U

 

U Totem (USA): U Totem (Cuneiform RUNE 24, CD, 1990)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Emily Hay (principal vocals, flute, piccolo)
This collaboration between members of 5uus and Motor Totemist Guild is as eclectic as you’d expect – there’s everything here from Art Bears-like Brechtian song to chamber music, heavy rock, mediaeval references and electronic touches. Like many such ventures, it’s a bit disconnected, with some sections working better than others, but it steadily becomes more confident, peaking on the two final tracks, which offer more than 23 minutes of superb music. GRADE: B–.
U Totem (USA): Strange Attractors (Cuneiform RUNE 66, CD, 1994)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Emily Hay (principal vocals, flute, piccolo)
The band’s second and final studio album has a tighter, more muscular sound bolstered by a superb recording that really brings their powerful, intricate music to life. Most of the album is instrumental, but several pieces are songs – I use the term loosely as this is a concept album with a lengthy story, and the vocal pieces consist of Emily Hay singing prose in an arch, über-Dagmar Krause style. I like Hay’s voice (and of course Krause’s) but given the amount of verbiage the effect can be a little numbing and the album shines most strongly on the instrumental sections. GRADE: B–.
U Totem (USA): In Concert (Rotary Totem DVD0991, DVDR, 2008?, recorded 1990)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Emily Hay (lead vocals, flute)
The filming of this live DVD is low-budget and soft focus and the performance is rather static, as one might expect, but the music is stunning, as one might also expect. Seeing such complex, knotty music performed live is a fascinating experience, making this DVD a worthwhile purchase – though with professional filming and some more theatrics it could have been a true classic. GRADE: B–.
See also Emily Hay, Vinny Golia Large Ensemble, IAM Umbrella, Jeff Kaiser Ockodectet, Motor Totemist Guild, Adam Rudolph & Go:Organic Orchestra

Yuya Uchida & The Flowers (Japan): Challenge! (Columbia YS-10063-J, with insert and obi, 1969)
Psychedelic
Lemi Aso (joint lead vocals)
West Coast acid-rock Japanese style, comprising covers of Big Brother & The Holding Company (clearly their favourite outfit), Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix and Cream, linked by narration and skits. They’re solid musicians and singers, and anybody liking acid-rock should thoroughly enjoy this, but I can’t imagine anyone preferring their interpretations to the originals. On the downside, their typical Japanese pronunciation (struggling to differentiate between Ls and Rs) makes ‘I’m So Glad’ and ‘Stone Free’ unintentionally hilarious. The original LP is one of the most expensive Japanese collectibles; they also had a good non-album single ‘Last Chance’/‘Flower Boy’ (Columbia LL-10082-J) under the variant name of Yuya Uchida & His Flowers, plus several tracks on the multi-artist live set Rock ’N’ Roll Jam ’70. GRADE: C+.
See also Lemi Aso, Various ‘Rock ’N’ Roll Jam ’70’

Uistiti (Poland): Uistiti (Lynx Music LM 31 CD, CD, 2008)
Rock/Progressive
Anna Ujma (lead vocals)
Not symphonic progressive as I had expected, this is atmospheric alternative rock with eleven fairly short songs and a decent instrumental. It’s pretty good stuff, with some strong guitar leads and a capable vocalist who sometimes sounds like an Eastern European twist on Björk. GRADE: C+.

Ullulators (UK): Monads Of Mangonia (Better Days, cassette, 1989)

Psychedelic
Jane Bradfield
This quintessential counterculture artefact offers more than half an hour of spacy jamming, dub reggae, tripped-out effects, ethnic diversions and more, blending everything into a wild space-rock stew. As often with eighties psychedelia, Gong’s You appears to be the primary influence but they work in all sorts of other elements, including a some hints of Selda Bağcan, particularly during ‘It’s A Beautiful Thing’, which appears to sample her work. Arguably the whole thing is a bit too much, with its 20 tracks, but the standard is consistently high and I definitely prefer feast over famine. GRADE: B–.
Ullulators (UK): Flaming Khaos (Demi-Monde DMLP 1021, with inner, 1989)
Psychedelic
Jane Bradfield (joint lead vocals, percussion, shenai)
The switch from tape to vinyl inevitably forces the Ullulators (or the Ullulat△rs, as they are credited here) to be more concise, though this again consists of jams rather than structured songs. The results are thoroughly enjoyable, though this doesn’t have quite the same sense of derring-do as its wildly ambitious predecessor. GRADE: C+.

Ullulators (UK): Feeling Really Lazer (Westbury Music, cassette, 1994)

Psychedelic/Dance

Jane Bradfield

At a fraction over an hour, this is as expansive as Monads Of Mangonia but it’s nowhere near as ambitious, consisting almost entirely of synthesisers and programmed drums plus some guitar. It’s all inoffensive enough, offering a home-made sidestep from Astralasia or the trancier moments of Gong’s You, but to these ears it would have been so much better with a full band sparking off one another and contributing ideas. I’m assuming the female vocals (and what sounds like a little shenai) are by Jane Bradfield, but with this sort of music it’s entirely possible they are merely samples. GRADE: C+.

Ullulators (UK): Yet-Nam Lai? (No label, cassette, 1995)
Psychedelic
Jane Bradfield
After a couple of cassettes with mainly programmed backing, Yet-Nam Lai sees the Ullulators returning to a full band format. As such, it marks a return to the mould of Monads Of Mangonia – but whereas Monads was a substantial album, both in terms of its running time and the musical territory it covered, this is a slight but thoroughly pleasing collection of jams interspersed with sound effects. As a bonus, this is all extremely well recorded, which is the last thing you’d expect from a cassette filled with home-made jamming. GRADE: C+.

See also Cheapsuit Oroonies, Evil Edna's Horror Toilet, Magic Mushroom Band, Oroonies

Hana & Petr Ulrychovi & Atlantis (Czechoslovakia): Odyssea (Supraphon 10 0687-1, 1990, recorded 1969)
Progressive
Hana Ulrychová (joint lead vocals)
Recorded with a narrator, choir and orchestra, this concept album aimed to unify beat and classical music, with plenty of folk, acid-rock and avant-garde touches thrown in, and was probably the first true Czech progressive album. The results are remarkable; in fact, it’s remarkable that something like this was recorded at all behind the Iron Curtain in the late sixties. It would have been even more remarkable had the Communist authorities deigned to release it, but baffled by its creativity they censored the work and it was not commercially issued until just after the fall of Communism. GRADE: B.
Hana & Petr Ulrychovi (Czechoslovakia): 13 HP (Supraphon 1 13 0888, 1971)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic/Progressive
Hana Ulrychová (principal vocals)
This is straighter than their long-delayed debut, but not that straight – as the glorious psychedelic cover suggests. Side one offers delicate orchestrated progressive folk and is beautiful and haunting, whilst side two offers upbeat acid-pop with lots of stinging fuzz guitar but also plenty of horns. The transition between the two styles can be jarring if one is listening to the album digitally but both types of music are executed well and this is full of period charm, sounding (typically for an Eastern Bloc album) a couple of years earlier than its release date. GRADE: B–.

