Studio Album, released in 1980
Review by ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars. Flaming Bess is a pretty obscure band, and one that like most people I’d never heard of. That is, until they released their ‘Black Sun’ album a couple years ago with its appealing cover of a meditating young lass and its throwback, sometimes lounge-like but seductive lazy instrumentals. Shortly after I sought out this early recording, which is even more appealing given its release date of 1980 and the unlikely sound at a time when most bands were shedding any visible connection to progressive music.
The band is pretty obscure, and it is difficult to learn much about them other than they have been around since the late sixties, and rarely release albums or even perform live. Too bad, because I imagine they would put on a good show.
This album has a bit of that contrived nouveau-jazz feel that artists like Group 87, Al Di Meola, and Jah Wobble were pumping out in the early seventies to niche but loyal audiences. This has a feel to it that would have been considered modern in 1980, but sounds a bit dated today. Like so much German music of that period there is a heavy electronic presence, primarily from the keyboards and some of the canned percussion. But amid that there is a plethora of quite brilliant acoustic and electric guitar, and particularly noteworthy is the acoustic work. I think most of the drumming is authentic as well, although in a few places it sounds like there might be some digital sequencing.
No matter, this is a thoroughly enjoyable forty minutes of lush acoustic guitar with stilting piano, and augmented by that distinctly German electronica keyboard layering. Like other German bands such as Anyone’s Daughter and Floh de Cologne, the band also intersperses narration between the long instrumental passages, presumably telling the tale of lost worlds or some such thing. It’s hard to say since the vocals are in German (unless you speak German of course).
“Kristallplanet” and “Cron Endor” are particularly ear-pleasing with long instrumental pieces, although on the latter there is a digital effect that sounds exactly like the ones on the VH-1 show ‘Pop-Up Video’, which is just a bit distracting. The title track also features a lengthy instrumental with some kind of synthesizer riff that sounds a little like a vocoder and which gives this a particularly spacey feel.
On the other hand the band can’t seem to completely escape the eighties, as evidenced on “Mythos” and “Zay”, both of which feature some danceable but decidedly unproggy rhythms, and on “Zay” even some cheesy Hall & Oates-like backing vocals.
I’m tempted to give this four stars simply because it is better than most of whatever else came out in 1980. But it does suffer a bit from the brief but very noticeable eighties cheese odor in places, and the German narration inherently limits the effectiveness of whatever lyrical messages the album contains. But for the very appealing acoustic guitar and piano work, and the refreshingly long instrumental in a sea of contemporary eighties crap it definitely rates three stars, and a decent recommendation to anyone who’s into slightly-jazzed contemporary art rock.
1. Mythos (3:54)
2. Aufbruch (6:49)
3. Kristallplanet (4:17)
4. Zay (5:30)
5. Cron Endor (6:14)
6. Ballade (4:19)
7. Vorspiel: Verlorene Welt (2:01)
8. Verlorene Welt (7:00)
Bonus tracks on CD-Special Edition (2003)
9. Mythos (Arkana Mix) (4:32)
10. Aufbruch (Gral Mix) (5:17)
11. Ballade (Instrumental Mix) (4:32)
12. Verlorene Welt (Kobaltblau Mix) (6:38)
Total Time: 61:03
- Joachim Jansen / keyboards
- Hans Wende / bass
- Hans Schweiss / drums
- Barry Peeler / guitar
- Woh Galach / narration (words)
- Achim Wierschem & Bruno Blättler / guitars
- Valerie Kohlmetz / percussion
- Marlene Krückel & Wolfgang Emperhoff / backing vocals
- Herbert Ihle / backing vocals
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