Expresso II

SKU: CDV2099
Label:
Virgin Records
Category:
Jazz Rock
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The musical sequel to Gazeuse! features A. Holdsworth, Mick Taylor, Darryl Way, and others.

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  • New 2CD edition includes both Home and NY Suite resequenced into their originally intended order. Comes with a slipcase.
    $18.00
  • Limited release in a mini-LP from the "Deep Jazz Reality" reissue series.  This may in fact now be out of print as we didn't get a complete fill from our order.This is a hell of an obsure release from 1970 from Japanese shino flautist Suiha Tosha and a hell of a rarity.  The first side is all cover tunes but the album features a side long suite titled "Concerto For Shino Flute & Rock Band" written by organist Norio Maeda.  Included in the lineup is Kimio Mizutani on electric guitar, Takeshi Inomata on drums and Shunzo Ohno on trumpet - all of these musicians are stellar.  This is a full electric set featuring a large scale ensemble.  The music skirts the line between jazz and rock.  I'm sure jazz purists would be apalled by Mizutani's distorted guitar leads and rock guys will wince at the use of reeds.  Enough electric piano and Hammond organ to confuse everyone. This one is a real monster.  Highly recommended."Wonderfully tripped-out sounds from the Japanese scene at the start of the 70s – a mix of older folkloric elements and more electric fusion modes – coming together in a really unique sound! There's lots of flute at the front of the tracks – played with an airy, spacious quality that has it drifting nicely over the fuller rhythms at the back – a heady brew of electric bass and guitar, tight drums, and more – all swelling together to make the whole set groove! Yet it's the airiness of the flute that really makes things unique – quite different than some of the funky flute modes from the US or UK scene of the late 60s – with an ethereal charm that's almost timeless. Titles include the side-long "Concerto For Shino Flute & Rock Band" – plus "Across The Universe", "Teach Your Children", and "Celtic Rock"." 
    $30.00
  • The Japanese jazz scene is finally getting the attention it deserves.  Long written off as just a scene filled with copycats of American and European artists, jazz fans around the world are now discovering that there was some amazing music being created there.  Some of the musicians like Terumasa Hino and Masabumi Kikuchi crossed over into the world jazz scene but for the most part many of the musicians there only gained popularity in Japan.  One of the most important Japanese jazz labels from the 70s was Three Blind Mice.  It was started in 1970 by producer Takeshi "Tee" Fuji.  The label adhered to strict audiophile standards and all of the releases on the label featured exemplary sonics.  The music of Three Blind Mice tended to fall into three facets of jazz (they would crossover from time to time).  Some of the artists play very traditional straight ahead jazz.  Frankly while this stuff appeals to audiophiles its not that appealing beyond the sonics.  There was also an experimental side to the label featuring a lot of free jazz blowing.  The third aspect, which to my ears is the most interesting, is the area where the label explored modal jazz, often with an electric element.  Very little of it would be hard card fusion, but a rock element would sometimes be present.  This falls into the realm that has been broadly tagged as "kosmigroov".The label only existed in the 70s and the rights to the catalog has now passed over to Sony Music.  Think Records in Japan has started a limited ediiton reissue campaign of the Three Blind Mice label.  They arrive in mini-LP sleeves and are manufactured using Sony's proprietary Blu-Spec process.  We are cherry picking titles we think should have your attention.  More will follow in the near future.This is the second part of a trilogy of albums coordinated by label founder Tee Fuji.  Its a bit of an all-star jam with members of the TBM roster.  The album consists of two side long groove laden tracks that give everyone a chance to blow.  Particularly notable is guitarist Masayuki Takayanagi.""The "Tee" here is Takashi Fujii – who doesn't play on the record, but instead arranged with the group – and produced the record with the really deep, complex sound we've come to love on 70s releases from the Three Blind Mice label! The group has a relatively spiritual approach right from the start – almost free, but more soulfully directed overall, and definitely with the sense of poetry you'd expect from the title! Takao Uematso serves up some great tenor sax, and Kenji Mori plays both soprano and tenor – in a group that also features Masaru Imada on electric and acoustic piano, Masayuki Takayanagi on guitar, and Hiroshi Murakomi on drums. Both tracks are long – and titles include "Combo 77" and "Sonnet"."
