R.A.T.W.   Page 13

REFLECTIONS IN A VINYL DISC

Domestics

GROUNDHOGS

CROSSCUT SAW

United Artists UA-LA603-G

The blues, to a superstitious illiterate delta sharecropper, is a vast bummer, which women and whiskey can neither fully alleviate nor completely account for. The modern sophisticated mind can entertain much deeper, more specific profound malaise. The integrity of blues is not compromised by permitting it to express higher orders of pain.

Tony "T.S." McPhee has had a perfectly monstrous attitude to his blues since the earliest Groundhogs albums, Blues Obituary and Thank Christ for the Bomb. As these titles suggest, McPhee's theme is that the horrors of modern society have made death worhsippers of us all. On Crosscut Saw the traditional blues subjects, especially women, are given a distinct Frankensteinian cast. Or the subject can represent the whole spectrum of alienation, and be exorcised through music in hallowed blues fashion.

McPhee's music is as eccentric as his mental cast. He uses the scales of traditional blues, the flatted third and fifth, but he uses them harmonically as well as melodically, constructing angular, dissonant chords. He has expanded the band to include a second guitarist for added texture—he's very fond of acoustic and electric guitars together. He sings in a sinuous reedy voice, as if he were holding a razor to the microphone's throat. John Lee Hooker would be proud.

CAMEL

MOONMAI)NESS

Janus JXS 7024

It starts with a chugging rhythm on organ and synthesizer and from that point on, it becomes obvious that this is a very special album. Camel has been recording in its current form for about two years, and they've built up quite a sizeable following in this country despite the fact

that they've yet to appear on an American stage.

Camel's music is based on the intricate textures woven by multi-keyboardist Peter Bardens and guitarist Andy Latimer; each movement (a more appropriate term than song in the case of Camel) is structured to achieve the maximum effect from the chordal progression. The overall effect is a series of richly developed pieces similar in style to some of the earlier work of Focus. Comparisons, as always, are odious, though useful as a jumping-off point.

And jumping-off is just what Camel does. What other group would develop a concept album about lunar lunacy and bring the message across via some extremely tasteful jazz organ riffs from Peter Bardens?

Camel has never been overly concerned with lyrics, preferring to let the music speak for itself. Riding wave after wave of lunar mellotron and synthesizer, the music moves with a pace that suggests extraterrestrial travel—always in motion toward some defined end, but without any feeling of past or future. Just when you find yourself drifting away into the cosmos, the music rips out into a high-energy spin led by the guitar of Andy Latimer.

Camel is a band whose time to make waves in the U.S. has arrived—anyone who can develop the kind of following this band has must have something on the ball.

They're not for everyone's taste—working in the area of progressive music always opens the door to charges of pomposity. Camel's been through that particular little mud-slinging rut by now. Last year they were voted the Brightest Hope in the Melody Maker Readers' Poll; this year, they're fulfilling that promise.

CAMEL'S BEST HUMPS: "Chord Change", "Another Night", "Air Born"

TODD RUNDGREN

FAITHFUL

Bearsville 6963

faithful   Todd runcigren

Play the first side of "faithful" once or twice, just to allow the tunes to caress each listener's nostalgic zones. Measure for measure, Todd keeps his arrangements neat and exacting (save for vocal differences). Something . . . anything .. . old, new borrowed, and true .. .

Oh, but when side two is flipped to, composer Todd Rundgren demonstrates his uncanny ability to infuse pop sensibilities with his utopian musical approach (note: this is the first Todd album since the double-"TODD" to bear his own name apart from his band). For example, his varying guitar sounds become more and more inventive, swirling all through "Black + White" and "Love of the Common Man", another two quests for spiritual unity that sparkle with musical integrity. On "Cliche" and "The Verb to Love", lush arrangements change

This year has seen the release ofi numerous live albums designed to capture the excitement of a live gig while combining it with a studio-like recorded quality. The latest release in this area comes to us from Renaissance, who recorded a series of concerts last June at Carnegie Hall supported by the New York Philharmonic. The sound of the album is nothing short of incredible; every note is distinct without being disjointed. Offering selections from each of their albums, Renaissance may never have sounded better. The tunes don't sound radically different from the studio versions of the same numbers, yet the atmosphere of a live show has infused each of those numbers with a new coloration.

