Camel’s Masterpiece, The Snow Goose

Camel_SG_OriginalCamel’s entry into the concept album format, The Snow Goose, entered the UK chart in May 1975, gradually climbing as high as No. 22, staying on for a very respectable 13 weeks and earning silver certification. In October 1975, at the height of their powers, Camel performed the entire suite with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, later released on their first live album, aptly titled A Live Record, in 1978. Mike Barnes just penned a compelling, must-read article about the band and this work titled “Camel: Timeless Flight,” published in the most recent PROG magazine 17 April, 2015.  Herein are some additional notes and reflections on what is, to this writer, Camel’s most enduring masterpiece.

THE INSPIRATION
Contemplating a follow up album to Mirage, Camel determined to take the story telling aspect from many of those songs to it’s logical conclusion, and tell a complete tale in a multi-movement suite – their first concept album. By 1974, the concept album and lengthy song suites were commonplace for more progressive artists and it seemed time to play the card for Camel. As the story goes, keyboardist Pete Bardens liked the idea of composing a piece based on Hermann Hesse’s Sidhartha or Steppenwolf, while bass guitarist Doug Ferguson introduced the band to The Snow Goose, written by American Paul Gallico. Guitarist Andrew Latimer notes that he and Pete agreed on the choice, given there were three characters for which appropriate themes could be built, and that it was a powerful, inspiring story.

THE STORY
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Written by Paul Gallico, The Snow Goose, was originally published by The Curtis Publishing Company in 1940, and was also printed with illustrations by Floyd Davis in the Saturday Evening Post on November 9th, that same year. In touching, simple prose, this short story tells the tale of the reclusive Philip Rhyader, his friend Frith, and the titular snow goose.

As the story begins, Rhayader purchases an abandoned lighthouse and surrounding marshlands along the Essex coast. He is described as “…a hunchback and his left arm was crippled, thin and bent at the wrist, like the claw of a bird.” Of his demeanor, Gallico writes, “Rhayder did not hate; he loved very greatly, man, the animal kingdom, and all nature…He was a friend to all things wild, and the wild things repaid him with their friendship.”

Camel_SG_FloydDavis_RescueOne day Frith, a young girl about 12 years of age, and “timid as a bird”, wanders into Rhyader’s life carrying a wounded snow goose. Gallico states, she “was pure Saxon, large-boned, fair, with a head to which her body was yet to grow, and deep-set, violet-colored eyes.” Frith brings the third character to Rhyader, a wounded Canadian snow goose with immense black-tipped pinions. The new friends mend the goose, building a shared bond between them. The goose returns to the marshlands over the years bringing Frith to visit the lonely lighthouse.

Camel_SG_FloydDavis_DunkirkBy the end of the story, Rhyader lends his support to soldiers trapped at Dunkirk, carrying them to safety in his small boat. Sadly, he is killed during the effort, and the friends are separated. The snow goose makes one last visit to the lighthouse, and Frith watches it soar into the sky away from the great marsh, imagining the soul of Rhayader taking farewell, crying “Godspeed!” After many weeks the old lighthouse is blown apart, mistaken for a military target, and then after Gallico concludes, “Only the frightless gulls wheeled and soared and mewed their plaint over the place where it had been.” So ends the bittersweet story of Rhyader, Frith and the Snow Goose.

Camel_SG_BBCTVThe Snow Goose was also made into a short film for BBC TV in 1971, with a screenplay by the author, and directed by Patrick Garland. It stars Richard Harris and a young Jenny Agutter, who won an Emmy for the role, and is known among other things for her roles in Logan’s Run and An American Werewolf in London. At just under 50 minutes, this production does well with the source material and Harris’ quiet, unaffected portrayal of Philip Rhyader. It’s a sweet, simple film that remains true to the source material.

THE MUSIC & PERFORMANCE
As realized by Camel in 1975, the music to the Snow Goose follows the story of the book, sounding tones at turns beautiful, jubilant, haunting, and melancholy. The large-scale composition is in the form of a multi-movement suite. Changes in instrumentation, texture, meter, key and tempo provide contrast between the sections. Each of the three sympathetic characters from the story is portrayed by a musical passage, as are places and events, including the marshlands and the battle at Dunkirk. Songs range from the lonely cry of “The Great Marsh” to the flute led theme for “Rhyader” the gorgeous blues guitar of “Sanctuary” the exciting “Flight of The Snow Goose” and the dramatic “Dunkirk”. One of Pete Bardens’ prettiest solo piano pieces of all time “Fritha Alone” sounds a lovely, melancholic tone that nonetheless inspires a feeling of hope.