    $29.00
  • "When in 1975 Larry Coryell went on tour with his short-lived all-star group The Eleventh House, the jazz-rock scene had just reached its climax. Although Larry is considered by many historians to be one of the first to melt jazz with rock, he never entered the rostrum as winner (one could guess, that his 'mistake' was not to be in any of the Miles Davis groups).With this recording this might change in retrospect. Very few acts of that era were that powerful. Hymns, simple hit melodies, funk grooves, blues rock guitar, 70ies synth sounds, and a lot of fun and entertainment were the ingredients of a concert evening to be remembered. The material chosen was like 'The Best of the Eleventh House'. While many other fusion protagonists with a jazz background used rock, blues, and funk elements, thinking this might make their music more accessible (some slipping towards easy listening, others were just unable to create a rock feeling), Larry Coryell & the Eleventh House used all these styles at well-balanced eye level.Recorded live January 18, 1975 at Post-Aula, Bremen, Germany" 
    $21.00
  • The Japanese jazz scene is finally getting the attention it deserves.  Long written off as just a scene filled with copycats of American and European artists, jazz fans around the world are now discovering that there was some amazing music being created there.  Some of the musicians like Terumasa Hino and Masabumi Kikuchi crossed over into the world jazz scene but for the most part many of the musicians there only gained popularity in Japan.  One of the most important Japanese jazz labels from the 70s was Three Blind Mice.  It was started in 1970 by producer Takeshi "Tee" Fuji.  The label adhered to strict audiophile standards and all of the releases on the label featured exemplary sonics.  The music of Three Blind Mice tended to fall into three facets of jazz (they would crossover from time to time).  Some of the artists play very traditional straight ahead jazz.  Frankly while this stuff appeals to audiophiles its not that appealing beyond the sonics.  There was also an experimental side to the label featuring a lot of free jazz blowing.  The third aspect, which to my ears is the most interesting, is the area where the label explored modal jazz, often with an electric element.  Very little of it would be hard card fusion, but a rock element would sometimes be present.  This falls into the realm that has been broadly tagged as "kosmigroov".The label only existed in the 70s and the rights to the catalog has now passed over to Sony Music.  Think Records in Japan has started a limited ediiton reissue campaign of the Three Blind Mice label.  They arrive in mini-LP sleeves and are manufactured using Sony's proprietary Blu-Spec process.  We are cherry picking titles we think should have your attention.  More will follow in the near future.This is the first of a trilogy of albums coordinated by label founder Tee Fuji.  Its a bit of an all-star jam with members of the TBM roster.  Its a fully electric set that features serious blowing.  Some of it gets pretty freaky but in a good way."Sounds beyond compare – one of those really special 70s sessions from the Japanese Three Blind Mice label – put together in a way that almost seems to be a genre unto itself! The group here have a keen understanding of advances in free jazz and fusion, but work with a deeper spiritual undercurrent and a great sense of sound (shaped by producer Takashi "Tee" Fujii) – so that their individual instrumental elements flow together in rich new ways that are sometimes subtle, sometimes quite righteous! The lineup shifts a bit from track to track – and the set features xcellent work on flute and bass clarinet from Kenji Mori, electric piano from Masaru Imada, tenor from Takao Uematsu, and bass and cello from Nobuyoshi Ino. Titles include "End Of November", "Mort", "Our Foolish", and "Dragon Garden"."
