Op-Oz

 

Opal (USA): Happy Nightmare Baby (SST 103, 1987)
Garage/Psychedelic
Kendra Smith, Suki Ewers
Characteristically eighties, this is an enjoyable album of basement garage psychedelia with guitar-dominated arrangements. The superb extended track ‘Soul Giver’ is in a different league to the rest of the LP, making you wish they’d stretched out elsewhere instead of including short, structured songs. GRADE: C+.
Opal (USA): Early Recordings (Rough Trade ROUGH US 53 CD, CD, 1989)
Garage/Psychedelic
Kendra Smith, Suki Ewers
The title suggests that these songs preceded Happy Nightmare Baby, but the minimalist credits give no indication of their provenance. Even more so than its predecessor, this makes clear their influence from the softer end of the Velvet Underground’s repertoire as well as artists like Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra, with strong country and folk edges. The band subsequently mutated into Mazzy Star, with a different female singer, while Kendra Smith moved on to other projects. GRADE: C+.
See also Dream Syndicate, Suki Ewers, Guild Of Temporal Adventurers, Mazzy Star, Rainy Day, Kendra Smith

Opal Star (UK): Something To Share (Profile GMOR 164, 1978)
Folk/Rock
Trish Dibbon (joint lead vocals)
This pleasant but rather slight folk/rock album mixes original songs with covers, and features electric backing including some string synthesiser. Whilst the arrangements often betray its era, the overall feel is closer to something from the USA in the late sixties, making for an enjoyable (if rather twee and forgettable) listen. GRADE: C.

Opel (UK): The Bough At Jacob’s Rake – Demos (No label Maypole36, CD, 2017, recorded 1997-1998)
Folk/Rock
Claire Colley
Opel, who were active from 1994 to 1999, have been retrospectively billed as ‘wicker rock’ and ‘wyrd folk’ and compared to ‘a souped-up Pentangle’ and a Californian seventies twist on Trembling Bells. However, I hear barely any of that. Certainly, they took their influences from psychedelic folk but there’s also a strong modern indie edge to their sound, and compared to the bands they profess to love they’re remarkably straight. The original six-track, 28-minute EP was given away to attendees at the ‘15th Dream Of Dr Sardonicus’ festival in August 2017, but the second issue (Reverb Worship RW 390, CDR, with DVD case and insert, 2018) adds a further nine demos from across the band’s five-year career. These are much more interesting than the EP proper, particularly the heavier acid-rock number ‘More Like Roses’, the lovely, tripped-out ‘Morline’ and the long, minimalist instrumental ‘Winter Morning/First Light’. In fact, it’s fair to say that the track selection for the original EP was nothing short of baffling. GRADE: C+.

Opel (UK): Sand And Stone Suite (Reverb Worship RW 411, CDR, with DVD case and insert, 2019, recorded 1994?-2018)
Folk
Claire Colley
This second collection of bits-and-pieces by Opel is rather more consistent than the first. That said, most of it is solid rather than great, with only two really exceptional songs (‘Dreamer’ and ‘Believer (Wake Up Sun)’, though one again feels that this band could have a great album in them if they really knuckled down. GRADE: C+.

Opel (UK): Wicker Hymns (Future Wizards 001, one-sided LP plus CDR, with insert, autographed, 2019)
Folk/Psychedelic
Claire Colley (lead vocals)
Earlier Opel releases, patchy as they were, suggested that the band might one day make a great psychedelic folk album. Here they’ve half-succeeded: this is great psychedelic folk, with a clear folk horror influence and more than a touch of Manuel Göttsching circa Starring Rosi in the guitar work. Whether this is an album is more debatable: the one-sided disc features a 15-minute suite, whilst the CDR adds a bonus 11-minute reworking of one of the sections. Sometimes less is more, but in this case I’d definitely have liked more, though what’s here is pretty remarkable in its own right. GRADE: B–.

Opel (UK): Wicker Hymns 2 (No label, download, 2020)
Folk/Psychedelic/Progressive
Claire Colley (lead vocals)
Why do folk-horror bands seem to have a horror of releasing albums? A couple of weeks back, Brave New World Band issued the nine-minute EP The Laddie and now Opel follow up the 15-minute suite Wicker Hymns (increased to a whopping 26 if you bought the CD with the bonus remix) with another 15-minute piece. This isn’t in the same league as The Laddie and not quite as good as their first instalment, but it’s still good enough that you wish they’d produced three times as much music. They also seem to be progressing artistically: whilst I can still hear strong Krautfolk influences, this time round it’s Popol Vuh or Saat-era Emtidi who appear to be providing the inspiration. GRADE: B–.

Opel (UK): Wicker Hymns 3 (No label, download, 2020)
Folk/Psychedelic
Claire Colley (lead vocals)
EPs are obviously the way Opel intend to go, and it looks as though Wicker Hymns could become a long-running series. That’s both good news and bad. On the plus side, this is more compelling than much of their work from the nineties. On the downside, it’s a lot less interesting than Wicker Hymns 2, let alone the first volume. In fact, it mostly sounds like aimless noodling, though with echo effects turned up to the max it’s perfectly pleasing noodling. GRADE: C+.

Opel (UK): Wicker Hymns 4 (No label, download, 2020)
Folk/Psychedelic
Claire Colley (lead vocals)
The Wicker Hymns series of download EPs, whilst consistently enjoyable, has seen a slow but steady decline in quality from the excellent first instalment. Will Wicker Hymns 4 continue or reverse this trend? Thankfully, it’s the latter: this is superb stuff, taking its cues mainly from mid-seventies Popol Vuh and sounding like an even spacier hybrid of Einsjäger Und Siebenjäger and Letzte Tage Letzte Nächte. Despite the minor blip with the third instalment, the series has been genuinely impressive, realising the potential occasionally hinted at by their nineties incarnation. All I can hope for now is that they return to the studio and cut a full album. GRADE: B–.

Opo (Holland): Opo (Stoof MU 7416, with insert, 1975)
Folk
Lenneke de Vries (joint lead vocals, flute, whistle)
Also known as Fallen Asleep Just Like Papa after the small inscription on the front cover, this is as beautiful an album of traditional folk as you could ever wish to hear. The opening cover of ‘Sally Free And Easy’ is uncannily similar to Pentangle without the rhythm section and is probably the highpoint, but a strong standard is maintained throughout. In many ways, it’s amazing that a Dutch band could produce such a fine album of British and Irish songs. GRADE: B–.
Opo (Holland): Opo 2 (Stoof MU 7435, with insert, 1977)
Folk
Lenneke de Vries (joint lead vocals, flute, dulcimer, whistle)
Their second and final album is even better, with more self-penned material (and, unusually, covers of two numbers by the obscure singer/songwriter Lucy Stymel). Once again, a strong Pentangle influence shows through, especially on the crystalline closing version of ‘Nottamun Town’. GRADE: B.

