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20 Jan 2017

Light Year “Reveal The Fantastic” 2010 US unreleased 1974 Prog Jazz Fusion









Light Year “Reveal The Fantastic” 2010 US excellent, unreleased  1974 Prog Jazz Fusion…recommended…!
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Light Year was formed in 1974, when drummer Zak McGrath joined forces with his friend and colleague, pianist Cornelius Williams, with the idea of putting together a band to play new music. They recruited Randy Sellgren to play guitar, who was also the guitarist on Mingo Lewis’s album “Flight Never Ending”. John Yu, the bass player, brought Doug Johnson to play percussion (vibes, marimba, hand drums and other bells and whistles). The singer Sharon Pucci joined later to complete the ensemble. 

The band was fortunate in having a fledgling manager, Sandy Einstein, who later went on to success with Journey and Mr. Big. Einstein’s energy and persistence secured Light Year gigs at the best clubs in the Bay Area, as well as the reviews reproduced on this site, despite the definite oddness of their music. The one thing the band could not achieve was a record contract. 

Light Year was, as a rule, admired by the public and reviled by club owners. They were also championed by such notable groups as The Tubes and The Sons of Champlin, who would persuade reluctant impresarios to let Light Year open for them. One exception was Todd Barkan of the well-known jazz spot Keystone Korner, who liked them and booked them on Monday nights–one of the few unsigned groups to play Keystone. But most clubs refused to book them more than once. 

Their big “showcase” gig at the Starwood in Los Angeles was marked by record executives exiting the club en masse with their hands over their ears. Without a contract, and with the scarcity of gigs and money fraying their psyches, the band broke up after less than two years. 

“Our manager called our music "Space-Rock” , but that was a naked marketing ploy designed to lure the unwary into the clubs. The music was rockish, yes, and jazzesque, not to mention symphonoid. But had you asked me at the time, I would have said it was a sonic alchemical experiment gone horribly awry, or the liturgical music for a yet-to-be-invented blend of Punch-and-Judy and High Mass. Cryptically, it was also a fiendishly clever coded communiqué to the Extra-Dimensionals who rule our universe. The text? “Send food”. What can I say? We were starving. After thirty-six years, we have finally received a reply: “Please leave a message after the beep”. Well! That´s the space-time continuum for you. My message to listener is simply to imagine you´ve dropped into a corner dive in the Pleiades and find yourself shimmering to the Combo Ork there. Feel free to do the dance known as the Luminous Spasm. And don´t scream. No one can hear you over the edible noise.“ Raymond McGrath 2010 


REVIEW: 
Formed in 1974, Light Year were what seems to be a short lived fusion band operating out of the Bay Area of San Francisco. After support slots with the likes of The Tubes, the band’s attempts to secure a record contract culminated in a showcase gig that had ”….record executives exiting the club en masse with their hands over their ears" according to their biog. From what I’ve heard they certainly did not deserve such treatment, as they serve up a potent stew of jazz fusion music that fair belts along. A highly competent ensemble featuring the diverse talents of Cornelius Williams (piano), Zak McGrath (drums), Randy Sellgren (guitars), John Yu (bass), Doug Johnson (percussion, marimba, vibes, etc) and the soaring vocals of Sharon Pucci. This album, a posthumous collection of recordings finally seeing the light of day some 36 years after the event, kicks off with a crash and Giant Babies sees some furious guitar work from Randy and is an indication that if, like me, jazz fusion ticks all your right boxes, we’re in for a treat. Sharon’s melancholy lines in this song based around the refrain “Don’t forget my love” do not prepare you for the outpourings of her soaring larynx on the next song, Zada. Some of you may be familiar with the renowned UK jazz singer Cleo Laine, and Sharon’s voice, possibly starting from a higher point, puts me in mind of the British chanteuse. Probably the best vehicle for Sharon on the album is the poignant penultimate song The World, a lovely piece of work. She also gets to do some reasonable scat singing, especially on Buggy Cadavers (Nirvana would have killed for a song title like that!). The rest of the band certainly get to show their chops, which are up there with the best fusion bands of the 70s. Think Return To Forever meets Zappa at his jazziest, with a bit of Etheridge era Soft Machine thrown in for good measure. Buggy Cadavers features Doug Johnson, who gets to hit all manner of vibes and similar instruments. The Nocturnal Avenger Of Human Potential (another great title) might have been what Black Sabbath would have sounded like if their formative influences were jazz rather than blues. It rocks! The last song, the 20 minute Aura/Open Any Windows is a tour de force of jazz rock stylings and has a distinctly Black Napkins feel to it in the first 10 minutes or so, no bad thing indeed! The second half of this epic features mucho percussion and some nice scatting by Sharon, before leading into a keyboard led improv. Before I reviewed this album I had never heard of this band, and I can well see myself returning to the album again and again. If you’re a fan of 70s jazz fusion, buy this and you won’t be disappointed………… 

