most part this is beautiful, delicate and haunting stuff that occasionally achieves an admirable level of intensity. GRADE: B–.

Owl Service & Alison O’ Donnell (UK/Ireland): The Fabric Of Folk (Static Caravan VAN142, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, UK, 2008)
Alison O’ Donnell (lead vocals, percussion, autoharp)
This collaboration with Owl Service leader Steven Collins – comprising two original songs, two traditional numbers and an instrumental – arguably provides the best setting for Alison O’ Donnell’s work since Mellow Candle. Ranging from eerie acid-folk to full-blooded electric folk/rock, it’s superb stuff and would almost certainly have merited a B had they expanded it into a full album. GRADE: B–.

Alison O’ Donnell (Ireland): Hey Hey Hippy Witch (Freeworld FREEM5021, CD, UK, 2009)
Alison O’ Donnell (principal vocals, percussion, melodica, autoharp)
O’ Donnell’s first solo album sees her collaborating with Isabel Ní Chuireáin, Graham Lockett of Head South By Weaving, Steven Collins from the Owl Service, David Colohan of United Bible Studies, Kevin Scott from Mr Pine and Circulus’s Michael Tyack. The results, hardly surprisingly, are pretty diverse, though the album remains resolutely warm, melodic and world-weary. GRADE: B–.
Head South By Weaving & Alison O’ Donnell (UK/Ireland): The Execution Of Frederick Baker (Ritual Echo RERLP007, with inner, UK, 2012)
Alison O’ Donnell (lead vocals, finger cymbals, melodica)
This collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Graham Lockett yields some excellent electric folk, with the duo penning some haunting and bittersweet songs. The two traditional numbers are even better, offering stunning progressive folk full of energy and drama. GRADE: B–.

Firefay & Alison O’ Donnell (UK/Ireland): Anointed Queen (Stone Tape Recordings STR - 010, CD, with digipak, UK, 2014)
Alison O’ Donnell (lead vocals, autoharp)
This quiet, eerie acid-folk album mostly sets O’ Donnell’s ethereal voice against keyboards that sound like harmoniums plus rudimentary percussion and acoustic guitars, though a couple of cuts feature fuller rock arrangements. This skeletal approach works effectively with her delicate material, resulting in another fine album. GRADE: B–.
Alison O’ Donnell (Ireland): Climb Sheer The Fields Of Peace (Mega Dodo DODOCD26, with gatefold minisleeve, UK, 2017)
Alison O’ Donnell (lead vocals, finger cymbals, melodica, autoharp, psaltery, shruti box, omnichord, samples)
O’ Donnell’s second solo album was entirely co-written with United Bible Studies leader David Colohan, who provides most of the instrumental backing. The result is a logical step forward from UBS’s Rosary Bleeds, though thankfully the slight new wave edges are entirely absent. Delicate, reflective and sometimes almost ambient, this is an effective enough work is small doses – but over the course of a full album, its lack of variety (and of really memorable melodies) becomes obvious. GRADE: C+.

Alison O’ Donnell (Ireland): Exotic Masks And Sensible Shoes (Freeworld FREEM5059, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, UK, 2019)
Alison O’ Donnell (lead vocals, percussion, melodica, autoharp, omnichord, shruti box)
Although David Colohan is once again her principal accompanist, this is quite different from Climb Sheer The Fields Of Peace and a slight step up. With piano as the main instrument, this has more of a singer/songwriter feel and is sometimes quite lovely (notably on ‘The Owl Of Saint-Chartier’ and the rich coda to the closing ‘When Magpies Squabble’). But whilst the arrangements are relatively varied, the mood is not and after a while the constant daintiness of the music and the wistfulness of the sentiments become a touch one-dimensional. GRADE: C+.

Head South By Weaving & Alison O’ Donnell (UK/Ireland): Five Forests (No label, download, 2020)
Alison O’ Donnell (principal vocals, bodhrán, shruti box, melodica, omnichord)
Whilst sometimes quite psychedelic, this is much less ethereal and more rock-oriented than O’ Donnell’s work with United Bible Studies – and none the worse for it. Like her first collaboration with Head South By Weaving, this is at heart old-school electric folk, albeit with all-original material, featuring some diverse and beautifully judged arrangements. In fact, it’s a delight from start to finish, and among the best thing she’s recorded since Mellow Candle. GRADE: B–.

Firefay & Alison O’ Donnell (UK/Ireland): The Travels Of Janus (No label, download, 2021)
Alison O’ Donnell (lead vocals, omnichord)
This is considerably livelier and more fully arranged than O’ Donnell’s previous collaboration with Firefay, with most songs offering full electric band arrangements. There’s nothing wrong with those arrangements per se, nor with the material, which is by turns haunting, trippy and whimsical, but I don’t favour the thin, garagy production style at all, which makes these songs sound like demos rather than the finished item – and not in a good way. GRADE: C+.