Opponer (Sweden): Gårdslåtar (Opponer OPP 1, with booklet, 1974)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Johanna Helsing (joint lead vocals), Gunnel Dahlberg (occasional vocals, piano, violin)
The unattractive cover makes this appear to be a messy polit-rock LP, but in fact it’s excellent progressive folk, spanning various strands of the genre: Trees-style heavy folk/rock, haunting folk/psych, mellow singer/songwriter grooves and acapella Swedish trad. Whilst the band is adept at all these variations, the album’s only real shortcoming is that it’s so diverse, sometimes sounding like a ‘various artists’ compilation. Had the band concentrated solely on the Trees-style or psychedelic stuff, it could have been a classic. GRADE: B–.

Opus Avantra (Italy): Donella Del Monaco (Trident TRI 1006, 1974)
Progressive/Classical/Avant-Garde
Donella Del Monaco (lead vocals)
This unique band was formed by the opera singer Donella Del Monaco and the classical pianist Alfredo Tisocco and offered an unusual take on baroque and Renaissance music. Blending influences from a broad spectrum of composers, they tackle slightly different styles of classical, folk and Italian music on each cut whilst creating a very cohesive whole. Although not enormously dissonant, this is still an extremely weird album that is difficult to compare to anything else. Most reissues retitle the set Introspezione and add a short bonus track. GRADE: A.
Opus Avantra (Italy/USA): Lord Cromwell Plays Suite For Seven Vices (Suono SRLP 1002, Italy, 1975)
Progressive/Classical/Avant-Garde
Gina Bianco (joint lead vocals), Susan Worsham (joint lead vocals), Cindy Brasher (joint lead vocals)
Donella Del Monaco’s superb singing is a major loss, and the troupe of singers that replaces her creates a different vibe, in parts akin to a mutant school play. More than half the cuts on this concept album are instrumental, and they’re even weirder than before, with some truly astounding moments. The end result is a sometimes incoherent album that varies between mere excellence and absolute brilliance.

GRADE: A–.
Opus Avantra (Italy): Strata (Artis ARCD 0011, CD, 1989)
Progressive/Classical/Avant-Garde
Donella Del Monaco (lead vocals)
Reunions rarely work well, but this reassembles most of the original Opus Avantra line-up and is every bit as adventurous as their seventies albums. On the downside, it’s nowhere near as cohesive, sounding like a rather ragbag collection of neoclassical, RIO and chamber-rock experiments, but taken on its own terms it’s certainly one of the better eighties prog LPs. GRADE: B.
Opus Avantra (Italy): Lyrics (Artis ARCD 023, CD, 1995)
Progressive/Classical
Donella Del Monaco (lead vocals), Martina Pettenon (viola), Stefania Cavedon (cello)
The fourth and final Opus Avantra studio LP is arguably more a solo set by Alfredo Tisocco, as Donella Del Monaco has a much lower profile. Musically it’s as weird and inventive as ever, but for the most part far less rock-oriented, with more of an avant-garde classical feel. Whilst I suspect most listeners will consider this the least interesting of their albums, it’s still a remarkable piece of work by any standard. GRADE: B.
Opus Avantra (Italy): Live Concert Excerpts (Strange Days POCE-1180, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, poster booklet and obi, Japan, 2007, recorded 1977-1991)
Progressive/Classical/Avant-Garde
Donella Del Monaco (lead vocals), Martina Pettenon (viola)
Featuring segments from shows in 1977, 1989, 1990 and 1991, this is an interesting historical document but not a particularly exciting album. With decent but not outstanding sound quality, the band frequently crosses the line between experimentation and indulgence, and without the finely-honed edges of their studio LPs much of this sounds like avant-garde classical improvsation by numbers. GRADE: C+.
Opus Avantra (Italy): Viaggio Immaginario – Live In Tokyo 2008.12.04 (Camps CRSDVD002, DVD, with digipak, 2009)
Progressive/Classical/Avant-Garde
Donella Del Monaco (principal vocals)
From a musical standpoint, this reunion concert is an absolute classic, offering stunning versions of most of the songs from Donella Del Monaco and Strata plus a few snatches from Lord Cromwell…. The show is well staged too, with some theatrical elements; it’s just a pity that it’s filmed in soft focus, so doesn’t really capture the feeling of being there on the night. GRADE: B.
See also Donella Del Monaco, Kátharsis

Orange & The Green Folk Group (UK): The Orange And The Green Folk Group (Eroica Recording Services, 10" acetate, 1969?)
Folk
Kath Williamson
Consisting of four songs totalling 12 minutes, this one-sided acetate (which appears to be the only known copy) showcases some very pleasant traditional folk, with an excellent recording to boot.  For sure, their versions of ‘Carrickfergus’, ‘Family Of Man’, ‘Plaisir D’Amour’ and ‘Banks Of The Ohio’ don’t break any new ground, but for folk club stuff with female vocals this is very satisfying. The band subsequently changed its name to Blue Horizon and issued a very rare album on Folk Heritage. GRADE: C+.
See also Blue Horizon

Orbis (West Germany): The Best Of Orbis (No label KK 807, 1980)
Rock
Angie, Inge Götz
Elsewhere I’ve seen Orbis’s sole album described as a mixture of Arktis, Jane and Atlantis and that’s a pretty good description of its nimble riff-driven rock sound – sometimes heavy and sometimes lighter and mildly funky. With some slight progressive edges thrown in, it’s a likeable and fairly accomplished set, but – as all those comparisons suggest – it’s also highly derivative, with little individual personality. GRADE: C+.
Orbis (West Germany): Orbis (EBM 405101, 12", 1983)
Rock
Irmgard (principal vocals), Inge Götz (bass, backing vocals)
Issued three years after their LP and featuring a different female singer, this is very much in the same musical vein. Once again, it’s supple hard-ish rock with good guitar work and some catchy melodies, but again it’s all a touch generic. GRADE: C+.
Orbis (West Germany): Orbis (Dorn 405 103, 12", 1988)
Rock
Gabi Dworski (principal vocals), Inge Götz (bass, backing vocals)
Their third and final release, five years down the line, is once again a four-track EP and once again doesn’t represent any kind of artistic advance. Nonetheless, this is likable and unassuming stuff; even their unexpected cover of ‘Hang On Sloopy’ works surprisingly well.

GRADE: C+.

