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Monday, February 11, 2008

Brand X - Unorthodox Behaviour, Moroccan Roll, Masques, Product, Do They Hurt?

Name: Brand X
Albums: Unorthodox Behaviour~, Moroccan Roll^, Masques*, Product`, Do They Hurt?{
Years: 1976~, 1977^, 1978*,1979`, 1980{
Style: Prog Fusion Jazz
Similar Bands: Genesis`, Chromeolodeon
"One-Word" Review: Space-Jazz-Videogame-Soundtrack
Based Out Of: England
Label: Passport, ABC Records~^, Artista*, Columbia Pictures*, Jem`{
Unorthodox Behavior~ - Cover & Insert Unorthodox Behavior~ - Back & Insert Moroccan Roll ^- Cover Moroccan Roll ^- BackMasques *- Cover Masques *- BackProduct `- Cover Product `- Back Do They Hurt {- Cover Do They Hurt {- Back

Unorthodox Behaviour (1976)~
  1. Nuclear Burn (6:25) (sample)
  2. Euthansia Waltz (5:37) (sample)
  3. Born Ugly (8:10)/ (sample)
  4. Smack of Euphoric Hysteria (4:25) (sample)
  5. Unorthodox Behaviour (8:13) (sample)
  6. Running On Three (4:35) (sample)
  7. Touch Wood (3:03) (sample)
Moroccan Roll (1977)^
  1. Sun in the Night (4:23) (sample)
  2. Why Should I Lend You Mine (11:19) (sample)
  3. ...Maybe I'll Lend You Mine After All (2:09) (sample)
  4. Hate Zone (4:41) (sample)
  5. Collapsar (1:34) (sample) /
  6. Disco Suicide (7:55) (sample)
  7. Orbits (1:35) (sample)
  8. Malaga Virgen (8:27) (sample)
  9. Macrocosm (7:23) (sample)
Masques (1978)*
  1. The Poke (5:06) (sample)
  2. Masques (3:17) (sample)
  3. Black Moon (4:48) (sample)
  4. Deadly Nightshade (10:54) (sample)/
  5. Earth Dance (6:10) (sample)
  6. Access To Data (8:04) (sample)
  7. The Ghost of Mayfield Lodge (10:08) (sample)
Product (1979)`
  1. Don't Make Waves (5:28) (sample)
  2. Dance of the Illegal Aliens (6:52) (sample)
  3. Soho (3:47) (sample)
  4. ...And So To F... (6:34) (sample)/
  5. Algon (6:07) (sample)
  6. Rhesus Perplexus (4:06) (sample)
  7. Wal to Wal (3:09) (sample)
  8. Not Good Enough - See Me! (7:27) (sample)
  9. April (2:40) (sample)
Do They Hurt? (1980) {
  1. Noddy Goes to Sweden (4:30) (sample)
  2. Voidarama (4:21) (sample)
  3. Act Of Will (4:43) (sample)
  4. Fragile! (5:26) (sample)/
  5. Cambodia (4:31) (sample)
  6. Triumphant Limp (7:34) (sample)
  7. D.M.Z. (8:39) (sample)
Album rating (1-10):
Unorthodox Behaviour 5.0
Moroccan Roll 5.0
Masques 5.0
Product 5.0
Do They Hurt? 4.5

Band Members & Other Bands:John Goodsall - Guitars~^*`{, Vocals` (Tunnels, Nova)
Percy Jones - Bass~^*` (Tunnels)
Robin Lumley - Keys~^`{ Producer*
Phil Collins - Percussion~^`{Mixed~, Vocals` (Genesis)
Morris Pert - Percussion Etc^*`{
Peter Robinson - Keyboards*`{ (Quartermass)
Chuck Burgi - Drums* (Blue Oyster Cult, Rainbow)
Mike Clarke - Drums`
John Giblin - Bass`{, Photos`
Jack Lancaster - Sax~
Dennis Mackay - Engineer~,Produced~^, Mixed~
Geoff Leach - Tape Op~
Julian Tayler - Tape Op~
Steve Taylor - Tape Op~
Neil Ross - Tape Ops^
Geoff Leach - Tape Ops^
Steve Short - Tape Ops^
John Brand - Tape Ops^
Chris Ysangarides - Tape Ops^
Tex Reed - Equipment & Stimulants~^
Hipgnosis - Sleeve Design~`{Photos`{
Richard Manning - Colouring{
Colin Elgie - Graphics`
Paul Cantry - Photos`
Trident Studios 1975~, 1976-77^, 1978*
Perdurabo Stephen Tayler - Engineered^*
Ray Staff - Mastered^`
Colin Green - Asst Engineer* Recording Engineer`{, Produced`
Neil Kernon - Recording Engineer`{, Producer`{
Richard Austin - Engineered{
Reno Ruocco - Asst Engineer*
Mike Donegani - Asst Engineer*
Jack Skinner - Mastered*
Pete Donovan - Equipment*
Steve Jones - Equipment*
Dave Powell - Equipment*
Hit & Run Music - Management* (Brian Murray-Smith){
Chris Kutschera- Front Photo*
Hag - Back Cover*
AD Design - Layout*
Tony Smith - Management{