Hana & Petr (Czechoslovakia): Hana A Petr (Panton 11 0377, 1974)

Pop

Unlike their first two, this is mostly in English; and unlike their first two, it’s also pretty straight pop music. It’s all nice enough if you like seventies MOR pop with a folky slant, but it’s also a huge step down in terms of ambition and vision. GRADE: C+.

Hana & Petr Ulrychovi (Czechoslovakia): Nikola Šuhaj Loupežnik (Supraphon 11 0421, 1974)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Hana Ulrychová (joint lead vocals)
What makes this unusual is the mixture of styles: a Western outfit could have blended cool progressive folk (hinting towards Chris Harwood or a lighter Jethro Tull with its airy flute and pattering percussion) and late sixties-influenced sunshine pop/funk in the same way, but then they probably wouldn’t have added the copious orchestrations or intermittent baroque touches. As such, this offers an Eastern Bloc overview of contemporary folk modes, with one constant being the high standard of the material and performances, creating a delightful period piece. GRADE: B–.

Hana & Petr Ulrychoví (Czechoslovakia): Meč a Přeslice (Panton 11 0547, 1975)
Folk/Rock
Hana Ulrychová (joint lead vocals)
This isn’t without its surprises – notably the ultra-heavy fuzz guitar on ‘Díra Ve Stropě’– but for the most part it’s much less exploratory than its wide-ranging predecessor. In parts, it’s ominously MOR – the 1930s-style whimsy of ‘Bílá Paní’ is not what I want to hear from the duo – but it’s mostly pleasant and mellow, though it never quite lives up to the promise implied by beautiful gatefold sleeve. GRADE: C+.

Hana Ulrychová (Czechoslovakia): Pojd’te Dál, Chci Být S Vámi… (Panton 11 0524, 1975)
Chanson
Ulrychová’s only solo album dispenses with the folk and borderline progressive stylings of her work with brother Petr, offering a rather sedate selection of ballads with a bit of a singer/songwriter feel (though none of the material is self-penned). It’s all nice enough, showcasing her fine voice to excellent effect, but there’s nothing here you’ll particularly want to hear twice. GRADE: C+.
Hana & Petr Ulrychoví & Javory (Czechoslovakia): Ententýny (Panton 8113 0064, 1979)
Folk
Hana Ulrychová (joint lead vocals)
In a departure from their earlier work, this is almost entirely acoustic, with most songs featuring backing from acoustic guitar, hand percussion, flute and sometimes strings. The dainty and delicate songs have a summery, beatific mood, creating some lovely atmospheres, but this also a touch slight compared to their exploratory albums of the late sixties and early seventies. GRADE: C+.
Hana & Petr Ulrychoví & Javory (Czechoslovakia): Zpívání (Panton 8117 0209, 1982)
Folk/World Music
Hana Ulrychová (joint lead vocals)
The subtitle ‘Folk Songs from Moravia’ makes their change of direction clear: whereas the duo’s earlier work was contemporary folk, this is firmly traditional. With its massed vocals and backing mainly from violins, violas and dulcimer, it has a rather MOR feel and is as close to world music as to folk. Thus, whilst well executed, Zpívání may have a much more selective appeal than their other albums. GRADE: C.
Hana & Petr Ulrychoví & Javory (Czechoslovakia): Zpívání Při Vínečku (Panton 81 0362-1311, 1984)
Folk
Hana Ulrychová (joint lead vocals)
As the title, identical subtitle and very similar (and equally beautiful) cover suggest, this was intended as the second instalment to its predecessor. However, it’s musically far superior, avoiding the more clichéd Eastern European elements to offer some beautiful and haunting songs that should have a very broad appeal. GRADE: C+.
Hana & Petr Ulrychoví & Javory (Czechoslovakia): Bylinky (Panton 8113 0527, 1985)
Folk/Rock
Hana Ulrychová (joint lead vocals)
Marking a return to original material and electric backing, Bylinky offers mainly gentle and relaxed material, occasionally hinting towards an updated Mamas & The Papas. With a lovely summery vibe, this is a very pleasant and engaging LP, though it’s not exactly what you’d call substantial. GRADE: C+.

Hana & Petr Ulrychovi (Czechoslovakia): Příběh (Panton 81 0764-1, 1987)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Hana Ulrychová (joint lead vocals)
After several good-but-not-great albums, the duo return to form with this varied collection, packed with fascinating diversions. ‘Hvěvdo Ma, Nezhasíne’ mixes dulcimer with programmed drums to atmospheric effect, ‘Kdo Je Zbojník’ unexpectedly sounds like Abba with added fuzz guitar before changing direction completely mid-song, and ‘Zvláštní Znamení’ also sounds like Abba but in acoustic ballad mode, to name just three of the quirky diversions here. Melding pop and ethnic, modern and ancient, progressive and traditional elements in increasingly unusual combibations, this is a fascinating and absorbing album that repays repeated listenings. GRADE: B–.
Hana Ulrychová & Javory (Czechoslovakia): Tichý Hlas (Panton 81 0805-1, 1989)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Hana Ulrychová (lead vocals)
This is certainly the most radical album from the Ulrychovi stable since Atlantis, 20 years previously, with each side offering a continuous suite of music based around electric guitar, synthesisers, programmed drums, dulcimer, violin and flute. With its beautiful, almost liturgical vocals, stark contrasts between the futuristic and the neoclassical and a feel that approaches mantric at times, it takes the duo’s music towards the apocalyptic and borderline industrial folk of acts like Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus. The results are startling in view of the duo’s earlier work – and fascinating through and through. GRADE: B.

