Sc-Se

Sea Ensemble (USA): We Move Together (ESP 3018, 1974)
Avant-Garde
Zusaan Fasteau Garrett (joint lead vocals, piano, drums, cello, shakuhachi, nye)
Pure avant-gardism from a husband-and-wife duo heavily influenced by free jazz and ethnic music. With no rock elements and minimalist instrumentation, it’s pretty heavy going. GRADE: D.

Sea Stone (UK): Mirrored Dreams (Plankton PKN 101, with insert, 1978)
Rock/Progressive
Mags Parry (keyboards, backing vocals)
This rare album offers richly melodic rock with world-weary vocals and tasteful guitar leads. It’s certainly one of the more interesting British Christian private pressings. GRADE: C+.
See also Fresh Claim, Light Factory, Newshounds

Sea-Vine (Poland): Sea-Vine (Lynx Music LM 85 CD, CD, 2013)
Progressive
Milena Symańska (lead vocals)
I expected this to be typical Polish neoprogressive, but it’s decidedly more interesting. This duo of a male multi-instrumentalist (though principally a keyboardist) and female singer (whose contributions are sparse, to say the least) offer highly synthesised music that often recalls Renaissance, whilst also harking back to the early seventies Krautrock underground, including some hints of Emtidi. With two long suites (of fourteen and fifteen minutes) bookending one short song and three short instrumentals, it offers some lovely, delicate instrumental textures. On the downside, Milena Symańska sings well but struggles with the English lyrics and the closing number is rather disjointed; without these drawbacks I would have rated this slightly higher as there is plenty to enjoy here. GRADE: C+.

Sea-Vine (Poland): Król I Królowa (No label, CD, 2015)
Progressive
Milena Szymańska (lead vocals)
The aggressive synthesiser line that opens Król I Królowa makes you fear that Sea-Vine have gone techno: thankfully they haven’t, but this is certainly more electronic and assertive than their debut. It’s much more bombastic too, with some intense keyboard interplay, and all traces of the slightly amateurish edge from their first album have gone. Thus, this has none of the weak points of its predecessor, but its high points aren’t nearly as high. GRADE: C+.

Search Party (USA): Montgomery Chapel (Century 32013, 1969)
Psychedelic/Folk
Joanie Goff (joint lead vocals, guitar)
One of the rarest and most expensive American private pressings, this is widely regarded as among the finest underground albums of the late sixties. For once the hype is deserved, as the record is largely superb. For most people, the highlights will be the nine-minute ‘So Many Things Have Got Me Down’ and the aggressive, fuzz guitar-driven closer ‘The News Is You’, but the softer and more reflective numbers are quite impressive too. The band’s Christian beliefs permeate through to the music, with an eerie, liturgical feel to much of the disc, which borrows heavily from jazz as well as folk and has a spare, spacious arrangement and production style that is highly distinctive. GRADE: B.

Seattle (West Germany): Seattle (No label F 66.340, 1978)
Folk/Rock
Bibi Asmuth (joint lead vocals), Sabine Blankenstein (joint lead vocals), Eva Herre (joint lead vocals), Susanne Müller (joint lead vocals), Ellen Schiwek (joint lead vocals), Bettina Wenzl (joint lead vocals)
Cut by a number of students at a Catholic institute, this appears to be a concept album about American Indians. Like many Christian records, it makes extensive use of choral vocals and has a happy-go-lucky, rather hymnal feel; coupled with a lack of really outstanding material, this makes it rather throwaway, although it is a pleasant enough listen. GRADE: C.

Sebkha-Chott (France): Nagah-Mahdi – Opuscrits En 48 Rouleaux (Muséa Parallèle SC0020905/2/1 – MP 3049.AR, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2006)
Progressive/Metal/Avant-Garde
Gnania Del Amafia (joint lead vocals)
With 48 tracks in 68 minutes, spanning all kinds of music within a progressive metal framework, this album could have been an unholy mess. In fact, it’s a masterpiece: with superb instrumental performances, the numbers are deftly threaded together to create an exciting tapestry of music that constantly challenges and confounds expectations. Metal influences dominate the first half of the album, though with lots of Latin and jazz elements, but the disc steadily moves towards playful RIO realms recalling earlier European explorers like Débile Menthol and Étron Fou Leloublan. Needless to say, this remarkable disc is for adventurous ears only, and many listeners will find it intolerable. GRADE: B.
Sebkha-Chott (France): Nigla(h) – Tapisseries Fines En XXX Strips Et LVXX/X Trompettes (Muséa Parallèle SC 0031008/1 – FGBG 4811, CD, with digipak and poster booklet, 2008)
Progressive/Metal/Avant-Garde
Gnania Del Amafia (occasional vocals)
This time they went even more over-the-top, packing in 72 cuts into 74 minutes. With this type of avant-garde music, there’s a fine line between brilliance and barely listenable chaos, and between admirable invention and offputting pretension. Unfortunately, despite some superb musical passages, Nigla(h) frequently crosses it, making for a far inferior album. GRADE: C+.

