Alice Stuart (USA): All The Good Times (Arhoolie F 4002, 1964)
Nothing like her later work with Snake, this is coffee-house folk with mainly traditional material. A fair comparison would be an American version of early Shirley Collins, though Stuart’s voice is much more cheerful and far less distinctive. GRADE: C.
Alice Stuart & Snake (USA): Believing (Fantsay 9412, with insert, 1972)
Alive Stuart (principal vocals, guitar, piano)
This laid-back, melodic rootsy rock record draws on blues, country and (to a lesser extent) soul and jazz influences. Whilst it’s competent rather than thrilling, it could be a big hit with anyone whose favourite bands include Joy Of Cooking and Mother Earth. GRADE: C.
Laurie Styvers (USA): Spilt Milk (Warner Brothers 1946, with inner, 1971)
Laurie Styvers (lead vocals)
Laurie Styvers was previously a member of the London-based Anglo-American band Justine, but her solo work is completely different. This is sophisticated singer/songwriter music in a similar vein to Catherine Howe: beautifully put-together and very well composed and sung, but indistinguishable from a plethora of similar albums from the era. As a footnote, the British pressing came with a totally different sleeve design and an insert rather than an inner sleeve. GRADE: C.
Laurie Styvers (USA): The Colorado Kid (Chrysalis CHR 1038, UK, 1973)
Laurie Styvers (lead vocals, piano)
Like her debut, Styvers’s second and final solo album was recorded in London with Hugh Murphy producing, and backing from top session players (Alan Parker, Jerry Donahue, Henry Spinetti, Tommy Eyre, Tristan Fry, Pete Willsher at al). It’s musically similar to her debut too, containing very polished and melodic singer/songwriter material, although the songs are a little stronger this time around. The best number is the rather Elton John-like ‘You Be The Tide – I’ll Be The Bay’, which features some sitar licks. As far as I am aware, this was never released in her native America. GRADE: C+.
See also Justine
Sub Rosa (Brazil): The Gigsaw (No label CRI13858/AA0001000, CD, 2010)
Márcia Cristina (joint lead vocals), Bárbara Laranjeira (drums, percussion)
This symphonic progressive album demonstrates a high level of complexity and innovation, with some experimental moments too (especially on the lengthy opening instrumental section). It’s not perfect, thanks to some occasionally sluggish drumming and a heavily accented male vocalist (who should not have attempted English lyrics), but the overall standard is impressive. GRADE: B–.
Sub Rosa (Brazil): 11:11 (Progressive Rock Worldwide PRW 042, with digipak and booklet, 2021)
Barbara Laranjeira (joint lead vocals, drums)
A double concept album running for nearly two hours might lead you to expect something special, but for the most part this is less ambitious than their debut, offering a procession of melodic but hardly invigorating songs. As on their first, the drumming is occasionally lethargic – come to that, the entire performances are sometimes on the wrong side of laid-back, so this is emphatically not a step forward from their promising but mildly flawed debut. GRADE: C+.
Sub Zero Band (USA): Sub Zero Band (No label SZ1172, 1972)
Ann Hudson (joint lead vocals, keyboards)
For the most part, this is rootsy Americana with lots of fiddle, closely resembling the contemporaneous Shiva’s Headband. At its worst (the novelty song ‘Tom Cat Blues’) it’s a poor and irritating LP, but there are also some enjoyable long tracks (notably ‘Home Is Where Your Head Is’ and ‘Simple Man’) including some deft psychedelic moves. GRADE: C+.
Suburban Savages (Norway): Kore Wa! (Apollon ARP005CD, CD, 2016)
Nina Hagen Kaldhol (guitar, synthesiser, backing vocals)
From the title, I expected this to be Japanese or Korean, and from the band name and cover I expected garage rock, but I’d seen it described as avant-prog. There are hints of experimentation here, notably on the lengthy closing instrumental ‘Docteur Mago’, which takes them firmly into zeuhl territory, and the preceding title track, which unsurprisingly has some Oriental elements. However, for the most part this is mellow prog with some pop edges, occasionally hinting at everyone from Air to Pink Floyd. GRADE: C+.
Subdued Hubbub (UK): Subdued Hubbub With Brenda Jones (RA RALP 6005B, 1970)
Brenda Jones (joint lead vocals)
Presumably a big draw in the pubs and clubs of the West Country, Subdued Hubbub was a three-piece lounge beat band (vocals and organ, bass and drums) that sometimes performed with guest singer Brenda Jones. Their sole album consists entirely of cover versions of familiar material, and is notable for the complete absence of guitar. GRADE: C.