    $29.00
  • In recent times there has been very little new music coming from the Magma camp.  "Slag Tanz" is a new composition that the band has been performing and its finally been recorded in the studio.  Its got the classic Magma sound and if you are a zeuhl fan this is indispensable.Funny that their new label is referring to this as jazz metal.  Perhaps they should try a different marketing ploy."Powerful, hypnotic, unclassifiable, incomparables. MAGMA are in a class of their own. Finally, music to set the cat among the pigeons... Magma are the dynamite that will explode the conventions of a music scene that is becoming rather too self-satisfied with its own beauty... Magma are unlike anything that has gone before...So people were saying in 1970.In 2015, nearly half a century later, this is truer than ever and the new mini-album Slag Tanz (pronounced schlag tanz), this veritable symphony of jazz metal that has erupted from nowhere, radiates with all Magma s singular intensity!"Slünd AImëhntösz - Alerte ! (2:19)Slag (3:03)Dümb (2:57)Vers la nuit (3:30)Slünd BDümblaë - Le silence des mondes (2:58)Zü Zaïn ! (2:16)Slag Tanz (2:29)Wohldünt (1:23)Lyrics & Music : Christian VanderStella VANDER : voiceIsabelle FEUILLEBOIS : voiceHervé AKNIN : voiceBenoît ALZIARY : vibraphoneJames MAC GAW : guitarJérémie TERNOY : pianoPhilippe BUSSONNET : bassChristian VANDER : drums, piano, voice on "Wohldünt"Recorded and mixed between september 2013 and september 2014 at UZ Studio by Francis LINON
    $13.00
  • This was formerly known as the Full Power release.At the moment Big Big Train are one of the best prog bands going.  This English crew take some of the best elements of old school Genesis and their ilk and marry it with something very contemporary and relevant.  The band was started years ago by Greg Spawton and Andy Poole.  There were a variety of iterations of the band and as the years went on they got better and better.  If you don't know, their vocalist Dave Longdon was a finalist to replaced Phil Collins in Genesis.  Rutherford and Banks obviously made the wrong choice, going with Ray Wilson instead.  Longdon's vocals remind very much of Gabriela and Collins making the Genesis connection quite easy.  Further on the band added Nick D'Virgilio on drums.  These guys totally grok prog.The band's most recent work was epic in nature.  English Electric was released about six months apart as two separate releases.  Further to this, there were 4 additional tracks which were left off and just released as the Make Some Noise EP."Originally released as two separate albums in 2012 and 2013, the English Electric CD's were subsequently brought together as a limited edition (and now out of print) double album called English Electric Full Power, a release which included four additional songs and a revised track listing from the separate album versions.This new double album version of the English Electric CD's retains the extended track listing of the Full Power release and has been remastered by Rob Aubrey to ensure the songs benefit from even greater dynamic range. It is presented in a softpack with a 40 page booklet."
    $12.00
  • Produced by Billy Cobham, Forest Of Feelings is the first solo album from David Sancious, originally released in 1975.  It was recorded after his exit from the E Street Band.  Its an incredible blend of prog rock and fusion.  Its a trio format with the rhythm section held down by his former bandmate Ernest "Mad Dog" Carter on drums and Gerald Carboy on bass.  As proficient as he is as a keyboardist, most people overlook his attributes as a guitarist.  The man can play!This was briefly available on CD in 1992, and if I recall the story correctly, was withdrawn for sale due to legal threats by Mr. Sancious.  Its always been a tough disc to find.  Highly recommended.