Second Sign (UK/France): Second Sign (Audio Archives AACD 056, CD, 2010, recorded 1977?)
Folk/Rock
Irene Menasche (joint lead vocals)
From the rather vague sleevenotes, it would appear that most of this was recorded around 1977, but it sounds more like 1969. It’s a collection of demos spanning various strands of psychedelic folk and garage rock, with a few progressive edges, at times resembling Oberon or early (Legend Of The Dreamstones-era) Shide & Acorn. If the recordings are indeed from the mid-to-late seventies, it’s not hard to see why the band issued no material at the time, as this sort of thing would have been exceptionally unfashionable in the punk and new wave era. Nonetheless there are some very good tracks, even though it’s a patchy set, and the sound quality isn’t bad at all. GRADE: B–.

Secret Cinema (Italy): Dreamin’ Of My Past (Vinyl Magic VMNP 011, CD, 1994)
Progressive
Agnese Cacciola (lead vocals)
This ambitious project by the prolific Beppe Crovella (also a member of Tower among other acts) consists of two lengthy tracks of 33 minutes each. The results are a bit of a curate’s egg, with some lovely symphonic passages (particularly in the two Mellotron intros) but also some clumsy and ostentatious tempo changes and a few neoprogressive elements. Nonetheless, this is an interesting, ambitious and well-crafted album that’s a clear cut above most nineties prog. GRADE: B–.

Secret Green (UK): To Wake The King (Holyground HG137, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2009)
Progressive/Classical/Folk
Hilary Palmer (lead vocals, flute)
Much progressive rock borrows, usually in a shallow and superficial way, from classical music, but this project by Francis Lickerish blends classical, rock and folk traditions in equal measure. With both epic orchestrations and electric band arrangements, this follows in the footsteps of the pastoral English classical music of Delius and Vaughan Williams, with the mediaeval edges kept under check and never giving way to hey-nonny-nonny whimsy. Some may find this too arch or too pretentious, but to these ears its blend of differing musical traditions is breathtaking. GRADE: B.
See also Francis Lickerish, Palmer•Coulson

Seemon & Marijke (Holland): Son Of America (A&M SP 4309, USA, 1971)
Pop
Marijke Koger (occasional vocals, piano, percussion), Colleen Fortune (occasional vocals), Morreen Thornton (occasional vocals)
Seemon Posthuma and Marijke Koger had previously been members of the Fool, but their own album is far less eccentric and more grounded in American music. Taking in elements of country, pop, rock and folk (plus world music on the Fool-like closing cut ‘Everybody’s Dancing’), it’s occasionally diverting, but none of their songs really sticks in the mind. The list of backing musicians is impressive, though, including Rita Coolidge, Joni Mitchell, John Barbata, Chris Ethridge, Pete Kleinow and Booker T Jones, whilst Graham Nash produced.

GRADE: C.
See also Fool

Marianne Segal Featuring Circulus (UK): The Gathering (Snow Beach SBCD001, CD, 2007)
Singer/Songwriter/Folk/Rock
Marianne Segal (lead vocals, guitar)
This is more Segal’s album than Circulus’s, although they provide all the musical backing and Michael Tyack co-produces with her. It’s lovely, haunting stuff, drawing on both folk and blues music, and utilises wide-ranging arrangements, with everything from Mellotron to saz. GRADE: B–.

Dave Waite & Marianne Segal (UK): Paper Flowers (Light Flash CD 002, CD, 2004, recorded 1967-1970)
Folk
Marianne Segal (principal vocals, guitar)
This collection of demos by Jade members Dave Waite and Marianne Segal offers some pleasant late sixties folk and folk/pop, with a few cuts featuring accompaniment from Blue Mink’s rhythm section as well as orchestrations. It’s consistently good and enjoyable, but they really kicked things up a notch when they recorded Fly On Strangewings. As with that album, just about everything here is written by Segal. GRADE: C+.
Marianne Segal (UK): Gypsy Girl – Archives 70s, 80s And 90s Volume 1 (Snow Beach SBCD002, CD, 2010, recorded 1972-1990)
Folk/Rock
Marianne Segal (lead vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, harmonica)
Compiling demos from various points in the seventies, as well as newer recordings from 1987 and 1990, this is a nice collection of unreleased Segal material. The best numbers are probably ‘Circle Round The Sun’ from 1972, which has a definite Jade feeling, and the lush ‘Miranda’, produced by Jeff Wayne and recorded in 1976. GRADE: C+.
See also Circulus, Jade

Séguin (Canada): Séguin (Warner Brothers WSC 9013, 1973)
Folk/Rock
Marie-Claire Séguin (joint lead vocals)
Twins Richard and Marie-Claire Séguin had previously fronted La Nouvelle Frontière; here they got to write the songs too. Consequently, this is quite different to their former band, with more of a backwoods folk/rock feel. The centrepiece is the eight-and-a-half minute progressive number ‘Génocide’, although elsewhere they concentrate on shorter, more structured songs. With well-composed and well-played material, this is solid and enjoyable, whilst lacking the something special that would have made it a classic like the contemporaneous (and sometimes similar) Riverson. GRADE: C+.
Séguin (Canada): En Attendant (Warner Brothers WSC 9015, 1974)
Folk/Rock
Marie-Claire Séguin (joint lead vocals, piano)
More acoustic than its predecessor, with a singer/songwriter feel in part and some orchestrations, this is another pleasant but not especially distinctive album. Once again, there’s a long progressive track, in this case ‘La Fête Du Feu’, which is strongly influenced by Native American music. GRADE: C+.
Séguin (Canada): Récolte De Rêves (Kot’ai KOT 3307, 1975)
Folk/Rock
Marie-Claire Séguin (joint lead vocals, piano)
Dropping most of the rural influences, this has a gentle folk sound with a dreamy feel reflecting the title. Each side opens with an acapella segment, and there’s quite a bit of variety (unfortunately extending to a country-ish hoedown at the end of side one). Parts of the album are very good, with some intricate acoustic instrumentation, but it’s sometimes quite twee, including a children’s choir on a couple of cuts. GRADE: C+.
Séguin (Canada): Festin D’Amour (CBS PFS 90385, with inner and insert, 1976)
Folk/Rock
Marie-Claire Séguin (joint lead vocals, percussion, flute)
The duo’s final album is their most varied and adventurous, ranging from ragged communal hippie-folk sounds to mediaeval touches, orchestrated classical elements, singer/songwriter numbers and even a beautiful progressive instrumental (‘Crépuscule’). The result is sometimes quite uneven, but there’s plenty of good music here. After this, both Richard and Marie-Claire launched solo careers.