Orchestra Luna (USA): Orchestra Luna (Epic KE 33166, with inner, 1974)
Pop/MOR/Jazz/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Lisa Kinscherf (joint lead vocals), Liz Gallagher (joint lead vocals, finger cymbals)
The cover, featuring the band cavorting on the beach, made me think this might be some kind of anachronistic sunshine pop. In fact it’s middle-of-the-road jazzy nostalgic pop not a million miles from Manhattan Transfer, but with notable rock elements too, lots of experimentation and diversions into everything from acid-folk (‘Little Sam’) to prog (‘Were You Dancin’ On Paper?’ and the bizarre 12-minute closer ‘Doris Dreams’). Aside from a cover of the fifties song ‘Heart’ (the most arch and irritating thing on the disc, though leavened by an almost avant-garde middle section of sound effects) almost everything is self-penned and the results are quite interesting and often surprisingly good. GRADE: C+.

Orchid Leaves (Germany): Free At Last (MMN 001, CD, 2000)
Folk
Phaedra Alexis Trass (lead vocals)
This four-track EP was the only release by this duo of a female singer and male guitarist, who use multitracking to good effect but employ no guests. There’s obviously a limit to how exciting any voice-and-acoustic guitar album can be, but the material is well composed, the singing is effectively bluesy, and the overall effect is pleasing. GRADE: C+.

Order Of The 12 (UK): Lore Of The Land (Group Mind GM010, some on green vinyl, 2022)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic
Rachel Thomas (lead vocals)
This project by electronic composer Richard Norris aims to recapture an early seventies acid-folk vibe – and it does so with aplomb, though it’s definitely at the mellower and more conventional end of the genre. That said, the closing ‘Down To The Ring’ is far darker and more gothic than anything that precedes it, and overall this is a lovely LP packed with delicate and haunting songs. GRADE: B–.

Orient D’Ô (Canada): L’Orient D’Ô (Capitol ST 70.064, with inner, 1978)
Progressive
Lorraine Blanchard (keyboards, backing vocals)
This obscure band’s sole album offers soft progressive rock with a very Quebecois feel. It sounds a few years later than its release date, taking a rather song-based, neoprogressive approach; the best cuts are the eponymous instrumental and the richly symphonic ‘Si La Vie Vous Intéresse’. Whilst far from brilliant, this contains some good riffs and melodies, although the recording quality is remarkably poor for a major label album from the late seventies. GRADE: C+.

Orient-Express (Tunisia): Cocktail Molotov (Musique En Chantier MC 002, cassette, France, 1985)
Avant-Garde/Jazz/Rock/Progressive
Pascale Jakubowski
This duo of singer and multi-instrumentalist Pascale Jakubowski and bassist Erik Baron offer a procession of odd, minimalist vignettes drawing on free-jazz, occasionally fringing zeuhl (especially in Baron’s intricate Jannick Top-like bass work) and hinting at RIO, but not really settling anywhere. The result is a short, quirky and intriguing yet rather inconsequential album that sounds more like preliminary sketches than a finished work. Their second release Inédits (Musique En Chantier, cassette, 1986) contains three untitled outtakes totalling 10½ minutes, and credits Jakubowski with vocals, piano and clarinet. Both releases were compiled, along with two unreleased recordings, as a CDR (Auricle AMCDR 208, UK, 2015).  GRADE: C+.
See also Delta 4

Oriental Sunshine (Norway/India): Dedicated To The Bird We Love (Philips 6317 002, Norway, 1970)
Folk/Psychedelic
Nina Johansen (principal vocals, guitar)
The trio was aptly named, as this is as warm and beatific an album of Eastern-tinged hippie-folk as one could ask for, complete with a genuine Indian musician on tablas, flute and backing vocals. Comparisons with the more celebrated Magic Carpet are inevitable, but the mood of the music is somewhat different; Oriental Sunshine feel far less austere, for a start. Following the band’s swift break-up, guitarist Rune Walle went on to form Hole In The Wall. As a footnote, the album was reissued the following year (Fontana 6426 030); this version is sometimes passed off as an original, but whilst rare and expensive in its own right is only worth about half the Philips pressing. GRADE: B–.

Original Caste (USA): One Tin Soldier (TA TA5003, 1970)
Pop
Bliss Mackie
This Canadian band scored considerable success with this album, which mostly consists of rather undistinguished orchestrated pop written by producers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. In contrast, the three numbers written by a band member are slightly better, making you wish they’d penned everything. The group went on to issue two live albums recorded in Japan (where they were apparently superstars), a compilation and at least one further studio set, but I wouldn’t wish to hear them. The title track was later covered by Coven, giving them a hit single. GRADE: D+.

Orion (UK): Jack Orion (Gypsy GYP 001, 1987)
Folk
Dee Jarlett (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards)
This folk duo offered a beautiful one-off album, with the songs on the second side (mostly self-penned and forming a suite about the tarot deck) being somewhat superior to the mainly traditional numbers on side one. Whilst the backing is mostly fairly sparse, it takes in acoustic and electric guitars, bass, keyboards, violin, melodeon and a drum machine. GRADE: C+.

Ormonde Folk (Ireland): Truly Irish (Music For Pleasure MFP 1425, UK, 1970)
Folk
Performed live in a pub and issued on a prolific budget label, this Irish folk album bizarrely became a minor collectible a few years ago. GRADE: C–.

Oroonies (UK): The Woods Are Alive (With The Smell Of His Coming) (Better Days, cassette, 1985)
Garage/Psychedelic
Tanya Horn (bass, drums)
This collection of quirky garage-rock songs and psychedelic jams is home-made in the extreme and isn’t about to win any awards for audio quality. Nonetheless, the band, centred around singer and multi-instrumentalist Russ Stanley and well-travelled keyboardist Joie Hinton (Ozric Tentacles, Ullulators, etc.) capture a charmingly playful mood with plenty of anything-goes joie de vivre. GRADE: C+.
Oroonies (UK): Exalt The Horn (Better Days, cassette, 1986)
Psychedelic/World Music/Avant-Garde
Tanya Horn (bass, drums), Jane Harwood (flute, whistle)
Much more experimental than their first, this consists of long, spaced-out jams with plenty of ethnic experiments, representing (as often for this kind of band) a much weirder sidestep from side two of Gong’s You. A B– might appear generous – when all is said and done, this is just jamming, jamming and more jamming – but it’s extremely good jamming, packed with fascinating diversions. Some incredible stereo effects towards the end of the tape are the icing on the cake. GRADE: B–.
Oroonies (UK): Like Yeast We Rise (Better Days, cassette, 1986)
Psychedelic/World Music 
Tanya Horn (bass, drums), Jane Harwood (flute, whistle)
Whilst in the same vein as its predecessor, this isn’t really in the same league – Exalt The Horn’s sense of derring-do is much missed here, and the jams, whilst enjoyable, drift by without making any great impression. GRADE: C+.
Oroonies (UK): Ee-I-Ee-I-O (Better Days, cassette, 1987)
Garage/Psychedelic
Tanya Horn (bass, drums), Jane Harwood (flute, whistle)
This is more wide-ranging than their earlier releases, offering everything from relaxed ethnic jams to garage rock to dub reggae-influenced songs. As such, it’s a bit of a curate’s egg, but about half of it works pretty well (though none of it really sticks in the mind). GRADE: C+.
Oroonies (UK): The Whale And The Wind (Better Days, cassette, 1988)
Garage/Psychedelic
Tanya Horn (bass, drums), Jane Harwood (flute, whistle)
This is rather more ethnic than Ee-I-Ee-I-O and decidedly spacier too, so it definitely has the edge. But it once again has the feel of a grab-bag of different styles – world music, dub reggae songs, synth jams drawing on Gong’s ‘Isle Of Everywhere’ – so it’s no Exalt The Horn. GRADE: C+.

