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    Main » 2010 » May » 1 » Secret Oyster - 1973 - Secret Oyster
    Secret Oyster - 1973 - Secret Oyster
    Secret Oyster - 1973 - Secret Oystergenre: prog
    country: denmark
    quality : lossless (separate flac, cue, log, booklet scans)
    time: 1:05'32" size: 230 mb
    issue: 2007 The Laser's Edge

    Secret Oyster is probably my favorite Scandanavian prog band (they're Danish) and also in my top twenty bands overall. Formed by members of Burnin' Red Ivanhoe (Karsten Vogel on sax, Jess Staehr on bass), Hurdy Gurdy (Claus Bohling on guitar) and Coronarias Dan (Kenneth Knudsen on keyboards, Ole Streenberg on drums; Bohling was also a member of Coronarias Dan at one point). Unfortunately, I've only had the pleasure of listening to one Burnin' Red Ivanhoe album from early in their career (W.W.W.) but Secret Oyster seem a logical extension to the jazzy prog of BRI. I have four Secret Oyster albums, their eponymous first, Sea Son, Straight to the Krankenhaus and Astarte. A broad comparison for all albums would be something like Soft Machine meets Pink Floyd. Secret Oyster play a very spacious blend of fusion, jazz and prog that calls to mind bands like Carpe Diem, Edition Speciale, bits of Thirsty Moon and, of course, Burnin' Red Ivanhoe. Secret Oyster (released in the USA as Furtive Pearl is their first release and it's an auspicious debut. Bohling's guitar is featured heavily along with Vogel's saxophone across a backdrop of organ. While Hurdy Gurdy was a blues-rock trio, Bohling demonstrates his adept chops in a progressive style with occasional blues references. However, the strong guitar presence gives Secret Oyster a much more active, rockier feel than later albums. The opening cut has organ, sax and guitar simultaneously playing licks of blazing speed. Other times they trade licks round-robin fashion. I wish this were the case for the entire album but it is not so. Many songs feature Bohling's electric excursions while organ and sax take a secondary role. On some of the extended instrumental workouts, the band falls into improvisational jams over a single chord. Despite the excellent playing, this lack of rhythmic diversity gets to be a might tedious. On the 10+ minute "Public Oyster" we are treated to some spacy improv that would become prevalent on later albums but again there's the "one chord jam" problem and no interplay among instruments. It's organ, sax, guitar, each in turn. The closing track calls to mind the first half of Pink Floyd's Saucerful of Secrets with horn. In all, Secret Oyster is a very good album if a bit primordial. Sea Son came next and shows the band advancing the style developed on their flagship release. The writing is more mature and Bohling's guitar, though still very evident, is better balanced against the other instruments. The nine minute "Mind Movie" is another long guitar feature though with slightly more interesting chordal work behind it. There are more acoustic moments (piano and guitar) and better dueling of guitar and electric piano ala Chick Corea's Return to Forever. While "Mind Movie" would fit on the previous album, most of the other songs show a stronger fusion aspect. "Black Mist" begins with an excellent but brief moog section before sax breaks in across the top. Up to this point, the keyboards had been organ and electric piano. The use of the moog synth adds more depth and dimension to their overall sound which they would exploit on later albums. The presence of a string quartet on "Painforest" is a beautiful juxtaposition of classical music and spacy fusion over soft waves of deep moog. The final eight minute track is an excellent duel among sax, moog, electric piano, guitar and guest trumpet by Palle Mikkelborg. Sea Son is a definite improvement over their debut. I haven't yet heard the next two albums, Vidunderlige Kalling and Orlander. Because Straight to the Krankenhaus is a development of the first two albums, I would guess that those middle two albums are similar in style to the Oyster's other releases. Straight to the Krankenhaus, while a step on from their first two albums, is also a return to their jazzy roots. The writing is stronger, the tenor sax is brought to the front more often, string synths have been added to the arsenal and Bohling turns in some of his most expressive solos to date. Comparisons to Soft Machine, Nucleus or Isotope would not be far off the mark here. "My Second Hand Rose" and "High Luminant Silver Platters" show signs of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever in the funk-influenced fusion grooves, while the eight minute "Delveaux" shows influences of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here in a quiet jazz format, as well as a very emotive moog solo. Speaking of solos, while there are many the band focused much more on overall atmosphere which is part of the reason I feel this (and Astarte) are stronger albums than their first two releases. Last comes Astarte, their final album if I have the order right. Like Straight to the Krankenhaus, the album is chock-full of excellent progressive/fusion though a couple of tracks are a little weak. This album is apparently a soundtrack to a movie somehow based on the Goddess Astarte. "The Stars in the Street" reminds me of Jan Hammer's "The First Seven Days" with its atmospheric synth work. On the title track, it is as if Elton Dean and Ravi Shankar has guested on Hammer's album. The sitar is played by Bohling. There are also more Mahavishnu Orchestra references both in the funk groove of "Bellevue" and the McLaughlin-styled picking at the opening of "Astarte." The quiet "Solitude" is an introspective acoustic piano piece while "Tango-Bourgeoise" is a short, light-hearted...you guessed it...keyboard tango. Finally, "Outro" is a restatement and expansion of the "Intro" theme. Again, there is good balance between group composition and individual solos. The music on all four of these albums is very much the sound of Secret Oyster. They have drawn from other styles and genres and crafted them with their own vision. I suggest starting with either Astarte or Straight to the Krankenhaus. If you like what you hear, then seek out the others. -- Mike Taylor