GRADE: C+.
See also Neil Chotem, Nouvelle Frontière, Marie-Claire Séguin

Marie-Claire Séguin (Canada): Marie-Claire Séguin (CBS PFS 90452, 1978)
Singer/Songwriter/Progressive
Marie-Claire Séguin (lead vocals, piano)
The former Nouvelle Frontière and Séguin member’s solo debut is an unusual mixture of singer/songwriter and dreamy progressive elements, with a typically mellow Québecois feel. A rendition of a Bach prelude, performed by Séguin and keyboardist Neil Chotem, is particularly good, as is the powerful rock break in the middle of the opening ‘Chanson D’Amour Pudique’. GRADE: C+.
See also Neil Chotem, Nouvelle Frontière, Séguin

Selah (USA): Consider These Words… (Almond Tree 20431, 1975?)
Soul/Rock
Kristina Linder (joint lead vocals, harmonica)
According to the liner notes, this album is ‘a first of its kind in the country – the lyrics are Biblically accurate’. But for those of us with more secular concerns, is the music any good? Unusually, this has no folk influences whatever – it’s soulful, sometimes mildly funky, rock, with slick playing and production and lush arrangements including strings. As such, whilst it’s not the ‘first of its kind’, it’s quite different from most Christian LPs. GRADE: C+.

Selda (Turkey): Selda (Türküola Tr. St. 304, 1975)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic/World Music
Selda Baǧcan
Selda Baǧcan’s political activism and angry, emotionally charged lyrics saw her suffer decades of repression from the Turkish regime, but it’s her hugely inventive and original music that will excite Western ears. More than half this album – most notably the stunning ‘Mehmet Emmi’ – offers a terrific fusion of Turkish folk music, psychedelic rock and slyly funky bass and drum breaks, with Baǧcan’s wailing vocals and droning electric baǧlamas to the fore. A few more conventional orchestrated ballads provide a change of pace from the weirder stuff, in a similar way to Catherine Lara’s second album, but even they benefit from electronic effects and some mild experimentation. If you’ve ever liked the idea of Janis Joplin freaking out in a souk, you should love this album. GRADE: B.
Selda (Turkey): Vurulduk Ey Halkim Unutma Bizi (Türküola Tr. St. 305, 1976)
Folk/Rock/World Music
Selda Baǧcan (lead vocals, guitar)
Whilst not dissimilar to her debut, album number two tips the balance the other way: there are more folk numbers than rockers and the psychedelic elements are more muted. Nonetheless, this is a varied and creative album, with hints of everything from mediaeval music to progressive rock, and once again its exotic edges make it especially appealing. GRADE: B–.
Selda (Turkey): Selda (Türküola STR 324, 1977)
Folk/Rock/World Music
Selda Baǧcan
Whilst there are still plenty of rock elements here, including a rhythm section on nearly every cut, this is decidedly straighter than her first two. It’s still an enjoyable and accomplished album, but the sense of ‘anything goes’ that characterised her first two LPs has, well, gone. GRADE: C+.
Selda (Turkey): Yeni Bir Dünya (Türküola Tr. St. 345, 1981)
Folk/Rock/World Music
Selda Baǧcan
Baǧcan’s fourth Turkish album is a game of two halves. Side one is given over to softer orchestrated folk/rock with a singer/songwriter feel – all very pleasant and satisfying. However, the real meat is to be found on side two, which showcases the more ethnic and experimental end of her repertoire. For most people, the highlights will be the weird, dramatic ‘Dursun Kaptan’ and especially the stunning psychedelic blowout ‘Gel Gídelim Dosta Gönül’, but this is quite impressive all through. During this period, Selda had a parallel series of releases on the West German branch of Türküola, aimed at Turkish expatriates; these included a couple of late seventies cassettes compiling material from her LPs in different configurations, whilst the German counterpart to Yeni Bir Dünya was the LP Selda (Türküola EU-346), released in either 1980 or 1984 depending on which source you believe. This compiles five songs from Yeni Bir Dünya, one number from 1982’s Türkülerimiz and six seemingly exclusive songs. Whilst a decent album in its own right, this lacks Yeni Bir Dunya’s cohesive unity (and its best song), so is a C+. GRADE: B–.
Selda (Turkey): Türkülerimiz (Türküola Tr. St. 384, 1982)
Folk/Rock/World Music
Selda Baǧcan (lead vocals)
This is more consistent than Yeni Bir Dünya, though it lacks its predecessor’s distinct high points. Instead, nearly all the songs use the lush – and winning – combination of an electric rock band, baǧlamas and a symphony orchestra. GRADE: C+.

