Simply Saucer

Half Human, Half Live

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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming

Simply Saucer had been out of commission for more than a decade when Cyborgs Revisited, a collection of demos and live tracks they recorded in the mid-'70s, was issued on vinyl in 1989 and established the group as a record collector geek's dream band -- a group laboring in utter obscurity who were creating something truly unique, a wacked-out fusion of Can, the Velvet Underground, the Kinks, and Syd Barrett created at a time when even those wildly influential acts were off the radar of most rock fans, especially in the Canadian factory town of Hamilton, Ontario. When Cyborgs Revisited was reissued on CD in 2003 with a stack of bonus tracks, the buzz about Simply Saucer grew a bit louder, but no one was honestly expecting the band to ever re-form (especially given the fact lead guitarist and singer Edgar Breau had given up electric guitar after quitting the band), making the existence of Half Human, Half Live, the first proper Simply Saucer album, something of a surprise. While Breau and bassist Kevin Christoff are the only two members of the original edition of Simply Saucer to appear on these sessions, the sound and feel of this album is consistent with the scraps collected on Cyborgs Revisited, though this material has the advantage of having been recorded under more welcoming circumstances, in a proper studio and with a solid lineup of musicians, and the three way fusion of the trippy, the furious, and the joyous is still potent and effective nearly three decades after the group gave up the ghost. Breau's voice isn't what it once was, but his hearty bellow works just fine on many of these songs, and for a guy who gave up rock for acoustic folk in 1979, he can still conjure up an impressive wall of electric noise, though new members Daniel Wintermans and Stephen Foster certainly help. And if the '60s pop influences of "Almost Ready Betty" and the pastoral acoustic folk-rock of "Dandelion Kingdom" seem a bit outside the boundaries of what one might expect from Simply Saucer, Breau is certainly entitled to a bit of reinvention after so many years of hibernation. Half Human, Half Live features six new compositions recorded in the studio and six Simply Saucer chestnuts played for a small but enthusiastic live audience, and while the studio tracks rock with genuine authority, live the new group sound just a bit tentative, though they build up an impressive head of steam by the end of "Illegal Bodies." If Half Human, Half Live isn't quite the triumph one might have hoped for, it does nothing to tarnish the legacy of this great invisible band, and suggests Breau's musical ambitions are still impressive (and still evolving) in the 21st century, and hopefully this isn't the last we'll hear from this band.

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