    $18.00
  • The Japanese jazz scene is finally getting the attention it deserves.  Long written off as just a scene filled with copycats of American and European artists, jazz fans around the world are now discovering that there was some amazing music being created there.  Some of the musicians like Terumasa Hino and Masabumi Kikuchi crossed over into the world jazz scene but for the most part many of the musicians there only gained popularity in Japan.  One of the most important Japanese jazz labels from the 70s was Three Blind Mice.  It was started in 1970 by producer Takeshi "Tee" Fuji.  The label adhered to strict audiophile standards and all of the releases on the label featured exemplary sonics.  The music of Three Blind Mice tended to fall into three facets of jazz (they would crossover from time to time).  Some of the artists play very traditional straight ahead jazz.  Frankly while this stuff appeals to audiophiles its not that appealing beyond the sonics.  There was also an experimental side to the label featuring a lot of free jazz blowing.  The third aspect, which to my ears is the most interesting, is the area where the label explored modal jazz, often with an electric element.  Very little of it would be hard card fusion, but a rock element would sometimes be present.  This falls into the realm that has been broadly tagged as "kosmigroov".The label only existed in the 70s and the rights to the catalog has now passed over to Sony Music.  Think Records in Japan has started a limited ediiton reissue campaign of the Three Blind Mice label.  They arrive in mini-LP sleeves and are manufactured using Sony's proprietary Blu-Spec process.  We are cherry picking titles we think should have your attention.This was Masaru Imada’s first album for Three Blind Mice and only the second release for the label.  Its an all acoustic album – not like Green Caterpillar.  The music consists of four beautiful modal jazz pieces.  It has long been an audiophile reference album.  The music is stunning and you can also dazzle your friends with the sound.“Side 1 gets us under way in languid late-night mood, with Nostalgia, a stately ballad that gives Mimori a chance to open up on tenor. Next up is Alter, which opens with the spotlight on Ozu and Mizuhashi before developing into free exploration with plenty more good work by Mimori. But it's Side 2 that really delivers, two fantastic tracks, the mighty modal Gehi Dorian, which really cuts loose with a righteous groove. To close Imada and his crew dial it back a bit, and go out in lyrical style with The Shadow.”- Barbara Sounds blog 
    $29.00
  • The second album of a projected 4 disc series. This one is heavier than Ki and also features Anneke Van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering) as guest vocalist.
    $12.00
  • A lifetime ago The Laser's Edge reissued this fine offshoot from Circus.  Its been out of print for years and has now been resurrected by Belle Antique.Blue Motion consisted of Fritz Hauser (drums/percussion), Stephan Greider (keys), and Stephan Ammann (keys).  This was one of the first (if not the first) digital recordings made in Switzerland.  With little to no overdubs, the recording has a live, spacious feel.  The two keyboardists play off of one another in dizzying fashion - it can become hypnotic at times.  Bosendorfer Imperial grand piano, ARP Quadra, Hammond C3, Fender Rhodes, and Hohner Clavinet was their arsenal and they played the hell out of them.  Hauser is an exemplary percussionist and he never gets lost in the fray.  Parts of this may actually remind you of ELP a little bit...but just a little bit.  Highly recommended.
    $34.00
  • I've been living with a promo of this disc for a few weeks now and find it totally mesmerizing. It's an essential purchase for any fan of Miles Davis - and particularly a fan of his electric period. The playing is amazing which is a given considering the musicians involved. Here is the official press release that details the album far better than I ever could: "In a startlingly original recreation of music associated with jazz legend Miles Davis, co-producers Bob Belden and Louiz Banks have recast familiar themes from such landmark recordings as Bitches Brew, In A Silent Way, and Kind of Blue with an East Meets West sensibility on Miles…From India. An incredibly ambitious project involving two