Hana & Petr Ulrychovi (Czech Republic): Bíla Místa (Venkow 07 0026-2 311, CD, 1993)
Folk
Hana Ulrychová (joint lead vocals)
This has none of the sheer experimental duo of the duo’s late eighties work, but it’s an exceptionally pleasant acoustic folk set with some lovely melodies too. It also offers a fair degree of variety, with a few tracks featuring drums and others hand percussion, though I could do without the kiddie choir that puts in an unwelcome appearance on ‘Nase Mama Reklama’. GRADE: C+.
Hana & Petr Ulrychovi & Javory (Czech Republic): O Naději (Venkow 533 456-2, CD, 1997)
Folk
Hana Ulrychová (joint lead vocals)
This is similar to its predecessor but a little straighter, with most of the folk/rock elements removed. It’s also, unfortunately, a touch more whimsical in parts, with a few tracks being a bit too jolly for their own good, though thankfully the children’s choir doesn’t return. GRADE: C+.
Hana & Petr Ulrychovi & Javory (Czech Republic): Ze Starých LP (Venkow 593 293-2, CD, 1998)
Folk
Hana Ulrychová (joint lead vocals)
Typically for the duo’s later albums, this offers beautiful, haunting, sumptuous acoustic folk, though the last few tracks divert into sixties-style beat and folk/rock. It’s undeniably lovely stuff, and superbly crafted as well, but I do find longing for the adventurousness of their better seventies and eighties LPs. GRADE: C+.
Hana & Petr Ulrychovi & Javory (Czech Republic): Malé Zrnko Písku (Venkow 547014-2, CD, 1999)
Folk
Hana Ulrychová (joint lead vocals)
The twin highpoints here are the beautiful title track – haunting and eerie, with just enough ethnic elements to tip it over the edge into acid-folk – and the more rock-oriented ‘Talent’, whose fiddle licks remind me of John Creah in Jefferson Airplane. Elsewhere, this is business as usual, meaning it’s a C+ rather than a B–, but like their other recent albums it’s a very strong C+. GRADE: C+.

Hana & Petr Ulrychovi & Javory (Czech Republic): Koločava (Venkow 159 866-2, CD, 2002)
Folk
Hana Ulrychová (joint lead vocals)
This is perhaps a little livelier than their last few albums, but it’s very much in the same vein: ornate ethnic folk with just enough rock elements to keep things both interesting and varied. Once again, it just about borders on a B– but lacks the three or four truly killer songs to push it over the edge. More significantly, it lacks the sense of surprise of their seventies and eighties work, when one could never be sure which fork in the road the unpredictable duo would next take. GRADE: C+.
Hana & Petr Ulrychovi & Javory (Czech Republic): Šumaři (Universal 986 586-9, CD, 2003)
Folk
Hana Ulrychová (joint lead vocals)
The brightly coloured cover made me wonder whether they’d attempted another children’s album, whilst a couple of the lyrics suggest a Christmas theme. However, this is very much business as usual – perhaps a little jollier than their usual work but otherwise largely indistinguishable from their last few LPs in terms of style or quality. GRADE: C+.
Hana & Petr Ulrychovi & Javory (Czech Republic): Stromy, Voda, Tráva (Universal 987 691-3, CD, 2006)
Folk
Hana Ulrychová (joint lead vocals)
The opening ‘Nesnadné Léto’ has a definite Beatles influence (unusual for this era of the duo’s career, whilst the hard rock guitar line that subtly underpins ‘Nevrátil Jesm Nic’ lifts it enormously. Both songs make you wish they’d varied their template more on the other numbers, which are uniformly delicate, beautiful and/or lively but lacking in the same sense of adventure. GRADE: C+.
Hana & Petr Ulrychovi (Czech Republic): Javory Beat (Indies Happy Trails MAM642-2, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2009)
Folk/Rock
Hana Ulrychová (principal vocals)
‘Beat’ indeed: the rock is back in the duo’s music, as the heavy sixties-style riff that opens the album confirms. In fact, some cuts are pure rock, displaying influences from both the Beatles and Abba, and even the folkier numbers mostly have a jolt of rock energy. As such, this is their most varied album for years, though whether it’s better than their last few LPs is moot: like those releases, this is consistently good without having the handful of truly killer songs or a couple of audacious experiments that would have taken it to the next level. GRADE: C+.

Hana & Petr Ulrychovi & Javory (Czech Republic): Advent (Indies Happy Trails MAM663-2, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2011)
Folk
Hana Ulrychová (joint lead vocals), Kateřina Štruncová (violin, backing vocals)
This live Christmas-themed album sees the duo and their backing band returning to a stripped-down acoustic format. It’s more minimalistic and less ornate than anything they’ve done for years, offering some beautiful and haunting tunes that avoid all the pitfalls of typical seasonal fare. GRADE: C+.
Hana & Petr Ulrychovi & Javory (Czech Republic): Bratr Sestry (Indies Happy Trails MAM683-2, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2012)
Folk/Rock/Garage
Hana Ulrychová (occasional vocals)
The duo’s final album is one of their best, with most songs featuring heavy, garagy riffs and even some psychedelic lead guitar; a few delicate ballads vary the mood nicely and occasional ethnic elements are used to excellent effect. Surprisingly, Hana Ulrychová barely appears on the LP, suggesting she may have been experiencing voice problems and indicating a possible reason the duo stopped recording. Whatever the truth, they certainly went out on a high. GRADE: B–.

Ultimate Spinach (USA): Ultimate Spinach (MGM SE-4518, 1968)
Psychedelic/Pop
Barbara Hudson (occasional vocals, guitar)
Probably the best known of the Boston bands, Ultimate Spinach debuted with an album that mostly sounds like rather pretentious psychedelic pop on first listen. But beneath the surface there’s a good deal more melodic and compositional complexity, reflecting leader Ian Bruce Douglas’s classical background. Indeed, there are two early progressive rock instrumentals, ‘Sacrifice Of The Moon (In Four Parts)’ and ‘Baroque #1’. However, the album will always be best remembered for the superb eight-minute ‘(Ballad Of) The Hip Death Goddess’, a heavier piece with raga-like elements, eerily sung by rhythm guitarist Barbara Hudson. GRADE: C+.
Ultimate Spinach (USA): Behold And See (MGM SE 4570, 1968)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Carol Lee Britt (joint lead vocals), Barbara Hudson (guitar, backing vocals)
A huge step forward from their debut, this sees the band jettisoning its psychedelic pop roots in favour of a much more original mix of slow, spare psychedelia and slightly loungy jazzy or baroque progressive. Really, song titles like ‘Visions Of Your Reality’, ‘Suite: Genesis Of Beauty (In Four Parts)’, ‘Fifth Horseman Of The Apocalypse’ and ‘Fragmentary March Of Green’ give a fair indication of their style. Guest vocalist Carol Lee Britt adds her Grace Slick-like tones to the shorter, harder-edged tracks that open each side of the disc. Along with the first It’s A Beautiful Day LP, this is one of the most important pieces of American progressive music from the sixties. GRADE: B.
Ultimate Spinach (USA): Ultimate Spinach (MGM SE 4600, 1969)
Rock
Barbara Hudson (occasional vocals, guitar)
Following Behold And See, Bruce Douglas’s already fragile mental health worsened considerably, with the result that he was invalided out of the band. An almost entirely new line-up was assembled, including Jeff Baxter on lead guitar, and members of the Chamaeleon Church, with Barbara Hudson representing the only link with the first LP. Eschewing progressive, psychedelic and experimental music altogether, their final album offers straight pop/rock of a pretty good standard, though none of it is truly outstanding. On the downside, they were clearly short of material, as indicated by a seven-minute blues jam. GRADE: C+.
Ultimate Spinach (USA): Live At The Unicorn, July 1967 (Keyhole KHCD9006, CD, 2014, recorded 1967)
Pop/Garage/Psychedelic
Barbara Hudson
This early live recording of Ultimate Spinach, when they were still known as Underground Cinema, is quite a varied set: from the almost punkish garage opening version of ‘Hey Joe’ to lighter sixties pop to excellent trippy versions of ‘(Ballad Of The) Hip Death Goddess’ and ‘Mind Flowers’. These three numbers are quite superb, and it’s a pity that the rest of the set isn’t in the same league. As a footnote, the performance had already been released as a vinyl bootleg in a run of 100 copies (Goosefoot 6786), which became a significant collectible, but this was its first official issue. GRADE: C+.

