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Ahora Mazda - Ahora Mazda
 

Ahora Mazda - Ahora Mazda

Price: $300.00 currently not available     
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Genre: progressive
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title:  Ahora Mazda
Company: Catfish
Catalog: 5C 054-24184
Year: 1970
Country/State: Holland
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: --
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 253
Price: $300.00

Best time to play: when the prescription cold medicine kicks in

So here's one of the holy grails of Dutch rock and roll ... I'm not attesting to the fact this is a great album; merely that it is rare and widely sought after.

Bassist Peter Abbink, drummer Winky Abbink, and multi-instrumentalist Rob van Wageningen started their musical collaboration in the mid-'60s playing with a host of Dutch jazz musicians including Hans Dulfer. Performing on their own as The Free Art Group, in 1968 they added bassist Tony Schreuder to the line-up (Peter Abbink switching to guitar), while changing their name to Group 67/68. A year later, under the arm of manager Ruud Tegelaar, the band had morphed into Ahora Mazda (the name borrowed from the Persian god of light and wisdom) and had begin to shift their focus from jazz to a more happening psych and rock sound.


Produced by Joop Visser and reportedly completed in a mere three days, the quartet made their recording debut with the release of 1970's "Ahora Mazda". So before going any further, the back panel liner notes should give you a feel for this album's unique flavor:

"Coming from sources as varying as animal voices from the Amsterdam zoo, the cries of Charlie Parker; the Tueareg drums of the Sahara to Indian ragas and engines of ships Ahora Mazda's music is a vessel of joy for anyone who wants to step outside of himself and swim the wave of changes which is moving our time. Travelers who roam along with them the spiritual gardens of the mind in the beautiful seasons of Amsterdam's fantastic and paradiso know the pain and uncertainty of breaking down the barriers and know the happiness and the feeling of freedom when minds are coming through, join and make music a feast. Winky's multicrossrhythemening drum work, Tony's heavy solid bassground, Rob's melodic flute lines and precious choice of instruments; Peter's strange and contrary guitar notes, form a sphere of tones in which all kinds of contradictory feelings touch you, taking you in with a soft mood, driving up to a weird atonal dream, putting you back down on the ground by screaming electric violence. Ahora Mazda is a group who destroys its own music in the course of a set in order to form it again and differently with help of the audiences feelings. SO creating sounds new and changing surveying bare grounds of the realm of dream. Their music is not a mist of only pretty colours, pink and heavenly blues. The exciting reds and yellows; there's much brown and gray, even dark black. The feelings of terror and paranoid that sometimes houses, alas in places where heads come together. The mirror which is held by Ahora Mazda 'I s partly shady, but look into it and you may see as many travelers before you did, something of your own mind."

Yeah, in a nutshell, this should be a stoner's delight. The six extended tracks were all bizarre; full of a hard-to-describe and occasionally vexing mix of acid, experimentation, free form jazz, psych, and progressive moves. On tracks like the opener 'Spacy Tracy', it's all mixed together, making for one very strange aural trip. I won't go as far as describing the album as commercial, though most of the set reflected an understanding of rhythm and melody. At the other end of the spectrum, 'Oranje Vryslaat' was basically an unlistenable mixture of free form jazz and experimental sound collage. Not something I need to hear very often. As lead singer Peter Abbink wasn't bad; occasionally sounding like a mega-stoned Marty Balin ('Timeless Dream'). All of the performances were in English, though Abbink's heavily accented voice was initially hard to decipher. He also seemingly had a love for treated vocal effects ('Timeless Dream'). Whatever his limitations as a singer, the man could play guitar with several tracks displaying his obvious affection for Hendrix. Also worth mentioning was multi-instrumentalist van Wageningen who seemingly brought in the band's wilder sides. His flute and sax solos definitely had that Ornette Coleman vibe going (though not everyone is going to appreciate it). And while they occasionally sounded like they were hanging on for dear life, the rhythm section of Winky Abbink and Tony Schreuder were consistent and steady.

- Ever wondered what Lou Reed, or perhaps Syd Barrett would have sounded like had either been raised as a Dutch hippy? Probably not high on your list of concerns, but if it had been, then 'Spacey Tracy' might have given you a feel for the possibilities. The track actually sounded like two compositions that had been welded together. The first half showcased Peter's heavily accented speak-sing voice over a conventional song structure. The lyrics weren't any great shakes; perhaps something to do with a female groupie, but who knows. In contrast, the second half of song's eight minute plus span, saw the band managing to touch on a myriad of styles including Floyd-styled psychedelia, a display of Peter's Hendrix-inspired guitar pyrotechnics, early trance, atonal freak-out; and even a raga-flavored percussion work-out. If that sounded weird, the song was actually even stranger. rating: **** stars
- I've never been a big fan of rock and roll flute and the opening section of 'Timeless Dream' did nothing to change that feeling. Admittedly van Wageningen did a nice job, but the flute solo seemed endless and by the time Peter Abbink's treated vocals kicked in (cool effect), it was hard to regenerate your enthusiasm. rating: *** stars
- Complete with a dazzling array of percussion, various studio effects, and some very jazzy free-form sax from van Wageningen, 'Oranje Vryslaat' found the band at their most experimental. It probably wasn't something most folks would want to hear on a regular basis, though van Wageningen's wandering sax solo became more focused as the song went along. rating: *** stars
- 'Fallen Tree' started as a stark ballad - just Peter Abbink's heavily accented vocals and a touch of electric guitar. After the introductory section the rest of the band kicked in picking up the energy level. The result was probably the album's most commercial undertaking with lots of wild flute, Winky's crisp drumming, and lots of Peter's feedback guitar. Great track and even though it was over nine minutes long, it went by in a flash. rating: **** stars
- Opening up with some atmospheric Abbink guitar, 'Power' gave bassist Schreuder one of his few spotlight moments, before shifting the focus to van Wageningen's acid-tinged flute. A delicate and quite pretty ballad, the vibe was exploded when Peter's Leslie treated vocals exploded through the speakers. Strange and disconcerting ... one of the album highlights. rating: **** stars
- The closer 'Fantasio' was apparently inspired by a Amsterdam club owned by band manager Ruud Tegelaar. While known as Group 67/68, they'd briefly served as the club's house band. Musically it was little more than an extended rhythm-based jam session. The opening had lots of percussion with what sounded like freak-out Jews's harp on top. And from their it started to get really weird with Peter Abbink's trumpet and van Wageningen tortured sax and flute. rating: *** stars

So what do I make of it all? Well I can see why folks like the album so much and while it's got moments of mad genius embedded throughout, I'm not totally sold. I can already hear the accusations that I'm too mainstream and regimented, but the fact of the matter is a third of the album is stuff I'd seldom want to hear. In fact I doubt many folks would be all that thrilled with the instrumentals 'Oranje Vryslaat' and 'Fantasio'. I can listen to my nine year old practicing the cello and get similar discordant sounds. By all means worth hearing, but most folks probably don't want to invest their next paycheck in an original copy.

The band continued to perform through 1971, but their increasingly complicated repertoire proved too much for drummer Abbink who was replaced by former Groep 1850 drummer Paul van Wageningen. The personnel change apparently impacted the band dynamic and by the end of the year they'd called it quits.

"Ahora Mazda" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Spacy Tracy - 8:30
2.) Timeless Dream - 3:35
3.) Oranje Vryslaat (instrumental) - 7:35

(side 2)
1.) Fallen Tree - 9:20
2.) Power - 6:50
3.) Fantasio (instrumental) - 5:24
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