dozen musicians from two separate continents recording in studios around the world, Miles… From India is a cross-cultural summit meeting that puts a provocative pan-global spin on such Miles classics as “All Blues,” “Spanish Key,” “So What,” “It’s About That Time” and “Jean Pierre.” Sitar and tablas, ghatam and khanjira, mridangam and Carnatic violin blend seamlessly with muted trumpet and saxophones, screaming electric guitar and grooving electric bass lines, piano, upright bass and drums on this profound fusion of Indian classical and American jazz. Recorded in Mumbai and Madras, India and New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, the music on Miles…From India was performed by classical and jazz musicians from India with the addition of musicians who have recorded or performed with Miles Davis over the span of five decades. The 2-CD set is scheduled for an April 15 release on the New York-based Times Square Records. Producer-archivist Belden, renowned for his Grammy Award-winning reissue work on a series of Miles Davis boxed sets for Sony/Columbia, explains the genesis of Miles…From India. “Yusuf Gandhi, who heads Times Square Records, and I have had conversations about doing this for the past several years. Yusuf had the connection to India and an understanding of Indian classical music along with an appreciation for jazz and also fusion music. So we had some mutual interests there. At some point we were talking about potential projects and I was just in the process of doing the On The Corner boxed set. Of course, Miles incorporated tabla and sitar on those sessions from 1972, so I suggested revisiting Miles’ Indian influenced music using some of those guys from On The Corner along with some Indian classical musicians and calling it Miles…From India. Yusuf said, ‘Perfect,’ and that was it.” Adds Gandhi, “Jazz musicians have always listened to Indian music and Indian musicians know jazz. Right now there are so many great young musicians in India that people in America have never heard of. You hear about the Ravi Shankar family and other prominent musicians from India, but you don’t hear about the younger musicians who are out there doing innovative things. So we wanted to get some of them into the picture on this project.” The Miles alumni included on the sessions are saxophonists Dave Liebman (1972-74) and Gary Bartz (1970-71), guitarists Mike Stern (1981-84), Pete Cosey (1973-76) and John McLaughlin (1969-72), bassists Ron Carter (1963-69), Michael Henderson (1970-76), Marcus Miller (1981-1984), Benny Rietveld (1987-91), keyboardists Chick Corea (1968-72), Adam Holzman (1985-87) and Robert Irving III (1980-88), drummers Jimmy Cobb (1968-63), Leon ‘Ndugu’ Chancler (1971), Lenny White (1969) and Vince Wilburn (1981, 1984-1987) and tabla player Badal Roy (1972-3). The Indian contingent is represented by keyboardist Louiz Banks, drummer Gino Banks, American-born alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, sitarist Ravi Chari, Vikku Vinayakram (a charter member of Shakti) on ghatam, V. Selvaganesh (a member of Shakti and Remember Shakti) on khanjira, U. Shrinivas (from Remember Shakti) on electric mandolin, Brij Narain on sarod, Dilshad Khan on sarangi, Sridhar Parthasarathy on mridangam, Ranjit Barot on drums, Taufiq Qureshi and A. Sivamani on percussion, Kala Ramnath on Carnatic violin, Rakesh Chaurasia on flute and Shankar Mahadevan & Sikkil Gurucharan on Indian classical vocals. With the Indian musicians first laying down the foundation of the tracks at studios in Mumbai and Madras, the Miles alumni then added on their parts back in the States. All the parts were then digitally edited into a coherent whole so that, for instance, on a tune like “Blue in Green” you get the sense of an organic, real-time call-and-response going on between Mike Stern’s keening guitar lines (recorded in New York) and Shankar Mahadevan’s impassioned vocals (recorded in Mumbai). “All the forms were set based on my reduction of the song as a lead sheet,” explains Belden, “and then Louiz figured out how to make it fit into the cultural norms of India. And the beauty of it is these Indian guys really know how to play that music. And once they got the groove in their mind, that was it. So essentially, everything we did was a first take. They showed up with their instruments, we rolled the tape and that was