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Phaedra (USA): Time To Arrive (No label, download, 2014, recorded 1969)


Patty O’ Conner (joint lead vocals)

It’s a pity this was only released as a lossy download, compounding the already average sound quality, as Phaedra were clearly a band with potential. I can hear echoes of the Doors, Music Emporium and Jefferson Airplane here, with a mixture of relaxed ballads and lengthy jams. It’s not the most consistent set, and despite the claim that everything was recorded in 1969 sounds more like a collection of demos from over several years, but despite my numerous reservations there is some excellent music here. GRADE: B–.

Phideaux (USA): Fiendish (No label, download, 2003)
Valerie Gracious (occasional vocals), Ariel Farber (occasional vocals)
The vehicle of talented singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Phideaux Xavier, Phideaux offer a procession of richly melodic, mellow symphonic songs here. This may be too straight for some prog fans’ tastes, so don’t expect incendiary instrumental performances, but Xavier has a real knack for both hooks and arrangements, so this is lovely, unassuming stuff. GRADE: C+.
Phideaux (USA): Chupacabras (Bloodfish Music zyx-1777, CD, 2005)
Valerie Gracious (occasional vocals), Ariel Farber (occasional vocals, violin), Molly Ruttan (occasional vocals, percussion), Linda Ruttan-Moldawsky (occasional vocals)
Whilst retaining the best aspects of Fiendish – Xavier’s talent for rich melodies and chord progressions is very much in evidence – Chupacabras represents a considerable step forward. This is full-blown progressive rock, complete with an atmospheric introduction (featuring plenty of sampled Mellotron) and a well-constructed 20-minute title track. There’s a fair amount of variety too, including some folky references and even a surprisingly convincing excursion into progressive metal on ‘Ruffian On The Stairs’, adding up to a generally impressive set. GRADE: B–.

Phideaux (USA): 313 (Bloodfish zyx-0313, CD, 2006)
Linda Ruttan Moldawsky (occasional vocals), Valerie Gracious (occasional vocals), Julie Hair (bass, sampler, percussion, backing vocals), Molly Ruttan (drums, backing vocals), Ariel Farber (backing vocals)
Compared to its exploratory predecessor, this is a fairly straightforward collection of mildly trippy rock songs – though very well composed, performed and produced rock songs. At its best – as on the haunting, female-sung spacy folk number ‘Body To Space’, complete with sampled Mellotron, or the lively acid-rocker ‘Watching Machine’ – it’s stunning, though for the most part this is definitely good rather than truly great. GRADE: C+.
Phideaux (USA): The Great Leap (Bloodfish zyx-665, CD, 2006)
Ariel Farber (violin, backing vocals), Valerie Gracious (backing vocals), Molly Ruttan (backing vocals), Linda Ruttan-Moldawsky (backing vocals)
Phideaux’s second album of 2006 is also disappointingly straight, and whilst more varied than 313 is a further slight step down in quality. As a collection of vaguely symphonic rock songs, it’s actually rather good – he has a real gift for melody and atmosphere – so this is far from a dead loss, though the horribly compressed mastering may lead to some listeners bailing before the end. GRADE: C+.

Phideaux (USA): Doomsday Afternoon (Bloodfish zyx-666, CD, 2007)
Linda Ruttan Moldawsky (occasional vocals), Molly Ruttan (occasional vocals), Ariel Farber (occasional vocals, handclaps), Valerie Gracious (occasional vocals, piano)
The mastering is a damn sight better, and so is the music – this is Phideaux Xavier at his most exploratory and creative, with long instrumental passages punctuating his richly melodic, evocative songs. The end results may be too understated for some ears, but to mine this is a delightful album – carefully textured, effectively multi-layered, delicately folky and beautifully restrained. GRADE: B–.
Phideaux (USA): Number Seven (Bloodfish zyx-007, CD, 2009)
Linda Ruttan Moldawsky (occasional vocals), Molly Ruttan (occasional vocals, percussion), Ariel Farber (occasional vocals, violin), Valerie Gracious (occasional vocals)
This is possibly their best: wide-ranging (with touches of everything from jazz to funk), beautifully orchestrated and carefully paced, with plenty of long instrumental passages to counterbalance the bittersweet songs. However, the band’s greatest strength remains Xavier’s considerable gift for melody and atmosphere. GRADE: B–.

Phideaux (USA): Snowtorch (Bloodfish 8 26677 00459 8, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2011)
Linda Ruttan Moldawsky (joint lead vocals), Molly Ruttan (joint lead vocals, percussion), Ariel Farber (joint lead vocals, violin), Valerie Gracious (joint lead vocals)
This is surprisingly direct and rocking for a Phideaux album, and it’s also their first where a substantial proportion of the vocals are female. It’s a good one too, with lots of lengthy instrumental passages, and if it’s not as varied or as atmospheric as its predecessor, it almost makes up for it with its energy and drive. GRADE: B–.
Phideaux (USA): Infernal (Bloodfish 8 26677 90668 5, double CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2018)
Linda Ruttan Moldawsky (joint lead vocals), Molly Ruttan (joint lead vocals), Ariel Farber (joint lead vocals, violin), Valerie Gracious (joint lead vocals)
Phideaux’s first album in seven years is their most substantial set, running for some 88 minutes. In some ways, Infernal marks a return to their original Beatles-esque song-based styles, though there are still plenty of instrumental breaks and diversions to hold the interest. In fact, it never becomes boring over the space of nearly an hour and a half, indicating the depth of Phideaux Xavier’s writing and the quality of his hooks. GRADE: B–.

Phileas Fogg (France): Coma Depasse (Sonart 7083, 1986)
Isabelle Sobkowiak (lead vocals)
Whilst not really exceptional, this is a very pleasant jazz-fusion album, evenly split between vocal and instrumental pieces. Isabelle Sobkowiak’s excellent singing lifts things up a notch, whilst there is some highly competent playing. GRADE: C+.
See also Personnel & Patrick Chemin, Ultramarine

Michelle Phillips (USA): Victim Of Romance (A&M SP-4651, with inner, 1977)
Michelle Phillips (lead vocals)
Phillips’s only solo album, issued six years after the Mamas & The Papas’ final LP, is orchestrated soft pop taking in influences from country, jazz, fifties music and more. Whilst very professionally executed, it’s all desperately dull, and even in 1977, before America caught on to punk and new wave, a record like this would have stood no chance of succeeding. ‘There She Goes’ (one of two self-penned numbers) probably sounds closest to the Mamas & Papas. The CD reissue adds an album’s worth of mostly unreleased recordings from 1975 and 1976, with six of the ten cuts being self-written. This material is in the same vein, but without the orchestrations and MOR edges, so is slightly more enjoyable. GRADE: C–.
See also Mamas & The Papas

Phyllis (USA): At Peace… (SRS SRS-11572, 1968?)
Phyllis Stutzman (lead vocals, guitar, piano)
Packaged in a lovely quaint sleeve, this is a charming album of Christian folk, with some tracks featuring only Stutzman’s acoustic guitar whilst others have a rhythm section adding a spacy edge. With its haunting, naïve atmosphere, the disc somewhat recalls Search Party, though without any of that band’s psychedelic leanings. About half the material is self-penned. GRADE: C+.