Alisha Sufit (UK): Love And The Maiden (Magic Carpet MC 1002 CD, CD, autographed and numbered, 1994, recorded 1974)
Alisha Sufit (lead vocals, guitar, dulcimer)
This solo voice-and-acoustic guitar album was recorded a couple of years after the Magic Carpet LP, but remained unreleased for 20 years. It’s pleasant and heartfelt stuff, though there’s always a limit to how exciting (not to mention how varied) a record of this type can be. What’s most surprising is how much Sufit resembles early Joni Mitchell here, something not obvious from her work with Magic Carpet. GRADE: C+.
Alisha Sufit (UK): Alisha Through The Looking-Glass (Sufit 010 CD, CD, 1993)
Alisha Sufit (lead vocals, guitar, dulcimer)
Sufit’s second solo album (though her first to be released) sees her accompanied by a few backing musicians and has a light, jazzy style. It’s a charming and relaxed set, with definite Joni Mitchell touches, but also a few slight neoclassical touches here and there. GRADE: C+.
See also Magic Carpet
Sugar Shoppe (Canada): The Sugar Shoppe (Capitol ST 2959, 1968)
Lee Harris, Laurie Hood
As the band name suggests, this is gentle harmony pop, with a mixture of covers and original songs and a few hip period touches (prominent sitar on ‘The Attitude’, fuzz guitar leads on the mildly psychedelic ‘Let The Truth Come Out’). It’s well done and definitely a touch above average, but – like most albums of its type – ultimately pretty generic. GRADE: C+.
See also Canadian Rock Theatre
Saiichi Sugiyama Band (UK/Japan): The Smokehouse Sessions (Cedar Mountain, CD, with digipak, 2013)
Rietta Austin (lead vocals)
This Anglo-Japanese heavy blues/rock outfit includes the well-travelled Canterbury musician Rick Biddulph (Anaïd, Spirogyra et al) in its line-up, and two cuts here were co-written with Pete Brown. With a stripped-down line-up of voice, guitars (including lots of acid leads), bass and drums, this is a fantastic Cream-style late sixties set; the only drawback is the bright, loud and unsympathetic modern production style. GRADE: B–.
Suicidal Flowers (UK): The Final Arrangements (No label SF-1, with insert, 1992)
Jessica Tinsley (joint lead vocals)
The album basically operates in two veins: beautiful, classically-tinged folk and more upbeat rock numbers, both with psychedelic edges and interspersed with spoken-word samples. The former cuts are vastly better, with the power of the rock pieces being significantly undercut by the weedy, almost mono sound. Following the initial private pressing of 500 copies, the band lost both the mixed master tapes and cover artwork due to the collapse of their Hungarian-based pressing plant; for this reason, the second issue (easily differentiated due to its white rather than black cover) supposedly has a different mix. GRADE: C+.
Suicidal Flowers (UK): Burn Mother Burn (Delerium DELEC CD 043, CD, 1996)
Helen Gee (joint lead vocals), Jo Swiss (occasional vocals)
The opening double whammy of the title track (dark, sinister and haunting, with quite disturbing lyrics) and ‘Fatwah’ (a beautiful folk/rocker) is highly impressive. The standard doesn’t drop thereafter, but the band do reveal themselves to be musical magpies, appropriating elements of all kinds of new wave, festival and space-rock bands on different cuts: a bit of Omnia Opera here, a touch of the Stranglers there, and even what sounds like a near-homage to the Cramps, mixed with some more lovely folk numbers. Consequently, whilst there’s some excellent music here, the disc sometimes resembles a ‘various artists’ compilation rather than anything coherent. GRADE: C+.
Suicidal Flowers (UK): The Psychedevelic Sounds Of… (No label, with insert, 1997)
Helen Gee (joint lead vocals), Jo Swiss (joint lead vocals)
Mixing numbers from Burn Mother Burn with a few sixties covers, this live set emphasises the band’s garage punk roots. Whilst it’s a bit raw and amateurish, with a few slightly off-key vocals, it’s enjoyable and energetic enough. GRADE: C+.
Suicidal Flowers (UK): Worship The Waterfall (Delerium DELEC CD 069, CD, 1998)
Sass (principal vocals), Miriam Jones (occasional vocals), Helen Gee (occasional vocals), Jasmin Bach (occasional vocals), Jo Swiss (backing vocals)
Sensibly reducing the level of eclecticism from Burn Mother Burn, this mostly concentrates on haunting, woozy folk/rock numbers with an eerie, pagan feel. A few more uptempo garage rockers are thrown into the mix, fitting in pretty well, and the whole thing has an appealing rough-hewn amateurism, making for their best album. GRADE: B–.
See also God’s Little Monkeys
Summer Time (UK): Summer Time (Emidisc, 10" acetate, 1967?)
This six-track mini-album showcases a folk outfit fronted by one Susan Pierce, performing familiar standards like ‘The Leaving Of Liverpool’, ‘Last Thing On My Mind’ and of course ‘Summertime’. With simple acoustic guitar plus harmony vocals and a sparkling mono recording, it’s pleasant enough set of contemporary folk. GRADE: C+.