Alison O’ Donnell (Ireland): Hark The Voice That Sings For All (Talking Elephant TECD475, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, UK, 2022)
Alison O’ Donnell (lead vocals, harmonium, bodhrán, melodica, shruti box, omnichord)
The subtitle ‘New Songs In An Ancient Tradition’ tells you everything you need to know – this is an attempt to write contemporary songs that sound traditional then interpret them in a variety of folk and folk/rock styles. The concept is hardly new: Steeleye Span and other electric folk bands have been doing this for years. But I’ve never encountered an album that has taken this approach so successfully: the songs are lyrically fascinating and musically incredibly rich, the arrangements exceptionally sensitive, and O’ Donnell is in better voice than she’s ever been. The results are simply superb. GRADE: B–.

Mary O’ Dowd (USA): Portrait Of Mary O’ Dowd (Irish Pavilion MOD-1001, 1972?)
Mary O’ Dowd (lead vocals)
No prizes for guessing that this is Irish folk, in this case housed in an absolutely stunning textured gold sleeve. The material is mostly traditional, and O’ Dowd performs it well, with backing from acoustic guitars, bass, electric piano, mandolin, banjo and harmonica. She apparently returned in 1991 to cut a second and final album At The Close Of An Irish Day, which I have not heard. GRADE: C+.

O’ Little Sister (Australia): O’ Little Sister (No label, download, 2012)
Lucinda R
This Aussie singer/songwriter produced a delicate and introspective set of songs, mostly delivered only with her own acoustic guitar. My only reservation is with her singing style, which is in that girlish and breathy mode that was fashionable with American female singers at the time. Nonetheless, it’s a minor impediment – her scraping of the strings on ‘City Without Walls’ is far more annoying – and this is a charming enough set. Whilst she is still active musically, she does not appear to have issued any further albums. GRADE: C+.

Oran O’ Reilly (Ireland): A New Tomorrow (Fiona 033, CD, 1996)
Sinéad Gowan (joint lead vocals), Mary Kate Delany (occasional vocals)
Oran O’ Reilly is the son of Loudest Whisper leader Brian O’ Reilly (who sings two songs, plays keyboards and co-produces) and was the band’s bassist for several years. He’s every inch his father’s son, as this rock opera strongly recalls The Children Of Lir, though it’s livelier and more uptempo. More importantly, it’s packed with great songs and beautifully arranged and recorded, with all the guest vocalists contributing effectively and O’ Reilly himself excelling on guitars, drums, flute and harmonica. In fact, it’s so good it makes one regret that he left the music business and never followed it up. GRADE: B.

Cathie O’ Sullivan (Australia): Artesian Waters (Larrikin LRF-047, 1980)
Cathie O’ Sullivan (lead vocals, harp)
Harpist O’ Sullivan largely performs solo, though sometimes with accompaniment from violin, flute and whistle. With a mixture of traditional songs and self-composed settings for ancient poetry, this is a beautiful, haunting and delicate album, though given its sparse instrumental is a little lacking in variety. Nonetheless, this could have considerable appeal for fans of the not dissimilar Carol Kleyn, though her hippie and West Coast edges are entirely absent. GRADE: C+.
Cathie O’ Sullivan With Cléis Pearce (Australia): High Places (Larrikin LRF-128, 1983)
Cathie O’ Sullivan (principal vocals, banjo, harp), Cléis Pearce (viola)
Why Cléis Pearce gets star billing here, I’m not sure: she doesn’t sing or produce, barely writes, and only seems to play on some of the cuts. As a result, this is very much O’ Sullivan’s album, showcasing her talent as a singer, songwriter and harpist, and she performs much of the album entirely solo. Like her debut, it’s beautiful, haunting and delicate, with Pearce’s electric viola adding a mournful neoclassical edge, but once again the lack of variety becomes obvious. GRADE: C+.

Cathie O’ Sullivan & Summerhaze (Australia): Summerhaze (Larrikin LRF 183, 1987)


Cathie O’ Sullivan (lead vocals, piano, harp), Cléis Pearce (violin, viola, backing vocals)

This is credited solely to Cathie O’ Sullivan on the spine and labels and to Summerhaze on the front and back cover, but the latter only pictures O’ Sullivan and Cléis Pearce so it’s debatable whether this is a solo, duo or band album. In any case, Pearce contributes more here, alongside other musicians on double bass, drums, percussion, saxophone and flute. As such, it’s O’ Sullivan’s richest and most varied album, with a pleasingly sparse acoustic sound with jazzy edges. GRADE: C+.