Unknown-ness: I had never heard of Brand X. The first of the albums I picked up was "Do They Hurt?" It reminded me of any other pseudo-metal band of the 80's. Later that same visit, I found "Unortho," "Morrocan Roll" & "Masques." So I picked them all up. Looking at the backs, I saw Phil Collins' name, so I realized it was not going to be metal. After examining the song lengths, other album artwork, and band images, I deduced that these would be prog albums. I did not know that they would be all instrumental albums, prog-jazz fusion though. It was not until later that I got "Product," which looks like a really fun album, with all its Rube Goldbergian pipes and random objects.

Album Reviews: If three Bram albums was tough enough to review at one time, this is ever more daunting. For this time I have five albums, and I am not very fond of, nor familiar with this genre of music. I am honestly not experienced in listening to instrumental jams. I've read reviews of these albums, and cannot identify the same characteristics that those reviewers find, and I do not know the correct terminology to describe it anyway. Furthermore, I do not know the historical time line as to what happened in music influentially or what the musicians were up to when these albums were made. So these reviews might seem bare-bones or uninformed; and that is because they are.

~Unorthodox behaviour starts with "Nuclear Burn," as bass & drums fueled Jazz, touched off by soft keyboards. There is a very catchy guitar hook that sets the changes in musical timing. Around 4 min in, the bass and guitar pick up the pace and there is a quick, funky musical burst before the guitar hook brings us back to the familiar tempo. Overall, the album is very liquid jazzy and funky. It is somewhat mystical at times, but there is not as guitar heavy prog as on the later albums. There is one kind of instrumental music that I like and can compare to this music, which is 8-Bit video game cover bands. It is through them, that I have developed any kind of liking to instrumental prog. "Running of the Three" sounds very much like it could have been the background music to a number of classic NES games. With soaring guitars, and quick paced bass & cymbals, this song has all the motivation and energy that keeps a player pacing themselves through out a video game level. The album ends with the quiet, yet ominous "Touch Wood."
^ True to it's conceptual origins, "Moroccan Roll" begins with "Sun In The Night;" a Middle Eastern, Arabic sounding keyboard, which is soon supplemented by chanting in the same melody. This sounds like something that Mr Bungle would have come up with on their last album, or something from one of the Bungle off-shoot bands. More Moroccan based instruments are added, possibly a sitar, or something manufactured to sound like a sitar. Then it is back to the jazzy tempo as from the first album. The humorously titled "Why Would I Lend You Mine" is a long song in 2 parts. After the jazz beginning, the second part is a quiet, dreamy piece with raindrop guitars and echoy insect sounds. Around 8:30, the instruments build to crashing prog, then quietly dissipate back to the quiet, meandering dream-scape. The bass line cements the two sections together. Seemingly continuous in the dream state, the retort to the comedic question: "Maybe I will Lend You Mine After All" is a much shorter, but still as dazed as the preceding track. Changing moods Hate Zone begins with a rollicking drum solo, and is followed up with all sorts of prog elements; the bass line, variety of keyboard sounds, and more soaring guitar. There is a proud, strutting quality to this song. The short "Collapsar" is a spacey, magical journey. It feels like a sample of a song that could go much longer and deeper. This sparse theme is briefly revisited in "Orbits". "Disco Suicide" is a 70's lounge-jazz track, with fast bass play and sudden drum fills. But it is spaced out in equal parts with slower, mystical prog sections. Toward the end, the aspects combined: the strength of the jazz, and the tempo of the mystical side; to produce an anthemic, powerful instrumental ending. The end of "Macrocosm" is of crowd chatter, followed by the dropping and exploding of a bomb, perhaps a way to wipe the slate clean, or a statement about war. This did not have a cohesive Middle Eastern feel as the album title and imagery imply.