Saffron Summerfield (UK): Salisbury Plain (Mother Earth MUM 1, 1974)
Saffron Summerfield (lead vocals, guitar, harmonium)
Saffron Summerfield had previously been a member of Trader Horne towards the end of their career, replacing Judy Dyble; I’ve heard mixed accounts as to whether she or Dyble appeared on the post-LP single ‘Here Comes The Rain’/‘Goodbye Mercy Kelly’. Her solo debut is for the most part a pleasant but not really exceptional singer/songwriter affair, with sparse songs based around her own acoustic guitar. However, ‘The Sisters Of Saint Mildred’ and the title track showcase her harmonium and have a much more eerie, mystical feel; along with a beautiful, haunting version of the traditional ‘The Dowie Dens O’ Yarrow’ they are by far the album’s highpoints. GRADE: C+.
Saffron Summerfield (UK): Fancy Meeting You Here! (Mother Earth MUM 2, 1976)
Saffron Summerfield (lead vocals, guitar, harmonium)
Summerfield’s second and final album is in the same vein as her first, although darker and more contemplative, with some good use of cello. The highpoints this time are ‘Passion For A Child’, with its unexpected outbursts of fuzz guitar, the harmonium-led ‘Pictures In A Frame’ and the creepy and sinister title track. On the downside, her cover of ‘Eleanor Rigby’, whilst radical and creative, is far from a success. GRADE: C+.
Summoner (Italy): Winter Solstice (BTOD BTOD-0321, CD, 2003)
Nadia (occasional vocals)
Initially the album impresses with its powerful, muscular sound, but ultimately it has far too much in the way of death growls and far too little in the way of variety or originality. GRADE: C.
Sun (Australia): 1972 (RCA, 1972)
Renée Geyer (lead vocals)
This unusual album offers a mixture of modern jazz and psychedelic-influenced rock, with a blend of longer and shorter tracks. It’s patchy and sometimes quite pedestrian (especially on ‘Silver Dollar Rag’) but the best moments are quite impressive. Singer Renée Geyer, who often uncannily resembles Inga Rumpf, went on to a lengthy career performing slick blues/rock and soul/rock. GRADE: B–.
See also Renée Geyer
Sun Also Rises (UK): The Sun Also Rises (Village Thing VTS 2, with insert, 1970)
Anne Hemingway (joint lead vocals, percussion, dulcimer)
I was a little underwhelmed by this Incredible String Band-influenced psychedelic folk LP when I first heard it, but its subtle charms definitely unfold on further listens. Accompanied by acoustic guitar, contrabass, percussion, dulcimer and unfortunately some kazoo, the husband-and-wife duo offer an eerie procession of haunting, darkly beautiful songs that occasionally hint at Comus without the demented fury. Overall it’s an atmospheric and strikingly minimal set; it’s just a shame about that kazoo… GRADE: B.
Sundance (Sweden): Sundance (EMI Harvest 4E 062-35289, 1976)
Anita Nyman (lead vocals)
The shrill brass tutti and excited yells that open the LP don’t bode well, but this is a decent enough album of funky jazz-fusion, with a few excellent instrumental passages. Of course, had it been released five years earlier it would probably have eschewed the more commercial aspects, but it’s nonetheless a solid example of the genre (assuming you don’t mind lots and lots of horns). GRADE: C+.
Sunday Afternoons (UK): Sunday Afternoons (Longman LG 56732, with insert, 1973)
Christine Jeffrey (occasional vocals), Patricia Spratt (occasional vocals)
Orchestrated folky pop isn’t one of my favourite genres, but this is an unusually good example, with some beautifully crafted, catchy songs and with strings and woodwind used to excellent (and not intrusive) effect. The style is definitely more sixties than seventies, and the material really does evoke a carefree, sunny Sunday afternoon, perfectly captured by the attractive sleeve. As a footnote, this was one of several albums issued by the Longman publishing company as an aid to language teaching; some of these LPs contain surprisingly good music. One Kate Hill is co-credited with the arrangements, and described as an oboist; she presumably also plays on the LP. As a footnote, Jeffrey and Spratt were apparently members of a group called Filigree, which had just made a record prior to recording this album, but I’ve never encountered any evidence that it was actually released. GRADE: C+.
Sündenfall II (West Germany): Sündenfall II (Trefiton HS 1017, 1972)
Kerstin Fleischhammer (occasional vocals)
This is among the rarest German albums, having sold for around the €1000 mark. Side one is excellent hippie folk with acoustic guitar, bongos and mournful solo trumpet, flute or harmonica, peaking on the delightful ‘Montpellier’. Side two is patchier, beginning with a long jazz instrumental (slightly recalling the opening cut from the Collective Tools LP, but nowhere near as atmospheric) and taking in a flute solo and a few songs in the same style as side one (though not as good). 200 copies were issued, in an unglued oversized foldover sleeve. GRADE: C+.