Picaresque Of Bremen (Japan): Picaresque Of Bremen (Sound Jets 14447, with insert, 1983)
Satoko Nishimura (occasional vocals, keyboards, flute, woodwind)
This oddly named Japanese trio managed an equally strange LP. For the most part, it offers rather lo-fi hard rock/metal with symphonic and avant-garde edges and quite a bit of violin and woodwind, but it also takes in progressive folk/rock, mediaeval music and even a jaunty reggae-tinged pop number with falsetto vocals. None of the songs is individually outstanding and the various elements within each piece rarely hang together brilliantly, but it is certainly interesting and listenable. GRADE: C+.

Picaresque Of Bremen (Japan): …Tales Of An Alchemist (Sound Jets DRM-1131, with booklet, 1985)
Satoko Nishimura (joint lead vocals, flute, clarinet)
Like their first, this mixes hard rock with some sound effects and a few mediaeval touches, adding a few nicely judged acoustic moments. Also like their first, it has a rather low-budget feel (despite a much better recording) and once again offers an odd mix of influences, though it’s thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. GRADE: C+.
Picaresque Of Bremen (Japan): Out Of The Way (No label ICR-1673, with insert, 1987)
Yukari Kudo (principal vocals, guitar)
Down to a duo of multi-instrumentalist Jun Toshizawa and new singer Yukari Kodo, Picaresque Of Bremen return with a radically different third album. This mixes Art Of Noise-style choppy synthesisers and pounding drum machines with metal-influenced lead guitar, cheesy Japanese pop and a few elements of symphonic rock. A pot-pourri like this could have worked well (although I can’t immediately see how), but it certainly doesn’t here. GRADE: D.
Picaresque Of Bremen (Japan): Chronoclasm (No label ICD-1055, CD, 1990)
Yukari Kudo (principal vocals)
Oddly, their fourth album blends the metal and progressive elements of their first two with the Art Of Noise-style techno-pop touches of Out Of The Way. Thus, whilst it’s a marked improvement over its predecessor, it’s still something of a curate’s egg. GRADE: C.
Picaresque Of Bremen (Japan): Sour Grapes (No label BRE6-832, CD, 1992)
Yukari Kudo (principal vocals)
The band’s final album offers dense symphonic rock, with lots of synthesiser and a few (but just a few) of the techno edges that plagued their last couple of efforts. It’s all nice and unassuming enough, though I can’t imagine this figuring among anyone’s all-time favourites. GRADE: C+.

Pidgeon (USA): Pidgeon (Decca DL 71503, 1969)
Cheri Gage (joint lead vocals, autoharp)
Despite not being particularly rare or expensive, this is one of the least-known major label albums among psychedelic collectors. It’s a rather lovely collection of baroque pop and folk/rock, with decent songwriting and excellent arrangements, plus a couple of harder-edged rock numbers. If the LP is remembered at all, it is for launching the career of Jobriath Salisbury, who composed everything, handled much of the singing and played guitars and keyboards. He went on to become America’s first openly gay rock star, but despite one of the most expensive promotional campaigns of its day, attempts to launch him as ‘America’s David Bowie’ failed and he was reduced to working as a prostitute before dying of an AIDS-related illness in 1983. GRADE: C+.

Pied Pumkin String Ensemble (Canada): The Pied Pumkin String Ensemble (Squash, 1975)
Shari Ulrich (joint lead vocals, mandolin, violin, flute)
Don’t let the title fool you: this isn’t some kind of chamber music, as the strings they’re referring to are those on acoustic guitars, mandolins, violins and dulcimers. This trio offer rootsy Americana, recorded live with an excited audience, serving as the transatlantic equivalent of British folk club fare. American folk is never going to rival its European counterpart in my affections, but Pied Pumkin are undeniably good at what they do and those with tastes more oriented towards the New World could find this an understated delight. GRADE: C+.
Pied Pumkin (Canada): Allah Mode (Squash #Y4UR2B, 1976)
Shari Ulrich (joint lead vocals, violin, flute)
This time round they’re added a rhythm section, which makes their sound slightly more mainstream, but otherwise this isn’t hugely different from their first. The band subsequently changed its name to Pied Pear and issued a couple more albums with Shari Ulrich reduced to the status of a guest musician (adding saxophone to her repertoire). GRADE: C+.
Pied Pumkin (Canada): The Lost Squash Tapes, Volume One (Squash PP1976, cassette, 1988, recorded 1976)
Shari Ulrich (mandolin, violin, flute, backing vocals)
This collection of unreleased tapes – of which there was no Volume Two, as far as I’m aware – sees Pied Pumkin returning to an acoustic trio format. It’s pleasant North American folk that’s a bit less whimsical than their albums proper, but as that description suggests I can’t imagine it (or any of their oeuvre) figuring among anyone’s all-time favourites. GRADE: C+.

Pierrot Lunaire (Italy): Gudrun (IT ZPLT 34.000, 1977)
Jacqueline Darby (lead vocals)
Unlike most avant-prog albums, this one isn’t at all rooted in jazz and isn’t particularly dissonant. With arrangements based around keyboards, synthesisers and effects, the album offers music that’s simultaneously tranquil, hynpnotic and very weird. Jacqueline Darby’s falsetto voice and some well-judged use of fuzz guitar increase the strangeness quotient further, particularly on a bizarre and unsettling reading of ‘Plaisir D’Amour’. As the band name suggests, their music was rooted in twentieth century classical, but there are also notable mediaeval and psychedelic influences here. GRADE: A–.
See also Kay Hoffmann

Pilot Voyager (Hungary): Melted Lights (Psychedelic Source, download, 2020)
Kriszti Benus (lead vocals)
More psychedelic meanderings from Kriszti Benus and her usual collaborator: this time 37 minutes of it, served up in three trippy slices. This is a pretty good instalment: the opening 18-minute ‘Disease [sic] Mind’ is merely adequate, but ‘Tremulous’ and the title track achieve lift-off in no uncertain fashion. GRADE: B–.

See also Forrás Sessions, Lemurian Folk Songs, Paranormal Family, Psychedelic Source, Red Gem Space Funk, River Flows Reverse, Satorinaut, Sessions With Hisa Shiroma, Various 'Psychedelic Source Records – Finalizing 2020 Compilation'

Susan Pillsbury (USA): Susan Pillsbury (Sweet Fortune SFS 804, 1973)
Susan Pillsbury (lead vocals, guitar)
This obscure singer/songwriter album has retrospectively been acclaimed as a classic, but I don’t really see why. It’s professionally done, with soft rock backing and a country tinge (more in her voice than the arrangements), but despite a few mellow, mystical moments it’s mostly generic – everyone from Joni Mitchell to Rita Coolidge was cutting songs like this in the early seventies. GRADE: C.