* "The Poke" begins Masques with a quick and slightly dark musical attack up and down the scale. There is a slow head nodding musical chorus break. "Black Moon" has a catchy bit, even if it's catchiness feels like a TV show theme to an early 80's dramady. "Deadly Nightshade" begins with twinkling bells, and falls right into dreamy, stretched out prog-lite. And after 2 minutes, the driving tempo that I associate with video game music comes on squealy and strong. That lasts for a great portion of the song, and the music fades out to a dark slowly wobbling atmospheric drone around seven minutes. The song then picks up the slower prog elements from the beginning of the song, as it finishes in fade. "Earth Dances" starts out as positive, yet alien investigation music. It then picks up as a jungle dance number, and changes into a Sonic The Hedgehog musical parody (or due to dates, the parody would be the other way around). It is a fun song, adding and combining a variety of elements to make a chaotic percussion dance number. The only stand out aspect of "Access to Data" is that it ends with a very fast & whiny guitar solo. The last 2.5 minutes of "The Ghost..." are virtually silent, as if the tape was left rolling as they closed up shop for the record (although I know that everything on these albums is meticulously planned).

`The first song from Product is a straightforward radio hit, complete with simple, distinct sections and vocals. It could be a Genesis song, with a multi-layered Phil Collins on vocals. The build to the chorus is driving and very catchy. "Dance" has mismatched fast, groovy bass + drums and slower classical piano overlaid. Yet it is the bass that drives the song. Chapter 2 of the song begins about 2.5 into the song. The music slows to a stop, and the tempo changes to a darker, devilish atmosphere. But chapter 3 comes back with a positive outlook and crooning guitar with 2 minutes to go. The second of pop tracks, Soho is a homage to So-Ho in NYC. It has metal guitars, swirling keyboards and a catchy march-beat of vocals. It gives all the imagery of walking down the street, observing everything around you, and maintining pace with foot traffic. "...And So To F..." is a very repetitive driving song, with the same bass and xylophone sounding instrumentation in the background. Everything follows the path and build of the melody, from the guitar chord crunches to the stuttering obscure vocals in the background. Algon is a futuristic, and it starts out with an incredible amount of energy, which reminds me again of "Sonic The Hedgehog" music. It slows down quite early to a soothing atmospheric sound and calming bass. It wakes up again 2.5 into the song to return to the frantic jittery style. It switches back and forth from calm to rushed music another time, and stalls into a prolonged slow section. But it gains pace, and ends as if Sonic won the level. "Rhesus" feels like Caribbean lounge mixed with salsa. It is care free, and the guitar structure is so much like vocals, you can almost understand what it says. "Wal to Wal" is another head nodding song, but this song feels like a slow, simple tribute to new wave. It is a showcase for the bass. "Not Good Enough" feels like 'secret agent on the move' action music. It is sinister and secretive, but has all the 'limited time' energy of setting up or diffusing a bomb. Yes, it feels like A-Team music. There is a slow transitional period that ends around five minutes with a launch back into some sort of chase scenario set around waterfront streets in Miami Vice. A car drives off and the scene is over with the bad guys getting away. The final track feels like a warm, spring rain, with birds twittering in the background and the water a pleasant happening rather than a nuisance. The music gives out, and the album ends with a bird chirping fade.

{I took a break before I listened to "Do They Hurt." So now I am coming back to this album after not listening to Brand X for two days. Apparently, these are all songs recorded during Product, but were reserved for a year to make this album. "Noddy" starts off with a quick burst of bass prog energy, then slinks along with minimal, repetitive instrumentation. There are some backwards vocals underlying the bass and synthesizer driven song. The song fades out without going anywhere. "Voidarama" follows up the sparse nature of the last song, with a layout that lacks anything distinct or memorable. Synthesized vocals make "Act Of Will" stand out, sounding like a slow version the Moog Cookbook's cover of "More Than A Feeling." This song falls in the category of slow hard (southern) rock. Fragile is more sparse music, where the attention falls on the silence between the musical bits rather than vice versa. There is a neat cartoonish, rapid xylophone played in the background for a couple brief moments. The song slowly builds, to some seemingly Jazz improv sequences, but really never materializes into cohesive song. "Cambodia" follows right in line with as a slow, cigarette lighter ballad. Like a lazy soundtrack score, "Triumphant Limp" is just background fodder. The end starts to build, but it peters out before it can really take off. The final song contains the most energy, and pace, as it possesses a quick drum beat & bass play throughout. This album feels like a bunch of half-baked ideas that were not flushed out, or were just given passage by a band that wanted to get the album done. There seems to be less experimentation with synthesized sound effects. I cannot specify a stand out track, because none of them do. I think one from each of the other four albums is plenty though.

Stand Out Tracks:~Nuclear Burn
^Sun In The Night
*Earth Dances

Links:Brand X Allmusic
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