East of Eden — Mercator Projected
(Eclectic Discs ECLCD 1012, 1969/2004, CD)
by Mike Ohman, 1995-11-01:
An engaging and groundbreaking early British progressive band, East of Eden used electric violin, dual saxes, flute, recorder and bagpipe to add texture to their guitar based rock. The end product is an almost unprecedented sound. they would have been lionized were it not for another, quite coincidentally similar band called King Crimson, who released their classic debut the same year. The accidental closeness of this band to Crimson is remarkably uncanny. Singer Geoff Nicholson is not unlike Greg Lake vocally, but more expressive and without the pompous troubadour-ish tendencies. And while he's no Robert Fripp by a longshot, his guitar playing is more than adequate. The use of woodwinds is the closest correlation, especially the multiple sax work on tracks like "Waterways," which is strongly reminiscent of Ian McDonald's work. There are even Sinfield-ian "liquid word-pictures" (that's the term they use in the liner notes to the original LP), the exception being the lyrics to "Centaur Woman," which are actually quite humorous. The pieces on Mercator Projected range from heavy guitar rock ("Northern Hemisphere") to otherworldly atmospheric studies for violin and woodwinds ("Bathers," "Isadora"). It's the latter songs that make up the bulk of the album, and part of what make it so refreshing, so original compared with their contemporaries. Which is not to slight their more rocking numbers, the outrageous bass solo on "Centaur Woman" and the tricky rhythms of the primarily instrumental "In the Stable of Sphinx" prove these too have worth. East of Eden carried on for many years after Mercator Projected, eventually scoring a fluke early-70s top-ten hit single in "Jig-A-Jig." But they never got the respect they deserved based on this very good album, which surprisingly has dated very little.
by Mike McLatchey, 2017-08-10:
East of Eden's debut is one of the great late-60s albums, following on the way the Beatles started occasionally fusing their music with the sounds of other cultures. However, where the Beatles tended to incorporate the music of India, East of Eden used the mythology of Greece and Egypt to give their songs a true historical-exotic feel. Much of this was accomplished by the wide range of instruments played by Dave Arbus, including flute, violin, and others, some of it by the use of different musical scales, and part of it was just the atmosphere of the time period. It's perhaps somewhat telling that the bonus track here is their cover of "Eight Miles High," as that song is a good example of the paradigm of the day in a pop format with the hazy atmosphere and sense of wonder of the psychedelic era. A classic almost throughout, although "Isadora" and closer "In the Stable of the Sphinx" have to be two big highlights.
Related artist(s): East of Eden
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more