Ultimatum (Mexico): Ultimatum (Okeh OKL-450653, 1987)
Metal
Marcela González
This is typical eighties heavy rock, but none of the worse for it, with Marcela González providing powerful, shrill vocals over the intricate guitar leads and pounding rhythm section. GRADE: C+.

Ultrasound (UK): Everything Picture (Nude 12 CDX, double CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 1999)
Progressive
Vanessa Best
Whilst prog purists may like Andrew Wood and Richard Green’s new band less than Sleepy People, there’s no denying that Ultrasound are an altogether more original and startling proposition. Crossing prog and indie was an unusual move in the first place, but they’re not afraid to challenge their audience – the title track is 20 minutes of cacophony, filled with feedback and Vanessa Best’s screams, followed by 15 minutes of silence and then a hidden song. It’s possible to carp that they could have come up with catchier material – taken individually, the early seventies-style rural rocker ‘Aire And Calder’ is the only truly outstanding number – but Everything Picture is a lot more than the sum of its parts. Like Pure Reason Revolution’s The Dark Third – an album it may well have inspired – this is a continuous suite of music that ebbs and flows and thrills and delights. It’s simply a landmark work of its era. GRADE: B.
Ultrasound (UK): Play For Today (Fierce Panda NONG78CD, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and sticker, 2012)
Rock/Progressive
Vanessa Best (occasional vocals, bass)
Ultrasound’s second album – issued 13 years after Everything Picture and 11 years after the de facto Sleepy People reunion as Blue Apple Boy – is surprisingly straight rock, driven by assertive guitar riffs and some symphonic keyboards. As early seventies-style retro rock goes, it’s rather good. As Ultrasound albums go, it’s proof positive that lightning rarely strikes twice. GRADE: C+.
Ultrasound (UK): Real Brittania (Classic Album Club CAC002, CD, 2016)
Rock/Progressive
Vanessa Best (occasional vocals, bass)
‘Ultrasound are back! And boy are they better than ever’ proclaims the record company website, but this is unlikely to displace Everything Picture in anyone’s estimation. That said, this is a step up from Play For Today: the first half is in the same vein but slightly proggier (including a lengthy Ian Anderson-style flute solo in ‘No Man’s Land’), whilst the second is given over to the 20-minute ‘Blue Remembered Hills’. However, good as this is, the sheer audacity of their debut is sorely missed. GRADE: C+.

Uludag (West Germany): Mau Mau (Review RERE 128, with insert, 1988)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Sabine Schäfer (keyboards)
This unusual fusion album extensively uses ethnic instruments – ‘prepared saz’ and ‘e-ch’in’, presumably an electric yang ch’in – to create what sounds like a Chinese take on avant-prog. Whether it was all composed or improvised isn’t clear, but the album consists of two untitled side-long tracks that ebb and flow, with heavy drumming punctuating the woozy Eastern elements to create a weird suite that fringes RIO and hints towards jazz without really settling anywhere. GRADE: B–.

See also Prisma

Un (Canada): La Belle Et La Bête (Paroles & Musique PEM011, with inner, 1982)
Pop
Christiane Robichaud (lead vocals)
This collaboration between former Contraction singer Christiane Robichaud and prolific session keyboardist Jean Roussel offers mildly symphonic pop that might be just about listenable if not for the tinny electronic drums and horrible trebly production. As it is, Robichaud’s ballad ‘Confidences’ and Roussel’s proggy instrumental ‘Danse Magique’ are the best of a pretty poor crop. GRADE: D+.
See also Contraction, Franck Dervieux

Uncle Dog (UK): Old Hat (Signpost SG 4253, 1972)
Rock
Carol Grimes (joint lead vocals, percussion)
Between her exploratory, progressive album with Delivery and her straighter blues/rock set Warm Blood, Carol Grimes participated in this pleasant but inconsequential barroom rock LP. It’s pretty well done, but old hat indeed, even for 1972. GRADE: C.
See also Delivery, Carol Grimes, Sweet FA

Under Milkwood (USA): Under Milkwood (Monarch/A&M 4226, unreleased test pressing, 1970)
Psychedelic/Folk/Rock
Clara Miles (lead vocals, percussion)
A&M had a fairly poor record when it came to hippie bands – most such signings were barely promoted, Spirits & Worm had their LP withdrawn shortly after release, and this one never made it beyond test pressing stage. Quite why is unclear, as it’s mostly very good, and superior to many major label LPs that did make it into the shops. Possibly A&M just found it too schizophrenic – opening with a frenetic heavy acid-rocker, it then offers a couple of rather British-sounding hippie folk numbers before incorporating jazzy, bluesy and progressive touches and more. On the closing cut Clara Miles’s voice is uncannily similar to Sandy Denny’s. GRADE: C+.

Underground Sunshine (USA): Let There Be Light (Intrepid IT 74003, 1969)
Rock
Jane Little (keyboards, backing vocals)
Mixing R&B with West Coast rock, this is quite patchy, including several dull and formulaic covers (‘Birthday’, ‘Bad Moon Rising’, ‘Don’t Let Me Down’). That said, the self-penned ‘All I Want Is You’ is swathed in great psychedelic guitar work and the two extended pieces ‘Gimme Some Lovin’’ and ‘Take Me, Break Me’ see the band cutting loose in no uncertain style, proving they can be extraordinary as well as rather ordinary. GRADE: C+.