Oroonies (UK): Of Hoof And Horn (Demi-Monde DMLP 1027, 1991)
Folk/Psychedelic/Progressive
Tanya Horn (occasional vocals, double bass, drums, percussion), Jane Harwood (flute, whistle)
Quite different from their cassettes, the Oroonies’ vinyl swansong introduces strong folk (particularly Eastern European) elements into their sound. Mostly instrumental, these swirling folk/psych jams are simultaneously relaxing and mantric, spacious and intense, and delicate and lively, adding up to one of their best releases. GRADE: C+.

Oroonies (UK): Prodding (No label, CDR, with digipak, 2015)
Psychedelic
Tanya Horn
The return of the Oroonies after nearly a quarter of a century marks a very pleasant surprise indeed. Whilst this resembles their eighties work in some ways, it’s also very modern and even more formless, mixing lengthy jams with lots of electronics and sound effects. Unusually for this kind of thing, it doesn’t seem to take Gong’s You as its starting point and it’s quite hard to find references, although the funky edges recall some of Steve Hillage’s late seventies solo work. I’m reluctant to give something as unstructured as this a B– and it could do with a little more textural variety, but it’s certainly a very distinctive and enjoyable album ­– and extremely well recorded to boot. GRADE: C+.
Oroonies (UK): Undone (No label, CDR, with digipak, 2016)
Psychedelic
Tanya Horn
Despite the weird ethnic cover design, this doesn’t really have any world music elements and it has far less in the way of sound effects than its eccentric predecessor. What’s left is a series of relaxed, melodic jams that don’t really go anywhere but certainly pass an hour or so extremely pleasantly. GRADE: C+.

Oroonies (UK): Nobody Understands (No label, CDR, with digipak, 2017)
Psychedelic
Tanya Horn
Returning to the style of Prodding, this mixes sound effects and relaxed jams into a trippy sonic stew that doesn’t really go anywhere but kills the best part of an hour pleasantly enough. GRADE: C+.

Oroonies (UK): Next Door (No label, CDR, with digipak, 2018)
Psychedelic
Tanya Horn
This oddball mixture of mutant blues/rock, electronica and sound effects is probably my favourite of the Oroonies reformation albums – it’s fascinatingly odd and constantly unpredictable, whilst remaining curiously cohesive. As usual, the question of the music goes anyhere remains, but in this case it’s intriguing enough to make that question irrelevant. GRADE: B–.
Oroonies (UK): There Are Many Ways (No label, CDR, with digipak, 2018)
Psychedelic
Tanya Horn
Next Door was a hard act to follow, and in some ways this is the yang to its yin, encapsulating the worst aspects of the revived Oroonies’ style. That’s not to say it’s unpleasant, but it’s certainly more a rambling collection of oddnesses – sound effects interspersed with some perfunctory semi-ambient jamming, rather than the other way round – than a conventional album. GRADE: C+.
Oroonies (UK): 13 Hours (No label, CDR, with digipak, 2018)
Psychedelic/Avant-Garde
Tanya Horn
This isn’t so much 13 hours as 34½ minutes, making it a relatively slight addition to the Oroonies’ canon. Musically, it’s their most experimental, mixing their usual sound effects and jamming into increasingly odd combinations, resulting in a sort of disjointed audio play – except that plays have plots. GRADE: C+.

Ornithos (Italy): La Transfigurazione (Ams AMS 210 CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2012)
Progressive
Maria Giulia Carnevalini (joint lead vocals), Eva Morelli (saxophone, flute)
This is classic Rock Progressivo Italiano: lush, strongly classically-influenced and very dynamic, whilst lacking the twiddly ostentation a similar venture might have had in the hands of a British band. Largely instrumental, and with most of the vocals wisely in Italian, it’s a well-judged set and a fine addition to the Italian prog pantheon. GRADE: B–.
See also Bacio Della Medusa

Oroboros (USA): Different Feeling (Oroboros FS 111880, 1985)
Rock
Mary Beth Cooper (joint lead vocals, percussion)
I was anticipating hard rock, but this is actually mainstream rock with supple playing, intriguing lyrics and some unusual vocals. The musicianship is impressive throughout, with occasional jazzy and mildly progressive edges, and the material is very well-crafted, but this is utterly lacking in the hooks that would have made it compelling or allowed the band to gain a record deal. GRADE: C+.

Orphanage (Holland): Oblivion (Displeased/DFSA D00039/DFSA 1001, CD, 1995)
Metal
Martine van Loon (occasional vocals)
With some nice symphonic textures, this doomdeath album is consistently enjoyable without breaking any new ground. Despite being a full member of the band, Martin van Loon (formerly of the Gathering) doesn’t do much here (as indeed she didn’t in the Gathering) with death vocals unfortunately being most prominent. GRADE: C+.
Orphanage (Holland): By Time Alone (DFSA 1004, CD, 1996)
Metal
Rosan van der Aa (joint lead vocals)
Once again, it’s the death vocals that drag the album down; the music here is excellent, with lots of subtle classical references, making clear the gothic influence underpinning their sound. The point is underscored by the stunning ballad ‘Cliffs Of Moher’, beautifully sung by Rosan van der Aa, demonstrating just how good they can be. GRADE: C+.

Orphanage (Holland): Inside (Nuclear Blast 27361 65102, CD, Germany, 2000)
Metal
Rosan van der Aa (joint lead vocals)
Orphanage are not a band with emphasising variety or progression: this is in the same style as their first two, with all the songs alternating death growls and clear female vocals in the same way. But the hooks are so well crafted and the riffs so crushingly powerful that the results are quite remarkable – even the death growls sound majestic rather silly in this context. GRADE: B–.