Sunderland Quartet (UK): For Me To Live In Christ (Sharon Recordings ShLP 1245, 1971)
Margaret Kirton (joint lead vocals), Jennifer Weaver (joint lead vocals)
Beware if you see this offered as ‘Christian folk/rock’: it’s nothing of the kind. Instead, it’s straightforward MOR, with the quartet delivering their own songs and some covers to backing from piano, end-of-the-pier organ and a rhythm section. On the plus side, ‘Invisible Chains’ has a nice garage lounge sound, but it’s the only song of any merit, though some of the remainder is so square that it might have some perverse appeal for ‘real people’ collectors. GRADE: E.
Sundown (UK): Happy State Of Mind (Tank BSS 142 LP, 1975?)
Cheryl Synnott (joint lead vocals, bass)
This private pressing offers mellow, rather loungy, country music with backing from acoustic, electric and steel guitars, bass, tambourine and harmonica. Without syrupy strings or any of the other trappings of country-and-western, it’s all rather pleasant, but there’s nothing much here for rock (let alone psychedelic or progressive) fans. GRADE: C.
Sunforest (USA): Sound Of Sunforest (Deram Nova (S)DN 7, UK, 1970)
Terry Tucker (joint lead vocals, keyboards), Freya Hogue (joint lead vocals, guitar, banjo), Erika Eigen (joint lead vocals, percussion)
Drawing influences from medieval music and many other genres, this beautifully-packaged LP is a supremely inventive and trippy affair, with a big studio production, influences from all kinds of music and plenty of surreal humour. It is rightly revered as a classic of its genre, and two tracks went on to be re-recorded for Stanley Kubrick’s 'A Clockwork Orange' (‘Overture To The Sun’ and ‘Lighthouse Keeper’). Freya Hogue was later a member of the superb Everyone Involved. GRADE: B–.
See also Everyone Involved
Sunrise (USA): Sunrise (World Concept WC 17407, 1973)
Frannie Foley (joint lead vocals, tambourine), Pat Foley (joint lead vocals, guitar, flute), Mindy Haley (joint lead vocals, guitar, banjo), Judy Kuemerrie (joint lead vocals, organ), Mary Paule (joint lead vocals, drums), Diana Jaron (joint lead vocals, saxophone, clarinet)
A charming set of garage pop from an all-girl band, giving an indication of how the Shaggs might have sounded after several years’ intensive music tuition. With lush harmonies galore, they cover an eclectic range of material, from ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ and ‘Johnny B Goode’ to more contemporary numbers like ‘Half-Breed’ and ‘You’re So Vain’. Garage, ‘real people’ and sixties pop fans (despite the release date, the album sounds quite a few years behind the times) should all love this as much as I do. GRADE: C+.
Sunscape (Italy): Sunscape (Mellow MMP 363, CD, 1999)
Marinella Mastrosimone (occasional vocals)
The instrumentals are delicate and almost ambient at times, with a few trip hop touches thrown in, led by hazy washes of flute. The bright and breezy songs are similarly understated though less distinctive, with the whole thing having a mildly jazzy ambience. It all adds up to a charming, spacy and atmospheric album that would have been immeasurably improved had they concentrated solely on instrumentals and jams. GRADE: C+.
See also Giöbia
Sunset (UK): Sunset (Holme Recordings 1202/4, acetate, 1971)
This relaxed and mellow acoustic folk album combines pleasant performances, well-chosen material and good vocal harmonies to pleasing effect. It’s possible that the band was connected with Skean Dhu, a similar-sounding folk club act with an acetate on the same label, but neither LP has a sleeve or any personnel details. GRADE: C+.
Sunset Love (USA): The History Of Texas Garage Bands In The 60s – Volume 6: Psychedelic Flower Power With Sunset Love
(Collectables COL-0665, CD, 1995, recorded 1968)
According to the rather sparse liner notes (which are steeped in hyperbole and compare Sunset Love to everyone from Jefferson Airplane to Procol Harum, but don’t include anything as useful as personnel details), the material here was recorded in late 1968 for a label named AOK, but the projected album was abandoned. Quite why is unclear, as this is as good a pastiche of trippy flower-pop styles – somewhere between the Mamas & The Papas and Peanut Butter Conspiracy – as one could hope for, with nearly all the material being self-penned. Steeped in period atmosphere, this is an excellent and important release; it’s just a pity about the generic packaging and overly effusive notes. GRADE: B–.