Pingvinorkestern (Sweden): Push (No label, CD, with digipak, 2014)
Susanne Johansson (principal vocals, percussion, violin, melodica)
Song titles like ‘Madam Else’s Genuine Flea Circus’, ‘You Got A Light, Mac?’ and ‘No, But I’ve Got A Dark Brown Overcoat!’ suggest that this is going to be at the lighter end of avant-prog, and that indication is not wrong. Fringing RIO and jazz yet distinctly poppy, with prominent tuned percussion, this is a varied and interesting album that ranges from bouncy, playful pieces to dark, almost gothic, ballads. Ultimately, it never really falls into one particular genre or settles anywhere, but it’s a fascinating and consistently enjoyable musical journey. GRADE: B–.

Pipe Dream (USA): Wanderers/Lovers (RCA LSP-4221, 1969)
This is typical big-production studio pop of the period, but more ambitious than most: several cuts are originals and each side has its own title, so this appears to be some sort of concept LP. Appealing as it is, it’s still pretty lightweight stuff, and there’s absolutely nothing here for aficionados of acid-rock. GRADE: C.

PJ Murphy Quintet (USA): PJ Murphy! (Leaf L-6475, 1964)
Kathy McBroom (principal vocals)
This rare album features enjoyable mid-sixties beat, including covers of material such as ‘The Shoop-Shoop Song’, ‘My Guy’, ‘Ooh-Poo-Pah-Do’ and ‘I Want To Be With You’. In addition, there are several original songs, of which the best is probably ‘I Say No’. The album is known to exist with two different variant covers, of which the one with the single large band photograph on the front appears to be considerably scarcer. As a footnote, there was no ‘PJ Murphy’ in the band, hence its listing under P rather than M. GRADE: C+.

PKS Publishing (USA): The PKS Publishing Preview (PKS Group PKS-1, 1970?)
Some tracks on this obscure publisher’s demo LP are obnoxiously bad (the theatrical ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ and the smutty ‘I’m Never Gonna Stick It In Again’), whilst others offer reasonable country/rock, ballads and hard rock. However, despite generally competent performances, it’s pretty obvious why no hit cover versions emerged. GRADE: C.

Plainview Band & Guys N’ Dolls (USA): Plainview Band And Guys N’ Dolls (Century S12-525, 1979)
Lounge/Rock/‘Incredibly Strange Music’
Jay Lynn Otey (joint lead vocals), Darla White (occasional vocals), Janie Telford (piano, clarinet), Rhonda Clayton (drum), Staci Graham (drum), Martha Davis (tympani), Nancie Walsh (bells), , Cheryl Mayo (saxophone), Kelly Duck (saxophone), Christine White (oboe), Tracy Applewhite (clarinet), Patricia Patton (clarinet), Dawn Newell (clarinet), Susan Staggs (clarinet), Dimity Wagner (clarinet), Jo Vita Moore (clarinet), Darla Crouch (clarinet), Tracy Sullivan (clarinet), Rhonda Shuey (clarinet), Sherry Miller (clarinet), Kathy Henson (clarinet), Leslie Priest (clarinet), Tina Priest (clarinet), Marla Kelley (clarinet), Kandy Mach (clarinet), Rhoda Goff (clarinet), Cindy Marshno (clarinet), Debbie Batson (clarinet), Deborah Coffey (clarinet), Kathy Schmidt (clarinet), Belinda McClendon (French horn)
This obscure school album features Guys N’ Dolls (an amateurish loungy rock band) on the first side and the Plainview Band (a large ensemble mainly comprising clarinettists) on the second. Both play an eclectic and sometimes quite bizarre range of covers. Guys N’ Dolls’ highlight is a lively ‘Wipe Out’ with frantic drumming and screaming slide guitar; a heavy, garagy ‘I’ve Got The Music In Me’ is also pretty fine, with the rest of their numbers being bland in comparison. The Plainview Band side is far more bizarre, with its hesitant, tuneless versions of ‘Stairway To Heaven’ and an Eagles medley, among other delights. GRADE: C.

Planet Gong (UK/Australia): Live Floating Anarchy 1977 (Charly CRM 2000, UK, 1978)
New Wave/Psychedelic/Progressive
Gilli Smyth (occasional vocals), Suze Allport (backing vocals), Anni Wombat (backing vocals)
This live collaboration between Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth and the punkish space-rock band Here & Now sees the classic Gong sound updated for the punk generation. Such a clash of cultures could have been embarrassing, but this is brilliant stuff, with Allen sounding revitalised and Stephan Lewry (later a frequent collaborator with Gong alumni) filling in admirably for Steve Hillage. Whether they’re offering punky imprecations against the system (the title track and ‘Opium For The People’) or tripping out to the ether on the long jams, this is classic stuff and a first-rate addition to the Gong canon. GRADE: B.
See also Acid Mothers Gong, Androids Of Mu, Glo, Goddess Trance, Gong, Here & Now, Invisible Opera Company Of Tibet, Didier Malherbe & Yan Emeric, Mother Gong, Gilli Smyth, Various ‘1989 GAS Tape’, Various ‘An Odd Acts Event’

Plant & See (USA): Plant And See (White Whale WW 7120, 1969)
Carol Fitzgerald (occasional vocals)
A solid album of bluesy, post-Jefferson Airplane West Coast rock, with some excellent guitar work but not especially memorable songwriting. Carol Fitzgerald has a vastly better voice than guitarist Willie Lowery, but she only gets to sing one number (her own composition ‘Leavin’’, which is far and away the best track) whilst he sings nine. The band then changed their name to Lumbee, under which guise they issued a slightly inferior second LP. GRADE: C+.
See also Lumbee

Plasis (Greece): Faces Of Love (Melody House MH 1102, 1982)
Pandy (lead vocals)
This likable, unpretentious album blends elements of all kinds of music – pop, rock, folk, new wave and even a touch of hard rock – with some undemanding progressive stylings. Inevitably it’s all pretty dated, and it sounds very eighties, but they certainly knew how to craft a tune and could play very well (as the instrumental ‘Scream’ ably demonstrates). Overall, the nearest comparison might be the only slightly less obscure Yugoslav outfit Stijene or to a lesser extent Renaissance circa Camera Camera. GRADE: C+.

Plastik Mak (South Africa/Ireland): Love Connection (Flash FL 1001, 1980)
Alison O’ Donnell, Joanna Fields
The oddest addition to Alison O’ Donnell’s discography was also the most commercially successful: manufactured pop group Plastik Mak, masterminded by songwriter and producer Terry Dempsey, scored two top 20 singles in South Africa. Their music is usually described as disco, but is actually anachronistic middle-of-the-road pop with an early seventies feel and some fifties references. Alison O’ Donnell is not heavily featured on the LP, sticking solely to backing vocals. The label for their non-album single ‘Shake Your Body’ states they released a second LP (Gallo ML 4331), but as far as I am aware this never appeared. GRADE: C.

See also Éishtlinn, Flibbertiggibet, Alison O' Donnell, Owl Service, United Bible Studies

Lena Platonos (Greece): Lepidoptera (Lyra 3446, 1986)
Quite difficult to describe, this odd album essentially offers light folkish pop with mainly electronic backing. But it also incorporates quite a few avant-garde edges and some progressive moments too, especially on the rather weird eight-minute ‘Cyaniris’. Whilst mildly interesting, this is a very incoherent record, and it’s hard to see who it could have been aimed at. GRADE: C+.