Underground Zerø (UK): Never Reach The Stars (Flicknife SHARP 023, 1984)
Rock/Metal/Psychedelic/Progressive
Judi Griggs (principal vocals)

Totally inspired by Hawkwind, this is heavy, stripped-down space-rock with a science fiction concept and a raw new wave edge. Virtuosic and varied it is not, but it’s performed with obvious passion, and gives an interesting indication of how Hawkwind would sound with a female singer (a possibility realised a few years later when Bridget Wishart joined the band). GRADE: C+.
Underground Zerø (UK): Through The Looking Glass (Flicknife BLUNT 038, 1986)
Rock/Metal/Psychedelic/Progressive
Judi Griggs (lead vocals)
Oddly, the band’s second and final album features two new studio cuts on one side and three live recordings of Never Reach The Stars numbers on the other. This rather half-hearted approach is a pity, as the new songs are a solid step forward, making this the better of their two LPs. The Never Reach The Stars CD (Black Rose BR 187, USA, 2005) includes this entire album as a bonus, together with ‘Canes Venatici’, their contribution to the compilation A Pretty Smart Way To Catch A Lobster – Live At Alice In Wonderland (Flicknife SHARP 035, 1984). The latter song is by far the best thing they ever did. GRADE: C+.

Underhill (Germany/Austria): Silent Siren (Ad Noiseam ADN156LP, LP plus CD, Germany, 2012)
Dance
Martina Hornbacher
The presence of Martina Hornbacher made me expect progressive metal, but this is actually trip-hop. Despite the occasional presence of a rapper, it’s pretty inoffensive by the standards of dance music, but whilst the music is well crafted it’s also utterly inconsequential, with the (very lengthy) album drifting by aimlessly without ever commanding attention. GRADE: C–.
See also Alas, Dreams Of Sanity, Korova, Therion

Undersmile (UK): A Sea Of Dead Snakes (Blindsight BSR011, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2010)
Metal
Taz Corona-Brown (joint lead vocals, guitar), Hel Sterne (joint lead vocals, guitar)
This sludgy doom metal impresses with its crushing heaviness from the first note and about halfway through appeared a reasonably certain candidate for a B–. However, whilst the band’s minimalism is a strength it’s also a weakness, and the more Undersmile you hear, the more obvious it is that their two guitarists cannot really sing in tune. GRADE: C+.
Caretaker & Undersmile (UK): Caretaker/Undersmile (Blindsight BSR018, CD, with gatefold minisleeve, 2011)
Metal
Taz Corona-Brown (joint lead vocals, guitar), Hel Sterne (joint lead vocals, guitar)
This split album features two numbers apiece from Caretaker and Undersmile, which each band’s contribution running for approximately 11 and 25 minutes respectively. Caretaker offer solid though unremarkable metal, with one instrumental and one song, whilst Undersmile deliver their customary droning funereal doom. GRADE: C+.

Undersmile (UK): Narwhal (Future Noise Recordings FUNO11, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2012)
Metal 
Taz Corona-Brown (joint lead vocals, guitar), Hel Sterne (joint lead vocals, guitar)
The sludgy doom here is very powerful, with the droning, sepulchral vocals again adding an unusual edge. If there’s a drawback, they’re not the most varied band, but this is certainly single-minded and impressively intense. GRADE: B–.
Undersmile & Coma Wall (UK): Wood And Wire (Bttfck Srprs! BFS000, CD, with digipak and poster booklet, 2013)
Metal/Folk/Rock
Taz Corona-Brown (joint lead vocals, guitar), Hel Sterne (joint lead vocals, guitar)
In case you’re wondering, this isn’t a split album: Coma Wall is Undersmile playing unplugged versions of their own material. I wouldn’t have thought their minimalist, droning doom excursions would have worked in such a setting, but they do: with a banjo adding some swampy licks, the four acoustic numbers have a desolate, desert-like feeling that works very well. Further, the band’s vocals appear to have improved immeasurably. The metal tracks are no slouch either, adding up to the band’s best release to date. GRADE: B–.
Undersmile (UK): Anhedonia (Bttfck Srprs! BFS000, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2015)
Metal 
Taz Corona-Brown (joint lead vocals, guitar), Hel Sterne (joint lead vocals, guitar)
Quite different from their earlier work, this is sparse and spare and atmospheric, tending as much towards gothic and doom metal. Comparisons could be drawn to the similar Darkher or to a lesser extent early Third & The Mortal, and the results are intriguing and varied. GRADE: B–.

Unexpect (Canada): Utopia (No label, CD, 1999)
Metal/Avant-Garde/Progressive
Véronique Michaud (occasional vocals)
This excellent Canadian band’s obscure debut Is rooted in black metal, with fast-paced guitar/bass/drums riffing overlaid with a blizzard of complex multilayered vocals. There are also symphonic keyboard passages and quasi-choral classical sections recalling Therion, taking this way beyond black metal into some genuinely challenging and unpredictable zones. GRADE: B–.
Unexpect (Canada): We, Invaders (Galy GALY-014, CD EP, 2003)
Metal/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Roxanne Hegyesy (joint lead vocals)
Recorded between the band’s first and second LPs, this 25-minute mini-album showcases the exciting, chaotic, highly experimental direction the group would pursue on the stunning In A Flesh Aquarium. The closing ‘Chromatic Chimera’ (here performed mainly as a piano solo) was radically reworked as the opening cut on that album, whilst the other three songs are exclusive. GRADE: B.
Unexpect (Canada): In A Flesh Aquarium (The End TE068, CD, USA, 2006)
Metal/Avant-Garde/Progressive
Roxanne Hegyesy (joint lead vocals)
With their second album, Unexpect went off the deep end, creating a complex avant-garde work blending metal, prog, jazz, ambient, classical, tango and many more styles. At times, the playing is so manic and ferocious that it sounds like three different bands performing simultaneously, and the music often threatens to descend into outright chaos, with insane shifts of mood and tempo. Although some listeners will hear a formless, pretentious mess, I’d call this a daring triumph and a modern prog classic. GRADE: B.
Unexpect (Canada): Fables Of The Sleepless Empire (No label, CD, with digipak and poster booklet, 2011)
Metal/Avant-Garde/Progressive
Roxanne Hegyesy (joint lead vocals)
This doesn’t have the same element of surprise as In A Flesh Aquarium, but amazingly it’s equally good. This time round their classical and electronic influences are perhaps a touch more to the fore, but otherwise this repeats the last album’s ‘anything goes’ formula with considerable aplomb. GRADE: B.

Unfolding (USA): How To Blow Your Mind And Have A Freak-Out Party (Audio Fidelity AFSD 6184, with insert, 1967)
Psychedelic
Andrea Ross (joint lead vocals), Victoria Sackville (joint lead vocals)
This unexpectedly excellent exploitation album opens with a superb acid-rocker, peppered with unusual stereo effects. This is followed by two slightly gentler, but still very good, rock numbers and then an odd piece of acid-folk, setting mediaeval-esque singing against a backdrop of explosions and heavy breathing. The next cut has even more sound effects, incorporating strong elements of circus music and plenty of tape manipulation into a catchy pop/rock number. Side two is equally eccentric, with lots more studio trickery but more of a raga feel. The results are genuinely psychedelic in a way that many more celebrated albums are not. GRADE: B–.