Sunshine (UK): Sunshine (Warner Brothers K 46169, 1972)
Joanne White (occasional vocals, percussion), Ethel Coley (occasional vocals, percussion)
This is a rather good early seventies rock album with soulful edges, somewhat similar to contemporaries like Ashman Reynolds. With some strong guitar leads, plus some beautiful Mellotron on ‘Long Haired Lady’, it may also appeal to some progressive and psychedelic fans. The line-up included drummer Terry Slade, formerly of Renaissance. GRADE: C+.
Sunshine Company (USA): Happy Is The Sunshine Company (Imperial LP 9359 / 12359, 1967)
Mary Nance (joint lead vocals)
Surprisingly, in view of the band name and album title, this is dark and sinister proto-metal with eerie occult themes, and was almost certainly the principal influence on Black Sabbath. I’m joking, of course: it’s good-natured West Coast harmony pop, and extremely well done too. The shimmering, ethereal ‘I Need You’ and the funky, fuzz guitar-driven ‘Four In The Mornin’’ are particular highpoints of an LP that’s unusually varied for the genre. GRADE: C+.
Sunshine Company (USA): The Sunshine Company (Imperial LP 12368, 1968)
Their second album is gentler and folkier than their debut, and is again consistent and accomplished. There’s not as much variety here, but the album is still quite inventive in parts – notably the electronically-treated vocals on ‘I Can’t Help But Wonder’ and the sound effect of a record player being switched on and the needle dropped at the start of the hauntingly beautiful ‘I, To We, And Back Again’. GRADE: C+.
Sunshine Company (USA): Sunshine And Shadows (Imperial LP 12399, 1968)
The heavily orchestrated opening cuts notwithstanding, the band’s third and final LP shows them leaving sunshine pop behind in favour of more contemporary (for the late sixties) sounds. Thus you get several melodic rockers, one country-flavoured cut and a jaunty instrumental, among other diversions. The result is rather uneven, but mostly enjoyable. Highlights include the mournful blues/rocker ‘Willie Jean’, the mellow soft-rocker ‘Wingate Square’ and the rather eerie folk song ‘Springtime Meadows’. The album is also worth obtaining for its superb multi-coloured gatefold sleeve. GRADE: C+.
Super 5 Thor (USA): Ford (Echostatic/Space Baby ECHO 101, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, inner and booklet, 1995)
Alisa (drums, backing vocals)
It’s no accident that they have a female drummer: Super 5 Thor’s idols were evidently the Velvet Underground, and this is so close to a pastiche of the Velvets’ third album that I’d almost believe these songs were outtakes if played them blind. They have impeccable taste, of course, and this is beautifully put together (with both the singing and guitar a dead ringer for the Velvets) but the lack of their own personality precludes a higher grade. That said, anyone who loves Damon & Naomi and Galaxie 500 should absolutely adore this.
Super 5 Thor (USA): Gazelle (Echostatic/Space Baby ECHO 103, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and inner, 1997)
Alisa (drums, backing vocals)
Their second and final album also has strong Velvet Underground influences, but it’s a bit more contemporary, with some neo-psychedelic and shoegaze touches. Once again, it’s not the most original or substantial album in the world, but it’s very pleasant and enjoyable.
Super Freego (France): Pourquoi Es-Tu Si Méchant? (RCA PL 37657, with inner, 1982)
M Skolarczyk (occasional vocals)
Sooner or later, somebody was bound to cross zeuhl with new wave, though I’m not immediately sure why anybody would wish to. On the A-side, they sound like early Altered Images playing Magma songs, whilst on the flip they closely resemble later-period (Swiss Chalet or Pasiones-era) Cos. It’s an odd record for sure (and it’s amazing that they landed a major label deal for something like this in 1982) but very effective in its balance of playfulness and ferocious complexity. GRADE: C+.
Supply Demand & Curve (Ireland): Supply Demand And Curve (Mulligan LUN 009, 1976)
Rosemarie Taylor (occasional vocals, piano)
The label, country of origin and instrumentation (including whistle, bells, cello, recorder and melodica) lead one to expect a folk album. In fact it’s jazzy progressive rock, with a nimble, playful touch. This was one of several projects to feature Rosemarie Taylor (also of Great Saturday Night Swindle and creator of the rare Taylormaid album), though she appears on only two tracks as she joined the band midway through the recording sessions. GRADE: C+.
See also Great Saturday Night Swindle, Rosemarie Taylor
Rick & Jean Sutton (USA): Down Home With Rick And Jean Sutton (No label BISON 101, with insert, 1976)
Jean Sutton (joint lead vocals)
Pressed in a run of 100 copies with a loose cover slick and credits insert, this is unsurprisingly a very rare and expensive LP. Musically, it’s rootsy Americana with a bluegrass flavour, and not really to my taste, although the mournful, folkish ‘Coal Tattoo’ is rather impressive. GRADE: C.