Oasis (USA): Oasis (Cranbus, Canada, 1973)
Sherry Fox (joint lead vocals, piano)
It’s appropriate that this Californian band’s album was only released in Canada, as the breezy, rural, mildly trippy music here spans Canadian and Californian rock styles. The group was the brainchild of singer/songwriters Joel Siegel and Sherry Fox: both are accomplished writers, whilst the latter clearly modelled her vocal style on Joni Mitchell. With its rich harmonies and lush tapestry of acoustic and electric instruments, this may be a little too mellow and laid-back for some ears, but it’s certainly one of the better albums of its style. GRADE: C+.
See also Cookin’ Mama, Indigo, RJ Fox, Starcrossed

Oath (Sweden): The Oath (Rise Above RISECD178, CD, with slipcase, UK, 2014)
Johanna Sadonis (lead vocals), Linnéa Olsson (guitar)
The opening section of the first number sounds like Motörhead, but the album keeps changing direction, offering a wide variety of hard rock and metal styles. Considering they’re a four-piece with simple instrumentation of guitars, bass and drums, it’s surprising how much territory they explore, and how well they do it. GRADE: B–.

Obelisk (USA): Conspiracy To Commit Music (Anonymous, 1983)
Lori Blakeman (bass)
This obscure private pressing is very much a game of two halves. Side one is devoted to seven short, rudimentary heavy rock songs characterised by constant use of fuzz guitar and drummer Bob J Blakeman’s gentle, almost hesitant vocals. Side two is given over to the 22½-minute ‘Great Wing’ – aside from thirty seconds or so of band jamming at the beginning and a few seconds more at the end, this is almost entirely a drum solo. Overall this is a fine and unusual album, which I would have graded slightly higher if it had more songs and less drum soloing. I’d assume they were a studio aggregation, since it’s hard to conceive how this material would have gone down live; the odd back cover photo, depicting the band in mock-Victorian garb, supports this impression. GRADE: C+.

Oberon (UK): A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Acorn OBE LPS 1, 1971)
Jan Scrimgeour (joint lead vocals, guitar)
At one point the UK’s most valuable folk album, this has a dark, claustrophobic sound (perhaps not unconnected with the fact that it was cheaply recorded in a school hall), heightened by eerie, acid-induced lyrics. Probably the most notable track is ‘Minas Tirith’ a sinister extended psych-folk excursion that suddenly explodes into a bizarre and unexpected metallic (in the literal sense) drum solo. Also notable are ‘The Hunt’, a strange piece of progressive folk where the band’s ambitions outstrip their musical abilities (which, of course, may make it more interesting to many collectors’ ears) and a doomy opening version of ‘Nottamun Town’. A couple of the remaining tracks are actually solo pieces for acoustic guitar or flute, and slightly break the flow. GRADE: C+.

Oberon (Italy): The Mountain Of Fate (No label, CD, 2016)
Elena Dainese (lead vocals)
This unusual album – cut by a duo of a multi-instrumentalist and a drummer plus a guest vocalist – harks back to the seventies in a completely different way from most current Italian prog. With its slightly amateurish edge, short tracks, psychedelic ambience and influences from both metal and folk, this could easily pass for a lost private pressing from 40 or more years ago. The end result is a fascinating oddity, and for the most part a very good album too. GRADE: C+.

Obiymy Doschu (Ukraine): Elehia (Download, 2009)
Mykola Kryvonos (bass, recorder), Maria Kurbatova (keyboards), Olena Nesterovska (viola)
From the wintry cover, this could easily have been death metal, but it’s actually melodic symphonic progressive with strong metal undertones and lots of strings. There’s nothing particularly original or even enormously creative here, but it’s beautifully done, with some excellent compositions and a majestic sound that crescendos in all the right places. The album was originally released as a free download, but appeared on CD two years (MALS 373, Russian Federation). GRADE: B–.

OBO (Spain/Russian Federation): Palace Of Waiting (OctoberXArt rus01, CD, with digipak, 2016)
Anastasiya Masloboeva (lead vocals, dulcimer, psaltery, loops)
This virtual collaboration between two members of October Equus and two Russian musicians lays bare the free jazz roots that underpinned the band’s sound. This is by no means at the unenjoyable end of free jazz, and never degenerates into random musical happenings, but its clangs and knocks, saxophone squalls and occasionally spacy ethnic instrumentation and soprano vocals add up to a lesser work than anything issued by October Equus. GRADE: C+.

Oceanfield (UK): Stolen Time (Oceanfield Music OM1, CD, 2007)
Jane Barrett (lead vocals, whistle)
I expected this to be neoprogressive, but it’s much more interesting than that. Mixing prog and (on several cuts) hard rock, with a few new wave influences, some moments of experimentation and a strident vocalist who somewhat resembles Siouxsie Sioux, this is an unusual record indeed. Some of the tempo and mood changes are a touch amateurish and some listeners may struggle with Jane Barrett’s singing, but the disc contains some fine melodies, plenty of atmospheric and trippy moments with a folky edge, and lots of ideas and invention. GRADE: B–.

