Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ariel - A Strange Fantastic Dream (1973 aussie, excellent progressive rock)

Ariel formed in mid-1973, after the breakup of Spectrum. When Spectrum drummer Ray Arnott announced he was leaving to join Ross Wilson's new band Mighty Kong, Putt and Rudd commendably decided to end the band rather than try to recruit a new member, feeling that it wouldn't be possible to recreate the special spirit of that group. Within a few months of Spectrums's farewell performance their new band (whose name was taken from the character in Shakespeare's "The Tempest") was up and running. Ironically, the two new members, Tim and Nigel, had originally come to Melbourne to work with Ross Wilson and Ross Hannaford on their new project (which became Mighty Kong) and it was after they departed that Wilson asked Ray Arnott to join, thus precipitating the split of Spectrum!

Strong record company interest in Ariel quickly led to a contract with EMI's progressive Harvest imprint. Their superb debut single "Jamaican Farewell" looked set to repeat the early success of Spectrum but it only managed to reach No.34, its success hampered by lack of airplay, especially in Sydney, although it impressed the industry enough to win the FACB 'Single Of The Year'. They toured as support to Gary Glitter November 1973 and released their excellent first LP A Strange Fantastic Dream in December, with writing credits split fairly evenly between Gaze and Rudd. According to Noel McGrath, the album was also the first use of Moog synthesizer on an Australian rock record (though it's possible Tully may have been the first Australian band to recod with one) and producer Peter Dawkins still names it as one of his favourite productions.

It fared well commercially and critically, reaching #12 in the LP charts in February 1974, although there was a minor controversy about Stephen Nelson's brilliant, hallucinatory cover painting, which included (shock! horror!) a hypodermic syringe. Airplay for the LP was further hindered by the banning of three songs ("Confessions Of A Psychotic Cowpoke", "Medicine Man" and "Chicken Shit") by the commercial radio industry's self-regulatory body, the FACB.

One particularly important outcome for the group was that EMI International's President, Allan Davies, fell in love with the album: "You know, Peter," he enthused to Dawkins, "I can't recall ever hearing a song about necrophilia!" Renowned British DJ John Peel also picked up both album and single and "said some really nice things about both of them". These and other factors led to Ariel being invited to tour the UK and record their next album at Abbey Road. 
1. Jamaican Farewell (Rudd, Gaze) - 2:50
2. No Encores - 3:47
3. Confessions of a Psychotic Cowpoke - 4:43
4. And I'm Blue - 2:52
5. Garden of the Frenzied Cortinas - 7:46
6. Miracle Man (Gaze) - 5:29
7. Chicken Shit  - 4:23
8. Worm Turning Blues - 2:56
9. Wheezer Grunter Module Threadaboy/Harry v. Dirchy (God the Man) (Ariel, Gaze) - 4:20
10.Hard Way to Go - 3:49
11.And if it Wasn't for You - 2:32
12.Red Hot Momma  - 2:38
All songs by Mike Rudd unless as else stated

*Mike Rudd - Lead Vocals, Guitars, Backing Vocals, Harmonica
*Bill Putt - Bass
*Tim Gaze - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*John Mills - Keyboards
*Nigel Macara - Drums

1974-75  Ariel - The Jellabad Mutant
1975  Ariel - Rock And Roll Scars

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