    This is incredible stuff. To my ears they sound like a more psychedelic Happy the Man with some early Gong thrown in, more guitar oriented than HTM though. There are also some folk influences, eastern stylings (incl. a long track with droning sitars), and like most scandinavian bands they do an occasional waltz or tango track, altho they do it progressively.
    Secret Oyster is composed of members of three other bands: Burnin' Red Ivanhoe, Hurdy Gurdy and Coronarias Dans. The liner notes to Sea Son state that their sound is a distillation of these three bands. From what I've heard of Secret Oyster, these early bands may be worth searching out. The first album was issued in 1973, as Furtive Pearl in the U.S., self-titled everywhere else. I haven't heard this. Sea Son is progressive jazz-fusion, with saxophones, no less. They seem rather Soft Machine and Nucleus influenced, but the result is more like later-period Canterbury fusion bands like Hatfield and The North. The tracks range from circular chord-cycles in variant time-signatures to energetic one-chord jams, energized by the strength of the musician's improvisational skill and ability to colour the music with dynamics. The players are: Claus Boehling (guitars), Ole Streenberg (drums), Karsten Vogel (saxes, organ), Kenneth Knudsen (piano, moog) and Jess Staehr (bass). On a couple of tracks, notably the beautiful "Painforest," they are augmented by a string quartet, guest players on trumpet and percussion make appearances as well. The next album, Straight To The Krankenhaus, began a more decidedly jazz-fusion-y feel, with a greater emphasis on Vogel's reeds. Knudsen is lashing out on a greater deal of keyboards (clavinet and string synth mostly), and the songs are on the average shorter in length. The best tracks include "Delveaux," a dreamy drum-less improvisation heavy on the synth and guitar, and "Traffic and Elephants," an urgent fast number with fine sax blowing by Vogel. Another high-quality jazzrock album, their others (Vidunderlidge Kalling, Orllaver, Astarte) are supposed to be good as well. (Postscript note: in 1978 Staehr was in a band with ex-Savage Rose drummer Ken Gudmand. They recorded an album called Vogt Dem For Efterligninger, Danish for "Watch Out for Imitations." The bands name? The Starfuckers! No joke! A few members of Secret Oyster, notably Kenneth Knudsen, appeared in the 1980s sometime on an album by Indian violinist L Subraniam.)

    1. Dampexpressen
    2. Fire & water
    3. Vive la quelle?
    4. Blazing lace
    5. Public oyster
    6. Mis(s) fortune
    7. Ova-x
    + Bonus tracks:
    8. Dampexpressen (live)
    9. Orlavaer

    Bo Thrige Andersen / drums
    Claus Bøhling / electric guitar
    Kenneth Knudsen / electric piano
    Mats Vinding / bass
    Karsten Vogel / alto & soprano saxes, organ

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