Suzanne (Canada): Suzanne (Birchmount BM501, 1969)
Packaged in a striking red, yellow and green sleeve, this pleasant pop album generally resembles a dreamier and lower-budget Sandie Shaw. Although the LP received a full commercial release, it’s sold for several hundred dollars on eBay (despite the fact that reasonably priced copies aren’t too difficult to find). GRADE: C+.
Sveriges Kommuner Och Landsting (Sweden): Mina Ögon (Kommun 2 K2-44, with poster, 2018)
The band may be Swedish, but the feel is firmly Krautrock: these five acid-rock jams strongly recall Amon Düül II, complete with Chris Karrer-style violin, a Renate Knaup-like vocalist and even an authentic German intoning text à la Walter Wegmüller. The results are likely to delight anybody who enjoys early seventies Kraut jamming, or heavy psychedelic rock in general. The band had previously issued several albums with an all-male line-up. As a footnote, only 49 copies were pressed, with plain white labels; most have a plain back cover but a handful have a hand-painted design. GRADE: B–.
Swamp Salad (Australia): On The Country Line (ATA/Calendar SR66-9899, 1971)
Christine Barnett (lead vocals)
Put together by prolific session instrumentalists plus Christine Barnett fronting four cuts, this may well have been intended as a country/rock cash-in. However, the final result was nothing of the kind. Covers of ‘Witchita Lineman’ and ‘Ode To Billy Joe’ fit the ‘country’ tag well enough, but much of the rest is bluesy underground rock jamming covered in fuzz guitar and owing a heavy debt to Jimi Hendrix. The album is known with two different covers: one with a black-and-white band photograph and the other with a much more attractive full-colour psychedelic painting. It is not entirely clear which came first, although both versions are rare and sell for good (and similar) money. GRADE: C+.
Swan (Holland): From Swan With Love (No label SLP 198174, 1981)
Joan Clauson (principal vocals)
Featuring Ayreon and Kayak vocalist Edward Reekers, this obscure Dutch band offers nice, if inconsequential, progressive pop and symphonic soft rock. However, the instrumental textures are decidedly better than the songwriting, and the album only really catches fire once (the instrumental coda to ‘Let Me Down Easy’). GRADE: C.
Sweet Communion (UK): Nothing Short Of Telling (Mint Special Products MSP2, with poster, 1976)
June Allen, Shirley Allen
Housed in a remarkably tacky sleeve, this Northern Irish Christian LP mainly consists of rather twee pop/rock songs with full electric arrangements and prominent strings. However, three tracks stand out. ‘The Tears That Fell’ is a hauntingly beautiful folk ballad, whilst ‘Esther’ and ‘Here To Stay’ are catchy fuzz guitar-driven pieces that would grace any Christian psychedelic album. Were the whole LP of this standard, it would be an extremely expensive collectors’ piece. GRADE: C.
Sweet Hostage (USA): Midnight Rider (Silver Star HRL 104-80, 1980)
Shannon Tabert (principal vocals)
From the sleeve and song titles (‘Sweet Hostage’, ‘We Gotta Play (Rock & Roll)’, ‘Rock & Roll Fever’) this is obviously AOR/hard rock. However, the almost ambient guitar soundscape that opens the album defies expectations before the mid-paced rock grooves begin. This isn’t mouldbreaking, original or distinctive, but it’s a good and enjoyable example of the style. GRADE: C+.
Sweet Linda Divine (USA): Sweet Linda Divine (Columbia CS 9771, 1969)
Linda Tillery (lead vocals, percussion)
This venture by the former Loading Zone vocalist can be summed up in a single word: Joplinesque. That said, this recalls Maggie Bell as much as it does I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Mama, and like solo Bell she doesn’t write, so this consists entirely of cover versions. There are two instrumentals, on which I assume Tillery contributes only percussion (if anything), further blurring the issue of whether this is a band project or solo album. At its best, this approaches Joplin in terms of atmosphere and period charm (though never in terms of edginess or sheer energy) but Tillery’s excellent vocals and the band’s tight performances are undercut by the overbearing orchestrations, which add a slight showbiz edge to the record. As a curious footnote, this marked the first appearance on vinyl of prolicic drummer Denny Carmassi, later of Heart. GRADE: C+.
See also Loading Zone, Linda Tillery
Sweet Pain (UK): Sweet Pain (Mercury 20146 SMCL, 1969)
Annette Brox (joint lead vocals)
This is one of the best white blues albums of the late sixties, with a decidedly psychedelic edge to some of the guitar work. Almost sounding like an imaginary hybrid of Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack and Jimi Hendrix, it’s a period classic, with an unusual production that sees instruments wandering woozily across the stereo soundstage. GRADE: B.