Orphanage (Holland): Driven (Nuclear Blast 27361 10502, CD, Germany, 2004)
Metal
Rosan van der Aa (joint lead vocals)
Their final album is more varied than its predecessors, probably due to personnel changes. However, whilst this is accomplished, powerful stuff, the songwriting never quite equals the impressive peak of Inside. GRADE: C+.

See also Gathering, Lords Of The Stone

Orpheo (Holland): Songs Of Past Days To Come (No label, CD, 2003)
Progressive
Wendelin Visser (lead vocals), Anne Krijn Pieisma (drums, backing vocals)
This bombastic heavy progressive album is simultaneously complex yet amateurish, with a low-budget recording contrasting with ornate riffs. At times it fringes progressive metal, particularly in the use of soprano vocals, but never crosses that border, staying firmly in the sympho-prog camp. Overall, it’s a rather odd piece of work but interesting nonetheless. GRADE: C+.
Orpheo (Holland): Echoes (No label, CD, 2005)
Progressive/Metal
Wendelin Visser (lead vocals), Anne Krijn Pieisma (drums, percussion, backing vocals)
The amateurishness is gone and the metal elements are much more prominent on this far more confident second album. Yet despite tracks of up to 17 minutes, nothing much really happens here, with the quirkiness of their first album entirely absent. It’s thus moot which of their two releases is the better. GRADE: C+.

Orsi Lucille (Italy): Canzoni (Inisheer IN 1204, 1989)
Folk/Psychedelic/Avant-Garde
Marinella Ollino (principal vocals), Eliana Cravero (occasional vocals)
Operating in parallel with the jazzier and rockier Environs, Orsi Lucille showcases the folkier side of Marinella Ollino and her former Franti colleagues. Mostly acoustic, occasionally electric and always very sparse and eerie, this is delicate, lo-fi and slightly unsettling psychedelic folk, containing some fine moments. GRADE: C+.

Orsi Lucille (Italy): Live – Come Nessuno Ti Potrà Mai Raccontare (No label, cassette, 1991)
Folk
Marinella Ollino
This live album sees the band performing both their own material and songs from parallel project Howth Castle, with backing from acoustic and electric guitars and occasional saxophone. This set was recorded in June 1991; an identically titled cassette featuring recordings from September and October (with a very similar, but not quite identical, track listing) also exists, but I have not encountered it. GRADE: C+.
Orsi Lucille (Italy): Due (Hax 06, with booklet, 1992)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic
Marinella Ollino (joint lead vocals)
The second and final studio album under the Orsi Lucille moniker is a bit of a step up, with more electric arrangements. The eerie acid-folk number ‘Acqua Di Luna’ is the best thing on offer, with its sudden and unexpected outburst of heavy electric guitar. GRADE: C+.
See also Environs, Franti, Howth Castle, Ishi, Lalli, Yuan Ye

Susan Osborn (USA): You Gotta Believe (No label, 1979)
Singer/Songwriter
Susan Osborn (lead vocals, guitar)
This obscure private pressing offers above-average singer/songwriter fare, with some nice, mellow folky and jazzy moods. Osborn has a pleasant voice and the backing is well-judged, featuring acoustic guitars, bass, piano and percussion. Although taped live and released locally, this is excellently recorded and sounds thoroughly professional. As a footnote, this was not a one-off release: Osborn had a lengthy musical career, issuing numerous solo albums, and was a member of the Paul Winter Consort. GRADE: C+.
See also Paul Winter Consort

Oscar The Frog (UK): Oscar The Frog (CSS 010, 1980)
Folk/Rock
Sue Banks (concertina, flute, mandolin, backing vocals)
This lively electric folk album is sometimes a little too whimsical for its own good (‘Georgia Crawl’) but it can be haunting and beautiful too (‘The Eavesdropper’). I also like their reinterpretation of ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ as ‘Hit Me With Your Morris Stick’, but for the most part it offers excellent instrumentals with fine performances and recording quality. Unusually, the sleeve consists of a folded piece of card joined up with lamination, similar (but not identical) to the plastic-covered sleeves that came with some seventies South American LPs. GRADE: B–.

Osiris (Bahrain/UK): Myths And Legends (No label, Bahrain, 1984)
Progressive
Debbie Moss (keyboards)
As a progressive rock band from Bahrain, Osiris were unique – but their music gave no hint of their Arabic origins. Instead, Myths And Legends is melodic guitar and synthesiser-dominated neoprog with a pleasant flow and some good melodies. The end result is a listenable enough album that could have come from almost anywhere, with the band’s location being its only distinguishing feature. GRADE: C+.

Otherworld (UK): The Chronicles Of Manannan (Azoth Music, CD, 2005)
Progressive
Nicky Snell (lead vocals, flute), Gillian Scargill (keyboards), Heather Buck (violin)
According to the liner notes, ‘this album was inspired by the most magical place on earth… the Isle of Man’. Whilst agreeing wholeheartedly with the sentiment, I can’t say that this rather portentous album of vaguely Celtic instrumental progressive rock particularly puts me in mind of my homeland. (I’m not sure what would: maybe something like Popol Vuh’s ‘Aguirre’, which the band just about quotes between tracks.) That said, this is a very good album of sympho-prog, with some fine melodies, lush textures and moments of complexity; with a real drummer instead of the cheap, tinny drum machine it would have been a great one. GRADE: B–.
Otherworld (UK): Manannan The Return (Azoth Music, CDR plus DVDR, 2009)
Progressive
Annia Zalewski (vocals), Gillian Scargill (synthesiser), Heather Buck (violin)
Their second is a bit different from its predecessor, as there are several actual songs here, ranging from the folky to the hard rocking. They’ve also acquired a real drummer, though the sound is still as thin and amateurish as their debut. Nonetheless, this once again has a certain magic and contains some excellent moments, though it’s a touch uneven. The bonus DVD features the band miming to four instrumental numbers (three from this album and one from its predecessor), filmed in locations around the island; it completes the package nicely. GRADE: B–.
See also Gordon Barraclough & Gillian Scargill

Ottobre (Corsica): Ottobre (Prima 0888, with insert, France, 1988)
Jazz/Rock
Patrizia Gattaceca-Santini (lead vocals)
I imagined this rare Corsican album to be jazzy avant-prog, but it’s actually mellow modern jazz with the emphasis on ballads and a few jazz/funk touches (especially in the bass playing) reflecting the era. The longest cut ‘U Mio Paladinu’, which opens side two, is by far the best thing on offer, adding a progressive feel and sporting some stunning vocals from Patrizia Gattaceca-Santini. It is, however, slightly undercut by the lugubrious saxophone, which is overly prominent elsewhere, and none of the other songs are terribly memorable. GRADE: C.
See also Rialzu