Selda (Turkey): Hasret Türküsü (Türküola Tr. St. 409, 1984?)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic/World Music
Selda Baǧcan (lead vocals)
Side one is straighter than anything she’s done before, offering mellow folk/rock with a few progressive edges towards the end. Side two is dirtier, funkier, weirder and more in keeping with her earlier sensibilities, adding up to another intriguing album. GRADE: C+.
Selda (Turkey): Memleketim (Türküola 1942, cassette, 1985)
Folk/Rock/World Music
Selda Baǧcan
Oddly, this cassette shares several songs with Hasret Türküsü, though there are quite a number of exclusive tracks (the best of which is the funky, trippy ‘Ölem Ben’. Equally oddly, the album was reissued five years later (IMÇ, no catalogue number) as Telli Telli/Memleketim, with five of the sixteen tracks removed; this version abruptly cuts off during the last track on each side as the tape runs out. GRADE: C+.
Selda (Turkey): Selda (Uzelli Kaset 1155, cassette, 1986)
Folk/Rock/World Music
Selda Baǧcan
This is mellower still: lush ballads and folk/rock with few traces of her original psychedelic style. Nonetheless, it’s all very pleasant and at its best quite haunting too. The album was reissued on CD as Dost Merhaba (Uzelli 1155-2) in 2010. GRADE: C+.
Selda (Turkey): Yürüyorum Dikenlerin Üstünde (Uzelli Kaset CD 206, CD, 1987)
Folk/World Music
Selda Baǧcan (lead vocals)
This is Selda’s first album to feature no rock elements whatever: she’s solely accompanied by a baǧlama player (though it sounds as though there may be an uncredited percussionist on one song). That may sound like a major drawback, but between her woozy wailing and the baǧlamas’ off-key twangling, this is an interesting and absorbing set. GRADE: C+.

Selda (Turkey): Özgürlük Ve Demokrasiyi Çizmek (Majör Müzik 002, cassette, 1988)
Folk/Rock/World Music
Selda Baǧcan (lead vocals, guitar, baǧlama)
This is the first album on which Baǧcan handles all the arrangements and production, as well as writing the bulk of the material; she also plays most of the instruments, being accompanied only by a keyboardist and drum machine. As such, this is also her first album with an eighties high-tech sound, but it’s nonetheless pretty good. GRADE: C+.
Selda (Turkey): Felek Beni Adim Adim Kovaldi (Majör Müzik 106, cassette, 1988)
Folk/World Music
Selda Baǧcan (principal vocals)
Returning to the formula of voice-and-baǧlamas (plus occasional percussion), Bagçan offers a pleasant album of traditional ethnic folk. As with Yürüyorum Dikenlerin Üstünde, the results never end up sounding thin or unfinished. GRADE: C+.
Selda Baǧcan (Turkey): Ziller Ve Ipler (Majör Müzik CD 01, CD, 1992)
Folk/Rock/World Music
Baǧcan’s first album of the nineties is also her most commercial to date, offering a cross-section of material from orchestrated ballads to light rockers with electric guitars but also programmed percussion. Nonetheless, this is appealing stuff, adding up to her best release since Hasret Türküsü. GRADE: C+.
Selda (Turkey): Ugur’lar Olsun (Majör Müzik CD 004, CD, 1993)
Folk/World Music
Selda Baǧcan (lead vocals)
Ugur’lar Olsun marks a return to a more traditional sound, with several songs featuring baǧlamas only, though she also uses drums here and there plus an occasional chorus. The result is another interesting, varied and satisfying set of ethnic folk. GRADE: C+.
Selda Baǧcan & Ahmet Kaya (Turkey): Koçero (Majör Müzik 026, CD, 1993)
Folk/Rock/World Music
This is definitely more Baǧcan’s album than Kaya’s, as she takes the vast bulk of the lead vocals, though they both contribute material. Musically, it’s high-tech Turkish folk/rock – decent, but not among her best due to the occasional spoken-word passages and sometimes wobbly sound quality. GRADE: C+.
Selda (Turkey): Çifte Çiftetelli (Majör Müzik, CD, 1997)
Folk/Rock/Dance/World Music
Selda Baǧcan (principal vocals)
This is Baǧcan’s most varied album to date, flirting with dance music, incorporating elements of jazz, referencing traditional Islamic music, utilising a choir on one song and peaking on two excellent rock songs: the classic rock of ‘Bilgisayar Dünya’ and the stunning psychedelic rock of ‘Bir Besitkas Tramvayi’. With excellent sound quality – a world away from her previous album – this adds up to her best piece of work since Vurulduk Ey Halkim Unutma Bizi. GRADE: B–.