See also Annette & Victor Brox
Sweet Salvation (USA): Sweet Salvation (Elektra EKS 75045, 1972)
DeEtta Little (joint lead vocals)
Funky, soulful and bluesy rock from a mixed-race, mixed-gender band. They’re not in the same league as their obvious idols Sly & The Family Stone, but this is a solid album and bound to please anyone liking the genre. The energetic closer ‘Rock Steady’, running for eight-and-a-half minutes, is by far the best thing on offer. GRADE: C+.
Sweetwater (USA): Sweetwater (Reprise RS 6313, 1968)
Nancy Nevins (lead vocals)
The album opens startlingly, with the standard ‘Motherless Child’ reinterpreted as a soft, dreamy piece of organ and flute-led progressive rock. Most of the remaining cuts are self-penned, and all are shorter, but the same gentle, folky style is maintained throughout (apart from the hard-edged, psychedelic ‘My Crystal Spider’). The result is not particularly varied, but it’s all beautifully melodic and they have a distinctive and successful style. GRADE: B–.
Sweetwater (USA): Just For You (Reprise RS 6417, with insert, 1970)
Nancy Nevins (lead vocals, guitar)
Quite different to their debut, their second album takes many of its influences from jazz and funk, with plentiful hand percussion on most cuts. I’ve always loathed the term ‘folk-funk’, coined by record dealers to entice hip DJs into buying a wide range of albums (mostly unremarkable obscure singer/songwriter efforts), but it fits the bill here. Overall, the album is more adventurous and progressive than their first (especially on the remarkable eight-and-a-half minute title track), but not quite as mellifluous. It is, however, another excellent outing from a genuinely bold and innovative band. GRADE: B–.
Sweetwater (USA): Melon (Reprise RS 6473, 1971)
Nancy Nevins (lead vocals, guitar)
Their last album was definitely their least, suggesting that they called it a day at the right time. That’s not to say I don’t like it – its languid, funky grooves are quite beguiling – but it’s much less consistent than their first and far less adventurous than their second. In particular, Nancy Nevins’s sole composition sounds rather out of place, whilst elsewhere they’re beginning to repeat themselves. GRADE: C+.
See also Nancy Nevins
Swindlefolk (UK): Swindled! (Deroy DER-111, 1969)
June Carney (joint lead vocals), Christine Daley (joint lead vocals), Carol Dixon (joint lead vocals), Lesley Duffy (joint lead vocals), Joyce Edisbury (joint lead vocals), Anne Johnstone (joint lead vocals), Bessie Long (joint lead vocals), Pamela McWilliam (joint lead vocals), Sandra Power (joint lead vocals), Barbara White (joint lead vocals)
This schoolgirl folk album has its moments – ‘May Morning’ is haunting and beautiful – but is mostly pleasant rather than exceptional, with simple acoustic guitar backing. A few more uptempo tracks like ‘Hava Nagila’, ’Viva!’ and ‘Marco Polo’ don’t work so well, having a sort of jolly Girl Guide campfire singalong mood. Surprisingly, this got a major label reissue the following year (Ace Of Clubs ACL. 1273) with completely different artwork and a rejigged running order. GRADE: C.
Swindlefolk (UK): Arovin’ (Deroy ADM LP 521, 1970)
Dy Swindlehurst (joint lead vocals, guitar, cello), Joyce Edisbury (joint lead vocals, percussion), Sandra Power (joint lead vocals, percussion), Bessie Long (joint lead vocals), Carol Dixon (joint lead vocals), June Carney (joint lead vocals), Anne Johnstone (joint lead vocals), Pam McWilliam (joint lead vocals), Barbara White (joint lead vocals)
The standout this time round is a beautiful version of ‘Come All Ye Fair And Tender Maidens’, hinting at the direction some members would later take in Ruffwood Arts. The usually reliable ‘Bruton Town’ is also excellent, with an acid-folk flavour, ‘Sally Free And Easy’ is rather eerie, with accompaniment only from bongos, and ‘All My Trials’ is ideally suited to their style. Most of the rest is rather average semi-choral folk, like their debut, but this is overall a slight step up. GRADE: C+.
Swindlefolk (UK): Dusk To Dawn (No label, 1971?)
Dy Swindlehurst (joint lead vocals, guitar), June Carney (joint lead vocals), Carol Dixon (joint lead vocals), Joyce Edisbury (joint lead vocals), Bessie Long (joint lead vocals), Pam McWilliam (joint lead vocals), Sandra Power (joint lead vocals)
Once again, the solo voice songs are the best, particularly the delicate ‘Affair On 8th Avenue’, whilst the Pentangle instrumental ‘Sweet Potato’ is handled very skilfully. That said, any schoolgirl folk fan should get something out of the purity of their massed voices on ‘Sanctus’, ‘The Sparrow’ and ‘Parcel Of Rogues’. However, this is by far the most choral and classical of their LPs. Several members subsequently joined Ruffwood Arts, which released a much superior, and much rarer, album. GRADE: C.