UNi (Finland): Dreamland (Presence THECD1002, CD, 2013)

Progressive

Petra Lehtonen (principal vocals)

This odd, quirky, charming little album features nine poems (by Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll and others) set to dainty, folky progressive rock backing, complete with violin. There’s also one instrumental, around the four-minute mark, which may be the best thing on offer.

GRADE: C+.

United Bible Studies (Ireland/USA): The Jonah (Camera Obscura CAM084CD, CD, Australia, 2009)
Folk/Psychedelic
Alison O’ Donnell, Sharron Krauss
The line-up on this Irish weird-folk collective’s album is impressive: aside from Alison O’ Donnell, there’s American singer/songwriter Sharron Kraus and old stalwart Ivan Pawle from Dr Strangely Strange. How much any of them contribute is moot, as there are no detailed credits, but this is certainly an interesting mix of traditional, contemporary, psychedelic and industrial elements. GRADE: B–.
United Bible Studies & Jozef van Wissem (Ireland/Holland): Downland (Incuna Bullum INC012, with download card, 2012)
Folk/Psychedelic
Alison O’ Donnell, Áine O’ Dwyer
This collection of eerie folk songs and minimalist, weird instrumentals works well, and achieves a dreamlike and transient mood. That said, it’s all rather slight, with a playing time barely over half an hour. GRADE: B–.
United Bible Studies (Ireland/Finland): Beo Faoi Dubhlinn (Download, 2013, recorded 2008-2009)
Psychedelic/Jazz
Alison O’ Donnell
This compilation of segments from live performances shows the band focusing on free-jazz and psychedelic jamming rather than their customary folk sound. It’s a bit of a curate’s egg, but much of it is excellent. GRADE: B–.
United Bible Studies (Ireland/Finland): The Box Social (Reverb Worship RW 268, CDR, with insert, 2014, recorded 2009)
Psychedelic
Alison O’ Donnell
This live set, recorded in 2009 but unreleased for five years, is again psychedelic rather than folky, making it completely different from any of Alison O’ Donnell’s previous projects. Offering a vast psychedelic improvisation in the style of early Pink Floyd or side two of Amon Düül II’s Phallus Dei, this covers quite a range of territory. Typically for this sort of thing, there are some moments when nothing much happens, but for the most part this is impressively intense and extremely trippy. GRADE: B–.

United Bible Studies (Ireland): Doineann (No label, black or white CDR, with booklet, keyring, mirror, insert and box, 2014)
Folk/Psychedelic
Alison O’ Donnell (occasional vocals), Natalia Baylis (piano), Emer Brady (saxophone), Áine O’ Dwyer (harp)
The six tracks here offer a wide range of moods, from spacy improvisations to one actual song fronted by Alison O’ Donnell. It’s lovely, mildly eerie stuff, though it’s all rather gauzy and fleeting – but then again, that’s precisely the point. GRADE: B–.
United Bible Studies (Ireland/UK/USA/Denmark/France): Soregh, Murne And Fast (No label, download, 2015)
Folk/Psychedelic
Alison O’ Donnell, Natalia Baylis, Áine O’ Dwyer (harp), Gayle Brogan, Alison Cotton, Léonore Boulanger, Anna Cochrane
United Bible’s Studies’ Christmas album is wide-ranging indeed, but whilst delicate and haunting is rarely cheerful or jolly. Indeed, much of this is downright sinister, so it’s perhaps not the LP to play after A Motown Christmas. GRADE: B–.
United Bible Studies (Ireland/UK/USA): The Ale’s What Cures Ye (MIE Music MIE 030, with booklet and download card, UK, 2015)
Folk
Alison Cotton (occasional vocals, viola), Sharron Kraus (occasional vocals, whistle),Alison O’ Donell (bodhrán, backing vocals), Áine O’ Dwyer (piano, backing vocals)
The subtitle – ‘Traditional Songs From The British Isles’ – says it all: the ever-unpredictable United Bible Studies mostly go trad folk here (though I’m not sure how Water Into Wine Band’s ‘Waiting For Another Day’ qualifies as traditional). Some of this is straight finger-in-the-ear folk, most notably the closing title track, but most of it is delicate, haunting and slightly eerie, as one would expect from this constantly evolving collective. GRADE: B–.

United Bible Studies (Ireland): Rosary Bleeds (Golden Pavilion GP1030LP, magenta vinyl, with inner, Portugal, 2016)
Folk/Ambient/New Wave
Alison O’ Donnell (lead vocals)
After several collaborations with United Bible Studies on which she didn’t contribute much, here Alison O’ Donnell takes all the vocals. The backing is radically different too, consisting of primitive synthesisers, whispering drum machines and occasional new wave-ish guitars. This approach is certainly creative and the results are undeniably atmospheric, but atmosphere is about all this has going for it. GRADE: C+.

United Bible Studies (Ireland): Cave Hill Ascension (Pariah Child LP011, red vinyl, with insert and download card, UK, 2019)
Folk/Progressive/New Age
Alison O’ Donnell
With its long, dreamy soundscapes, this takes United Bible Studies close to new age, and it’s remarkably evocative, bringing to mind desolate verdant landscapes. On the downside, not much actually happens, but arguably that’s completely missing the point. GRADE: C+.

See also Éishtlinn, Flibbertigibbet, Mellow Candle, Alison O' Donnell

United Islands (Holland): I Love This Day (Audio Art AAR 62506, with booklet, 1986)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Theresia de Rooij (joint lead vocals)
This obscure private pressing consists of soft and melodic folk/rock, with strong progressive edges on the longer tracks on the far superior second side. It may be too precious for some ears, and also betrays its era in the keyboard and drum sounds (as well as venturing into reggae/pop on ‘Love On The Stairs…’) but side two in particular contains some stunning cuts. Overall, the album sounds as though it should have Christian lyrics, but only one track makes a passing reference to the Lord, with the lyrics focusing on hippie concerns such as dreams and nature. This is a rare record today, and sells for good money, but they clearly had a considerable budget as it comes with both a full-colour gatefold sleeve and large format lyric booklet. Cass Descollenges of Great Djeli receives thanks in the credits, so may have been associated with the band in some way. GRADE: C+.

