The Tapestry of Delights: This spacey psychedelic album is notable for the involvement of Steve Hillage. Musically it's at times a little over the top. But, the opening cut, Garden Of Earthly Delights is of interest and Azathoth has a rich 'church' organ backing. On side two Clean Innocent Fun previews Hillage's fine guitar work and Metempsychosis opens full of weirdness and sound effects (which recur at regular intervals throughout) before pursuing a similar vein. The latter track, in particular, begs comparison with Pink Floyd around the Saucerful Of Secrets era. Arzachel is a very keyboard-dominated album. The group were known as Uriel until July 1968 when Hillage went off to college. The others formed Egg (July '68 - May '72) and the Arzachel album was recorded by Egg with help from Steve Hillage. When Hillage left college April '71 and returned to London he formed Khan.
(Vernon Joynson / Joe Rein / Jim McMaster / Gianpaolo Banelli)
1 Garden of Earthly Delights (2:40) 2 Azathoth (4:11) 3 Queen St. Gang (4:20) 4 Leg (5:31) 5 Clean Innocent Fun (10:24) 6 Metempsychosis (16:19)
I have to admit I have only owned a copy of this classic album for a couple of years, and this review consists of information lifted directly from the CD notes plus my impressions from repeated listening. Before its reissue by Dropout records this album had been fiendishly hard to find and collectors would pay ridiculous sums of money to secure a copy. It’s not hard to see why, for several reasons: it was recorded early in the careers of Dave Stewart and Steve Hillage, who both went on to become giants of the British progressive and psychedelic scenes. What’s more, it has all the trappings of an underground classic: recorded and mixed in an afternoon, cover art done by Dave Stewart with a felt-tip pen, sleeve notes consisting of fake biographies of the band under assumed names (the reason for this was that Stewart, Campbell and Brooks were already under contract to Decca), and released in tiny quantities, later to become available on bootleg. Finally, It is a somewhat eclectic album, the opening tracks securely in the Caravan/Soft Machine mould of organ-led, lyrical progressive pop, moving on through Cream/Led Zeppelin inspired blues, ending up with a protracted psychedelic excursion on the final track. Production? What production? Never mind, the rough edges add to the individuality and appeal of the album. Furthermore, the brilliance of the playing shines through. "Garden of Earthly Delights” has nice booming bass and jazzy drums providing the foundation for Stewart’s doomy organ sound. Campbell and Hillage’s vocals are somewhat trite, with the feel of an Elizabethan sonnet, but not quite enough to make you cringe. Hillage’s superb solo, sounding like Cream-vintage Clapton, makes up for it, though. There’s doomy, progressive feel, reminiscent of early Nice or Procol Harum, on "Azathoth,” with Campbell’s distorted organ sound shrieking like a banshee. "Queen St. Gang” is an opportunity for Stewart to show off his jazz-influenced keyboard skills. It’s a gentle Caravan-styled interlude before the stomping blues excursion, "Leg.” This track starts out with jolly keyboard twiddlings and lightweight riffing from Hillage, and then suddenly explodes into a passionate rendering of "Rolling and Tumbling” with the band’s own lyrics substituting the originals. "Clean Innocent Fun” is ten minutes plus of heavy metal. Hillage plays guitar lines in unison with his wailing vocals and then lifts off on an extended blues-tinged solo. Back to the vocal and guitar unison playing for another verse and then a much more freeform extended solo with waves of echoey distorted organ from Stewart. A final verse, and the song ends as suddenly as it began. "Metempsychosis” is sixteen minutes plus of prime psychedelic freakout. It starts with freeform playing from everybody, in the style of Floyd’s Saucerful of Secrets or Amon Duul II’s Phallus Dei, and then settles down into a one-chord, insistent riff, which forms the basis for improvisation through the rest of the piece. There’s a pause in the middle before disembodied floating voices drift in, with more Floydian strangeness, and then it’s back to the beat. Campbell does a bass solo, and we’re back to extended freakiness again as the track careers on to a climax, staying on that one chord the whole time. There’s precious little surviving material from the golden days of British psychedelia, and it’s usually pretty hard to sniff out. We’re lucky to have this shining example (reasonably) freely available again. Take off your shoes, socks, turn off the lights, shut all windows and blinds and turn up your amplifier to 11...here comes some pure progressive psychedelia. Arzachel were in and out of the world of music for only a short period and have left behind this one and only little treasure of wonderful wierdness. Arzachel was really the young genius of Steve Hillage (Guitars) and Dave Stewart (Keyboards) and although never really intended for wide distribution has become one of the most collectible and trasured gems of this era. Arzachel contains classic Hillage acid guitar windouts and Dave Stewart's psychedelic keyboard drones and solos. Arzachel contains 2 longer length tracks (11 & 17 Mins) and 4 shorter numbers. The sound repro is as you might expect not in full digital, but does not detract from your listening enjoyment. The fine folks at Drop Out Records have included a nice little history and package about this band as well...
Great, great, GREAT piece of Music. I rate it 11/10 !!!
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