Ougenweide (West Germany): Ougenweide (Zebra 2949 009, 1973)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Renée Kollmorgen (joint lead vocals, percussion), Brigitte Blunck (joint lead vocals, percussion)
Their obvious influence was Pentangle, but with all the songs performed in German and mostly based around mediaeval texts, Ougenweide showed real commitment to their own heritage. The main differences from Pentangle are in the strong early music edges, the greater rock energy and the spacy feeling to a number of cuts (although there are few psychedelic influences here, let alone lengthy unstructured jams, setting them apart from the Krautfolk movement). Overall this is a hugely impressive debut without any clear weak points – even the rather superfluous spoken word track is mercifully short. GRADE: B.
Ougenweide (West Germany): All Die Weil Ich Mag (Polydor 2371 517, with insert, 1974)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Minne Graw (joint lead vocals, keyboards, flute)
This perhaps isn’t as consistent as its predecessor, with a couple of tracks being good rather than great, but there is some outstanding electric folk here – especially the two long cuts ‘Der Rivale’ and ‘Der Blinde Und Der Lahme’. Stylistically this is a little different too, with a heavier mood in parts and elements of Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and Jethro Tull creeping into their sound. It also marks the debut of their long-running female singer Minne Graw, who would remain a constant throughout the band’s original incarnation. GRADE: B.
Ougenweide (West Germany): Ohrenschmaus (Polydor 2371 700, with inner, 1976)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Minne Graw (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
Album number three is where Ougenweide’s own distinctive sound really emerged. Heavier, more electric and more progressive than their first two LPs (especially on the superb extended ‘Kommt, Ihr Jungfern, Helft Mir Klagen’ and ‘Bald Anders’) it sometimes resembles both Steeleye Span and Jethro Tull but isn’t really comparable to anyone else. With plenty of tuned percussion and flute, strong mediaeval elements and intelligent use of strings and horns, this really is a superb and highly original electric folk set. GRADE: B.
Ougenweide (West Germany): Eulenspiegel (Polydor 2371 714, with inner, 1976)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Minne Graw (joint lead vocals, keyboards, flute)
This is a touch more commercial than its predecessor, but it’s possibly their best album overall (though there isn’t much in it). Brilliantly blending mediaeval music, electric instrumentation and touches of prog, it covers the territory from the irresistibly catchy (‘Tyllurius Spiegelius’) to the breathtakingly beautiful (the opening section of ‘Wol Mich Der Stunde’) with aplomb. GRADE: B+.
Ougenweide (West Germany): Ungezwungen (Polydor 2634 091, double, 1977)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Minne Graw (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
Inevitably this live double album isn’t as carefully crafted as their studio sets, but it has some excellent jams and a fine cross-section of material, making it an essential listen. GRADE: B.
Ougenweide (West Germany): Fryheit (Polydor 2437 576, 1978)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Minne Graw (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
This was the soundtrack to the TV series ‘Dokumente Deutsche Daseins’ and consequently its approach is slightly different: there are no fewer than fourteen tracks, none of them over three-and-a-half minutes. The lack of longer, more progressive cuts eliminates one of the band’s most interesting facets, and though the shorter, more rock-oriented approach works well there are a few rather average moments. Nonetheless, while this doesn’t equal their previous couple of LPs it’s still a fine set with some excellent material (especially the hauntingly beautiful ‘Mit Mann Und Rob Und Wagen’). GRADE: B–.
Ougenweide (West Germany): Ousflog (Polydor 2413 120, with inner, 1979)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Minne Graw (joint lead vocals, keyboards, marimba, recorder)
The opening ‘Tobacco-Lob’ is absolutely superb progressive folk, with all the subtlety and complexity that Fryheit often lacked, and the standard is maintained throughout. In fairness, Ousflog has something of an over-reliance on shortish instrumentals (five out of eleven cuts): whilst these are excellent, the real meat here is to be found on the longer songs, which rival the best music the band – or indeed the genre – ever produced. GRADE: B.
Ougenweide (West Germany): Ja-Markt (Polydor 2372 034, with inner, 1980)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Minne Graw (joint lead vocals, keyboards, marimba, autoharp)
Whilst the old Ougenweide trademarks – notably the use of tuned percussion and flute – make a few appearances, they’re basically add-ons. Very different from their earlier work, this is rather generic folkish prog and mainstream rock with surprisingly heavy-handed electric arrangements. Viewed objectively, there is plenty of decent music here, but it’s pretty disappointing in comparison to their earlier work. GRADE: C+.
Ougenweide (West Germany): Noch Aber Ist April (Polydor 2372 094, with inner, 1981)
Progressive
Minne Graw (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
Their final album (for the next fifteen years, at least) shows them abandoning all their main musical motifs: for the most part, this is completely unrecognisable as Ougenweide. Instead, this is enjoyable but slightly anonymous progressive rock with folky and sometimes new wave edges, peaking on the instrumental ‘Sensa Unico’ and the lovely, dreamy ‘Ich? Dich?’. GRADE: C+.
Ougenweide (Germany): Sol (Digital World 7243 8 53568 0 3, CD, 1996)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Beate Kynast (joint lead vocals), Dorothee Lübke (joint lead vocals), Claudia Alferding (joint lead vocals), Christiane Martensen (joint lead vocals)
The problem with Ougenweide’s reformation album, recorded by the nucleus of the band with a brace of new female singers, isn’t that it’s bad but that it doesn’t sound like Ougenweide. With something of a neoclassical feel and arrangements based around keyboards, programmed percussion and early instruments, this sometimes resembles Enya (especially on ‘King Arthur’) or Enigma, and its polished, high-tech sound has dated far worse than their seventies albums. Their decision to tackle versions of two numbers made famous by Steeleye Span (‘Gaudete’ and ‘Drink Down The Moon’) is also rather eccentric – did they really think they could come close to Steeleye’s interpretations? As a footnote, Beate Kynast had previously been a member of the eighties jazz/rock outfits Lupo and Wütrio and performed with Jens Fischer. GRADE: C+.
Ougenweide (Germany): Herzsprung (Grosse Freiheit Music BB 053, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2010)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Sabine Marina Reiss (principal vocals)
Their second and final reunion yielded far superior results – whilst this is decidedly more austere and less rocking than their seventies work, it’s a beautiful and haunting progressive folk set. Sabine Marina Reiss proves a highly effective replacement for Minne Graw and the band maintains a strong standard throughout, making this one of the better folk/rock albums of recent years. GRADE: B–.
Ougenweide (Germany): Wol Mich Der Stunde (Sireena 2021, CD, 2004, recorded 1970-1984)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Minne Graw
About half this collection of unreleased live recordings is made up of a set from 1984, but there are also cuts from 1970, 1974, 1978 and 1979. The 1984 set is more good than great, having a more rocking and electronic sound, but the seventies material is uniformly superb, confirming that Ougenweide were at the pinnacle of folk/rock music, offering the perfect balance of ancient and modern, acoustic and electric, and complexity and restraint. GRADE: B.
Ougenweide (Germany): Ouwe War (Sireena 2023, CD, 2005, recorded 1974?-1982?)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Minne Graw
This companion piece to the above album annoyingly fails to date most of the tracks; of those that have a clear provenance, the earliest is from 1974 and the latest from 1982. Musically it’s outstanding progressive folk from start to finish and an essential item for any serious folk/rock collector. GRADE: B.
See also Jens Fischer, Minne Graw, Lupo, Wütrio