See also Ruffwood Arts
Swing Wings (UK): Swing Wings In Orbit (Hollick & Taylor HT/LPS 1406, 1973)
Linda Sancaster (flute), Jane Scotney (clarinet)
The handmade foldover sleeve of this private album, with a silver embossed satellite on a matt black background, is among the most beautiful I have ever encountered. Sadly, the music is instrumental thirties-style brass-rock covers of a bizarre range of material by a school band. GRADE: E.
Swordedge (UK): Swordedge (Swordedge SW001, with poster, 1980)
Sue Fenwick (joint lead vocals, bodhrán, psaltery)
Consisting of early seventies-style traditional folk, this sells for huge sums of money. The black sleeve with a dramatic silver crest suggests a heavy metal album, and the LP long had a reputation for being Spriguns-style electric folk, but it’s a delicate acoustic LP in the manner of Tickawinda and frequently exquisitely beautiful. GRADE: C+.
Sycomore (USA): Sycomore (Celebration VES 752S, 1976)
Debby Larsen (joint lead vocals)
This is slick Christian soft rock with jazz/funk edges, sounding a few years later than its release date. They display a few minor prog pretensions, but otherwise the only noteworthy features are the occasionally poignant lyrics and the rather handsome textured sleeve. GRADE: D+.
Sydenham School (UK): A New Life (No label, 1966?)
Marion Brooks (joint lead vocals), Lorna Richardson (occasional vocals), Hazelle Eastman (occasional vocals), Frankye Atkins (occasional vocals), Diane McNamara (occasional vocals), Anthea Lowder (occasional vocals), Susan Humphries (occasional vocals)
This collection of songs from a musical staged at a girls’ school is interesting for two reasons. First, it’s the earliest private pressing of its kind that I’ve encountered (the record is undated but the sleevenotes refer to performances on 7th and 8th July 1966) and secondly the musical backing is from the London Jazz Four. The music is rather sedate and piano-based, with tuned percussion adding the expecting jazz and lounge edges, and the vocals are as pure and charming as you would imagine. GRADE: C+.
Syn (USA): Cast The First Stone (Cheap Plastic, with inner, 1980)
Gloria Giarrusso (lead vocals, guitar)
The opening synthesiser solo suggests this is going to be sympho-prog, but in fact it’s AOR in a style similar to early Heart. The band definitely had some progressive ambitions (as indeed did early Heart), throwing in three instrumentals and some nifty guitar, keyboard and flute breaks; with good songwriting and musicianship, they were unlucky not to gain a major label deal. GRADE: C+.
SynKoke (Norway): Hokjønn (AIMSoundCIty AIMCD133, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and insert, 2009)
Ellen Andrea Wang (occasional vocals, bass)
SynKoke may have shared a bassist with White Willow, but there’s no musical resemblance. This is crazy RIO with free jazz and punkish edges, sounding decidedly more French than Norwegian and in particular recalling Étron Fou Leloublan. Always creative, sometimes thrilling, occasionally ponderous, this is a fine example of its genre. As a bonus, the shocking pink, black and gold textured cover is as striking as the music within. GRADE: B–.
SynKoke (Norway): The Ideologist (Kokeplate, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2001)
Ellen Andrea Wang (bass)
This is simultaneously similar to and different from its predecessor. The Étron Fou or Les I free jazz edges are still present, but elsewhere this has a more seventies sound, including some intense rock passages recalling King Crimson. Almost entirely instrumental, the album feels a bit slight at around 35 minutes, but still includes a few ponderous passages where nothing much happens. Nonetheless, when it’s good it’s absolutely stunning. GRADE: B–.
See also White Willow
System (USA): System (PD, 1978)
Barb Arnold (joint lead vocals, percussion)
From the back cover, the eight-piece band looks like a Christian folk/rock outfit, and there are elements of that sound in their vocal approach. However, the lyrics are firmly secular and the music is rooted in West Coast rock. Overall, they sound a little like T-Kail with a loungier edge or a poppier, slicker twist on the Mainstream label sound; though had this been recorded in the late sixties or early seventies it wouldn’t have suffered from the syrupy strings that swamp nearly half the cuts. At least it ends on its best track: the superb folk/rocker ‘Mighty Rough Road’. The album comes in a thin, glossy silkscreened black-and-white cover and appears to be a very small pressing. GRADE: C+.
Syzygy (UK): Lady In Grey (Taptag TAG 3, 1985)
Pat Sykes (principal vocals, guitar, percussion, recorder)
Released in a numbered edition of 1000 copies to commemorate Wolverhampton’s millennium, this is as much an EP as an album, offering six songs in 22 minutes. Musically it’s electric folk with pleasant original material and a rather dated eighties production, though the quality of the songwriting and performances mostly shines through. GRADE: C+.