Roland and Nina’s DECADES IN MUSIC – 1973 – LATTE E MIELE – Papillon

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn


What I lamentably discovered at the tender age of 17 is that generic prog albums aren’t exactly a commodity that’s hard to find. And in the internet age, they’ve crawled out of everywhere and are cool once again. For some reason. And while Latte e Miele get bonus points for singing in Italian (possibly due to the fact that they themselves are Italian) and therefore making this album at least slightly distinct, I feel Papillon suffers from the general syndrome of interchangeability of 70s prog records. Yes, Latte e Miele, you play it really well and I bet you have meticulously arranged like every second of this and that you have precisely thought out how to use bombast to bring out the instrumental intermissions in “Terzo quadro l’incontro” for instance or taken care to have the fusion breaks in “Quatro quadro l’arresto” but what new and breathtakingly unexpected are exactly trying to tell us here?
No, this record unfortunately still remains in my mind just as “70s sounds”, even after a couple of listens. It’s cool, I guess, but I don’t see why anyone would waste time listening to this when there’s so much else you can be enjoying and oohing in surprise and delight at.
Oh, there are the classical pieces reinterpretations too… Vivaldi and Beethoven. Why? Who knows, who cares.

Roland and Nina’s DECADES IN MUSIC – 1971 – EDDIE PALMIERI – Vamonos Pa’l Monte

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn


It took me ages to review this record and here is why: I just can’t bear sitting through the whole of it, and the thought of even putting it on for a bit fills me with terror. Stuff like Buena Vista Social Club and jazz music are two musical directions that I can borderline tolerate, you know, when the stars align and my mind is really occupied by something else, but having the two of them together just overloads my senses.
I assume Eddie Palmieri is really good at what he does and this record probably represents some sort of a musical pinnacle, it sure sounds like it does, but please, please, please, don’t make me listen to it ever again.

Roland and Nina’s DECADES IN MUSIC – 1970 – GRATEFUL DEAD – American Beauty

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn


The Grateful Dead sound excellent on this record, and I can definitely see why it gets such high ratings everywhere. In fact, were I an American dadrocker, listening to American Beauty would bring a proud tear to my eye. But I am not, and the most I can come up with is “wow, this sounds so real – it’s really cute how it oozes american country sensibilities and roots rock earnest steadiness”.
Steady is the rhythm section here, of course, while the close harmonies throughout the record soothe your soul and the folksy guitar work really brings it home. In fact, the effect of the close harmony really stands out on the penultimate track “Attics Of My Life”, where there are a lot of chords held for long enough to achieve maximum effect by the vocals crew. There is a good variation of rhythms – even the blues makes an appearance on “Candyman”, and the bluesy shuffle closer “Truckin’” is one of the highlights on this album.
My initial impression of this album is that it really belongs in your car audio, at dusk, while you are eating mile after mile of the wide american prairie (my father likes to call every unpopulated stretch of land in the US “the prairie”), which stretches out to the horizon. But after some relistening and reconsideration, I’d say it is perfect for other even not that highly romanticised situations. Just be sure to have a quiet enough environment that will not overpower the delicate nuances on here, and you will too have a chance at some american beauty.