Oceans Of Slumber (USA): Blue (No label, CD, with minisleeve, 2015)
Cammie Gilbert (lead vocals)
Although marketed as an EP, this has a running time of 38 minutes, effectively making it an album in my book. It comprises covers of Candlemass (‘Solitude’), Led Zeppelin (‘Kashmir’), Emperor (‘The Wanderer’) and Pink Floyd (‘On The Turning Away’) – giving a fair summation of the band’s influences – plus a remake of ‘Memoriam’ from their first album (recorded with an all-male line-up) and a taster of a song that would later appear on their second album proper Winter. The results are impressive, fusing doom and classic progressive influences to great effect; in particular, their reinterpretation of ‘Kashmir’ is admirably radical, though I’d never choose it in preference to the original. GRADE: B–.
Oceans Of Slumber (USA): Winter (Century Media 88875193842, CD, with digipak, 2016)
Cammie Gilbert (principal vocals)
The only cover this time round is a radical reworking of ‘Nights In White Satin’, but this is otherwise broadly similar to its predecessor. Although there are discrete tracks, the whole thing feels like a suite, with a filmic mood – the music ebbs and flows between keyboard-based atmospherics and doomy metal, with a bit of doomdeath thrown in, creating an evocative and involving audio journey. GRADE: B–.

Oceans Of Slumber (USA): The Banished Heart (Century Media 19075801992, CD, 2018)
Cammie Gilbert (principal vocals)
Perhaps even better than its predecessor, this blends hard-hitting doomy metal with atmospheric keyboard passages to impressive effect. Cammie Gilbert is a powerful and assertive vocalist, perfectly complementing the musical backing, and even a few death growls add variety rather than compromising the performances. GRADE: B–.

Oceans Of Slumber (USA): Oceans Of Slumber (Century Media 19439781652, CD, 2020)
Cammie Gilbert (principal vocals)
This doesn’t really add much to the impression left by its predecessor, but that’s arguably missing the point – this is superbly atmospheric stuff that’s dynamic and delicate by turns, confirming Oceans Of Slumber as masters at what they do. GRADE: B–.

October Country (USA): October Country (Epic BN 26381, 1968)
Caryle De Franca (joint lead vocals)
They’re credited as a 6-piece band on the sleeve, but this was essentially producer Michael Lloyd’s project: he wrote all the songs, gave them their name (from his eponymous composition) and – according to his own recollections – played nearly all the instruments. The result is a pleasant but rather disposable psychedelic pop album, with big studio arrangements including strings and horns. The title track and ‘Cowboys And Indians’ had also appeared on another Lloyd studio project issued three months earlier, credited to the Smoke. GRADE: C.

October Equus (Spain): Hydra (No label, CD, 2004)
Amanda Pazos Cosse (bass)
This instrumental quartet’s music is best described as RIO, though it doesn’t have the Brechtian edges (or the saxophones or woodwinds) usually associated with the genre. It’s also less jazzy than most in the style, with the band concentrating on power and dynamics. With nothing over seven-and-a-half minutes, it’s perhaps a touch slight, but it’s still a strong demo full of high-power riffing and packed with twists and turns. GRADE: C+.

October Equus (Spain): October Equus (Ma.Ra.Cash MRC 007, CD, Italy, 2005)
Amanda Pazos Cosse (bass)
Kicking their rather tentative demo to the kerb, this is experimental instrumental rock with real muscle, drive and energy. At times their powerhouse riffing reminds me of peak Anekdoten, despite the quite different musical palette, and the few more relaxed moments merely provide breathing space rather than breaking the tension. GRADE: B–.
October Equus (Spain): Charybdis (RAIG R034, CD, with digipak, Russian Federation, 2008)
Amanda Pazos Cosse (bass)
The addition of a saxophonist on about half the tracks ups the jazz quotient somewhat, though elsewhere this reminds me more of Änglagård than anything from the RIO sphere. That said, they don’t quite have Änglagård’s grasp of dynamics or subtle folky edges, though the music here works well enough on its own terms. GRADE: B­­–.
October Equus (Spain): Saturnal (Altrock ALT 019, CD, Italy, 2011)
Amanda Pazos Cosse (bass)
This is perhaps a little more symphonic than their earlier work, though it’s still distinctly jazzy, at times hinting towards the straighter end of instrumental Henry Cow. As such, it provides another interesting variation on the band’s usual style. GRADE: B–.
October Equus (Spain): Memories Vol 1 – Live Rehearsal 2009 (OctoberXArt mem01, CDR, 2012)
Amanda Pazos Cosse (bass)
If the packaging hadn’t made clear that this contained rehearsal recordings, without any overdubs, I’d never have guessed: the sound quality and the standard of musicianship equally that of any of their studio recordings. Operating at the jazziest end of their repertoire, this underlines what a superb set of musicians they are. GRADE: B–.