The band, consisting of original members Andrew Latimer (guitar), Pete Bardens (keyboards), Doug Ferguson (bass) and Andy Ward (drums), is backed by the London Symphony Orchestra, producing one of the best examples of orchestrated progressive rock in the 70s. David Bedford was brought in by producer David Hitchcock to write the arrangements for the LSO to augment the compositions, and the band were justly excited about the results, as the studied blending of instrumental rock music and orchestra shines throughout the piece. As one example, after all the characters are introduced musically, the playful song “Friendship” paints an image of the tottering goose with a quartet of winds – one of the most evocative musical moments on the album. The suite follows the tale to its dramatic conclusion with the celebratory “La Princesse Perdue.” Within this up-tempo piece, moog synth and guitar lead atop strings playing an ostinato (short repeated phrase) are followed by lush strings, winds, and percussion, building in intensity before fading away into the sounds of the great marsh reprise.

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Camel Live at the Royal Albert Hall

 

As performed live at the Royal Albert Hall, October 1975, the work brims with confidence, all elements combining brilliantly throughout a stellar performance of the complete album. Pete Bardens introduces the piece:

We are just about ready to launch into our “magnum opus” the Snow Goose. I’d like to say what a pleasure it is to have the London Symphony Orchestra leader John Brown and also to have the pleasure of, company of, David Bedford conducting. For those of you who don’t already know, this was originally based on a short story by a gentleman called Paul Gallico – written during the war – all the thanks and credit go to him for providing us with the original inspiration – I think that’s all that needs to be said…

Camel_SG_LiveRecordCoverNot released by Decca until 1978, the double live album simply titled Camel – A Live Record (p) 1978 Gamma Records Limited, for The Decca Record Company, includes the complete performance of The Snow Goose from 1975 at the Royal Albert Hall, paired with a disk containing a handful of songs from other Camel albums, recorded on their 1974 and 1977 tours. The live presentation of The Snow Goose is a wonderful example of a rock-based, orchestrated, multi-movement piece that weaves acoustic and electric together to make a greater whole. As a package unfortunately, the materials include few live visuals other than a handful of distorted shots of the band. The music itself and the dramatic performance is the centerpiece. The sound is relatively crisp with ample bass tones to match shimmering strings.

There are no known films of this show, but there are clips of Camel performing three selections from The Snow Goose, as a four piece, and on the song “Friendship” with a wind quartet. This was shot at the BBC studios for the television series Old Grey Whistle Test in 1975. For the last many years, this was the best way to get a glimpse of the original band performing the material. It is available on the DVD production, Camel – Footage, @Camel Productions (22 November, 2004).

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Camel: In From The Cold, (c) Camel Productions, UK Ltd.

More recently Camel played the piece in its entirety as a five-piece band at the Barbican Theater in London, 28 October 2013. The show debuted a spectacular new, slightly expanded, version of the original work. Andrew was joined there by long time bassist Colin Bass, drummer Denis Clement, keyboardist Guy LeBlanc, and Jason Hart supporting on keys and acoustic guitar. A film of this concert, titled In from The Cold is now also available from Camel Productions UK Ltd on DVD.

Camel_SG_InFromPik72DPIThe concert came after Camel had taken a long break from recording and performing, while Andrew healed from a serious illness. The show was a huge success.  The audience stood to applause for what seemed minutes before the band could play the first note.  Tears were shed.  Notes wound out of Andy’s Gibson Les Paul like plaintive siren songs.  The band played beautifully leaving the audience enraptured.

The second half of the show included tracks from throughout the bands long recording history, starting with a half pace rendition of a song from their first LP, “Never Let Go” – wonderfully executed, bringing to mind the struggle and triumphs of life:

Man is born with the will to survive,
He’ll not take no for an answer.
He will get by, somehow he’ll try,
He won’t take no, never let go, no…

An apt sentiment as Camel continues the journey after such a long break, playing again this July in the UK and Europe. Sadly, keyboardist Guy LeBlanc, who performed with Camel at this show, passed days ago, just this April. I recall being impressed by his talent, and at how quickly he learned the parts, coming to them so near the event.
Godspeed, Guy.