Recording live with an orchestra is nothing new; Procol Harum did it with a measure of success a couple of years ago, as did Caravan and a few others. The difference with Renaissance is that they, unlike Procol Harum or Caravan, have always been classically oriented, drawing material from the likes of Rimsky-Korsakov and Rachmaninoff; the addition of the New York Philharmonic is much more of a natural complement to the band's playing than it is an entity unto itself. Sublimating its own collective personality, the Philharmonic fills out Renaissance's music without fighting the band for control.

As for Renaissance themselves, well, they don't seem any more likely to make a mistake than the Philharmonic; Annie Haslam's vocals are, as always, possessed of a crystalline purity that transcends whatever she is singing. It's impossible not to be moved by the beauty of the lady. John Tout's keyboards and Terrence Sullivan's percussion also deserve special merit.

In the final analysis, Renaissance pulls the whole thing off; it's always a challenge

for a band to perform highly structured material live in a manner that isn't merely a regurgitation of studio recordings. Renaissance has met that challenge with great success.

CLASSIC CUTS: "Prologue", "Carpet Of The Sun", "Scheherazade", "Running Hard", "Ashes Are Burning"

MAN

WELSH CONNECTION

MCA 2190

This is a public service message for the purpose of apprehending and comprehending some Welsh hooligans who go by the name of Man. They've been operating in the record industry rackets for close to ten years now, but they keep changin the bloody players so often. you usually can't even recognize one. THAT HAS CHANGED! (Excuse me.) We now have DEFINITE descriptions of the head honchos in Man at this time; Deke Leonard ('Turk'), Micky Jones ('Sand Eater') and Terrence Williams ('Jack The Train') are still around. but they've been joined in crime by John McKenzie ('Depth Charger') and rejoined by old mate Phil Ryan ('Little Finger').

Together. they can be recognized by the uniquely gorgeous sound of their new recording under the alias 'Man'; the music resembles the famous double-barrel bill 'Remember The Future'. recorded just before Phil Ryan started his own gang. The Neutrons. After two albums tipped the public off to his style, he has rejoined the old gang and tried to hide his talent in the Mansound; no chance. The public is sharper than he'd like to think, and they know the power a gang like Man can generate. They're extremely dangerous; the modus operandi of both The Neutrons and Man have merged, and this outfit may actually last.

Vocally, well, they all sing—and quite well at that (did you ever hear of a bad Welsh singer?). In fact, the combination of five vocal parts fits perfectly with the instrumental front line of twin lead guitars and keyboards. Better still, each song on 'Welsh Connection' is a healthy slice of sound, and gives you plenty of time to absorb their music; however, don't get lulled into dropping your guard! If you do, this brazen bunch will rip your ear lobes out, stomp on 'em a bit, and stick them back on upside down. BE CAREFUL, but do listen to it.

DANGER LEVEL RECORDINGS: "The Ride And The View", "Love Can Find A Way", "Car Toon", "Born With A Future"

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the rhythmic drive into Mantovanish-arpeggios and glorious choral accompaniments. Then, there is "When I Pray" and "Hamburger Hall", the former a jerkin'- quirky-spoofish prayer and the latter an all-out (t-i-c) rocker dedicated to sesame-seed buns and fast-course lives in dives. All in all, a well-rounded spate of moods and ideals, in accordance with Todd's maturation.

Todd Rundgren enjoys his music (since forming Utopia, his musical heritage had seemingly slipped his mind in search for a truly modern technocracy) and his life; his tunes reflect an artist always striving—always extending his visions and his art .. . he is the wizard; he is the true star .. .

Selected: "Black + White. Love of the Common Man", "Good Vibrations", "Strawberry Fields Forever-

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RENAISSANCE

LIVE

AT CARNEGIE HALL

Sire 3902-2

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RINAIS

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