it.” “Jean Pierre” was similarly structured with the Indian musicians (Ranjit Barot on drums and Rakesh Chaurasia on flute) laying down their parts to a click track. Later on in the States, drummer Vince Wilburn and keyboardist Robert Irving III added their parts in Chicago while guitarist Mike Stern and keyboardist Adam Holzman added theirs in New York. “But I had Robert Irving reacting to what the Indian drummer put down when he played while Adam Holzman reacted to what Vince had played,” explains Belden. “So you had all these people reacting to different things they didn’t hear, and when you mixed them together it worked.” Belden adds that for this Miles…From India project he relied on technology that didn’t exist five years ago. “We used the internet a lot in dealing with file sharing sites. And I was also able to use SKYPE to produce two sessions at the same time in different locations from my apartment. For ‘It’s About That Time’ I had Ndugu Chancler playing drums on the West Coast and Robert Irving in Chicago playing Hammond B-3 organ, and we were all connected in a video conference via SKYPE. They were playing back their parts, suggesting stuff, conversing back and forth with me producing back in my New York apartment. In fact, you can make a whole record that way. You leave less carbon footprints that way.” Gandhi, who also heads up the Hip-Bop label, admits that he is astonished by the seamless illusion of real time interaction that this digital technology is able to create.”Every time I listen to ‘Spanish Key,’ the way that Mike Stern comes into it when the percussionists are playing…it’s almost as if he were there with them.” Some of the other highlights of this remarkable concept project include: a version of “All Blues” in 5/4 that features the regal rhythm tandem of bassist Ron Carter and drummer Jimmy Cobb (the latter recorded on the original 1959 Kind of Blue session); a 9/4 rendition of “So What” (also from Kind of Blue) featuring bassist Carter, pianist Chick Corea and drummer Ndugu Chancler interacting with a crew of Indian percussionists and konokol vocalists; a ripping, distortion-laced Pete Cosey electric guitar solo alongside Michael Henderson’s groove-heavy electric bass lines, Dave Liebman’s flute and Kala Ramnath’s carnatic violin work on a fast version of “Ife” (from Big Fun and The Complete On The Corner Sessions); some melodic sarod playing by Pandit Brij Narain on a faithful rendition of Joe Zawinul’s lyrical anthem “In A Silent Way”; some hauntingly beautiful muted trumpet work by Wallace Roney alongside Shankar Mahadevan’s emotive vocals on “Blue In Green”; Marcus Miller’s mysterious bass clarinet alongside Roney’s trumpet and Ravi Chary’s sitar on “Great Expectations”; and some potent, jazzy soloing from trumpeter Roney, tenor saxophonist Liebman and soprano saxophonist Gary Bartz on a slow version of “Ife.” The lone commissioned work on Miles…From India is the stirring title track, composed, produced and performed by guitarist John McLaughlin with his Remember Shakti bandmate U. Shrinivas on electric mandolin, Louiz Banks on piano and Sikkil Gurucharan on vocals. This kind of East Meets West cross-cultural fusion has been going on since George Harrison played sitar on the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” (from 1965’s Rubber Soul). Fellow Brit guitarist and Harrison colleague Brian Jones followed suit in 1966 by playing sitar on the Rolling Stones’ hit single “Paint It Black.” John McLaughlin investigated South Indian classical music forms on the Mahavishnu’s 1971 debut The Inner Mounting Flame and Miles Davis took the plunge by incorporating tablas and sitar on 1972’s On The Corner. Some important Indo-American fusion projects that have subsequently been released include McLaughlin’s Shakti (1975) and Remember Shakti (1999), Mickey Hart’s Diga Rhythm Band (1976) and Planet Drum (1991), Talvin Singh’s Asian flavored drum ‘n’ bass recording Anokha (1997), Bill Laswell and Zakir Hussain’s Tabla Matrix (2000), Karsh Kale’s Realize (2001) and Broken English (2007) and Anoushka Shankar’s Rise (2005) and Breathing Under Water (2007). The all-star Miles…From India (2008) session represents the next step in the evolution of Indo-American jazz fusion."
    $21.00
  • Masterfully played German fusion classic. Brilliant Moog-work and of course Mr. Doldinger. Essential.
