Quintessence

Oceans of Bliss: An Introduction to Quintessence

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While this "introductory" overview only includes selections from Quintessence's Island records (a 1969-1971 period that saw the release of their first three LPs), that's the part of the career that listeners are most interested in hearing. So this is the best Quintessence compilation, drawing pieces from all three of those Island albums, also including the 1969 B-side "Move Into the Light." Island were signing some pretty offbeat acts in the late '60s and early '70s, and Quintessence were one of the most offbeat, combining West Coast-style psychedelic rock with much jazz and raga. The California guitar psychedelia of groups like the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service was a particularly strong influence, but with a difference that goes beyond Quintessence's stronger meditative jazz and Indian elements. The Dead and Quicksilver have sometimes been criticized for a shortage of good songs, but they had a bountiful of riches in that department compared to Quintessence, who really didn't have any. That's not to say Quintessence were worthless, but that their semi-improvised-sounding, noodly brand of hippie music was far more dependent on mood and flow than conventional song structure. For that reason this music isn't that enduring, coming off as well-intentioned but kinda stoned whimsy without much memorable melody or meaningful content. But they were good musicians and the tracks, though very dated in their meandering way, aren't bad mood pieces, particularly when Raja Ram's oceanic, proto-new age flute waves are at the center.

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