Dead Forever: Buffalo

Rating: 85%

AlbumCoverDeadForever.jpgIn 1972, Australian band Buffalo released their debut record “Dead Forever.” Not a well known band, but an good band for the time.  Buffalo was made up drummer Paul Balbi, bassist Peter Wells, guitarist John Baxter, vocalists Dave Tice & Alan Milano. Although Milano would leave the band after this release.

Many people described this record as being a hyper clone to that of “Vol. 4” by Black Sabbath. Please do NOT look at these guys as a record company’s way to sign bands that sound like what’s popular. Buffalo is something totally different than what was mainstream then.

Buffalo’s sound can be described as progressive, hard, heavy, bluesy, and psychedelic. They bring together these influences to create their own sound and style. The end result is a tasty series of songs that are easy to swallow. There are some great melodies on this album. The melodies seem to fluctuate between faster and more upbeat tempos to more heavier and slower tempos. Many of the songs seem to start off slow and increase with heaviness. The song structures are well put together. “Forest Rain” is a ballad that is very rough and raw. The production seems to be really clear.

The musicianship is pretty good as well as the instrumentation. Balbi’s drumming really sets the pace for the flow of the music. Well’s bass guitar is phenomenal. His bass lines are very complex and his scales are setting the tone for Baxter’s guitar. Baxter’s guitar work is amazing. He throws out a nice blend of heavily distorted guitar tones which are gritty and deep. The riffs he produces are top notch. It’s a shame that more haven’t heard of his name. Baxter can hold his ground and shred on the guitar just as good as Ritchie Blackmore, Pete Townsend, Tony Iommi or Jimmy Page. “I’m a Mover” is a great song which is covered by the band and Baxter’s leads are fantastic. The vocals are pretty good too. The shared position at the mic reminds me of two people competing for the same job.

The only reason I gave this record a lower rating than what it deserves, is because of the fact that there are a lot of covers on here. But other than that, this album is a great record to jam to and is enjoyable to listen to. If you’re into early Heavy Music, this is one album I would highly suggest. Note, the first eight songs were part of the original album. Tracks 9-13 were released in 2006 and are more or less demos and covers.

Track Listing 2006 edition:

Leader  – 6:07
Suzie Sunshine  – 3:00
Pay My Dues  – 5:36
I’m a Mover – 10:57
Ballad of Irving Fink  – 4:37
Bean Stew – 7:11
Forest Rain – 6:28
Dead Forever  – 5:32
Hobo  – 2:46
Sad Song, Then – 2:37
No Particular Place to Go – 4:53
Just a Little Rock and Roll – 2:24
Barbershop Rock – 3:24

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U.S. Rock: Poobah

Rating: 90%

Poobah-US-Rock-315x315.jpgSo, I’m digging deep here in my collection of “Gray Beard Metal.” Poobah was once a great band playing opening gigs for those larger bands in the 1970’s. But, in the decades since then, this very important band fell to the wayside. They were funky, bluesy, progressive, psychedelic and ahead of their time. “U.S. Rock” was released in 1976. The band consisted of Ken Smetzer on vocals and keyboard, guitarist Jim Gustafson, drummer Gene Procoio and Phil Jones on bass.

Musically, Poobah followed in the same path of bands like ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Their sound was more of a mixing pot where they threw in every influence and style and what emerged was Poobah. Song structures are sometimes weird, wild and out there. The tempo is very upbeat and the songs themselves are a bit complex and psychedelic.  The sound can be heavy, bluesy and jazzy. There’s lots of beefy melodies and plenty of harmony.

The musicianship and instrumentation are top notch. This record here is so full of guitar.  Jim Gustafson is probably one of the best guitarists that you never heard of. He produces lots of ass kicking riffs and some kick ass leads. His sound has some what of a gritty and heavy sound to it. His guitar just wails on this record. There’s not a bad song on here with regards to Jim’s style on the guitar.

Gene Procoio’s style on the drums is really good. He throws out a lot of good tempos and good beats. “Out of You” is a fantastic song with plenty of Gene’s drumming. Then you have Phil Jones who bass guitar work is pretty decent, but the guitar can sometimes drown his sound out. The only song on here I do not like is the ballad “Right Out Of The Night.” The music was slow and made me want to fast forward to the end of the record.

Vocally, you have three lead vocalists on this record. Ken Smetzer, Jim Gustafson and Phil Jones. The verses of the songs are really good with the guys singing individually. The chorus however, is very very beefy with lot’s of vocal work. You go from a high pitched style singing to a whiskey drenched style vocalist. In between the two styles there is a happy medium. I did not like the vocal style on “Right Out Of The Night.” It just didn’t sound right to me. Everything else, is pure rock fury and guitar slinging action.