Our Generation (USA): Dawning Of The Day (Generation LPM/S 500, with insert, 1971)
Rock/Psychedelic
Donna Gervin, Sharon Spear, Myrna Craver
This is one of the best Christian albums to emerge from America, with consistently fine songwriting and an excellent garage sound with plenty of acid guitar and organ (plus a little baroque harpsichord here and there). Only a handful of copies are known, and unsurprisingly this combination of rarity and musical quality has made both Our Generation LPs top-flight collectibles, selling for quite a few hundred pounds. GRADE: B–.
Our Generation (USA): Praise And Prayer (Generation LPM/S 1000, 1972?)
Rock/Psychedelic
Donna Gervin, Sharon Spear, Myrna Craver
Side one of their second and final album is even better than their first, with a more punchy and muscular sound and some fantastic fuzz guitar. ‘Hello Friends’ provides a superb opener, with a long drum break before a sinuous bass line enters ahead of an onslaught of fuzzed chords. This is quickly followed by an unusually recorded version of the standard ‘Let’s Get Together’ that is both gentle and trippy. In contrast, much of side two is given over to fairly conventional Christian folk, which is lovely but far from mouldbreaking; on the other hand, their over-the-top cover of Blind Faith’s ‘Presence Of The Lord’ is outstanding. Despite being less consistent in style and quality than their first, I find this the more mature and satisfying of their LPs. GRADE: B.

Outsider (USA): The Way Rock Should Be (No label, 1984)
Rock/Metal
Marilu Wills McCarthy (occasional vocals)
Whilst firmly rooted in the barroom, this hard rock album is nowhere near as dumb as its title suggests. There’s a strong Rolling Stones influence at play, with some solid guitar riffs, but also a few minor progressive ambitions, and the instrumental work is supple and confident throughout. GRADE: C+.

Outwards (France): From Here To Where (No label, download, 2017)

Progressive

Pauline Ducroux (principal vocals)

Whilst this progressive outfit have an authentically mellow seventies sound, they can be pretty intense too, and they’re not afraid to experiment – witness the 10½-minute final track, following four originals, that melds hard-rocking, jazzy covers of Björk’s ‘Army Of Me’ and Billy Cobham’s ‘Stratus’. And whilst this is billed as an EP, it features some 33½ minutes of music, adding up to a promising and frequently impressive debut. GRADE: B–.

Outwards (France): From The Nave (No label, download, 2017)

Progressive

Pauline Ducroux (principal vocals)

Released just six days after From Here To Where, this is a recording of the band’s first gig, featuring both material from the EP and their forthcoming album, as well as a fine cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’. Although the recording quality is excellent, the sound is a bit thinner than the studio set and the music is more straightforward and song-based, so this isn’t in quite the same league. Nevertheless, about half of this offers some pretty impressive, and sometimes pretty intense, prog, so it’s definitely worth hearing. GRADE: C+.

Outwards (France): To Become (No label, download, 2018)

Progressive

Pauline Ducroux (principal vocals)

The first full Outwards studio album confirms the band’s knack for melody and dynamics, with a trippy, impressionistic sound that swells and ebbs in all  the right places, plus just the right blend of songs and instrumentals. To Become is also interesting in that it posits them as musical magpies, blending seventies and modern prog references in intriguing ways to create music that’s undoubtedly derivative but, at its best, undeniably superb. GRADE: B–.

Owl (USA): Owl (Magick Hermit MH-004, some on red splatter vinyl, with insert and plastic outer, 2011)
Metal
Melanie Burkett (bass)
I’d seen this band described as doom metal and expected this to be quite scrappy and minimalist, but it’s nothing of the kind. Instead it’s inventive, stripped-down progressive metal with a guitar-dominated sound, some interesting song structures, and lyrics heavily influenced by Black Sabbath and similar seventies acts. They also had several other releases on single, cassette and CDR, some with an earlier, all-male line-up. GRADE: B–.

Owl (USA): Screech (Stop Go Destroy Tapes SGD-9, cassette, 2014)
Metal
Melanie Burkett (bass)
I don’t find this nearly as compelling as its predecessor, with a more generic mainstream metal sound in parts. Nonetheless, there are again a few interesting progressive touches and this undeniably contains some fine moments. GRADE: C+.

Chuck & Sandy Owston (USA): Suppertime (Southern Cross SC-001, 1969)
Folk/Blues
Sandy Owston (joint lead vocals)
This unusual Christian album takes its influences from pre-war country blues and gospel and offers sparse, eerie interpretations of songs like ‘Sinner Man’, ‘Kum By Yah’ and ‘All My Trials’. Both Chuck and Sandy Owston are good singers and the former is an excellent acoustic guitarist; slight rock elements on a couple of cuts add another dimension and further heighten the oddness quotient. Overall, the album sounds several decades earlier than its actual era; the only hint that this dates from the sixties is the excellent mono recording. Despite the factory finished sleeve, only 100 copies were pressed. GRADE: C+.
Chuck & Sandy (USA): Searchin’ (Southern Cross 29404, 1972)
Folk/Blues/Rock
Sandy Owston (joint lead vocals)
Between their two albums, the duo issued a sleeveless 7" EP (‘No More My Lord’/’I’ll Tell The World’/’Unwanted’/’You’re Still On His Mind’, Southern Cross 27599, 1970), which has more of a psychedelic folk sound and lots of gentle wah-wah guitar. Searchin’ is different yet again, updating Suppertime’s folk/blues style with more contemporary arrangements including some electric guitar, bass, drums and finger cymbals; the best cut is the mildly psychedelic ‘I’m On My Way’, beautifully sung by Sandy. This time around, 200 copies were made.

