Various Artists

Charisma Disturbance

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A double-album sampler of the Charisma label's 1971-1972 output, Charisma Disturbance is a veritable behemoth and no mistake. Just a glance at the participating artists renders further comment all but superfluous -- Genesis, Peter Hammill, the Nice, Rare Bird, Van Der Graaf Generator, and the Incredible String Band are more than mere giants of the U.K. underground of the age; they also represent peaks to which British prog has been attempting to return ever since. This album's unstinting trawl through some of their most adventurous pages -- "Return of the Giant Hogweed," "Killer," "Sympathy," and so on -- is simply the icing on the hyperbolic cake.

Charisma itself was never less than the consuming passion of one man, founder Tony Stratton Smith, but it is to his unending credit that he neither tried to mold his artists toward any single vision, nor impress upon them the need to shift more product. True, several of the artists here would go on to enjoy chart success -- Genesis, of course, but also Lindisfarne and Clifford T Ward -- but "The Money Game," as one of the album's highlights calls it, was never the be-all and end-all of the label's release policy. And so 20 tracks rattle past with an idiosyncrasy and imagination that shares no common ground beyond the Mad Hatter who so aptly dominates the label design itself, and if you don't discover at least a handful of bands to run out and discover -- even all these decades after the fact -- then you deserve to listen to track seven for the rest of your life. Altogether now, "Spam spam spam spam, spam spam spam spam."

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