Roland and Nina’s DECADES IN MUSIC – 1969 – GAL COSTA – Gal Costa

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn

Gal Costa (or Maria da Graça Costa Penna Burgos as her mandatory 15 names go) is a Brazilian singer of popular music, and Gal Costa is her debut solo album (although not her first record – Domingo from 1967, for instance, is a collaboration by her and Caetano Veloso and also deserves praise), released in 1969. 
The album opens on a cacophony suspended for a moment or two, and I was just about to steel myself for yet another psychedelic 60s record, when the noises gave way to a peaceful and lushly arranged piece of melancholy that builds and builds and finally dissolves into the same tense cacophonous sound that gets released. Er, or something.
The second track, “Sebastiana”, is so very close to scat singing territory in the nimble intensity of vocal delivery although it probably never crosses the line, and up next is the only song sung in English on this record, “Lost in Paradise”, a very jazzy piece that is incredibly well coloured by the musicians and instruments that back up Gal Costa and also impressively carried through by her powerful but subdued vocal performance. Perhaps my favourite track on the first side is “Se Você Pensa” – a true showcase of vocal control – passionate and with a edge to the voice and yet holding onto some really cool intervals that I’d  dare you to try on your own.
Indeed, this record contains 12 songs, contributed by a roster of writers (among which Caetano Veloso), but they are all given an excellent rendition that holds your interest throughout the piece (especially in the instrumentation department) and all of them showcase Gal Costa’s abilities as a performer. She doesn’t go quite as wildly experimental and fascinatingly hysterical in delivery as she does on her follow-up of several months later Gal but still, even if sprinkled with some occasional bossa nova flair (a rare fruit of delight that best be enjoyed very sparingly, at least in my opinion) this record is no bore. In fact, even if some of the sonic details on it are very typical of the era, I’d venture as far as to say that it sounds quite timeless and probably even a little bit profound, and heavenly melancholy on a summer sunset somewhere near the sea is probably its main area of expertise.

Roland and Nina’s DECADES IN MUSIC – 1967 – THE PEANUT BUTTER CONSPIRACY – The Great Conspiracy

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn



Did you know that in 1970, a hippie tarot set was published? It is named Morgan’s Tarot and features retro black and white images and New Age messages inspired by 60s “counterculture philosophy”. It was also intended to expand the consciousness of the reader apparently by departing from the structure of traditional tarot with images and insights that can be enjoyed in any order. Yeah, that tarot set is on mushrooms. And probably so was anybody else who expanded their consciousness back then. Or anyone talking about conspiracies. Although conspiracies are still hip, for some reason.
In reality, I don’t know what the peanut butter conspiracy was all about (maybe it prevented people from realising how yuck peanut butter truly is) but I can feel the air of 60s psychedelic importance radiating from every song on this record. This is helped, of course, by lead singer Barbara Robinson’s competent and sometimes hypnotic singing, and by the general confident playing in the trippy psychedelic vein and the tasty production. The songs are all well-crafted, of course, with nice variations in the driving rhythm, cool subversions in the chord changes, and quite enjoyable to feast your late-60s-sound-hungry ears on. They have probably blown minds or expanded consciousness way back in the day… or at least helped recruit some devout followers?… I don’t know. 
In the present day, however, when I find even Morgan’s Tarot a bit of a bore and everything too trippy a bit one-note, this record is still an enjoyable listen and I suspect Barbara Robinson’s singing is a hugely contributing factor. So um, give it a listen and don’t buy into the conspiracy?
By the way, “It’s so Hard” from the bonus tracks edition of the record features some of the guys on lead vocals and the nice interplay between them and Barbara’s additions also deserves a listen. There is also “Peter Pan” which, well, it sounds quite lyrically naive. As probably does the rest of the record, if you pay attention to the lyrics, really. At least “Peter Pan” goes out on something of a waltzy tune?

Roland and Nina’s DECADES IN MUSIC – 1968 – GROUP 1850 – Agemo’s Trip to Mother Earth