GRADE: C+.

Oxfords (USA): Flying Up Through The Sky (Union Jac LH-6497/98, 1970)
Pop/Rock
Jill DeMarco (joint lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion)
The opening ‘My World’ and ‘Lighter Than Air’ are exactly the kind of lush, jolly, Fifth Dimension-style harmony pop that the album title implies, but things soon get a whole lot weirder. ‘Sung At Harvest Time’ is laid-back, slightly jazzy folk/rock, based on a traditional Quechua Indian song, ‘Two Poems By ee cummings’ starts out as ethnic acid-folk and progresses into melodic psychedelia, ‘Come On Round’ has elements of progressive rock including both bass and drum solos, and ‘Young Girl’s Lament’ is driven by funky clavinet and wah-wah guitar. Ultimately, this is one of those strange and schizophrenic albums containing something for almost everyone, but unlikely to please anybody from start to finish. The CD reissue adds numerous bonus tracks, taken from both the band’s sixties singles and demos for an aborted second album. Perhaps inevitably, they range from great fuzzed-out garage pop (‘Time And Place’) to novelty pop (‘Come On Back To Beer’) and slick, accomplished jazz/rock (‘Flute Thing’, ‘Tornado Baby’). GRADE: C+.
Oxfords (USA): Flying Up Through The Sky Two (Gear Fab GF-226, CD, 2007, recorded 1967-1971)
Pop/Rock
Jill DeMarco (joint lead vocals, guitar, keyboards)
Although the title implies that this might be an unreleased follow-up album, it’s actually a collection of studio recordings from between 1967 and 1971. Ironically it’s more cohesive and less varied than their actual LP, showcasing a range of pop styles and peaking on the urgent ‘Year Of Jubilo’, the haunting countryish ballad ‘When You Decide (To Say Good-bye)’ and a taut, funky reading of ‘Reno, Nevada’. GRADE: C+.

Oxímora (Mexico): Espejo (No label, double CD, with digipak and booklet, 2016)
Progressive/Metal
Marisol Gomez (lead vocals)
Don’t be fooled by the fact that this is a double album – it isn’t some kind of ambitious concept piece or filled with lengthy, incendiary jams. With a procession of mid-length songs, it’s typical modern Latin American prog – hard-riffing, understated and solid rather than special. GRADE: C+.

Öxxö Xööx (France): Rëvëürt (No label, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2011)
Progressive/Metal/Avant-Garde
Laure Le Prunenec (occasional vocals, piano)
From the band names and song titles, I expected this to be zeuhl but it’s actually in the experimental progressive metal camp. One possible comparison would be In The Woods… but this is wilder and more freeform, offering spacy walls of sound topped off with anguished vocals. Another clear influence is latterday Jacula/Antonius Rex, with quite a bit of organ and neoclassical keyboards, but overall they don’t exactly resemble anyone whilst offering references to numerous other bands. The end result may be too relentless and unsettling for many listeners, and the album is arguably too long at 77½ minutes, but this is intriguing and absorbing stuff. GRADE: B–. 
Öxxö Xööx (France): Nämidaë (Blood Music BLOOD-091, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, Finland, 2015)
Progressive/Metal/Avant-Garde
Laure Le Prunenec (occasional vocals)
Like their first, this is long (74+ minutes) and mixes elements of prog, doom metal, Antonius Rex and God-knows-what-else (maybe even a bit of Sebkha-Chott, though this isn’t so self-consciously crazy) into an oddball sonic stew. To these ears, it’s overall a step up: more confident, accomplished and assertive and is certainly worth obtaining by those who enjoy the heavier side of avant-prog or the weirder side of prog-metal. GRADE: B–.
Öxxö Xööx (France): Ÿ (Blood Music BLOOD-240, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and poster booklet, Finland, 2019)
Progressive/Metal/Avant-Garde
Laure Le Prunenec (occasional vocals)
Album three is similar to their first two but has a rather more spacious production style that effectively opens up their wall of sound. Once again it often resembles a much heavier Jacula or Antonius Rex, albeit without the seventies doom influences, and once again it’s an impressive behemoth of a set. GRADE: B–.

Oxyde (Italy): Oxyde (Studio M SRM 150, 1991)
Folk/Rock
Freddy McLine (lead vocals)
From the front cover, they look like refugees from Bauhaus or some similar goth band, but in fact this is Celtic folk/rock. The electronic drums and Freddy McLine’s heavily accented singing (so much so that it’s not immediately obvious that she’s singing in English) create a rather odd vibe: you’re unlikely to hear ‘Follow Me Up To Carlow’, ‘Siobhán Ní Duibhir’ or ‘The Star Of The County Down’ sounding like this again. As a footnote, ‘A Sword Of Steel’ is a version of a song by Kay McCarthy. GRADE: C+.

Oyster Ceilidh Band (UK): Jack’s Alive (Dingle’s DIN 309, 1980)
Folk/Rock
Cathy Lesurf (joint lead vocals)
The band formerly known as Fiddler’s Dram return with a largely instrumental album that often recalls Ashley Hutchings’s Morris On series. There are also a few songs that work very well, and overall this is an extremely consistent album. That said, there are no individually outstanding numbers, but more importantly there isn’t another ‘Day Trip To Bangor’ here. GRADE: C+.
Oyster Band (UK): English Rock ’N’ Roll: The Early Years – 1800-1850 (Pukka YOP 01, 1982)
Folk/Rock
Cathy Lesurf (joint lead vocals)
Playing down the morris elements and concentrating on electric folk songs, this is an excellent example of the genre. Following its release, Cathy Lesurf (credited here as a guest) left to join the Albion Band, whilst the Oyster Band continued with an all-male line-up. GRADE: B–.
See also Albion Band, Fiddler’s Dram, Cathy Lesurf

Karen H Oznick (USA): Karen H Oznick (No label KO-1000, 1969?)
Folk
Karen H Oznick (lead vocals, guitar)
This sleeveless demo-only album evenly mixes originals by Oznick and covers of Leonard Cohen, Gram Parsons and others. Accompanied only by acoustic guitar (from herself and two guests) and tambourine, Oznick demonstrates her soaring soprano tones to fine effect. Some may find her voice a little too pure and a little too piercing, but this is a beautiful album with an almost liturgical feel on some of the original songs. Her desolate, echoey cover of ‘Hickory Wind’ is especially good, and could easily pass for an outtake from the Collective Tools album. Needless to say, this is an exceptionally rare record. GRADE: C+.