Hailing from San Fransisco this little known troupe of musicians rose and fell without ever having an actually album released. They did have a handful of studio and live-in-the-studio recordings though which make up this discography CD. The music definitely comes from the Zappa school of zanny and complex Jazz/Prog/Rock music. Especially with the permanent vibraphone player which will no doubt bring to mind some of the best Zappa years with Ruth Underwood.  They are also fronted by a great jazzy singer in Sharon Pucci which brings frontline personality to an already dazzling group of musicians. One of the things I like most about this album is there isn’t a sleeper track to be found throughout these 7 songs. Its all kept to a pretty quick pace with a high level of technicality. Shit gives you a brain workout thats for damn sure! The grand finale is a 20 minute closer which starts off as a slow burn space rock jam, and slowly builds and breaks midway through into the more propulsive style of vibraphone hammering and vocal thrashing that normally dominates their signature sound, truly an epic piece!…..by…TheTrueMithrandir ……… 

An extraordinary find, Light Year were a band from San Francisco circa 1974 that played a cross between heavy fusion and progressive rock, with dominant female vocals. To me it sounds like the Belgian band Cos playing the music of Mahavishnu Orchestra! Yes… I’m serious - Pascale Son fronting John McLaughlin and crew. A 6 piece of guitar, keyboards, bass, drums, vocals, and percussion (much of it tuned). Mixing a Bay Area band with an additional percussionist will call to mind who? Yes, that’s right, Santana. And guitarist Randy Sellgren certainly possesses that hyper kinetic electric technique of Mahavishnu John meets Carlos type sound. The music is jazz oriented, but with ferocious rock segments, in the same manner as Santana’s “Lotus”. And the final track, clocking in at a whopping 20:20, has a distinct space rock element - propelling the album to its greatest height. 

And the story doesn’t end there. And this is perhaps the most fascinating aspect for me; the liner notes don’t mention it. And there’s only one reference to it on the label’s home page. And (lots of ands on this one…) this is how I discovered it in the first place: I recently bought a second LP copy of Mingo Lewis’ “Flight Never Ending” which I have listed in the CDRWL. This copy, however, included a promotional insert, where it says (typing it out literally): “Mingo’s band lingo (sic) is a tight, young outfit: Drummer Dave Logemen (22), bassist Eric McCann (17), plus the remains of another San Francisco band called Light Year which includes guitarist Randy Sellgren, synthesizer specialist Michael Kapitan, and keyboardist Kincaid Miller.” The latter two are not mentioned in the CD liner notes (Mingo’s album came out two years later) - but then again, neither is Mingo Lewis. Holy smokes - who knew??….by……ashratom ……… 

After 36 years of total obscurity the recordings of San Francisco’s own Light Year are finally seeing the light of day courtesy of Green Tree Records in Germany! Recorded at the famous Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco, Reveal the Fantastic is seven tracks of furious prog/ fusion from the 70s. A lost gem, now available for the first time ever! 

Light Year was formed in 1974, when drummer Zak McGrath joined forces with his friend and colleague, pianist Cornelius Williams, with the idea of putting together a band to play new music. They recruited Randy Sellgren (Mingo Lewis-Flight Never Ending) to play guitar. John Yu, the bass player, brought Doug Johnson to play percussion (vibes, marimba, hand drums and other bells and whistles). The singer Sharon Pucci joined later to complete the ensemble. 

The band was fortunate in having a fledgling manager, Sandy Einstein, who later went on to success with Journey and Mr. Big. Einstein’s energy and persistence secured Light Year gigs at the best clubs in the Bay Area, as well as the reviews reproduced on this site, despite the definite oddness of their music. The one thing the band could not achieve was a record contract. 