Playboys (UK): The Playboys (Electrecord EDD 1115, 10”, Romania, 1965?)
Carol Kay (joint lead vocals)
Issued only in Romania, this obscure UK beat band’s 10" album is now an expensive collectible. All eight tracks consist of cover versions of familiar material by the likes of the Beatles, James Brown, Chuck Berry and Sonny & Cher, and though enjoyable, the record sounds rather quaint and parochial even for its era. GRADE: C.

Pleasure Fair (USA): The Pleasure Fair (Uni 73009, 1967)
Michele Cochrane
Flower-pop albums rarely came more complex than this: the arrangements show heavy influences from baroque classical, and there’s some studio trickery and electronics. It was produced and arranged by David Gates, who purloined keyboardist Robb Royer to create the first line-up of Bread. GRADE: C.

Plugg (Sweden): Monstrous Life (Skatten NR 1001, 1980)
Pop/Rock/‘Incredibly Strange Music’
Åsa Hultman (joint lead vocals), Åsa Mattsson (joint lead vocals), Pia Lundstedt (joint lead vocals, guitar), Anina Wale (joint lead vocals, bass)
This school project album was the brainchild of music teacher and songwriter Björn Wester, with all the remaining band members being aged 13 or 14. A few songs reflect current musical trends, with slight new wave and rock edges, though mostly this is seventies-style pop with the weird, lost-in-time feel typical of such ventures. Avoiding Shaggs-like amateurishness, it has a few hints of Mystic Zephyrs 4 and of a low-budget Abba, and has enough atmosphere to be an interesting score for ‘real people’ collectors. GRADE: C+.

Plurima Mundi (Italy): Atto 1º (No label cd vrs-055, CD, 2009)
Grazia Maremonti (principal vocals)
Quintessentially Italian, this short album (four tracks in just over 26 minutes) features plenty of violin, strong classical influences, a few jazz edges and lots of complexity. They sound influenced by their own country’s seventies scene in general and by Saint Just in particular, with Grazia Maremonti’s vocals often recalling Jenni Sorrenti’s. There’s also a hint of Opus Avantra and Curved Air here and there, with the music pulling in a variety of different directions while remaining consistently polished and elegant. GRADE: B–.

Plurima Mundi (Italy): Percorsi (No label, CD, 2017)
Grazia Maremonti (lead vocals)
No-one could accuse Plurima Mundi of being excessively prolific: eight years after their excellent debut mini-LP, they return with another four-track collection – this one running for a whopping 38 minutes (or more than 41 if you include the bonus ‘single version’ of ‘L… Tu Per Sempre’ that bulks it out). Then again, I’ll always take quality over quantity, and I’m only quibbling because the quality of their music is so high. Once again, they remind me of Curved Air, setting elegant and soaring violin against a dynamic rock framework, though I can also hear echoes of early Renaissance and numerous Italian sixties and seventies acts. I just hope we get to hear from them again before 2025. GRADE: B–.

Pluto & The Planets (Norway): 360 Degrees Of Wonder (No label, CDR, 2009)
Sandra MG (lead vocals, percussion)

I initially underestimated this due to its lack of ambition, but at its best – as on ‘Ascension’ – it can build up quite a head of steam. That said, it’s still fairly mainstream (albeit very well-creafted) sympho-prog and soft rock, giving no hint of its Norwegian origins and sounding more Dutch (in the instrumental textures) or French (in the harmony vocals, which occasionally recall the straightest end of Magma) than anything. The album was reissued the following year under the slightly variant title of 360º Of Wonder (Muséa Parallèle MP 3067, CD, France, 2010) with the material remastered and the tracklisting completely reordered. GRADE: C+.

Poder Del Alma (Guatemala): Poder Del Alma (Dideca D 002, 1973)
This Guatemalan band combine funky backing with lots of horns, some stinging fuzz guitar and mostly female vocals. Some of the lighter, more song-based cuts are a little anodyne, but when they cut loose and jam this is impressive stuff, falling midway between peak Santana and classic Tropicália. Unsurprisingly, this is a very expensive album, having sold for nearly $1000; an American pressing from 1977 (Discolando OLP-8392) also exists. As a footnote, they also made two further albums that I haven’t encountered. GRADE: C+.

Pekka Pohjola (Finland): Keesojen Lehto (Love LRLP 219, 1976)
Sally Oldfield (lead vocals)
This instrumental Canterbury album is probably best remembered for the involvement of Mike and Sally Oldfield: he plays guitar on all but one track, she contributes wordless vocals on two of the shorter pieces, and Pierre Moerlen provides the drums and percussion. The music ranges from soft pastoral prog to more overt jazz/rock and unsurprisingly often resembles Mike Oldfield, with his distinctive guitar much in evidence. With many of the compositions running together as suites, it provides a constantly changing musical journey, with lots of intriguing twists and turns. The album was simultaneously released as The Mathematician’s Air Display in the UK and reissued in 1981 in West Germany and Holland as an eponymous LP credited to Mike & Sally Oldfield & Pekka Pohjola. GRADE: B–.
See also Mike Oldfield, Sally Oldfield, Terry & Sally Oldfield, Sallyangie

Point Of Ares (USA): Enemy Glory (Arula AR-96022, CD, 1996)


Karen Michalson (lead vocals, bass, keyboards)

With its stripped-down sound, slightly amateurish feel and oddball science fiction concept, this heavy progressive concept album could have some appeal for ‘real people’ collectors. That said, the recording and performances are decent enough, the riffs are suitably chunky and the drumming is effectively assertive, so overall it’s a rather good example of garage prog. GRADE: C+

Point Of Ares (USA): The Sorrows Of Young Apollo (Arula AR-99012, CD, 1999)

Rock/Progressive/Metal/‘Incredibly Strange Music’

Karen Michalson (lead vocals, bass, keyboards)

Making their first album sound like Henry Cow in comparison, this is vastly more amateurish, partly because they’ve shrunk to a duo and guitarist Bill Michalson is now providing plodding, rudimentary drums and programmed percussion. That said, the singing is even more inept, reflecting the sheer oddness of their music, their baffling and impenetrable lyrics and the adolescent cover art. Objectively, this is a D or an E – the music doesn’t really go anywhere and the concept is pretty risible – but unlike, say, Double Helix, it still has a certain perverse charm. GRADE: C+.

Point Of Ares (USA): Enemy Glory Darkly Blessed (Arula AR-01012, CD, 2001)


Karen Michalson (lead vocals, bass, keyboards)

As the title suggests, their third album is, rather oddly, a remake of their first. It’s a bit more professional second time around (not to mention compared to The Sorrows Of Young Apollo), but Point Of Ares being who they are, the recording is odd indeed. In particular, the drummer seems to have a liking for syndrums, whilst both the vocals and drums seem to be out of phase on many songs, initially making me wonder whether my speakers were playing up. As such, this could once again have some appeal for ‘real people’ collectors, particularly with the peculiar lyrics and artwork and extremely odd bonus track. GRADE: C+.