October Equus (Spain): Permafrost (OctoberXArt oe01, CD, 2013)
Amanda Pazos Cosse (bass)
Permafrost sees the band returning to its original name, original instrumental format and, indeed, original configuration without horns. It also sees them returning to form, with some well-crafted, varied and dynamic music on offer. GRADE: B–.
October Equus Quartet (Spain): Isla Purgatorio (Clamshell CR15, CD, 2013)
Amanda Pazos Cosse (bass)
The reason for the variant name becomes clear when one looks at the credits: their usual keyboard player has been replaced by a saxophonist. It’s even more obvious when the music begins: this is as close to free-jazz as they ever got, though rock elements are very much present, making for an energetic and accomplished set of RIO. GRADE: B–.
October Equus (Spain): Live At RIO Festival 2014 (OctoberXArt oe02, CD, 2014)
Amanda Pazos Cosse (bass)
With both keyboards and saxophone/clarinet in the line-up, this live album showcases both the free-jazz and rock ends of their repertoire. Thanks to the fine musicianship and excellent recording, it does so in style. GRADE: B–.

October Equus (Spain): Presagios (OctoberXArt oe03, CD, 2019)
Amanda Pazos Cosse (bass), Yolanda Alba Rodriguez (flute)
As usual, this strikes an effective balance between experimental rock and chamber music; whilst they’re nowhere near as out-there as many of their peers in RIO, their adherence to traditional rock structures is one of the defining features of their music. As such, this is instrumental avant-rock that even people who don’t like avant-rock can enjoy. GRADE: B–.

October Tree (USA): The Fairy’s Wing (Canvas Productions, CD, with digipak, 2012)
Tammy Lounsberry (principal vocals, piano)
Mainly cut by a husband-and-wife duo, this is a concept album about fairies and other mystical beings. Musically, it’s pleasant neoprogressive with a rather low-budget feel but a few nice moments. GRADE: C+.

Octopus (West Germany): The Boat Of Thoughts (Sky 009, with inner, 1976)
Jennifer Kowa (lead vocals)
Jennifer Kowa sounds a lot like Sonja-Kristina Linwood, but this is nothing like Curved Air: without classical influences or any experimentation, this is straightforward symphonic prog with swathes of lush keyboards and some powerful rock guitar. The sound and riffs are pleasing, but the actual songs aren’t always well integrated with the music, placing this firmly in the second division of seventies Krautrock. GRADE: C+.
Octopus (West Germany): An Ocean Of Rocks (Sky 016, with inner, 1977)
Jennifer Kowa (lead vocals)
This has the same strengths and weaknesses as its predecessor: good riffs; good instrumental textures; bad vocal melodies and lyrics. Strangely, the one attempt to write a straight song (‘The Entrance’) is enjoyable and the one instrumental (‘The Shifting Of Space And Time’) is unremarkable. On several tracks, Kowa adopts a more dramatic vocal approach that doesn’t really work, but this still has its moments. GRADE: C+.
Octopus (West Germany): Rubber Angel (Sky 035, with inner, 1979)
Jennifer Kowa (lead vocals)
For their third album, Octopus changed style completely and moved towards commercial mainstream rock – sometimes funky and sometimes hard rocking. A few riffs and melody lines work well, but overall this simply confirms the impression given by their first two LPs: they have very little talent as songwriters, and never stood any chance of scoring hits in any genre. Once again, some of the lyrics are truly dreadful; together with some messy keyboard riffs and awkward tempo changes, this suggests they were trying to be clever, whereas it’s in fact the bonehead hard rock sections that work best. GRADE: C.
See also Radio, Various ‘Rock Offers’

Odeja (Italy): Winds Of May (Mellow MMP 156, CD, 1993)
Luisa Marigliani (lead vocals)
The band’s polished brand of light, classical-edged folky soft prog is superficially similar to Renaissance, but they have clear roots in jazz-fusion and incorporate elements of more modern power ballads. That’s not to say that their music is shallow or commercial: the prominent saxophone can get a bit a lugubrious, but there are lots of tempo changes and mild surprises, and the material is conspicuously well-crafted. In fact, whilst this is a bit dainty and lightweight, there’s enough promise here to make it a pity that the band only recorded four songs totalling around 23½ minutes. GRADE: C+.

Ann Odell (UK): A Little Taste (DJM DJLPS 434, 1973)
Ann Odell (lead vocals, keyboards)
The Blue Mink keyboardist and Chopyn leader’s solo set is everything you’d expect from an album with song titles like ‘Swing Song’, ‘Take Off Your Old Face’ and ‘Every Girl Becomes A Woman’, plus a cover image of the performer seated at a huge grand piano. This sort of classy, showtune-edged pop and sweeping orchestrated balladry isn’t really my sort of thing, but she clearly had a talent for it. GRADE: C–.
See also Blue Mink, Chopyn

Roger Odell’s Beatifik (UK): The Blue Window (Passion Jazz CD PJA 14, CD, 2000)
Jackie Hicks (joint lead vocals), Larraine Odell (joint lead vocals)
No prizes for guessing that this is in the vein of Shakatak rather than CMU: there’s even one of those tinkly nightclub piano solos thrown in. For what it is, this isn’t too bad, though it has two underlying problems. The first is that the label name clearly highlights the key quality missing from the music – passion. The second, less predictably, is that some of the programmed drums are horrible, which is odd given that Odell is a drummer. GRADE: C–.
See also CMU​

Odem (Switzerland): Ufgstellt (No label CBB 77073, 1984)
Christina Sperling (joint lead vocals), Tabea Sperling (joint lead vocals)
Whilst the songs are short and the structures borrow from pop, the symphonic keyboard arrangements are mainly influenced by prog. Despite some very eighties drum sounds, this is a pleasant album of undemanding borderline neoprog. GRADE: C+.