Track Listing:

1. Flesh Fantasies
2. Pulling Me Down
3. Watch Me
4. Coast to Coast
5. Let’s Rock
6. Thru These Eyes
7. Crazy
8. Keep on Rollin’
9. Right Out of the Night
10. Out of You

Demons & Wizards: Uriah Heep

Rating: 90%

Demons_and_Wizards“Demons & Wizards”, released in 1972 is the fourth record by Uriah Heep. There’s a good collection of musical styles on this record. Here we see Uriah Heep establishing themselves as the Prog Rockers they are known to be. What’s surprising is that three of the eight songs come in under three minutes. Two of which are considered to be the best from this release. “The Wizard” and “Easy Livin.”

This record has a good even keep of harmony and melodies that is perfectly balanced. It has several mild tempos, that doesn’t overwhelm the listener. But at the same time, it doesn’t bog down the music.  Much fantasy influence has been put into the lyrical themes. Using a ballad approach on a few of the songs, this album has a certain degree of wickedness to the sound. Musically, this album is not as heavy as the band’s previous four releases, but don’t let that fool you. This album is a rocker.

What this album does have, is plenty of great guitar riffs and lots of great guitar leads from the slide to the wah-wah sound effects giving some of the leads a very eerie sound. The organ is not overwhelming, but, compliments the overall sound. The other instrumentation on this record shows the power of that the band has and the influence they would later have on heavy metal music. The vocal work is amazing and clear.

This is a good album. It shows the band at the high tide of their career. From here, the “Magician’s Birthday” would be a quick follow up, released in the same year. The first five releases by this band leading up to the “Live” album are to me, the greatest pieces of art by the band. This record here, is just one of those records that I enjoy by the Uriah Heep.

Track listing:

Side one
1. “The Wizard” 2:59
2. “Traveller in Time” 3:25
3. “Easy Livin'” 2:37
4. “Poet’s Justice”4:15
5. “Circle of Hands” 6:25
Side two
6. “Rainbow Demon” 4:25
7. “All My Life”2:44
8. “Paradise” 5:10
9. “The Spell” 7:32

Performers:

David Byron – lead (2-7, 10-14) and co-lead (1, 8, 9) vocals
Mick Box – lead guitar
Ken Hensley – keyboards, backing and co-lead (8, 9) vocals, guitars, percussion
Gary Thain – bass (2-9, 12-14)
Mark Clarke – bass (1, 10, 11), co-lead vocals (1)
Lee Kerslake – drums, backing vocals, percussion

The Magician’s Birthday: Uriah Heep

Rating: 95%

TheMagiciansBirthday.jpgThe The Magician’s Birthday released in 1972 was a great record by Uriah Heep, but does have a few short falls. The album rides on the heels of “Demons and Wizards.” After some line up changes, the band consists of David Byron on vocals, Ken Hensley playing the keyboards and guitars Mick Box on guitars. Gary Thin is the new bass player and Lee Kerslake on drums.

The highlights on this record are  “Sunrise”, “Spider Woman”, and “Sweet Lorraine.” But the album title track “The Magician’s Birthday” is by far a fun experience of music and fantasy.

The music is heavy and gritty. It’s jazzy, hard and yet bluesy. It also has some elements of Space Rock. The music has some great melodies. The song structures are good, but there’s a lot of stuff being crammed into the music. They offer a collection of good mix of slower and fast tempos. The lead guitar is good and it does have plenty of decent riffs.

Bottom line, it’s a great album that begins to shift the band’s music into a new direction of Prog Rock. The fantasy elements are fresh and a good welcome. What it boils down to is that this album is again ahead of the times, but it holds up to the previous four records.

Track listing:

Side 1
1. “Sunrise” 4:04
2. “Spider Woman”  2:25
3. “Blind Eye” 3:33
4. “Echoes in the Dark” 4:48
5. “Rain” 4:00
Side 2
6. “Sweet Lorraine” 4:13
7. “Tales” 4:09
8. “The Magician’s Birthday” 10:21

… Very ‘Eavy … Very ‘Umble: Uriah Heep

Rating: 90%

UriahHeepAlbum“…Very ‘Eavy …Very ‘Umble”, released in 1970, was the debut record for Uriah Heep. This debut record consisted of David Byron on vocals, guitarist, organist & pianist Ken Hensley , lead guitarist Mick Box and bassist Paul Newton.  Rounding out the drummer position was Nigel Olsson (4&5), Alex Napier (1-3 and 6-8) and for the US release only Keith Baker “Bird of Prey.”