Point Of Ares (USA): Afternoon Hero (Arula, CDR, 2016)


Karen Michalson (lead vocals, bass, keyboards)

This 27-minute mini-album may contain their first recordings in 15 years, but it could pass for outtakes from Enemy Glory Darkly Blessed: same low-budget programmed percussion (even though a live drummer is credited), same weird production (once again making me wonder momentarily whether my speakers had malfunctioned), same perverse charm despite the music objectively not being very good. GRADE: C+.

Poison Cabinet (UK): Betrayal (The General Ear GE1, cassette, with booklet, 1997)
Progressive/New Wave/Jazz/Avant-Garde
Louise Petts (lead vocals, synthesiser, saxophone)
If you’ve ever fancied hearing a fusion of RIO, gothic and synth-pop elements, this husband-and-wife duo’s debut album offers the perfect chance. Featuring Louise Petts’s atonal vocals backed only by synthesisers, saxophones and programmed percussion, this often sounds like an imaginary fusion of the Art Bears and an early eighties Siouxsie & The Banshees B-side. Whilst I sometimes find myself longing for fuller arrangements or more expressive singing, this is still impressively weird and adventurous – and even more impressively, despite wearing their influences on their sleeve the Poison Cabinet don’t really sound like anyone else. GRADE: B–.

Poison Cabinet (UK): Betrayal (The General Ear GE2, cassette, with booklet, 1998)
Progressive/New Wave/Jazz/Avant-Garde
Louise Petts (lead vocals, synthesiser, saxophone)
The duo’s second album is distinctly different from their first, whilst still operating in the same RIO territory: more electronic, more symphonic, more avant-garde and more minimalist. Again it’s all very unusual and quite distinctive, and Louise Petts’s singing has come on in leaps and bounds. GRADE: B–.
Poison Cabinet (UK): Dark Embrace (The General Ear GE4, cassette, with inserts, 1999)
Progressive/New Wave/Jazz/Avant-Garde
Louise Petts (lead vocals, electronics)
Their third and final album goes even further down the path of keyboard-based avant-garde minimalism than Betrayal, but whilst it’s frequently eerie and haunting I don’t find it so compelling. The procession of quiet, mournful, atonal songs eventually makes one long for something to happen – and when it does, it frequently involves a tinny, trebly drum machine that the French would describe as pénétrant. As a footnote, the packaging is beautiful, with individual lyric sheets for each song housed in a small folder. C+.
See also B-Shops For The Poor, Remote Viewers

Stefano Poletti & Gothic (Italy): La Pendola E Il Carillon (No label MP 9302, CD, 1992)
Laura Amadori (joint lead vocals)
Despite the band name, this isn’t gothic in any way – it mixes delicate folky songs and instrumentals recalling seventies Italian prog or the straighter end of Renaissance with a few more uptempo (and more obviously neoprogressive) numbers. However, atmospheric as it is, it’s somewhat undercut by the low-budget recording and (to a lesser extent) a slight lack of substance. GRADE: C+.

Lo Polidoro (France): Lo Polidoro (Mandololo Music, CD, UK, 2003)
Lo Polidoro (lead vocals, guitar, mandola)
Recorded before Polidoro joined Circulus, Polidoro’s solo debut is very folky, very French and very Édith Piaf-influenced. That said, it has none of Piaf’s stridency, offering a succession of gentle, whimsical, summery songs, occasionally with a slightly spacy edge. The result is an odd, inconsequential, usually charming and occasionally irritating little record. GRADE: C+.

Lo Polidoro (France): Le Carrousel Des Jours (Marboz CD 001, CD, with digipak and booklet, UK, 2008)
Lo Polidoro (lead vocals, guitar, flute)
Polidoro’s second solo album is in a similarly whimsical vein to her first, but it’s a great deal more assured and consistent. The songs are beautifully crafted and a couple of lovely instrumentals work very well, with varied acoustic and electric instrumentation and a few chamber music touches. Overall this is a very winsome and unassuming LP, containing some delightful moments. GRADE: C+.

See also Circulus

Poll (Greece): Anthrope… (Polydor 2421 011, with booklet, poster and cloth bag, 1971)
Nasia Sandi
Radiating beatific and naïve vibes, this charming Greek album has delicate and spacious arrangements with rich harmony vocals. However, they’re not afraid to lay on the fuzz guitar when appropriate, so this never becomes lightweight or twee, and there are quite a few pleasant surprises along the way. GRADE: C+.

Pamela Polland (USA): Pamela Polland (Columbia KC 31116, with inner, 1972)
Pamela Polland (lead vocals, piano)
The former Gentle Soul member’s solo album is quite a departure from her previous band. The baroque folk trappings are all gone, replaced by a slick, uptempo singer/songwriter style with soulful edges. It’s nicely down, with well-composed and arranged songs, but pretty generic for its era. GRADE: C+.
See also Gentle Soul

Pollution (USA): Pollution (Prophesy SD 6501, 1971)
Táta Vega (joint lead vocals)
The band formerly known as Heir: Pollution returns with a more straightforward name and a Tina Turner soundalike upfront; she emotes effectively over this pleasant collection of soulful and bluesy rockers. Both the original songs and covers are well performed, including a lively version of Sly & The Family Stone’s ‘Underdog’, but the disc is a bit generic and a slight step down from its predecessor. On the plus side, the cover, depicting a chick in a gas mask, is striking and unsettling. GRADE: C+.
Pollution (USA): Pollution II (Prophesy SD 6057, 1972)
Táta Vega (joint lead vocals, percussion)
The band’s final album is decidedly the best of their three releases. This time round they up the funk quotient considerably, creating some powerful grooves driven by dextrous drumming, strutting horns and swaggering guitar leads, demonstrating their considerable instrumental prowess to the full on the jam ‘The End’. Psych-funk heads will love it, and the finishing touch is another brilliant sleeve featuring a doomy illustration of a skeletal bird feeding its babies. Táta Vega went on to Earthquire, then to a prolific solo career, issuing numerous discs in the soul and disco vein that would be of no interest to me. GRADE: C+.

See also Heir: Pollution

Polyphemus (USA): Scrapbook Of Madness (Beggars Banquet BBQ CD 134, CD, UK, 1993)
Elvira Corrall (percussion, backing vocals)
Polyphemus was a duo, with Brian Leary making by far the greater contribution (lead vocals, guitar, bass, drums, percussion and the vast bulk of the songs). This is a rather good album of garage psychedelia, with some heavy guitar work but also some folkier moments; overall it’s comparable to other eighties and nineties psych acts such as the Bevis Frond. A vinyl edition was also issued (BBQLP 134) whilst a subsequent ‘second edition’ (Acme AC8010LP) on coloured vinyl featured completely different artwork and a radically reworked track listing. GRADE: C+.
Polyphemus (USA): Stonehouse (Beggars Banquet BBQ CD 171, CD, UK, 1995)
Elvira Corrall (backing vocals)
Corrall does even less this time around, playing no instruments and only co-writing one song. This is again an enjoyable set of modern guitar psych, with some catchy melodies and hooklines. GRADE: C+.