Odin Dragonfly (UK): Offerings (No label ODCD001, CD, 2007)
Heather Findlay (joint lead vocals, guitar, percussion, whistle), Angela Goldthorpe (joint lead vocals, piano, flute)
Recorded without backing musicians, this one-off project by two members of Mostly Autumn is quite different from the parent band. Offering gentle acoustic folk with a haunting, mildly psychedelic flavour, it’s something of a homage to early seventies singer/songwriters. The excellent ‘Caught In A Fold’ and ‘Yellow Time’ had previously been recorded by Mostly Autumn, and there are covers of Ian Anderson and Stevie Nicks songs, but everything else is new. The end result is a beautiful, gentle and very feminine LP. GRADE: C+.

Odin Dragonfly (UK): Sirens (Black Sand ODCD003, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2022)
Heather Findlay (joint lead vocals, guitar, percussion, whistle), Angela Goldthorpe (joint lead vocals, piano, flute)
Like their first, this offers delicate acoustic folk, with a procession of melodic and heartfelt original songs. Also like their first, it’s a charming listening experience but the songs don’t quite have the X-factor to lift such sparse and unadorned music from good to truly great. GRADE: C+.

See also Heather Findlay, Mostly Autumn

Odyssee (West Germany): Fools (Art Of Music AOMCD 91001-2, CD, 1991)
Conny Voss (lead vocals, guitar), Leslie Dennert (keyboards, backing vocals)
This German band look like American eighties hair rockers on the cover, and their sound draws heavily from AOR, with all the usual neoprog elements thrown in (especially the identikit Dave Gilmour guitar sound). Add in some funky basslines and stadium rock drums and you have an album that would have sound dated on release, let alone today. Apart from the fairly good flute and synthesiser-led closer ‘Changes’, there are virtually no extended instrumental breaks and almost uniformly uninspired songwriting, creating a rather dreary listening experience. GRADE: D+.

Of The Earth (Australia): Of The Earth (No label, 1977)
Tracey Smith (lead vocals)
This rare privately pressed progressive LP features long, elegant tracks with environmentally-themed lyrics (as the title suggests). Tracey Smith’s vocals bear more than a passing resemblance to Sonja-Kristina Linwood of Curved Air, whilst the backing borrows from anyone and everyone, with pompous keyboard fugues, jazzy and folky diversions, and some delicate classically-influenced piano and flute soloing. Derivative it may be, but there is some fine music here, especially on side two where the more relaxed flute-led passages dominate.


Off Band & Waffelschmiede (West Germany): Links Do Das Herz Ist (No label 280091, 1987)
Martina Velte
This unusual album offers instrumental music, mainly recorded with primitive Casio synthesisers and rhythm boxes, intercut with lots of effects, snippets from film soundtracks and avant-garde touches. Overall, it’s a pleasant, melodic, offbeat and unpredictable record. As a footnote, the Off Band was a pseudonym for one Karl von Hörsten, who also formed half of Waffelschmiede with Martina Velte; a number of cassettes had been issued earlier in the eighties under both guises. GRADE: C+.

