Sahara — For All the Clowns
(Ohrwaschl OW 021, 1975/1993, CD)
Sahara — Sunrise
(Si Wan SRMC 1043, 1974/1997, CD)
by Mike Ohman, Published 1995-07-01
Formed from the ashes of Subject Esq., Sahara got lost among the mass of other mid-70s German prog groups (Grobschnitt, Novalis, SFF, et al.) in spite of their good distribution, though they didn't deserve to. Sahara's self-titled 1973 debut still remains elusive, but fortunately, their splendid follow-up album, Sunrise, did not escape reissue. This album effectively bridges the gap between the two camps of German progressive rock: the hard-rock, organ-based, Deep Purple-influenced music of groups such as Wind, and the symphonic prog of the bands mentioned before. They also add a jazzy bent and some mainstream influences (folk, country) to come up with a sound that was almost unprecedented. The album's opener, "Marie Celeste," systematically balances blasts of organ-driven hard rock with swinging jazzy passages spotlighting soli for sax and guitar. The melodic "Circles" includes C&W elements, slide-guitar and Nashville-styled harmonica, to arrive at what resembles a Western Cressida, or something Pink Floyd might have done for one of their soundtrack LPs. But the real reason to own the album is the 27-minute instrumental title suite, a true kitchen-sink masterwork, incorporating a mesmerizing Moog duet, impressionistic passages consisting primarily of sound effects, searing guitar-rock, a symphonic Mellotron passage, and intricate fusion workouts used as vehicles for still more solos. This alone ought to be the reason to get this album, but due to its length, admittedly it's quite an endurance test.
For the belated third album, For All the Clowns, the group take the lessons they learned from Sunrise, refine them, distill them and make them more concentrated. The end result may in fact be their best album. The idea of the synthesizer duet returns in superior form on the ten-minute title piece. The hard rock takes a back seat here to semi- intense prog a la early (Ballermann) Grobschnitt and melodic pieces and jazziness reminding of Camel. As a result, flute dominates over sax, unlike Sunrise. The use of short pieces spotlighting a solo performer — piano on "Prelude", acoustic guitar on "Fool the Fortune" — is an intriguing new device which adds strength to the longer tracks they launch. Both albums beg to be rediscovered by fans of German prog.
Related artist(s): Sahara
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more