 

 

Circuline Emerge

CIRCULINE_RETURN_CD_COVER_72dpiCirculine was founded in 2014 by Andrew Colyer (keyboards, vocals), Bill Shannon (guitars, vocals), and Darin Brannon (drums, percussion). Each had played with groups that covered progressive and classic rock masters along with original material. For this new band the desire was to make a concerted go of it – to write and record new original material to bring to the stage.  Lead vocalists Billy Spillane and Natalie Brown joined the group, having performed countless times as singers, actors, dancers, and rock musicians. Paul Ranieri plays bass along with Matt Dorsey on a handful of tracks as well. The band are about to release their debut album, and are booked for a series of concerts this spring.

Circuline-PromoPhoto#1Circuline’s debut album is filled with modern progressive rock gems. Its sound is dramatic and technically advanced, yet accessible and melodic. The balance of dramatic dark and light tones that can be so difficult to achieve seems to come easy for this outfit. Tracks like the opener, “Return” shine with tight vocal harmonies, well-tuned toms, and bass, grand piano, and clean synth leads. Follow up “Nebulae” draws the listener in with it’s ambient intro building to a tight fusion style guitar lead, all ending in the sound of crashing thunder and the sound of rain fading away. “Imperfect” shines with beautiful melody followed by “Fallout Shelter” which sports a monster sized dissonant jam on guitar, atop crashing drums, sounding as frightening as the title implies. Instant favorite “Silence Revealed” (click here for YouTube audio) closes the album with a compelling summary of all that comes before, ending a journey that is challenging and appealing.

Circuline_AndrewI talked to Andrew Colyer one of the founders of the band and it’s keyboard player and backing vocalist. Andrew came to the world of progressive music a bit later in life than some, which affords him a balance of pop and prog influences. I started by asking him about these influential bands, and wanted him to elaborate just a bit about artists as disparate as Happy The Man, and Ambrosia:

Andrew: My favorite keyboard players include the greats: Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, Tony Banks, Jan Hammer, Jordan Rudess, Chick Corea, Lyle Mays, Herbie Hancock, Bruce Hornsby, Keith Jarrett but Eddie Jobson is my favorite. I’ve seen Eddie live several times –when they played on CTTE in 2013, everyone was stunned into silence. At the end of the show, when people are usually chit chatting, nobody was saying a word – they were so awesome you couldn’t speak. As far as I’m concerned, Eddie is the man to beat.

Jan Hammer was the first guy to use the pitch bend wheel to really make the keyboard sound expressive, like a guitar player. I think it was Jeff Beck who said his favorite guitar player is Jan Hammer.

Kit Watkins was a phenomenal synth player, who worked with Frank Wyatt and Stanley Whitaker in Happy The Man. Frank and Stan went on to form Oblivion Sun. What I really like best in this music are Frank’s chord changes – it all starts with the chords and song for Frank, and he and Stan come up with these odd rhythms. I know Frank, am in contact with the band and may record and play with them live in the future.

I liked Ambrosia in the 70s and they were on the first Cruise To The Edge. Before that show, I didn’t know they had those progressive origins. I grew up listening to Kasey Casem’s top 40 and movie soundtracks and so in the late 70s “Biggest Part of Me” and those soft rock hits caught my ear with their 5 part vocal harmonies, interesting chord changes – today they still sound terrific – just like on the record.

Circuline_live2Doug: You mentioned the focus Circuline also takes with vocals and harmonies, making space within the compositions for vocals to shine.

Andrew: That was one of Darin’s rules. Billy Natalie and I met before this band was formed and both of them are great singers – the three of us together have a really nice sound. And Bill (guitar) also sings so we can do 4 part harmonies. For this band we definitely want to feature the vocals – I think it makes the music more accessible. It doesn’t matter how great the music is – if you don’t have great vocalists I don’t believe people are going to come back again to see a band. You can do enough marketing to get people to come out and see a band once, and you want that reaction where they want to come back, and bring their friends with them. For us to have the caliber of vocalists in Billy and Natalie and not feature them would be a wasted opportunity. We’ve already been labeled “crossover” prog, which is good with us, because we would like to be more accessible, more viable as an ongoing band. We know that when you see an artist like Steven Wilson or Sound of Contact you can relate to the music and come away ready for more.

Circuline_live3Doug: When it comes to performing these songs live, we’ve discussed the theatricality of a concert – the range between simply a powerful emotive presentation and costumes, staging and lights – how do you approach your live shows?