Off The Edge (South Africa): Off The Edge (Blue Tree, 1983)
Ingrid Herbst (drums)
This is a solid, enjoyable but ultimately unremarkable album of low-budget AOR and melodic hard rock, with the closing instrumental ‘Foolin’ Around’ probably being the best number. The 2012 CD (No label OTE1983) adds two live cuts from 1984 plus six demos from 1982 when the band had both male and female vocalists (the latter being Abigail Prisgrove). These are a little more stripped-down than the album proper and perhaps slightly better. GRADE: C.
Off The Edge (South Africa): On The Run (No label OTE 1999, CD, 1999)
Judy Marshall-Schutte (joint lead vocals)
The band’s second album, issued after an extremely lengthy absence, is a huge step up. The style remains Americanised melodic rock, but the songwriting is much improved and the arrangements and production far superior (despite the use of a drum machine throughout). Bookended by strong instrumentals, this is an excellent LP of its type. GRADE: C+.
Off The Edge (South Africa): Just Another Band (No label OTE2000, CD, 2000)
Judy Marshall-Schutte (lead vocals)
This is much more progressive than its predecessors, featuring three instrumentals and a nine-minute closing track, all of which owe a heavy debt to Pink Floyd. In between, the band offers its usual melodic rock, making for a solid album throughout. GRADE: C+.
Off The Edge (South Africa): Unfinished Business (No label OTE2002, CD, 2002)
Giselle Mynhardt (lead vocals)
Despite the presence of several instrumentals, this is a bit less progressive than Just Another Band and also a bit harder rocking, with the mellow Pink Floyd edges toned down. Despite the lack of any individually outstanding tracks, it’s another consistent and well-crafted LP. GRADE: C+.
Off The Edge (South Africa): Site Under Construction (No label OTE2004, CD, 2004)
Sherry-Lee Jones (backing vocals)
Although they've changed vocalists yet again (this time to a male lead singer plus Sherry-Lee Jones from offshoot project Age Of Innocence), this is in the band’s usual catchy rock vein, with a few instrumentals interspersed. Off The Edge aren’t a band who ever deliver any surprises, but they’re undoubtedly good at what they do. GRADE: C+.
Off The Edge Meets Clint & Co (South Africa): Off The Edge Meets Clint And Co (No label OTECC01, CD, 2012)
Sherry-Lee Jones (backing vocals)
This appears to be a merger between Off The Edge and the lead vocalist and guitarist’s other band Clint & Co; ‘one of Southern Africa’s premier country rock bands’ according to the sleeve notes. That’s not to say that this is in any way country/rock; it’s in exactly the same vein as previous Off The Edge albums. GRADE: C+.
See also Age Of Innocence

Offa Rex (USA/UK): The Queen Of Hearts (Nonesuch 7566-79399-9, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2017)
Olivia Chaney (principal vocals, guitar, keyboards), Jenny Conlee (keyboards, accordion)
This collaboration between English folk singer Olivia Chaney and the Decemberists produced one of the best electric folk albums of the last 20 years – in fact, one of the best albums full stop. In the liner notes, they cite Martin Carthy, Maddy Prior, Norma Waterson, Ashley Hutchings, Anne Briggs, June Tabor and Lal Waterson, and they’re not merely name-dropping – they’ve taken the best of each artist’s style to create a magnificent, varied, dramatic set of folk/rock that rivals peak Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span. GRADE: B.

Offering (France): I-II (Jaro Medien 4129/30, double, West Germany, 1986)
Stella Vander (joint lead vocals, percussion)
Christian and Stella Vander’s post-Magma band is a rather different proposition, although there are similarities to the most recent (and very uncharacteristic) Magma album Merci. Emphasising their influences from John Coltrane rather than Richard Wagner and being jazz-fusion rather than experimental progressive rock, I-II is much more conventional than 90% of Magma’s work. This is still pretty expansive stuff, with three tracks over ten minutes, but whilst it’s very well crafted it’s a bit low on excitement or surprises. Nearly all the material is new, but ‘Love In The Darkness’ is a retitled reworking of ‘I Must Return’ from Merci. GRADE: C+.
Offering (France): III-IV (Seventh A I/A II, CD, 1990)
Stella Vander (joint lead vocals, percussion)
The second Offering album is something of a step up from the first. The 44-minute ‘Another Day’ is basically a long jam rather than a carefully structured Magma-style epic, but whilst it’s somewhat overlong it contains some fine passages. Meanwhile, the five-minute ‘Ehn Deiss’ is a haunting piece with multiple voices, piano and flute, recalling ‘Wurdah Ïtah’, and the two-minute ‘Offering (2)’ brings to mind the most reflective Magma, with a stunning vocal from Stella Vander. GRADE: C+.
Offering (France): À Fïïeh (Seventh A IX, CD, 1993)
Stella Vander (occasional vocals), Isabelle Feuillebois (occasional vocals), Julie Vander (occasional vocals)
Completing the transition begun on its predecessor, this largely abandons Coltrane-influenced jazz/rock in favour of huge cosmic epics based around multiple female voices and piano (recalling Christian Vander’s Tristan Et Iseult and Magma’s Les Voix). Eventually it moves back towards jazz/rock, but for the most part this would have made more sense released as a Magma album (whereas Merci should probably have been credited to Offering). GRADE: B–.
Offering (France): Paris Théâtre Dejazet 1987 (Seventh AKT XI, double CD, 1998, recorded 1987)
Stelle Vander (joint lead vocals, keyboards, percussion), Isabelle Feuillebois (occasional vocals, caxixi), Sandrine Fougères (occasional vocals, caxixi)
Although recorded after the band’s first album, this live gig features material that later appeared on À Fïïeh and solo albums by Christian and Stella Vander, as well as covers of ‘Lush Life’, ‘You’ve Got To Have Freedom’ and other material. Meanwhile, the music ranges from the softer end of Magma to jazz/rock to near-avant gardism to a fourteen-minute drum solo. The end result is a diverse but rather unfocused set, containing plenty of good music. GRADE: B–.