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn


Group 1850 were a Dutch psychedelic rock band, and I have to tell you… they probably had access to some really effective drugs. Or they were visionaries of some sort. But tripping jokes aside, while this record is probably like some things you’ve heard before, it is ultimately unlike any of them in the sheer intensity and, let’s admit it, overindulgence with which it attacks its intentions.
So what could those intentions be? I am afraid, I can not be of much help here, but I have the sneaking suspicion that anything named something like “Agemo’s Trip to Mother Earth” would ultimately have the ambitions of being a concept album. With concepts such as the lone protagonist, Mother Earth, unseen wonders, a great transformation and, ahahahaha, tripping.
Surprisingly enough, “Agemo’s Trip to Mother Earth” was the band’s debut album, and the band disbanded after a couple of albums several years later. But can you really follow up something that already seems like a crowning achievement?
The sound of this achievement of an album is very psychedelic and very, very full. A fat bass and energetic drumming carries the music on the majority of tracks, and the vocals are mostly delivered by something like chanting hippy crowd, as they should be on such occasions. On some tracks however, we have a lady delivering some solemn poetry in an otherworldly tone and it is this that I would consider a somewhat pretentious sign of overindulgence rather than some of the instrumental experimentation.
You may not expect the psychedelic romp that awaits you on this record from its opening however – the album starts out steadily enough, and the first signs of impending weirdness come with the track “I Put My Hands on Your Shoulder” (oh, the title alone is enough to creep me out in this context) and more specifically with the weird multilingual incantations spoken over a drum solo. Something about “Mutter Erde wo wir alle zusammen sein sollen”, also later repeated in English for your convenience, and oh, some “aaauuum” although that cannot hold a candle to Can’s later and more convincing take on the sound of the Universe’s creation.
And if that 13-minute stretch of the record made you sit up and wonder what just happened, the following track “You Did It Too Hard” would probably complete the surprise by jumping in with a riff not too dissimilar to that of “Foxy Lady” and a bluesy sax. And I don’t know about this song either, the people seem to be shouting random phrases which resemble daily conversations, only they don’t make much sense, so I wonder, is this a commentary on something? Where is this Agemo’s trip taking him anyway?
And the record will provide something of an answer by delving into beauty and psychedelia and incantations and fat blues-rock sounds alternatively to reach a fitting conclusion with Mother No-Head, delivered once with lyrics and once without at the 65 minute mark, but honestly, it doesn’t feel that long at all. Mainly because this record is fun to listen to. So grab your spaceships, dear listeners, and let’s indulge in a trip to Mother Earth because I do believe this relatively obscure psychedelic offering from 1968 Netherlands deserves a listen.

Roland and Nina’s DECADES IN MUSIC – 1966 – RISING SONS – Rising Sons featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder (released 1992)

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn

You can let the good times roll with this record, and all night long at that. In fact yes, it would probably suffice for an entire night of rocking as it contains a rocking number of 22 rocking bluesy tracks. Featuring the combined talents of legendary roots musician Ry Cooder and legendary bluesman Taj Mahal, this record was apparently recorded but not released way back in 1966 and surfaced as late as 1992 as a kind of an archival release. Despite that, this album is not purely interesting from a historical point of view, and in fact the energetic playing and heart of it ensure that it will never get metaphorically moth-eaten and covered in dust.
There is plenty to enjoy here, and everything sounds just right, whether it is blues standards, other covers or original pieces, and highlights are too many to list – in fact, you’d better look at the track list yourself. So if you are feeling up for an hour and a minute stay in rootsy blues land – this record is a great way to do it.

Roland and Nina’s DECADES IN MUSIC: 1965 – NINA SIMONE – Wild is the Wind

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn

Nina Simone is known for many other things besides her beautiful deep voice and her complete mastery in utilising it in performance but this is the quality that stands out most on this and I am sure every other one of her records. Wild is the Wind, you may be surprised to learn, was compiled out of earlier records left-over tracks and yet the amount of iconic tracks on it make that hard to believe.
The title track, so evocative in its lyrics, and even more so in Nina Simone’s expert hand, is of course a stand out but I think I will give the honour of most important track to Four Women – a touching composition on the fates and struggles of four women of colour and by extension all women of colour, written in such vivid detail, and of course immense and tender sympathy. “A sister to all women” is a title I have often seen been given to Stevie Nicks and it is this title that comes to my mind when I listen to this song. In fact, I want to be these four women’s sister. And every woman’s sister. But um… moving on.
Most of the rest of the tracks are soulful numbers about love and Nina Simone stands out especially on the more emotional ones (not that there is anything wrong with the opener “I Love Your Lovin’ Ways). A surprise on the track list is a traditional standard “Black is The Color of My True Love’s Hair”, which beautiful subdued rendition does not sound out of place on the record at all.
The album closes on a strong note with the bluesy number “Either Way I Lose”, which may well be my personal favourite on here – but don’t worry, it faces a rigid competition, so definitely check this album out, especially if you are a fan of Nina Simone’s enigmatic presence and inspired delivery.

