Saturday, January 06, 2007

Secret Oyster {Danmark} (Progressive Rock/Jazz-Fusion)

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 Dans (Kenneth Knudsen on keyboards, Ole Streenberg on drums; Bohling was also a member of Coronarias Dans 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. ~Mike Taylor~GERP

Secret Oyster - 1973 - Secret Oyster
01 Damexpressen 4:24
02 Fire & Water 5:34
03 Vive la Quelle? 8:50
04 Blazing Lace 4:45
05 Public Oyster 10:46
06 Mis(s) Fortune 1:28
07 Ova-x 4:56

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.

Secret Oyster - 1974 - Sea Son
01 Oysterjungle 3:01
02 Mind Movie 9:16
03 Pajamamafia 6:13
04 Black Mist 3:38
05 Painforest 5:35
06 Paella 8:13

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.

Links in comments....


Opa-Loka said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
poor said...

Really good!

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Glad to Secret Oyster mentioned here!

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Opa-Loka said...

>Please note we are the world-wide license holders for the four
>Secret Oyster studio albums and are in the process of reissuing
>them with bonus material. I would appreciate it if you would
>remove these unauthorized mp3 downloads from your site.

>The Laser's Edge

Opa-Loka said...

So I have to remove the Links.....

-rh said...

fans of Burnin' Red Ivanhoe and all others ..

We looking for the best progressive-rock albums of all times,
come along!

here is the voting

Anonymous said...

Superb stuff. How come I've never heard of this great group before. Staggeringly good fusion.

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