Offering (France): Concert Triton 2013 (Seventh VDA9, double CD plus DVD, with digipak, 2014)
Stella Vander (joint lead vocals, percussion, flute), Isabelle Feuillebois (occasional vocals, percussion)
I have never enjoyed Magma’s more jazz-oriented offshoot as much as the parent band, and this live set confirms that impression. The performances are energetic, with Christian and Stella Vander on top form, the musicianship is incendiary and the results are sometimes thrilling, but the actual material doesn’t share Magma’s stentorian swagger and mould-breaking audacity. GRADE: B–.
See also Magma, Stella, Utopic Sporadic Orchestra, Christian Vander

Officer! (UK): 8 New Songs By Mick Hobbs (AAA Co1, cassette, with booklet and insert, France, 1983)
New Wave/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Judy Carter (occasional vocals)
The first (mini-) album by singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mick Hobbs offers quirky RIO with a strongly home-made feel. There’s an obvious influence here from Henry Cow and the Art Bears, but his singing style and the more whimsical songs owe an obvious debt to Hatfield & The North; there’s also plenty of electronics and experimentation hinting at an interest in avant-garde classical music. The gentle, faintly mediaeval ‘Dogface’ is sung by Judy Carter and is among the best numbers. GRADE: C+.

Officer! (UK/USA/France/Belgium): Ossification (AYAA DT.1284, with insert, France, 1984)
Judy Carter (joint lead vocals, whistle), Catherine Jauniaux (occasional vocals), Terri Robson (violin), Georgie Born (cello), Zeena Parkins (harp), Anne Stokes (backing vocals), Christina Wild (backing vocals), Marie-Jeanne (backing vocals), Mary (backing vocals)
From its cover (depicting several skeletons playing instruments) I’d expected this multinational RIO supergroup to offer radical, atonal improvisations. In fact, this is firmly at the pop-ish, song-based end of RIO, with catchy tunes and lots of playfulness. The end result recalls numerous of the participants’ other projects, but most notably an upbeat amalgam of Family Fodder, Slapp Happy and the Art Bears.

See also Aksal Maboul, Art Bears, Cosa Brava, Family Fodder, Hat Shoes, Henry Cow, Het, Catherine Jauniaux, Lo Yo Yo, Zeena Parkins, Stormy Six, Tin Hat Trio, Mike Westbrook Orchestra

Ofir (Spain): Memories Vol 2 – Studio Recordings + Live At Espacio Ronda (OctoberXArt mem02, CDR, 2012)
Josefina Gómez (lead vocals), Amanda Pazos Cosse (bass)
As October Equus’s vocal alter ego, Ofir provide an interesting variation on their sound. However, whilst Josefina Gómez is an accomplished singer, her vaguely Arabic wailing considerably softens the music, with the fire and high octane riffing that usually characterises October Equus almost entirely absent. GRADE: C+.

See also October Equus

Ofoedian Den (USA): The Birds (Rock Bottom 2151, with inserts, 1970?)
Sarah Oppenheim (joint lead vocals)
The soundtrack to a play performed by the College of Marin, this has most of the hallmarks of a school project album, including breezy light rock backing with folk and jazz influences and both solo and massed vocals. Although it’s pleasant rather than really exceptional, this is a very expensive and sought-after album, and is exceptionally rare. Sarah Oppenheim later went on to the Jefferson Airplane-related 1. GRADE: C.
See also 1

Valter Ojakäär (Estonia): Vastu Kerkivale Kuule (Melodiya C60-07941, USSR, 1977)
Marju Kuut (occasional vocals), Heidy Tamme (occasional vocals)
Valter Ojakäär is the composer, rather than the performer, of this curious LP, which has songs on one side and instrumentals on the other. Mixing jazz, lounge, pop and rock, it excels on a couple of rather lovely female vocal numbers, but one track with a cabaret-style male singer rather tests the patience. The instrumental side is pretty variable too, ranging from some great spacy but melodic sounds through to fairly uninteresting big band swing. GRADE: C.

Oktober (Denmark): Oktober (Demos 40, with booklet, 1977)
Magrethe Herning (joint lead vocals, flute)
This Danish polit-rock LP is less folky and proggy than most, consisting of catchy mainstream rock. With a mixture of uptempo numbers (with occasional funky edges and horns) and ballads, this is well-crafted stuff and should appeal to anyone enjoying melodic pop. GRADE: C+.

Oktober (West Germany): Himmel Auf Erden! (Eigelstein ES 2006, with inner, 1979)
Brita Segebracht (joint lead vocals)
This political progressive album is sometimes overly lyrical, occasionally hinting towards Schmetterlinge with its melodic, folkish songs. But when it stretches out (as on the two long numbers, ‘Mädchenballade’ and ‘Singe Du’) it offers some excellent progressive rock with great, understated instrumental performances. GRADE: C+.


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