Various Artists

Blow Your Cool: 20 Prog/Psych Assaults from the UK and Europe

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The Psychic Circle label makes another entry into the uncrowded field of reissues of British and European rarities from the early progressive rock era with Blow Your Cool, which collects twenty 1969-1974 tracks that have never before appeared on compilations. We are talking rare and obscure here; when the most well known bands on a comp are the Rattles, Mogul Thrash, Dream Police, and Egg (though a stray item by blue-eyed soul hitmakers the Foundations finds its way on as well), it's material not apt to even be in the collection of the prog rock specialist. Despite its noble intentions and fine annotation, however, it might not so much convince listeners that the genre is a repository of buried treasures as it will reinforce notions that the genre itself wasn't so illustrious to begin with. The trademarks of early prog (and late psychedelia bleeding into prog) are all here, in diverse colors: complex riffs and tempo turnarounds, earnest vocals that can verge on the ostentatious, lyrics with a cosmic tinge, occasional hints of blues and boogie, and heavy (and at times lumpy) guitar-organ blends. Good melodies and songs aren't too plentiful, however, and there's an ominous mood to much of the material that can verge on the dirge. Some notable names to go on to bigger and better things pop up here and there, like future Average White Band singer/guitarist Hamish Stuart (in the Dream Police's "Much Too Much," which is much too derivative of the Jeff Beck Group's version of "Shapes of Things"); Atomic Rooster drummer Ric Parnell (in the Italian group the Tritons); John Wetton (in Mogul Thrash); and early Procol Harum member Bobby Harrison (in Freedom). Some of the more interesting cuts tend to be those that veer away from stereotypical prog rock, like Ferris Wheel's "Can't Stop Now," with its flute and sweet, airy female vocals; Paul Ryder & Time Machine's "If You Ever Get to Heaven," which is vaguely reminiscent of early T. Rex; Egg's "You Are All Princes," which sounds like Kingdom Come with a less flamboyant vocalist than Arthur Brown; and Swegas' "What 'Ya Gonna Do," a very spot-on British imitation of Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago's horn-rock.

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