Polytoxicomane Philharmonie (Germany): Plays Psycho Erectus (Testrecord 858-001, CD, 1993)
HM Fishli (joint lead vocals, guitar, effects)
This interesting space-rock LP frequently succeeds in recapturing the spirit of the early seventies Krautrock underground. It sometimes recalls Gong, occasionally Amon Düül II and even more occasionally Catapilla or Hawkwind, with some fine jazzy grooves and a lazy, stoned atmosphere that’s extremely effective. GRADE: B–.
Polytoxicomane Philharmonie (Germany): Drosophila Road (Nasoni 056, with oversized envelope sleeve and booklet, 2007)
HM Fishli (joint lead vocals)
Album number two continues the band’s jazzy psychedelic jamming style, channelling most of the same influences. However, it all feels rather slight, and the end result is a good rather than great LP. The packaging is interesting, though: an unusual oversize foldout cover with a fold-down flap for the disc plus a booklet telling a surreal story. GRADE: C+.
Polytoxicomane Philharmonie (Germany): Go Ape (Nasoni 090, double CD, with oversized digibook sleeve, 2009)
HM Fishli (joint lead vocals)
After the relatively throwaway Drosophila Road, this is the band’s magnum opus – a double album containing more than 90 minutes of trippy, jazzy space-rock jamming channelling Gong, Catapilla and any number of early seventies Krautrock acts. Once again, the album is very elaborately packaged, with an attractive softcover digibook. After this, the band changed its name to Chickencage Experience.

See also Chickencage Experience

Erica Pomerance (USA): You Used To Think (ESP 1099, 1969)
Erica Pomerance (lead vocals, guitar, hand drums)
From its reputation, I had always imagined this to be free jazz with experimental vocals in the Diamanda Galas vein. In fact the material ranges from bluesy folk to acoustic ragas and improvisations, and Pomerance’s admittedly untutored singing isn’t all that freaky. The result is an odd but creative album that occasionally sounds as though it could have emerged from the post-punk underground, though it contains frequent psychedelic elements including sitar. The musicians are drawn from a mix of jazz, folk and classical backgrounds, and include Trevor Koehler of The Insect Trust on most tracks. GRADE: C+.

Pool Hayes Rock Band (UK): The Pool Hayes Rock Band (Studio One S1/101, with insert, 1977)
‘Incredibly Strange Music’
Diane Lemm (joint lead vocals), Denise Ash (joint lead vocals), Alison Riley (joint lead vocals), Michelle Turner (joint lead vocals), Wendy Lewis (joint lead vocals), Jackie Chandler (joint lead vocals), Ann Bagnall (joint lead vocals), Tina Coulson (guitar), Caroline Crofts (guitar), Gail Coulson (guitar), Linda Riley (guitar), Lynn Washbrook (guitar), Karen Tarbuck (guitar), Lorna Smith (guitar, clarinet), Teresa Gallagher (bass), Jane Crampton (piano, clarinet), Amenzie Williams (tambourine), Ros Chapman (flute, clarinet), Lesley Bubb (flute, recorder), Debbie Bubb (flute, recorder), Anthea Ledsam (flute), Pamela King (clarinet), Anne Simpson (clarinet), Tracy Wooten (clarinet), Joanne Tarbet (clarinet), Janet Randle (bassoon, recorder), Fiona Burrows (recorder), Debbie Hill (recorder), Karen Hill (recorder), Sheryl Sankey (recorder), Jennifer Small (recorder), Dawn Ford (recorder), Sally Aston (recorder), Ann-Louise Fitzmaurice (recorder), Karen Horton (recorder), Jackie Williams (recorder), Susan Beck (recorder), Kathryn Parr (recorder)
In the past I’ve described this as ‘the British Shaggs’, but that’s probably pushing things a bit, as none of the songs are originals, and it doesn’t have the weird garage psych edges that make Philosophy Of The World an all-time classic. But as a teen-pop monstrosity from the vaults, this is pretty much unrivalled among British albums, and a potential big score for the ‘incredibly strange music’ crowd. Cut as a school project, the LP consists of inept, stumbling renditions of cheesy numbers like ‘Fernando’, ‘Rockin’ Robin’ and ‘Congratulations’ – about half as instrumentals, usually fronted by off-key recorders, and the remainder with out-of-tune amateur female vocals. Of particular note is ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’, on which the singers are not merely incompetent, but also give the impression of having no understanding what the lyrics mean. The deal is completed with a stunning sleeve featuring police station-style mugshots of the nerdy-looking kids, although given the standard of playing it’s a surprise to discover that many of them are in their mid-teens. GRADE: C.

Poor Genetic Material (Germany): A Day In June (QuiXote CD 68, CD, 2013)
Pia Darmstaedter (flute)
I like this considerably better than Pia Darmstaedter’s other two bands (though the same nucleus of musicians performs in all three): this has real drums, hooks and some rock strength. However, two caveats are necessary. First, this is ‘her’ band only by the loosest definition, as Poor Genetic Material were a long-established concern and she barely appears here. Secondly, when all is said and done this is nothing more than pleasant neoprogressive. GRADE: C+.

Poor Genetic Material (Germany/UK): Absence (QuiXote CD 73, CD, Germany, 2016)
Pia Darmstaedter (flute, backing vocals)
Like its predecessor, this offers stately mid-paced prog that isn’t mould-breaking or adventurous or even distinctive but swells and climaxes in all the right places, adding up to another enjoyable set. GRADE: C+.

Poor Genetic Material (Germany): Here Now (QuiXote Music QXT CD 79, with gatefold minisleeve, 2020)


Pia Darmstaedter (flute)

This is possibly the best I’ve heard from them – richly textured, melodic and confident, with another lovely and tranquil sleeve. That said, it’s also pretty unadventurous and never exactly exciting, so it’s still a C+. GRADE: C+.

Poor Genetic Material (Germany): Here Now (QuiXote Music QXT CD 79, with gatefold minisleeve, 2020)


Pia Darmstaedter (flute)

This is possibly the best I’ve heard from them – richly textured, melodic and confident, with another lovely and tranquil sleeve. That said, it’s also pretty unadventurous and never exactly exciting, so it’s still a C+. GRADE: C+.
See also Autumnal Blossom, Coarbegh

Pop-Off Tuesday (Japan): Pop-Off Tuesday (Nanophonica MKCL-2001, with obi, 1998)
Minori Odaira (lead vocals, guitar)
With mainly keyboard-based backing, this intriguing album offers a series of odd little vignettes – sometimes catchy, sometimes trippy, sometimes quasi-industrial (hinting towards acts like the Art Of Noise). Whether it really goes anywhere is a different question, but it’s certainly diverting enough, and I can hear echoes of their sound in modern bands like Cobalt Chapel. GRADE: C+.

Pop-Off Tuesday (Japan): See My Ghost (Pickled Egg 14CD, CD, UK, 1999)
Minori Odaira (lead vocals, guitar)
Like their first, this 24-minute EP offers a series of oddball songs and instrumentals that constantly surprise and challenge. Once again, it’s more a series of vignettes than anything truly substantial, let alone memorable, but then again that’s clearly the point of Pop-Off Tuesday. GRADE: C+.