Selda (Turkey): …Ben Geldim (Majör Müzik 011, CD, 2002)
Folk/RockWorld Music
Selda Baǧcan (principal vocals)
Mellow in the extreme, …Ben Geldim drops the experimentation and the occasional rock elements of its predecessor to offer a procession of lush ballads with full band arrangements. It’s a charming and melodic album by any measure, but the devil-may-care spirit that characterised Çifte Çiftetelli is sorely missed. GRADE: C+.
Selda (Turkey): Deniz’lerin Dalgasiyim (Majör Müzik 04.34.U.1658.021, CD, 2004)
Folk/RockWorld Music
Selda Baǧcan (principal vocals)
Almost like the yang to …Ben Geldim’s yin, this focuses on the more uptempo end of her repertoire, giving it the edge for me. If only it had the experimentation and psychedelic wildness of her earlier work, it could have transcended from good into great. GRADE: C+.
Selda (Turkey): Güvercinleri De Vururlar (No label, CD, 2008)
Folk/RockWorld Music
Selda Baǧcan (principal vocals)
For the most part, this marks a return to the soft ballads of …Ben Geldim; she even uses a children’s choir on one song. The tempos increase towards the end, so this doesn’t end up being one-dimensional, but it’s certainly among her most conventional albums. 

GRADE: C+.

Selda Baǧcan (Turkey): Halkim (Majör Müzik 038, CD, with digipak and stapled poster booklet, 2011)

Folk/RockWorld Music

Selda Baǧcan (principal vocals)

Most of this is uptempo stuff with a bit of a dance edge, though the ethnic quotient is high too. As such, this is one of her better recent albums, and beautifully packaged to boot. GRADE: C+.

Selda Featuring Boom Pam (Turkey/Israel): Live At Le Guess Who? 2014 (Le Guess Who?, Holland, 2015)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic/World Music
Selda Baǧcan
This is the Selda I love: backed by Israeli rock band Boom Pam, she delivers blistering versions of her earliest and best material, mixing up traditional Turkish folk and Western psychedelic rock in intoxicating cocktails. The crowd sound ecstatic to witness her performing in fine style – and this superb live document delighted me in equal measure. GRADE: B.
Selda (Turkey): Türkülerimiz-1 (Majör Müzik CD 05, CD, 1995, recorded 1971-1974)
Folk/Psychedelic/World Music
Selda Baǧcan (principal vocals, guitar)
Not to be confused with the Türkülerimiz album from 1982, this is a compilation of Baǧcan’s early singles from 1971 to 1974. The material is mostly at the gentlest end of her repertoire, offering some lovely, delicate and haunting acid-folk. As a footnote, this was the first in a series of six compilations: Türkülerimiz-2 confusingly corresponds roughly to SeldaTürkülerimiz-3 to Vurulduk Ey Halkim Unutma Bizi and so on, though none of the CDs exactly reproduce the original albums. GRADE: B–.

Selda Baǧcan (Turkey): Remix (Majör Müzik, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2017)
Folk/Rock/World Music/Dance
If you’ve ever wanted to hear Selda with trip-hop and light techno backing, here’s your chance. The quality of her material shines through on almost every cut, so this release isn’t worthless. However, whenever I want to hear these songs I’ll want to hear the originals, so it is pointless. GRADE: C+.
Selda (Turkey): Singles And Demo Tapes (Türküola TR-11, Germany, with insert, 2017, recorded 1972-1974)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic/World Music
Selda Baǧcan
As the title suggests, this compiles Baǧcan’s early demo tapes with finished versions of a few of the songs. The early-to-mid seventies was her most creative and productive era, so needless to say this is wonderful stuff. GRADE: B.

Selecta (Sweden): En Rock Opera Om Vår Framtid (KN KNLP 001, with inner, 1981)
Rock
Cecilia Ljungdahl (joint lead vocals), Ann-Sofie Burman (occasional vocals), Lena Olsson (occasional vocals, violin)
This album, which appears to be the project of a youth club or college of some kind, tells a political tale and bridges the school project and polit-rock genres. Typically for the former, it is a little amateurish on the first couple of cuts, and typically for the latter it borrows from all kinds of music, with Brechtian, reggae and borderline disco moments. Whilst it isn’t an outstanding example of either genre, it mostly offers solid melodic rock, with effective use of an orchestra and occasional choir, peaking on ‘Lindas Dröm’ and ‘Döm Henne Inter För Hårt’. GRADE: C+.

Semente (Brazil): Semente (No label SMT-1001, CD, 2000)
Progressive
Márcia Kosinski (joint lead vocals)
This unusual progressive album has a minimalist, sinuous, trippy style occasionally hinting at Pink Floyd whilst also subtly drawing on South American musical traditions. Whilst very much of a piece, its five tracks are also quite varied, with influences ranging from blues (‘Ninfa Azul’) to psychedelia (‘Mundo Guerreiro’). They’re at their best when jamming, but even the moments when nothing much is happening are elegant and intriguing. GRADE: B–.
Semente (Brazil): Ao Vivo (No label SMT-002, CD, 2001)
Progressive
Márcia Kosinski (joint lead vocals)
Oddly, the band’s live album consists of a performance of their entire studio album, in order, with the title track reprised at the end. However, that’s where the similarity ends: abandoning the restraint and understatement of the studio versions, the material is played here with gusto, resulting in a truly superb set of jamming psychedelic-edged progressive rock. With the two releases acting as the yin and yang of one another, perhaps their decision wasn’t so odd after all. GRADE: B.