    $13.00
  • "Progressive rock and boy-band pop seem like natural enemies at first. The former's fascination with ornate, elongated passages of finger-exhausting musicianship is in almost every way the opposite of the latter's emphasis on catchiness first; it's hard to imagine turn-of-the-millennium hits like "Bye Bye Bye" with extended guitar and keyboard solos. Yet ever since A Doorway to Summer, their 2005 debut, Moon Safari has put to rest the notion that progressive-minded songwriters can't make pop that's as hook-driven as it is ostentatious. Grandiloquent epics like "Other Half of the Sky," from the 2008 double album Blomljud, weave together widescreen arrangements with the band's signature five-part vocal harmony, a feature unmatched by few groups in any genre, anywhere. It's easy to isolate the audience with solipsistic soloing and obtuse orchestrations, but from day one Moon Safari has made prog that—assuming the layperson were more amenable to songs that run upwards of thirty minutes—could lead them to something like a pop crossover hit.But while the union of hook-heavy vocal interplay and '70's prog stylistics gives Moon Safari an unmistakable, unique sound, it also handicapped them in a significant way for their first two LPs. The group's accessibility on A Doorway to Summer and Blomljud, along with its technical prowess, is unassailable, but the high-fructose sweetness of its style leads to a diabetic rush when stretched out onto songs that span ten to thirty minutes. For example, "Other Half of the Sky," the titanic thirty minute showstopper off of Blomljud, has so many memorable hooks that by the time it's run its time out, it's hard to remember all of them. The classic problem of "too many voices leads to a noisy room" was the defining problem of Moon Safari's otherwise enjoyable sound for some time. All that changed, however, in 2010 with the release of Lover's End.It is no exaggeration—even as the decade remains young—to say that Lover's End is one of the finest progressive rock records of the '00's. Hell, it's not even crazy to say that it's one of the finest pop albums of the '00s; anyone, even those turned off by prog's eccentricities, can find something to love on this mellifluous collection of songs. From the a cappella charm of "Southern Belle" to the hook-loaded "New York City Summergirl," Lover's End is chock full of goodness from beginning to end. What explains its genius is that in contrast to A Doorway to Summer and Blomljud, the songs are given exactly the amount of space they need, and not a second more. Some songwriters may feel hamstrung by the verse/chorus structure, but it's a perfect fit for Moon Safari's joyous approach to music.With their newest studio outing, Himlabacken, Vol. 1, Moon Safari continue the refining of their sound, and while this isn't the breakthrough that Lover's End was, it nonetheless attests to the brilliance of this group. Whereas the latter was bound by a loose concept (love and heartbreak), Himlabacken Vol. 1 is less a lyrics album than its predecessor. The cost of this is that the music is less distinct in its cohesiveness, but there are no shortage of catchy passages and amped-up solos. "Mega Moon" comes off as a tribute to musical theatre, with "The Very Model of A Modern Major General" vocal delivery interweaving with Queen-esque bombast to an impressive effect. "Too Young to Say Goodbye" sees and matches the polyharmonic beauty of "Lover's End (Part One)." By sticking to concise song formats—the longest cut here runs nine and a half minutes—Moon Safari ensures that things never run out of steam, an essential quality to any good progressive rock band.If nothing else, Himlabacken, Vol. 1 proves that there's one thing Moon Safari can't be accused of: being unaware of themselves. Grand finale "Sugar Band" is as much a statement of identity as it is a slice of epic pop: "Sweet and saccharine are we," they declare, followed by "syrup's the blood in our veins." (Less successful is the clumsy Katy Perry innuendo of, "suck our big candy canes," which is thematically consistent but tonally off.) Both "Sugar Band" and "Little Man," one of the few Moon Safari songs to feature a solo vocal, are emblematic of the mushiness that might turn some prog fans away from their music. The latter, while obviously a touching document of a father's love for his son, does feel a bit out of place in how deeply personal it is; part of the strength of this group's sonic is the universality of its pop appeal, and the intimacy behind "My Little Man" makes listening to it an almost voyeuristic experience. "Mega Moon" and "Sugar Band" are better at capturing the convivial spirit of the band that's accessible to all.As with past outings, even those drawn to vocal harmonies might find it hard to stomach all of the sweetness of Himlabacken, Vol. 1. But what ultimately makes this LP successful is its unpretentious commitment to fun. Moon Safari are a rare collective that prove daunting musical chops aren't anathema to accessibility, and with Himlabacken, Vol. 1 they've made a recording that, while not the magnum opus that Lover's End was, is as true a capturing of their ethos as there could ever be. Sating a sweet tooth brings to mind the phrase "guilty pleasure," but there's no guilt involved with music as first-class as this. Who knew being in a boy band could sound so classy? " - Sea Of Tranquility
    $16.00