Various Artists

Well Hung

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A compilation devoted to vintage psychedelic and progressive rock tunes recorded in Hungary during the height of the communist era might sound like a practical joke even if it wasn't titled Well Hung, and when the album in question opens with a decidedly non-funky drum solo, most listeners would have a right to feel wary about what they've gotten themselves into. But Well Hung is actually good enough to appeal to listeners who aren't necessarily hardcore followers of musical obscurity; give the songs a chance to sink in and the music reveals a genuine charm, not to mention some solid grooves and better instrumental work than you might expect. In the liner notes, musician Sarolta Zalatnay says (with no small pride) of the Hungarian rock scene, "We became the stars of East European countries because we presented the closest sound to the American-English rock music," and though a certain amount got lost in the translation when psychedelic and progressive rock began sneaking into Hungary in the late '60s and early '70s (especially since Hungarian isn't the most graceful language for singing rock & roll), most of these 20 tracks steer clear of the awkward novelty zone where so much Eastern European rock of the period can be found. Tamas Somlo & Omega's "Azt Mondta Az Anyukam" sounds like a garage rock variant on Sly & the Family Stone's "Stand," "Kergeskezu Favagok" from Locomotiv GT is prime-quality Hammond organ-fueled prog stuff with some stinging guitar breaks, Illes (who toured the U.K. to enthusiastic reviews) effectively mutate some funkified blues grooves on "Nekem Oly Mindegy," "Add Mar Uram Az Esot" by Kati Krovacs suggests what would have happened if Janis Joplin got lost behind the Iron Curtain and hooked up with Rare Earth, and the flute player with Corvina appears to have borrowed Rahsaan Roland Kirk's style a couple years before Ian Anderson did the same on the hard-charging "A Tuz." Not everything on here is a gem, most notably Omega's "Kergeskezu Favagok," which wears out its welcome well before its eight-plus minutes are up. But the good stuff on Well Hung outweighs the bad, and the recording and production on these tracks is surprisingly good, with this disc mastered from original studio tapes for enjoyably rich fidelity. This material compares favorably with much similar UK and European rock of the period, which is hardly the case with most Eastern Bloc music from the 1960s and 70s. Points added for Andy Votel's informative liner notes and a "family tree" illustrating the connections between the artists included on the disc.

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