Mariana Semkina (Russian Federation): Sleepwalking (Kscope KSCOPE661, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, inner and booklet, UK, 2020)
Singer/Songwriter
Mariana Semkina (lead vocals)
If you imagined a Mariana Semkina solo album would sound exactly like Iamthemorning without the progressive edges, you’d be absolutely right. Despite the absence of her usual collaborator Gleb Kolyadin, this has all of Iamthemorning’s sonic hallmarks – dark, eerie, spare songs with rich but minimalist keyboard and orchestral backing, at times resembling Kate Bush or Nico betwixt Chelsea Girl and The Marble Index (though Semkina has a much more conventionally pretty voice). Do I like it? For sure. Would I have liked it even better with some Iamthemorning-style progressive breaks and a few rock elements? Very likely. GRADE: B–.

Mariana Semkina (Russian Federation): Disillusioned (No label, CDR, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2021)

Singer/Songwriter

Mariana Semkina (lead vocals)

The problem with Disillusioned isn’t that it’s all atmosphere – chamber orchestras, swirling synths, post-Clannad ambience, the usual deal with solo Semkina. The problem is that it’s a five-song, 16-minute EP, meaning that as soon as each song has transported you somewhere else, it’s over. Had this been a full album it would have stood a good chance of gaining a B–. Had it featured a little more variety it would have been a dead cert. GRADE: C+.

See also Iamthemorning

Senses (USA): Fields Unsown (No label SEN001, CD, 1996)
Rock/Progressive
Joan Morbée (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards)
Serving as a vehicle for talented singer/songwriter Joan Morbée, Senses offered richly instrumented, dynamic rock on their sole album. With Morbée’s bluesy voice and some almost psychedelic guitar work, this is powerful, rootsy stuff, though the nine-minute ‘In Light Of The Moon/Reflection/High Tide’ offers a very successful diversion into symphonic progressive. GRADE: C+.

Sensitive To Light (France/UK/Italy): Almost Human (Cyclops CYCL 156, CD, UK, 2006)

Progressive

Jenny Lewis (lead vocals)

Whilst this received positive reviews at the time – and whilst it contains lengthy tracks with some level of ambition – the music is identikit neoprog that never really goes anywhere or does anything. GRADE:C.

Sensitive To Light (France/UK): From The Ancient World (Cyclops CYCL 166, CD, UK, 2007)
Progressive
Jenny Lewis (lead vocals)
Their second and final album is altogether more accomplished, with a fair degree of variety and more pronounced hard rock edges (heralding Vynce Leff’s next project, Whyzdom). The music is still firmly rooted in neoprog, however, and the songs and tempo changes are rather odd, hesitant and amateurish, making for an unusual listening experience. GRADE: C+.

Serfs (USA): October 1964 (No label S-3992, 10", 1964)
Folk
Peggy Jones
No prizes for guessing when this single-sided 10" was recorded; it’s a nice folk album by an acoustic trio, featuring pleasant versions of ‘This Train’, ‘Five Hundred Miles’ and three other numbers. GRADE: C+.

Derek Serjeant Folk Trio (UK): The Derek Serjeant Folk Trio (Assembly JP 3001, 1971)
Folk
Hazel King (joint lead vocals, guitar)
Apparently pressed in a run of just 100 copies, this offers gentle and sensitively performed acoustic folk that will appeal to those liking Folk Heritage or Midas acts such as Blue Horizon and Gallery. GRADE: C.

Serpent Power (USA): The Serpent Power (Vanguard VSD 79252, 1967)
Psychedelic
Tina Meltzer (joint lead vocals)
Fronted by poet David Meltzer and his wife Tina, Serpent Power issued an interesting psychedelic LP that has long been prized by collectors. Most of the songs are lively, short and folky, clearly demonstrating Meltzer’s beatnik roots, but the closing 13-minute ‘Endless Tunnel’ is a long, trippy jam (unusually featuring prominent banjo) that takes the band into a completely different zone. GRADE: C+.

See also David & Tina Meltzer

Servant (USA): Shallow Water (Tunesmith TS 6000, some on red vinyl, with insert, Canada, 1979)
Rock/Metal
Sandie Brock (joint lead vocals, keyboards, congas)
Along with the rather similar Barnabas and Resurrection Band, Servant were among the first wave of Christian hard rock bands from the late seventies. At their best, they can manage some suitably heavy riffs, decent melodies (especially ‘Cup Of Water’) and some interesting lyrics commenting on the hypocrisy of wealthy Christians, but there are also a few weaker tracks, though they don’t significantly break the flow. GRADE: C+.
Servant (USA): Rockin’ Revival (Tunesmith TS6003, with insert, Canada, 1981)
Rock/Metal
Sandie Brock (joint lead vocals, percussion)
Album number two is a slight step down from its predecessor, showing the band moving in a lighter, slicker AOR direction that recalls early eighties Jefferson Starship. Nonetheless they’re still experimenting (‘Suburban Josephine’ unexpectedly draws on fifties music whilst ‘Ad Man’ combines hard rock and funk) and still offering some interesting lyrics (including criticisms of US military involvement in Afghanistan and sanctions against Iran, which remain equally applicable today). Another plus is Sandie Brock’s excellent singing, which increasingly resembles Grace Slick, particularly on the fine heavy rocker ‘Heidelberg Blues’. As a footnote, the album exists with two completely different covers, with the ‘fisheye lens’ version being earlier. GRADE: C+.
Servant (USA): World Of Sand (Roof Top RT 1000, with 7" single and booklet, 1982)
Rock/New Wave
Sandie Brock (joint lead vocals)
Their third LP showed a radical change of direction, towards a new wave-influenced AOR style that sounds terribly dated today. They also add some theatrical and progressive edges on the two extended cuts ‘Jungle Music’ and ‘Sudden Death’, both of which are quite bizarre. Curiously, the two numbers from the bonus single – the straightforward hard rocker ‘Cog In The Wheel’ and the instrumental ‘Treeplanter Stomp’ – are better than anything on the album proper. GRADE: C.
Servant (USA): Caught In The Act Of Loving Him (Roof Top RTO 2000, with inserts, 1983)