Light Year was, as a rule, admired by the public and reviled by club owners. They were also championed by such notable groups as The Tubes and The Sons of Champlin, who would persuade reluctant impresarios to let Light Year open for them. One exception was Todd Barkan of the well-known jazz spot Keystone Korner, who liked them and booked them on Monday nights–one of the few unsigned groups to play Keystone. But most clubs refused to book them more than once. 

Their big “showcase” gig at the Starwood in Los Angeles was marked by record executives exiting the club en masse with their hands over their ears. Without a contract, and with the scarcity of gigs and money fraying their psyches, the band broke up after less than two years………by….goblin1974 ………. 

Found this vinyl reprint of Light Year’s Reveal the Fantastic on lazy day in the record store, no-one knew what is actually was. The record has to be the least known progressive rock record I know about, but the strange thing is; the music is just fantastic! 

Take it all in: A rhtyhm section of bass & drums that I would gladly equal to Magma in it’s finest line-up, a female vocalist that is just wild and as intense as for instance Peter Hammill or Dagmar Krause, brilliant keyboardist, great guitar-player and a percussionist that completes every moment with vibraphone or rhythm-instruments. 

The compositional style could be labeled as avant-prog, with Canterbury and Zeuhl influences and a jazz-rock tone. Perhaps a marriage of the Belgian Cos-sound and Henry Cow’s ‘Living in the heart of the beast’ would be a good description. The recording-quality is however better then that of all names mentioned, making this one of the most professional sounding records I’ve ever heard. The level of musicianship is just of the charts. The compositions vary in style and intensity, but not a moment is wasted. The track 'The World’ stands out as an intense spacey & doomish track that – when it comes to its form – could be regarded as a song. This might well end up in my all-time top 10 of progressive music. Spread the word!….by….friso …….. 

It is always amazing what excellent music is stored in some archives, drawers or rumble chambers, which for some reason was not published at the time of creation, and only then, if lucky, decades later, the path to an archival book. On “Reveal The Fantastic” by Lightyear is such.The band was formed in San Francisco in 1974, when the drummer Raymond “Zak” McGrath teamed up with the keyboardist Cornelius Williams to start a joint musical project. With John Yu, Doug Johnson and Randy Sellgren you could find other players and with the singer Sharon Pucci also a voice. A label, which wanted to publish the music of Lightyear, was not found. I could imagine that in the middle of the 70s of the last century such music would have been quite hip and sellable, especially with a frontwoman at the micro. Lightyear played almost two years live between Frisco and LA, attracted a certain attention, but then disbanded again in 1976.Apparently one had previously all kinds of material under quite professional conditions, presumably, in order to go with it on plate search. In 2010, the eleven (or part of it) of Green Tree Records was released on CD and LP, with the appropriate title “Reveal The Fantastic” and a relatively informative booklet with at least three former members of the band The pieces and the recording sessions one learns nothing) and a few contemporary imitations are to be found. The sound is excellent!To the music. Friend Ashratom writes in his blog, Lightyear sounds like COS play the pieces of the Mahavishu Orchestra. Jo, that fits! A colorful and complex jazz prog comes from the boxes, from time to time with worn to powerful, fast, often vocalizing female singing à la Pascale Son. Sellgrens electric guitar determines the sound happening, supplemented by the virtuoso but rather unobtrusive key work (E- Piano mostly), but very extensive, often soloistically working in the vibraphone and the very versatile and complex rhythm section. In the meantime, you can hear the short “The Nocturnal Avenger Of Human Potential”. The highlight of the album is, of course, the final, 20-minute “Aura / Open Windows”, a very versatile jazz prog suite, in which impressively all the tonal expressions of the band, from almost time-luffy sound levitation up to very dynamic rock will.“Reveal The Fantastic” is a wonderful album with an original, very progressive jazz rock, which can be performed by the Mahavishnu Orchestra with vibraphone and female singing (but that goes!). Better late than never!….by…. 
Achim Breiling ………….. 

MUSICIANS: 
Sharon Pucci: Vocals 
Randy Sellgren: Guitar 
Zak McGrath: Drums 
Cornelius Williams: Keyboards 
John Yu: Bass 
Doug Johnson: Percussion 

Tracklist 
1 Giant Babies
2 Zada
3 Buggy Cadavers
4 The Story Of Two Small Objects
5 The Nocturnal Avenger Of Human Potential
6 The World
7 Aura/Open Windows 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..