Andrew: Besides Billy fronting No Quarter for 6-7 years he has also performed all over the world as an actor and dancer. Natalie had a 30-year career as an actor – she had the lead in Evita twice – that was her full time job. First, our dress is different – we have a rule – no t-shirts, blue jeans, and tennis shoes. It s a personal thing – we believe that if we are going to ask somebody to leave their home, and pay money to see us we should at least try to look good. None of us care for the “rock n roll” thing where the band looks like they haven’t had a shower for a week, and are wearing ripped up t-shirts and jeans. We are going to try to look like we belong on stage. Second, some of the theatricality has to do with the way Billy and Natalie present the music, either their facial expressions or gestures while singing – they have the ability to play off each other while playing to the audience at the same time. Because they are trained they have a way of doing that and make it part of the performance. It’s just who they are.

In the 70s having the music being progressive was new enough – in todays world, people see things like Katy Perry and the Super Bowl halftime shows, Taylor Swift with her huge stage sets, Billy Joel who has a big rotating stage, lights, and show – what people can see live or on YouTube has them used to getting some kind of visuals with the music – something happening on stage. Some musicians can still come out and stand still, just playing their instruments. We are looking to include some movement, and drama to benefit us, and our audience.

Circuline_live1Doug: By the way, what happened to your Trumpet?

Andrew: For 10 years, I played in Jr. High, High School and college in multiple bands and there is just no time to keep up with my horn, but I really miss playing. The big band stuff is really fun. People make fun of “Sussudio” by Phil Collins, but listen to those horn lines! Maybe I can incorporate it playing the horn my right hand, and keys with my left. Pat Metheny did a long composition live and the trumpet player had a mic, and a bunch of guitar effects pedals – reverb, delay – he could do a bunch of great effects. It would be great to incorporate an approach like that in the future.

Doug: The keys sound congruous throughout the record – lots of patches within a tight family of sounds. Bill stretches out on Fallout Shelter with that dissonant guitar passage. It comes just after “Imperfect.” Was there a plan to its placement on the record?

Andrew: I tried to use different keyboard patches on every song – and Bill was conscious of his tone – we tried to blend these together. We are very particular about our parts, and dial things up and back in service of the song.

Imperfect was “the pretty song” on the record. Bill and I had the idea in the studio and we recorded it and forgot about it for about 3 months. Near the end of the recording we thought, “lets go back to that ballad we were working on.” We played it back and decided to include it – no mixing, no overdubs – the performances were flawed – I have plenty glitches and notes, but we did not want to go back and redo it – we captured a moment, and we thought, let’s put it on the record and call it “Imperfect.” For Fallout Shelter the working title was “Brand X Jam” – Darin gets to do his Billy Cobham drum solo – so it was a jam we recorded at The Cave (recording studio) and we kept Bill’s original guitar track as the basis. Later I wrote the big kind of epic chords and the synth part ending. We put “Fallout Shelter,” the most demented song, after “Imperfect,” the prettiest one!

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Circuline-PromoPhoto#2Circuline feature the new album in concert on April 24-26, on a double-bill with Glass Hammer, and are filming and recording the show for DVD at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, New York. Additional gigs with Glass Hammer include the New Jersey ProgHouse, and Orion Studios in Baltimore. They also have three nights in May for the Sonic Voyage Festival with a great lineup of bands, and are looking to start their second album this summer. Circuline will also record additional videos, which are to include short videos for Internet TV, some of which will be videos of their social time together. Next year they are planning to get into some of the summer festivals, which book at the beginning of the year. Watch for these events from this new and engaging progressive rock band!

Phil Collins Must Be Going?