Rock/Metal
Sandie Brock
Abandoning the weirder elements and new wave stylings of World Of Sand, this marks a return to straightforward hard rock/AOR. Unfortunately, it’s very slickly produced, in keeping with the era, with the naggingly catchy results coming close to bands like Foreigner, Toto or Whitesnake at their most commercial. Some of the actual songs and riffs aren’t bad, so had this been recorded at any time except the eighties it could have been a C+. GRADE: C.
Servant (USA): Light Maneuvers (Myrrh SPCN 7-01-679806-2, with inner, 1984)
Rock
Sandie Brock (joint lead vocals)
This continues the slick AOR style of the last LP, again recalling Starship and all the usual mid-eighties suspects. However, it significantly tones down the hard rock elements, concentrating on power ballads and catchy rockers with lots of synthesiser. The result is their dullest and least interesting album to date. GRADE: C–.
Servant (USA): Swimming In A Human Ocean (Myrrh 7-01-682906-5, with inner, 1985)
Pop/Rock
Sandie Brock (joint lead vocals)
The cover of the band’s final LP of new material is spectacularly gruesome, making them look like refugees from Spandau Ballet or Duran Duran. Musically it’s not that bad, adding even more synthesisers and a glossy, symphonic pop sheen to the band’s usual style. Overall, this is a slightly better album than Light Maneuvers, with some more anthemic and less irritating material, but when all is said and done it’s still dumb mid-eighties pop/rock bombast, confirming the band’s tendency to jump on passing bandwagons. The following year, they signed off with Remix (Horizon HS 5016), which reworked a number of songs from their first two albums. GRADE: C.

Session (USA): The New Progressive Order (Oceans-Wide, with inserts, 1988)
Metal/Progressive
Jeanette DeMio (lead vocals, violin)
From the photograph on one of the two inserts, the band look like a dumb hair metal outfit, but this is nothing of the kind. Although rooted in AOR, The New Progressive Order (as its title suggests) has strong elements of progressive rock, with Jeanette DeMio contributing neoclassical electric violin as well as some helium-pitched vocals. Whilst the end result is somewhat odd, this is certainly an interesting and mildly adventurous LP. It’s also notable for its striking cover: a multicoloured die-cut affair with a gold sticker giving the band name, title and track details. GRADE: C+.

Sessions With Hiro Shiroma (Hungary/Japan): Sessions With Hiro Shiroma (Psychedelic Source, download, Hungary, 2017)
Psychedelic
Kriszti Benus (bass, drums)
These three psychedelic jams – with Kriszti Benus sharing bass and drums duties rather than playing her usual keyboards – showcase the talents of Japanese guitarist Hiro Shiroma. If that makes you expect wild wah-wah abandon, think again: the mood here is spacious, late-night and über-relaxed. It’s lovely, blissed-out stuff, but at 27½ minutes this isn’t the most substantial release in the world. GRADE: C+.
See also Lemurian Folk Songs, Paranormal Family, Red Gem Space Funk, Satorinaut

Setna (France): Cycle I (Soleil Zeuhl SZ 17, CD, with digipak, 2007)
Progressive/Jazz
Natacha Jouët (joint lead vocals), Mathilde Maisse (joint lead vocals)
No prizes for guessing from the label name that this is zeuhl, in this case at the most laid-back and jazzy end of the spectrum. Whilst this is pleasant and well put together, it’s also a touch soporific, especially at nearly an hour. The follow-up Guérison was recorded with all-male vocals and is far more varied and dynamic; it would be a B– if it were eligible for inclusion here. GRADE: C+.

Seven Ages Of Man (UK): The Seven Ages Of Man (Rediffusion ZS 115, 1972)
Jazz/Rock
Kay Garner (joint lead vocals), Madeline Bell (backing vocals), PP Arnold (backing vocals), Rosetta Hightower (backing vocals)
With an interesting line-up of singers and musicians, this jazz/rock album charts different stages of the human condition. The concept and execution often approach progressive rock, but the jazz aspect maintains supremacy throughout, with extensive use of horns. GRADE: C+.
See also Madeline Bell, Blue Mink

Seven Gates (Mexico): Wingman (RCA MHLS-4341, with inner, 1978)
Soul/Funk/Progressive
Norma Valdez (occasional vocals)
This odd Mexican LP occasionally turns up on lists described as ‘progressive’, probably because it features a side-long suite with an overture and some instrumental sections. However, the style is basically an amalgam of soul and funk, with overblown arrangements (strings, horns, backing vocals) borrowing from disco. The five individual songs on side one have nothing much to offer, whilst the suite is slightly better (though still only marginally progressive). There’s some good guitar work here and there, adding a bit of a rock edge, but it’s fairly sparse, and overall this is more a curiosity than anything. GRADE: D+.