Roland and Nina’s DECADES IN MUSIC: 1964 – FRANÇOISE HARDY – Mon amie la rose

Review by: Nina A

Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn

Beat music did come to latin Europe under the tag yé-yé (quite logically, from the English “yeah! yeah!”) and as far as I am aware, the predominant cliche on the French musical scene was that of the young wide-eyed ingenue singing bubble-gum double entendres. Françoise Hardy does, of course, stand out here not only because of her famous shyness but that may be a key to the generally introverted nature of this album that deals with love and mostly loss.
The album opens on a cover version of a song first performed by The Vernons Girls – Only You Can Do It, which was originally a happy poppy anthem about first love, but is here, I feel, improved by a different set of lyrics. And while the joy of having someone to make you want to be kissed and so on does indeed go well with the catchy intro and upbeat tone, Françoise Hardy’s version about wanting your lover to come back to you gives the upbeat tone an altogether different meaning.
In fact, maybe he will return and not have a word to say, and therefore not say anything because everything seems to have changed, leading Ms. Hardy to decide to not wait for anyone anymore as the following tracks will inform you.
But these tracks are beautiful to listen to, anyway, beautiful in their subtlety and in Françoise Hardy’s subdued plaintive vocal delivery, and in the somewhat traditional beautiful imagery associated with the various pains of love and love lost – talking and not talking, the night over the city, forgetting, going away, returning, and, of course, roses.
Do not be led to believe that this is a boring one-note mopey album for people who have been dumped, though – there is a variety of moods on display here, and I’d go as far as to say that the poetic qualities of the French language are also given their proper place under the limelight, so if that is a point of interest to you, definitely check out this album. I know that now that I’ve become acquaintant with it, I’ll probably pick it over a Carpenters record anytime I am in the mood for some dreamy pop music about… you know, love.

Roland and Nina’s DECADES IN MUSIC: 1983 – SAGA – Heads or Tales

Review by Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by Nina A



I recently reviewed a pop rock album by an obscure Bulgarian group (Tangra) from 1982, called Our Town. As this is roughly from the same time and sounds somewhat similar, it may be interesting to compare them. The one thing you immediately notice is the (way) bigger budget, resulting in better production techniques, better positioned instruments, a much cleaner sound. Big arena sound, roaring guitars, good low end, solid drum sound and clean guitar sound. Sadly, there the differences end, as this album is not a whole lot better, if at all. Let us proceed with caution…
The Flyer opens the album energetically, Phil Collins in hard rock mode (imagine Easy Lover on cocaine). But it’s a lot worse. Apparently this was the single; I’m immediately getting worried.
Cat Walk has a somewhat interesting (guitar? keyboard?) sound at the beginning and goes down within a minute. Think of the worst possible 80’s power pop hit and you end somewhere here. The title is repeated ad nauseam, without making you want to know why.
The sound of strangers could have been improved with a more organic drum sound, and perhaps Jon Anderson on vocals, but not by much.
The Writing, ah, the ballad. No it’s not, it’s Toto jamming with Survivor, on a bad day.
Intermission; this must surely be the ballad! If you want to know how horrible a string synthesizer and a drum computer can sound, listen to this. The voice is OK though and may actually be the best part of the song. It sounds somewhat processed (although this recording predates autotune by decades). The guitar sound around the 4 minute mark is nice as well, but gets drowned in the tacky, cheesy keyboard.
Social Orphan (nice title) sounds like Starship, fronted by the singer of Alphaville (of Big in Japan fame). Not a good idea. The Vendetta has the same singer fronting Depeche Mode. Doesn’t work either.
Scratching the Surface is musically the worst song (especially the drums) and possibly the best, as there are some nice guitar lines. The fact that they combine these sounds really reflects badly on Saga.
The Pitchman, Jesus, does this ever stop? “Hey, I cannot really sing? Will you sing with me?” “Well, I can’t sing either…”. “That should work then; let’s do this…”. “I have an even better idea! We put some meaningful background voices in the instrumental break!”
And we end with another version of Cat Walk, twice as long. I really, really listened to it once, but I have no relevant comment to make.
This falls into what I propose to call the Asia/Styx/Foreigner/Boston/Starship genre of professionally recorded but loveless performed power pop music that was all the rage in the first half of the 80’s. Not interested then, not interested now. In retrospect, if you’re into this, for reasons I couldn’t possibly want to understand, go listen to Tangra, a low budget and altogether more sympathetic version of this type of music…