United States Of America (USA): The United States Of America (Columbia 9614, with brown paper outer, 1968)
Progressive
Dorothy Moskowitz (principal vocals)
This pioneering electronic rock album is usually compared to Fifty Foot Hose, but has a very different musical vibe, being simultaneously more avant-garde and more melodic. Unusual but catchy song structures combine with offbeat arrangements featuring no guitars (the lead parts being played on keyboards, electronics and electric violin instead) to create a unique and trippy atmosphere. Snatches of circus-style music enliven a couple of tracks, whilst parts of ‘Stranded In Time’ are very Beatles-like, before the brilliant extended closer ‘The American Way Of Love’ sees the band giving full rein to its sonic experiments. The Sundazed reissue includes no fewer than ten bonus tracks – among them an early run-through of the outstanding ‘You Can Never Come Down’, which would appear on leader Joe Byrd’s next album. GRADE: B.
See also Moskowitz & Fregulia, Steamin’ Freeman

Unitopia (Australia): The Garden (InsideOut SPV 79912 DCD, double CD, Germany, 2008)
Rock/Progressive
Shireen Khemlani (bass)
Given that this is a 100-minute double album, one would expect the band to have made some significant musical statement. They didn’t. Despite a few minor world music, metal and jazzy touches, this is basically at the most simplistic end of neoprog, offering a succession of polished, bland rock ballads betwixt seventies Pink Floyd and AOR. Even the long suites (one of 23 minutes and another of 16) merely consist of several such songs loosely stitched together. The band also cut several other albums with an all-male line-up, which I thankfully haven’t heard. GRADE: C.

Universal Totem Orchestra (Italy): Rituale Alieno (Black Widow BWRCD 022-2, CD, 1999)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Ana Torres Fraile (joint lead vocals)
Not to be confused with the American RIO band U Totem, this is an alter ego of Italian zeuhl outfit Runaway Totem. Why the dual identities, I have no idea, as this is zeuhl too: perhaps a touch spacier than their other incarnation, very expansive and sometimes strongly redolent of a modernised Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommadöh. With lots of baroque and neoclassical touches thrown in and even some quasi-industrial moments, it’s pretty varied too, exploring territory not hinted at by Runaway Totem – so maybe the variant name was justified after all. GRADE: B.

Universal Totem Orchestra (Italy): Mathematical Mother (Black Widow BWRCD 198-2, CD, 2016)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Ana Torres Fraile (lead vocals)
Much less exploratory than their earlier work, Mathematical Mother sounds like a homage to late seventies and early eighties Magma, blending the funkiness of Attahk, the mellow jazz and theatrical edges of the Rétrospective sets and the classical tinges underpinning Les Voix, with Ana Torres Fraile in superb voice. In some ways it’s a step down from their adventurous previous albums, but it’s frequently stunning in its own right and could ultimately have much wider appeal. GRADE: B–.

See also Runaway Totem

Unknown Artist (UK): The Beck Studios Acetate (Beck Studios, acetate, 1969)
Rock/Psychedelic
Nothing is known about the artists who cut this four-song, 19-minute 12" acetate; the sleeve notes on the reissue (Seelie Court SCLP004, 2020) speculate that the female singer (accurately described as a cross between Grace Slick and Julie Driscoll) may have been American expatriate Jean Turk and the guitarist may have been the late Tony Barford of Axe/Crystalline. The heavy acid guitar work certainly sounds like Barford, though this is nowhere near as dark and eerie as Axe, with a more conventional bluesy rock sound, though the vocals and guitar work often take it close to Jefferson Airplane in jamming mode. The result is a remarkable work and a very welcome reissue of a significant addition to the British psychedelic canon. GRADE: B–.

UnknownmiX (Switzerland): UnknownmiX (No label, cassette, 1983)
New Wave/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Magda Vogel (lead vocals)
This trio of a singer, synthesist and drummer (plus occasional guests on guitar and saxophone) created a decidedly odd debut album. The predominant style is weird, minimalist, lo-fi electropop without normal song structures, fronted by a vocalist who at various times resembles Renate Knaup-Krötenschwanz, Nina Hagen, Lene Lovich and Nico. Some other reviewers have linked them to the RIO movement, but I don’t immediately hear it; to my ears, this is simply strange through and through. GRADE: C+.
UnknownmiX (Switzerland): UX (UX 004, with inner, 1984)
New Wave/Industrial/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Magda Vogel (lead vocals)
Recorded with the same line-up, their second album has vastly better sound quality and is altogether a more mature record. At times, this presages the type of music Amon Düül II would go on to make on Nada Moonshine #, though without the full band backing. Equally, the industrial elements in their sound are far more prominent, including some metal percussion. Once again, it’s strange, minimalist and something of an acquired taste, but it’s certainly interesting and creative. GRADE: C+.
UnknownmiX (Switzerland): Loops (Rec Rec 9, with inner, 1985)
New Wave/Industrial/Pop/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Magda Vogel (principal vocals)
Album number three has slightly more conventional song structures and a greater pop sensibility, although it’s still mostly quite weird. Electric guitars appear on a few songs though nobody is credited with playing them, most notably on ‘Kiss Forever’, which sounds like a playful indie-pop twist on early Siouxsie & The Banshees with a hint of Eurythmics. Elsewhere they incorporate elements of everything from blues to jazz, making for a very eclectic and often amusing LP. GRADE: C+.
UnknownmiX (Switzerland): miX 3 (Rec Rec 18, with inner, 1987)
New Wave/Industrial/Pop/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Magda Vogel (lead vocals)
What the 3 in the title signifies, I have no idea, as this was actually their fifth album (there was a 1986 cassette Live In Willisau that I’ve never encountered). Housed in a striking embossed silver foil sleeve, the album sees them moving away from the rock pastiches of the previous LP and returning to their earlier, more minimalist, electronic direction. This time round, Magda Vogel’s vocals and the impassioned lyrics call to mind Dagmar Krause. GRADE: C+.
UnknownmiX (Switzerland): Whaba! (Rec Rec RecDec 27, CD, 1989)
Pop
Magda Vogel (lead vocals)
With no less a luminary than Guru Guru’s Mani Neumeier on drums, this completes UnknownmiX’s transition from electronic avant-gardism to stylish synth-pop. Catchy, varied and slightly satirical, this sometimes indicates how a band like Slapp Happy might have sounded had they formed ten years later. GRADE: C+.
UnknownmiX (Switzerland): DominaDea (Rec Rec RecDec 46, CD, 1992)
Pop/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Magda Vogel (lead vocals), Juliana Müller (guitar, keyboards, accordion, sampler, backing vocals)
Recorded by Magda Vogel with two new collaborators, their final album is somewhat different yet again. Whilst Whaba!'s pop sheen is maintained, this restores the progressive and experimental elements of their sound, adding in influences from folk and classical music. The results are rather interesting and quite varied, sometimes hinting towards Swiss Chalet-era Cos. GRADE: C+.

Unreal City (Italy): La Crueltà Di Aprile (Mirror MRL 1006, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2013)
Progressive
Francesca Zanetta (guitar, lute)
Culminating in an eighteen-minute suite, this is a good recreation of the early seventies Italian prog sound: rich, lyrical, understated and moderately complex. None of the compositions is invididually outstanding, and it’s all too low-key to be a modern classic, but it’s beautifully done and extremely listenable. GRADE: B–.