Side one of the album opens with “Gypsy”, a sneak peak of the future heavy metal sound. It’s hard hitting, aggressive and heavy when it comes to the guitar and organ. The second song is less heavy, but it too gives you a heavy does of blues. “Come Away Melinda” is a very easy listening song with the soft sounds of guitar and light orchestra. Side one ends on a very hard note with “Bird of Prey.”

Side two, starts out heavy and hard with lots of heavy riffs, and cool guitar leads with “Dreammare.” “Real Turned On” opens with a cool riff and lots of heavy slide guitar leads. “I’ll Keep on Trying” is a little drawn out, but the harmony of the vocals is pretty good. Lot’s of good lead scales being used, tons of great bass lines. “Wake Up (Set Your Sights)” is my second least favorite song. It’s a lead up to the disco era which began a few years later. It has plenty of jazzy scales thrown into it as well. This song just goes in so many directions and the style of vocal work almost seems to opera and doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere on this record. But, that’s my opinion.

Musically, this album is far ahead of it’s time. The riffs are heavy and deep. Sometimes the guitar work is so aggressive and complex as it works with the organ. The harmony and melody becomes very intense between the two instruments. Then you add that to the vocal and backing vocal work of the band. There’s some great drumming and bass lines throughout this record.

Track listing:

Side one
1. “Gypsy” 6:37
2. “Walking in Your Shadow” 4:31
3. “Come Away Melinda” 3:46
4. “Bird of Prey” 4:05
Side two
1. “Dreammare” 4:39
2. “Real Turned On” 3:37
3. “I’ll Keep on Trying” 5:24
4. “Wake Up (Set Your Sights)” 6:22

Electric Sandwich

Rating: 90%

R-2682333-1419760188-5671.jpeg.jpgReleased in 1972, the German Prog-Rockers, Electric Sandwich released their debut and only official record. The consisted of vocalist Jochen “Archie” Carthaus, bassist Klaus Lormann, guitarist Jorg Ohlert, and drummer Wolf Fabian.

The opening track “China” is a combination of psychedelic and space rock deeply rooted in jazz music. While “Archie’s Blues” is a very bluesy song. It’s almost as if Cream met Santana. “Nervous Creek” is the highlight on the album with it’s very strong jazzy sound. All these songs blend so many different elements of music together for a refreshing sound was needed in the early 1970’s. The blend of jazz, blues, rock and the spacey feel, helped to form one of the coolest, most improvised style of prog-rock bands of the early 1970’s. Although, today, nobody seems to recall who they were.

Musically, this album is very well structured. It consists of heavy distorted guitar riffs and tons of great leads. The guitar work itself is very complex. The scales and chords are done very well. The bass work is also very well done. Great tempos, with lots of weird offbeats. Plenty of melody which seems to go off in many directions. There is a lot of harmony to the music. The saxophone in several of the tracks adds a touch of class to the music and is not overbearing. Vocally, the band sounds decent. Shame too, that the band never got off the ground. This band could have given Rush and Yes and run for their money.

Track listing:

China 8:03
Devil’s Dream 6:15
Nervous Creek 5:00
It’s No Use To Run 4:00
I Want You 5:24
Archie’s Blues 4:40
Material Darkness 5:02

Look at Yourself: Uriah Heep

Rating: 90%

Look_At_Yourself_(Uriah_Heep_album_-_cover_art).jpgReleased in 1971, Prog Rock group Uriah Heep’s third release brings the band to popularity among the mainstream. This album is a hard hitter and shows the world how Progressive Rock should sound.

David Byron’s vocals are strong as he can hit the highest of notes. The guitar work of Mick Box is both hard and heavy. With the deep sound and heavy distortion brings an almost heavy metal feel to the album. Ken Hensley, the utility man hammers the organ, piano and guitars. Rounding the line up is Paul Newton on bass and Iain Clark on drums.

Musically, this album features much from the tempo to melodies that are unlike any band from the early 1970’s. Everything is in tuned with one another from the powerful guitars to the organ work which work hand in hand. The guitar itself is very heavy and is very aggressive from the riffs to the leads. The harmony throughout the entire album from the music to the vocals are brilliantly conducted. The song structures themselves are done well. The album features “Look at Yourself” and “July Morning” which were later included as among the band’s best hits from this record.

Track listing:

Side 1
“Look at Yourself” – 5:09
“I Wanna Be Free” – 4:00
“July Morning” – 10:32

Side 2
“Tears in My Eyes” – 5:01
“Shadows of Grief” – 8:39
“What Should Be Done” – 4:15
“Love Machine” – 3:37