Seven Sins (Germany): Victim Of Sins (Headless HEAD CD-00062, CD, 2000)
Metal
Andrea Münster (lead vocals)
Victim Of Sins has plenty of energy and power; however, the songwriting is consistently unremarkable. GRADE: C.

Seven Steps To The Green Door (Germany): The Puzzle (F-act, CD, with oversized green metal jigsaw piece, 2006)
Progressive
Anne Fritzsche (occasional vocals), Anne Trautmann (backing vocals)
This melodic neoprogressive album isn’t exactly original, but it’s certainly varied, incorporating elements of everything from hard rock to pop, jazzy saxophone, electronics and even a touch of light rapping. Although Anne Trautmann is credited as a full band member, she barely appears on the album, with guest Anne Fritzsche singing the closing ‘Farewell’. Some copies of the CD were unusually packaged, with the jewel case inserted into an oversized metal jigsaw piece. GRADE: C+.
Seven Steps To The Green Door (Germany): Step In 2 My World (Progrock PRR590/SPV SPV 452642 CD, CD, 2008)
Progressive
Anne Trautmann (joint lead vocals)
Like its predecessor, this one is all over the place, incorporating elements of metal, rap, jazz and even country within a framework of melodic and not particularly adventurous progressive rock. Somehow they manage to make it all cohere, resulting in a good and intermittently interesting album. GRADE: C+.
Seven Steps To The Green Door (Germany): The? Book (Progressive Promotion PPR CD 006, CD, with book sleeve, 2011)
Progressive
Anne Trautmann (joint lead vocals)
This isn’t quite as varied as its predecessors, although it still blends influences from metal (including occasional death growls) and jazz/rock. The best sections, however, have chunky organ and guitar work, creating a solid British early seventies Uriah Heep or Deep Purple-like sound. By the way, the question mark in the title is not a typo: this is a concept work reflecting the band’s dislike of Christianity. Overall this is probably their strongest album to date. GRADE: C+.

Seven Steps To The Green Door (Germany): Fetish (Progressive Promotion PPR CD 030, CD, with digipak, 2015)
Progressive
Anne Trautmann (joint lead vocals)
They’ve never been the most adventurous band, but this is pretty straight stuff even by their own standards: a procession of mildly funky hard-ish rock songs that are as close to AOR as to prog. They stretch out a little on the 16-minute closer ‘Ordinary Maniac’ and they’re clearly solid musicians who can craft a good arrangement, but there are precious few fresh ideas here. GRADE: C+.

Seven Steps To The Green Door (Germany): The? Lie (Progressive Promotion PPR CD 071, CD, with digipak, 2019)
Rock/Progressive/Metal
Anne Trautmann (joint lead vocals), Jana Pöche (joint lead vocals)
As with the earlier The? Book, this is clearly a concept piece and borders on rock opera (in fact, the liner notes suggest you download the backstory before listening to the album). Take on its own terms, this is solid neoprogressive with some nice chunky riffing and a good recording, but it’s less eclectic than the band’s previous work and never particularly exciting. GRADE: C+.
See also Flaming Row

Seventh Dawn (USA): Sunrise (Fantasy Worlds Unlimited, with insert, 1976)
Folk/Psychedelic
Ann Munson (joint lead vocals, guitar, synthesiser)
This unusual LP was recorded while the band were at university, but most of the songs were written while they were in their mid-teens: consequently, it has a naïve and rather precious feel recalling school project albums. Although the underlying styles are folk and singer/songwriter, there is a trippy, psychedelic edge to many of the songs and a few progressive rock influences as well, including quite a bit of synthesiser. Comparisons are difficult to find, but several cuts could pass for outtakes from Holyground albums like A-Austr and Astral Navigations. GRADE: C+.
Seventh Dawn (USA): Dreams (Riverman Music/Bella Terra BTR0030, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, booklet, insert and obi, South Korea, 2008, recorded 1977)
Folk/Psychedelic/Progressive
Ann Munson (joint lead vocals, guitar)
The band’s unreleased second album from 1977, presented here with six bonus tracks of undefined provenance, represents something of a step up from its predecessor. Their sound has the same otherworldliness, the same dense, low-budget production, the same odd arrangement touches and the same slight MOR edge, but the music is often more intense and more progressive. This isn’t essential listening by any stretch of the imagination, but Seventh Dawn achieved something that the vast majority of more illustrious bands failed to do: they have a distinctive sound of their own (with the nearest comparison I can manage being a more amateurish Ithaca). As a bonus, the album is beautifully presented, with a lovely die-cut gatefold minisleeve. GRADE: C+.

Kim Seviour (UK): Recovery Is Learning (White Star WSCD9005, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2017)
Rock
Kim Seviour (lead vocals)
I never rated Touchstone particularly highly, so I didn’t have high hopes for Kim Seviour’s solo debut. However, it’s a pleasant enough collection of symphonic rock and ballads, midway in style between Touchstone, Magenta and Judie Tzuke. GRADE: C+.

See also Touchstone