Unreal City (Italy): Il Paese Del Tramonto (AMS AMS 240 CD, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2015)
Progressive
Francesca Zanetta (guitar, Mellotron)
The closing suite this time round is even longer, at 21 minutes, but otherwise it’s business as usual. Once again it’s refreshing to hear an Italian band whose music is mellifluous and understated, utterly avoiding the bombast characterising many of the country’s neoprog outfits. A gifted vocalist who sings in Italian is another huge plus, and once again this can stand alongside the better Rock Progressivo Italiano albums from the seventies. GRADE: B–.

Unreal City (Italy): Frammenti Notturni (Ams AMS283CD, CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2017)
Progressive
Camilla Pozzi (occasional vocals), Francesca Zanetta (guitar, Mellotron)
Once again, it’s all very understated and very much of a piece, but Unreal City capture the refined atmosphere of the best classic Italian prog with aplomb. GRADE: B–.

Unspoken Word (USA): Tuesday April 19th (Ascot AS 16028, 1968)
Folk/Psychedelic
Dede Puma (joint lead vocals)
Not typical period West Coast pop, as I had expected, but a really beautiful and rather minimalist psychedelic folk LP. Occasional use of strings and mournful solo horn sometimes make it resemble a stripped-down version of the Eclection album, and elsewhere it sounds British rather than American, with more of an early seventies than late sixties vibe. Altogether, this was a considerable – and extremely welcome – surprise. The four bonus tracks on the CD reissue (taken from pre-album singles) are really beautiful too. GRADE: C+.
Unspoken Word (USA): The Unspoken Word (Atco SD 33-335, 1970)
Rock
Dede Puma (joint lead vocals)
Bizarrely, the line-up is the same as on their debut, but the sound is totally different. This time round the band offers blues-tinged pop/rock that sounds like innumerable other acts from the era. The opening ‘Pillow’ is irresistibly catchy, and makes you think they’ve pulled off the transformation with aplomb, but the standard is not maintained, and the LP reaches its nadir on the ten-minute blues/rocker ‘Manager’. GRADE: C.

Unusual We (USA): The Unusual We (Pulsar AR 10608, 1969)
Pop
Lush harmony pop from a large vocal group, with orchestrated backing, sometimes with loungy jazz and mild funk edges. Fans of outfits like Free Design and the Fifth Dimension might like this a lot. GRADE: C.

Unwritten Pages (Holland/UK/Mexico): Pt. 1 – Noah (Progrock PPR533, double CD, USA, 2010)
Progressive/Metal
Ruth Maassen (joint lead vocals)
The loud, compressed production does the band few favours, but the music here is nowhere near as bombastic as you’d expect from a progressive metal rock opera. In fact, it has plenty of room to breathe and a fair level of variety, making for a decent set (even though I find the science fiction concept somewhat silly). GRADE: C+.

Liliana Urbańska (Poland): Liliana Urbańska (Pronit SXL / XL 1068, 1974)
Soul/Jazz/Rock
Liliana Urbańska (lead vocals, flute, lute)
The Grupa Organowa Krzysztofa Sadowskiego member’s solo set (backed by the parent band and almost entirely composed by Sadowski) is a pleasant soft jazz and soul set. Not a million miles away from Julie Driscoll’s work with Brian Auger, this contains enough rock elements to have broad appeal, and is pretty varied too, offering a pleasant selection of moods. GRADE: C+.
See also Grupa Organowa Krzysztofa Sadowskiego

Urfaust (Czech Republic/UK): Faust And Margaret (Faust FR 05-2331, CD, UK, 1995)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Mirka Krivánková (joint lead vocals)
Fronted by Mirka Krivánková, a veteran of the eighties Czech jazz scene, this Anglo-Czech band offers fascinating and very varied experimental jazz/rock. It’s remarkably diverse, from hints of the Vertigo early seventies sound to Krautrock sensibilities, Urszula Dudziak-like glossolalia and even what sounds like a duet between a heavy riffing electric guitar and a rusty hinge. If the album has a failing, it’s that every track is in a different style, occasionally making it sound like a collection of weirdnesses; prog fans may also find the jazz quotient a little high. However, everything works well and the result is a brilliant album that delivers constant surprises and is certain to delight fans of early seventies Gong et al. GRADE: B.
Urfaust & Gary Lucas (Czech Republic/UK/USA): Pražská Strašidla (Faust FR 06-2331, CD, Czech Republic, 1996)
Blues/Jazz/Rock/Progressive
Dominika (occasional vocals), Mirka Krivánková (occasional vocals), Helena (occasional vocals)
The presence of Captain Beefheart collaborator Gary Lucas is no accident: this concept album about the ghosts of Prague is completely different from its predecessor. Offering far more conventional bluesy and jazzy rock with a swampy flavour, it sees the band abandoning the wild excesses of their debut, resulting in a mellower and more homogenous, but far less intriguing, record. GRADE: B–.
See also Mirka Krivánková, Jirí Stivín & Co Jazz System, Various, ‘Jazz Praha – Live’, Various ‘Jazzrocková Dílna’

US Apple Corps (USA): US Apple Corps (SSS International 12, some on blue vinyl, with poster, 1970)
Rock
Powerful gospel rock with strong emphasis on the ‘rock’. The band has definite hard rock leanings and lots of Southern-sounding lead guitar, whilst a black female singer and gospel choir really belt it out upfront. This is a great album, but also a very short one, at around 25 minutes. The poster included is nothing more than a giant foldout lyric insert with nothing on the reverse. Promo copies came on blue vinyl, but these aren’t much rarer than the black vinyl version. GRADE: B–.
US Apple Corps (USA): Let The Music Take Your Mind (Plantation PLP-504, 1976)
Rock
Issued six years after their first, but most likely recorded some time in the early seventies, their second and final album is in a similar style. It’s subtler, though, with greater emphasis on composition and mostly male vocals. There are some fine songs here, especially the near-seven-minute ‘Dead’, which closes side one. A really superb psychedelic sleeve completes the deal. GRADE: B–.

Utopia (West Germany/USA): Utopia (United Artists UAS 29483, West Germany, 1973)
Progressive
Renate Knaup-Krötenschwanz (occasional vocals)
Recorded around the same time as Amon Düül II’s Wolf City and partly comprising outtakes from that album, Utopia showcased the core trio of Lothar Meid (Amon Düül II’s bassist), Olaf Kübler (the band’s producer) and Jimmy Jackson (an American keyboardist who worked with them on Tanz Der Lemminge and Wolf City). Several other members of the band guest, including Renate Knaup-Krötenschwanz, who sings lead on the opening ‘What You Gonna Do?’. Unsurprisingly, this often sounds like a more commercial twist on contemporary Amon Düü II, with stronger jazz edges; whilst an enjoyable album, it’s certainly no match for Wolf City itself. GRADE: B–.
See also Amon Düül II, Maschine Nr. 9, Popol Vuh