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Mr. Genesis Melody of 1978

I was cleaning out a bookshelf this afternoon and came across my senior high school yearbook, from 1978, in which had been scrawled “Genesis Rules” (with the band name in the font of their seminal 1974 album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway of course). These days instead of printed yearbooks, I spend some time in Facebook, and now belong to many fan groups for 70’s bands like Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, and Gentle Giant. As we did so long ago, the posts therein still frequently debate which instances of a band’s body of work had merit and which did not, and I find myself, more often than not at this stage of life, wincing at the derision shown to groups or players who are accused of having “sold out” to achieve commercial success. It’s all good – everybody is entitled to their opinion, especially on the web where we feel very entitled thank you. But for me, while I used to fall into the more critical camp I’m inclined to celebrate all of this work, whether “prog” or “pop”. The debate raged back then, and is still continuing today – questioning the artistic merit of 70’s bands as they “progressed” from more experimental work to the mainstream. It’s an engaging pastime for many of us, who pour through our favorite albums, examining the musical passages (some of them in 9/8), the meaning of the lyrics (unifauns?), and the art of album packaging. It was and still is a fantastic era for discussion – music that meant something to so many – music not to be listened to in awful compressed digital replications, but on hi fidelity audio systems we assembled with attention to how sound would be replicated in our rooms back at home or in the dorms.

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Phil – Hello I Must Be Going

But sometimes, all the analysis and hand wringing over the purity of the vision and musical prowess of progressive era bands misses an important point. In our zeal to celebrate the exceptional artistry of more complex early works, we may dismiss later efforts when oft times prog artists stripped down from a dozen keyboards to a few, set down their mandolins and flutes, and focused on music that was a bit more direct, unadorned, and actually rocked or touched the heart as priority one. In fact, most bands of the era went from long, complex compositions to more accessible three-to-five minute songs, more often than not in the verse-chorus-verse form and possibly even, gulp, including “love songs” or more overt “rockers” in the mix. While some were no doubt driven to this change by the popularity of punk (itself the ultimate celebration of raw simplicity) others headed that direction in order to feed their families, and some just did so as their own tastes changed. At the time, many dedicated fans felt betrayed by these rare bands that had so successfully engaged our analytical minds. When much of that faded away, we were left with music that was meant to appeal more to the heart than the head, and possibly even inspire, dare I say it, dancing (you know, to a rhythm, not the hippie free flow). For many, the emotional “divorce” from these early works, these heroes who left “home” to embrace new lives, left lasting scars on their musical psyches. Instead of being able to appreciate a wider body of music from these bands as they aged, listeners have been tempted to hold on to past glories, seeing all that comes after as being lesser than before. Many fans I know basically stopped listening to new music after the 70s unless it came from newer bands that played in the old way. I’ve always found this limiting view to be unfortunate.

Oh, those piano lessons...
Oh, those piano lessons…

As to my own journey, I studied piano for seven long years from age ten, and I had been introduced to music from the classical masters, knowing well what it took to create some of these compositions and perform them on record and in concert. Keyboard players like Tony Banks of Genesis, Rick Wakeman of Yes Keith Emerson from ELP, and Kerry Minnear from Gentle Giant were my heroes. Their work had been blindingly complex, and inspiring to trained ears. Much of it directly or indirectly incorporated passages from the classical composers, such as Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky and others, who had been their musical inspiration. I, like many, mourned the time when Tony Banks put away his Mellotron, and stripped his compositions back to their essence for albums like Abacab. The same kind of regret took hold when Kerry Minnear switched to simpler tracks and overt rockers for the last three Gentle Giant albums. But I had also liked Cat Stevens, Elton John, Supertramp, and others who started and continued in a more pop friendly vein, and who were unencumbered by the expectation that they deliver more complex works. While I mourned what seemed like the end of the classical prog era, I also was able to embrace the different work that followed from these artists, and new bands from the 80s on.

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Backstage, Universal Amphitheater

One musician who seemed to be the very embodiment of the prog to pop transition, and who caught the lion’s share of the derision for it all was, wait for it….., Phil Collins. Phil had spent time behind his drum kit as one of the best drummers on the planet – from his work in Genesis, to Brand X, and his long solo career, his artistry behind the drums was top tier. Yet Phil as a vocalist and songwriter very intentionally travelled this road from prog complexity to international pop superstardom, and he took a great many critical hits along the way. Part of this can be explained by his overexposure during the 80s, and part can be attributed to the fact that some of his pop work goes to the extreme side of the form, sometimes cloying (see “Sussudio”) and in almost complete opposition to his original musical roots. But to dismiss the entirety of his output after the 70s is tragic, as in the world of “heart ruling mind” he became a master.