Popol Vuh (West Germany/South Korea): Hosianna Mantra (Pilz 20 29143-1, West Germany, 1973)
Progressive/Psychedelic/New Age
Djong Yun (lead vocals)
This was Popol Vuh’s third album but their first in their familiar style (Affenstunde and In Den Garten Pharaos being experimental synthesiser-based works). An absolutely stunning LP, Hosianna Mantra blends Christian and Eastern traditions, with Djong Yun’s featherlight voice soaring over ethereal, trippy backing from spacy electric guitar, piano, sitar and oboe. The result is a breathtakingly beautiful record that sounds like nobody and nothing else, featuring music so delicate that it barely seems to exist at all. GRADE: A.
Popol Vuh (West Germany/South Korea): Einsjäger Und Siebenjäger (Kosmische Musik KM 58.017, 1974)
Djong Yun (lead vocals)
This is rather different from Hosianna Mantra, due to the addition of Danny-Secundus Fichelscher (ex-Amon Düül II) on guitars and drums. He is the central performer here, with band leader Florian Fricke’s piano taking a lower profile and Yun only contributing a few vocals here and there during the side-long title suite. The resulting music is difficult to describe and is uniquely Popol Vuh: busy but gentle multiple guitar lines with a rather psychedelic feel over clattering drums and rhythmic piano, creating a decidedly meditative, mystical mood. The same year, Fricke and Fichelscher cut a similar but more song-based album with a different female singer as Gila. GRADE: B–.
Popol Vuh (West Germany/South Korea): Das Hohelied Salomos (United Artists UAS 29781 I, West Germany, 1975)
Djong Yun (lead vocals)
A logical step forward from Einsjäger Und Siebenjäger, this features Djong Yun far more prominently and has much more of a band feel. The opening ‘Steh Auf, Zich Mich Dir Nach’ is surprisingly energetic and psychedelic, whilst elsewhere Fichelscher’s playing is superb and occasional guests flesh out the sounds on tablas, sitar and electronics. GRADE: B.
Popol Vuh (West Germany/South Korea): Letzte Tage Letzte Nächte (United Artists UAS 29916, 1976)
Djong Yun (joint lead vocals), Renate Knaup-Krötenschwanz (joint lead vocals)
This is widely celebrated as the ‘heavy’ Popol Vuh album, adding greater rock dynamics to the sound of Das Hohelied Salomos. Amon Düül II’s Renate Knaup-Krötenschwanz is perhaps a surprising addition to the line-up, but her harder-edged vocal style works very well on ‘Dort Ist Der Weg’ and the gorgeous title track, providing effective counterpoint to Djong Yun. GRADE: B.
Popol Vuh (India/West Germany): Yoga (PDU Pld.SQ 6066, Italy, 1976)
World Music
Credited on the back cover to ‘Florian Fricke with Indian musicians’, this was a session that he produced with the famous German sitarist Alois Gromer and various others; the tapes somehow found themselves in the hands of an Italian label, which issued the results (to Fricke’s fury) as a Popol Vuh LP. In any case, this consists of eight pieces of Indian traditional music, with good musicianship and a rather hypnotic atmosphere. GRADE: C+.
Popol Vuh (West Germany/South Korea): Die Nacht Der Seele – Tantric Songs (Brain 60.242, 1979)
Progressive/World Music/New Age
Djong Yun (occasional vocals), Renate Knaup-Krötwenschwanz (occasional vocals), Susan Goetting (oboe)
This is recognisably Popol Vuh, but it’s much darker and more eerie than anything they’d done before, and incorporates strong influences from Tibetan ritualistic music. The result is a striking album that’s very original, but with mostly short tracks it’s also a touch disjointed. GRADE: B–.
Popol Vuh (West Germany): Sei Still, Wisse Ich Bin (Innovative Communication KS 80.007, 1981)
New Age/Avant-Garde/Garage
Renate Knaup-Krötenschwanz (joint lead vocals)
Recorded with a full choir, this is simply an astounding album, with doomy chanting backed by crashing percussion and, on some cuts, heavy garage guitar work. Indeed, the opening ‘Wehe Khorazin’ sounds like a cross between Ligeti and the Velvet Underground, featuring some of Fichelscher’s heaviest and most intense playing. Overall the disc sounds like a recreation of some impossibly ancient, sinister ritual, perfectly reflecting its forbidding cover. GRADE: A–.
Popol Vuh (West Germany): Agapé-Agapé (Uniton U 015, Norway, 1983)
New Age/Progressive/Psychedelic
Renate Knaup-Krötenschwanz (joint lead vocals)
Gentler and more reflective than the last couple of albums, Agapé-Agapé sounds like the logical follow-up to Einsjäger Und Siebenjäger and Das Hohelied Salomos. By now Popol Vuh had come to typify a highly original and distinctive band that had begun to repeat itself, but this is a beautiful record by any standard. GRADE: B–.
Popol Vuh (West Germany): Spirit Of Peace (Cicada C 001, Norway, 1985)
New Age/Folk
Renate Knaup-Krötenschwanz (joint lead vocals)
Opening with an acapella piece followed by a seven-minute piano solo, this is the quietest and gentlest Popol Vuh album. Fichelscher sticks to acoustic guitar throughout, with no percussion whatsoever, and even the seventeen-and-a-half minute ‘Take The Tention [sic] High’, which adds two guests on electric guitar, doesn’t really do much. GRADE: C+.
Popol Vuh (West Germany): Cobra Verde (Milan CD 353, CD, France, 1987)
Progressive/New Age
Renate Knaup-Krötenschwanz (joint lead vocals)
A slight improvement over Spirit Of Peace, this soundtrack LP features largely instrumental music that combines the band’s usual style with mournful, neoclassical synthesiser work. The cut performed by an African vocal group is rather out of step with the rest of the LP, but presumably makes sense in the context of the film. GRADE: C+.
Popol Vuh (Germany): For You And Me (Milan 808, CD, France, 1991)
Pop/World Music/New Age
Renate Knaup-Krötenschwanz (lead vocals)
Very different from their earlier albums, this is a pleasant, gentle blend of pop and world music (principally African and Celtic) elements, plus the usual religious themes on the four-part ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’. Whilst the result is a nice album that gives Knaup-Krötenschwanz plenty of scope to demonstrate the gentler side of her vocal range (not usually the case with Amon Düül II or Popol Vuh albums), the disc is safe and derivative where their earlier works were original and creative. GRADE: C+.
Popol Vuh (Germany/Mexico): City Raga (Milan 7431 23975-2, CD, France, 1994)
Dance/World Music
Maya Rose (lead vocals)
Not so much ragas as a sort of bhangra/pop/ambient mix, this sounds nothing like Popol Vuh and was presumably an attempt to capture the interest of a younger generation of record buyers. Mexican Maya Rose (who was apparently sampled instead of performing in the studio with the band) has a pleasant voice and there are some catchy tunes, but most of this resembles the kind of background music you’d hear in a trendy fusion restaurant. GRADE: C+.
Popol Vuh (Germany/Mexico/Italy): Messa Di Orfeo (Spalax CD 14562, CD, France, 1999)
Progressive/New Age
Maya Rose (joint lead vocals), Guillermina De Gennaro (joint lead vocals)
Popol Vuh’s final album before leader Florian Fricke’s untimely death abandons the dance elements of City Raga and its much-maligned follow-up Shepherd’s Symphony (recorded with an all-male line-up) for a return to the mystical widescreen style of their seventies soundtracks. With Maya Rose providing the singing, Guillermina De Gennaro the narration and Fricke the entire musical backing on keyboards and samplers, this is a tranquil and rather eerie work that often recalls their score for ‘Aguirre’. If it has a failing, it’s somewhat lacking in great tunes and also in variety, but this was still a solid and fitting end to their career. GRADE: C+.
See also Amon Düül II, Gila, Maschine Nr. 9