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Thru These Walls

The defining moment for me in Phil’s transition was seeing him on tour supporting “Hello I Must Be Going” at the Universal Amphitheater, December 17, 1982, in “Los Angleeeze” as the man used to exclaim. That night Phil played an amazing set culled from his first two albums, and he included just one “theatrical” element, donning a dodgy overcoat for his ode to voyeurism, “Thru These Walls”. When he both sang and played drums for the hit “In The Air Tonight” it was enthralling – pure magic. But theater and mystery didn’t particularly matter on this night. For the most part, Phil told jokes, treated us to some of his clearest most beautiful vocal performances, and during a few tracks, his legendary powerful drumming. Basically, he entertained the talkative crowd, who raised drinks in celebration and chatted endlessly through the show.

Gabriel -Security Tour
Gabriel -Security Tour

Just the night before, in a tone that was a stark contrast, Peter Gabriel played the same venue, in support of his dark masterpiece dubbed Security. It was his darkest and most theatrical show since leaving Genesis. The players entered from the back of the venue, banging out the opening beats of the first track “Rhythm of the Heat”. As the band reached the stage, and stood in line across the front, still pounding out the Ghanaian beat, Gabriel climbed to the top of a structure center stage towering above, stood with his arms raised high, and let out a blood curdling tribal yell to open the song, and the show. A chill went down my spine that I will never forget. The audience in whole was immediately struck silent, in rapt attention as Peter took all on a journey through his most recent, brooding work. I recall looking behind me across the amphitheater, at a sea of blank faces, as audience and performer merged during the performance. The intensity let up only for the more upbeat “I Go Swimming” and Gabriel’s ode to going solo, “Solsbury Hill.” It was, and remains, the best concert performance I’ve ever seen.

Collins_Genesis_ReunionThe contrast between these two nights was extreme, and I’ve told the story to many since, recognizing Gabriel’s accomplishment, while at the same time appreciating Phil’s lighter, celebratory evening of entertainment. In fact, the two lead singers had just played together again only two months before at the first and only Genesis reunion in early October the same year. Peter would go on to record his most successful album So as a follow up to this one, shedding much of the dramatic tones of the early 80s and embracing a more commercially appealing approach. Phil continued on his pop solo career, increasingly driving Genesis to broaden their appeal as well, in agreement with Tony and Mike.

Having said all of this, tonight, we are relaxing, having some wine, and flipping through videos. We came upon some clips from Genesis during their 90’s era. While I still love the oldest songs best, I’ve realized that I really appreciate the pop-‘n-rock stuff too. Maybe I’ve gone a bit soft, sure, but maybe its a little needed perspective, after all these years. In the past Phil was omnipresent, but now that he’s almost gone, I wish he were here.

Magma Warms San Francisco

Magma in San Francisco, April 9, 2015
Magma in San Francisco, April 9, 2015

Magma is a legendary band from France that has since 1969 attained a kind of global cult status. They are one of the most unique groups I’ve ever seen in concert. Magma released seven studio albums during the 1970’s followed by one or two each decade since. Founder and classically trained drummer Christian Vander is quoted as saying that his inspiration for this eclectic music was a ”vision of humanity’s spiritual and ecological future” and this vision surely drives his urgent compelling music. Magma extensively use the Choral format for vocals, mostly without words, but at times singing in their own invented language, Kobaïan, to tell tales of earthbound science fiction. While called a “progressive rock” band they can be classified as “zeuhl” or avant-garde “French fusion” – a blend that would appeal for instance to fans of Gong.

Magma_tour_2015The band has not played here in San Francisco since 1999, and this tour stop at Slim’s club is one of eight dates booked in North America. Of this short tour, Vander said: “MAGMA is happy to return to the United States to play for Americans. We know you are passionate, respectful and curious about music. We find you to be generous and open. It will be a joy for us to see you this year.” Important phrasing that, as it takes an open mind to hear Magma, climb into their sonic universe, and come away enriched by the experience.

Magma_VocalsMagma played three long songs and an encore. They were, in order, Kohntarkosz, Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh, Slag Tanz, and Zombies. The players were in fine form, including Christian Vander, who sings and plays drums, James McGaw (guitar), Benoit Alziary (vibraphone), stellar musicians on bass and keys, and three vocalists up front (Herve Aknin, Stella Vender and Isabelle Feuillebois). The music was intricate, at times heavenly, at others frenetic, or dark and brooding, and always adventurous. It was easy to get lost in the long songs and I found it best to let them just take me on their confident journey. After the first epic piece wound to completion, Stella Vander noted it was originally released in 1973 and “still ahead of its time.” For this witness, complete agreement!

Magma_Vander Magma_Guitar Magma_BD Magma_vibes