Poppy Family (Canada): Which Way You Goin’ Billy? (London PS-568, 1969)
Susan Jacks
Terry Jacks is best known as creator of the saccharine mega-hit ‘Seasons In The Sun’, but he released two interesting albums as the Poppy Family with his wife Susan. The opening ‘That’s Where I Went Wrong’ is unremarkable country-tinged pop, despite some clever stereo effects, but the album grabs the attention with the second cut, ‘Free From The City’, a gorgeous piece of psychedelic pop with luscious vocals from Susan backed by sitar and Indian percussion. Most tracks are in the latter vein, and the majority are truly excellent, with the highpoint being the heavier ‘There’s No Blood In Bone’, with an eerie melody, plenty of fuzz guitar, echo effects and Jacks demonstrating her full (and very impressive) range. In fact, without three or four more mainstream pop tracks (including the title song, Canada’s biggest-ever hit single at the time), this could easily have been the best North American psychedelic pop album of the era. GRADE: B–.
Poppy Family (Canada): Poppy Seeds (London PS 599, 1971)
Susan Jacks
Oddly, whereas their first album sounded a couple of years earlier than its release date, the follow-up sounds a couple of years later. Abandoning their psychedelic roots (despite Indian percussion on one song), this is slick mainstream pop, with funky influences on a few tracks and country tinges on others. The pick of the crop is the heavier, slightly menacing ‘Someone Must Have Jumped’, complete with some powerful lead guitar. Owing to the high quality of the songwriting, this is a fine album of its type, and further distinguished by excellent production, but most readers will find more to enjoy on their debut. GRADE: C+.
See also Susan Jacks

Porcelain (Finland): …As It Were. Here And There (No label, CD, 2009)


Charlotta Kerbs (lead vocals), Pia Susanne Kertén (keyboards, violin)

There’s a clear Pink Floyd influence here, and this is often as easy-going as Floyd in the late seventies, but it’s an adventurous record too, with moments of considerable intensity (and volume). Not everything works well – I’m not sure that the spoken words on one track added much – but there is plenty of creative and surprisingly varied music here. GRADE: B–.​

Porcelain Moon (Finland): Swan Song (Porcelain Music PORCD002, CD, with digipak, 2011)
Charlotta Kerbs (lead vocals, guitar), Pia Susanne Kurtén (keyboards)
It’s a shame that this lived up to its name, as it’s even better than their first: polished, accomplished symphonic progressive with plenty of engrossing twists and turns. The only other drawback is that this runs for 26 minutes — I could cheerfully have listened to twice as much. GRADE: B–.

Porsuigieco (Argentina): Porsuigieco (Music Hall MH-14.210, with inner, 1976)
María Rosa Yorio (joint lead vocals)
Bringing together the talents of singers, songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Charlie García, Léon Gieco, Nito Mestre and Raúl Porchetto, this enjoyable album covers various strands of mid-seventies rock. There are symphonic, proggy bits, delicate ballads, a few heavier rock moments and even a brief avant-garde interlude in the middle of the first side. The first pressing features ‘El Fantasma De Canterville’ as the penultimate track, but Argentina’s phonographic association objected to the lyrics and it was replaced by ‘Antes De Gira’. Uncensored pressings of the LP, which come in standard packaging, are thus extremely rare. GRADE: C+.
See also Nito Mestre & Les Desconocidos De Siempre, María Rosa Yorio

Porte IV (France): Rose Et Gris (No label P 7580-4, with insert, 1979?)
M Josée Denel (principal vocals)
This completely unknown album isn’t folk, as I suspected from the cover, but a prog-tinged rock album covering a wide range of ground. Most cuts are funky and jazzy, but the band also has forays into blues/rock and even country-tinged balladry. With longer and more developed tracks, this could have been an excellent LP; as it is, it’s an interesting and quirky curio. According to the back cover, 300 copies were pressed. GRADE: C+.

Positive Wave (Finland): Positive Wave (No label, CD, 2010)
Susan Karttunen (lead vocals), Sini Palokangas (vibraphone, saxophone, violin)
This rather unusual album blends elements of jazz/rock and acid-folk, with some good guitar leads and occasional leanings towards symphonic progressive. Although pleasant, it’s rather derivative and contains nothing particularly original or memorable. GRADE: C+.

Postcode (Isle of Man): Zebracore (No label, CDR, 2007)
Marie Reynolds
Whilst you may find yourself wishing that this lo-fi grungy artefact had real rather than programmed drums, its self-conscious amateurishness – as well as its eccentricity – is at the heart of its charm. Lots of bands could deliver the fuzzy riffing and sometimes subterranean vocals here, but would they throw in hesitant acapella numbers to break up the flow? Whether or not you’ve ever wanted to hear a home-made fusion of Nirvana and Garbage, there are enough twists and turns here to make it slightly different from anything you’ve heard before. GRADE: B–.
Postcode (Isle of Man): Zebraland (No label, CDR, with insert, 2008)
Marie Reynolds
The significant song title here is ‘I’ll Be Shoegazing For Christmas’: this is essentially a series of pastiches of different guitar textures, from psychedelic to punk to metal, all delivered atop short, snotty songs. Bolstered by a suitably crunchy recording, it all adds up to another diverse, unpredictable and mildly fascinating album. GRADE: B–.

Postcode (Isle of Man): Zebracoustic (No label, CDR, 2010)
Marie Reynolds
Making album number three an ‘unplugged’ set – primarily just voice and acoustic guitar – was a bold and odd move, particularly for a band whose sound was built around amplification. It’s to their credit – and thanks to the superb recording – that they make the acoustic guitar sound so portentous and forbidding: this is clearly more rock than folk, despite a complete absence of rock instrumentation. This is also more varied than one might expect from the limited arrangements; though whether it equals the impact and diversity of their electric albums is a different matter. GRADE: C+.

Postcode (Isle of Man): The ZebrATP EP (No label, download, 2013)
Marie Reynolds
For the most part, this offers straighter, mellower rock than their first couple of electric releases – nice stuff, with the guitar textures still the outstanding feature, but a little lacking in the dynamism and derring-do that made their earlier work so special. GRADE: C+.

Postcode (Isle of Man): Year Of The Zebra – Part One (No label, download, 2014)
Marie Reynolds
This 22-minute EP isn’t what you’d call substantial, but – as usual for Postcode – it offers a pleasant range of guitar textures, from the heavy to the delicate, with my tastes tending towards the former. GRADE: C+.

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