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12 Apr 2017

The Masters Of Deceit "Hensley's Electric Jazz Band & Synthetic Symphonette" 1969 UK Psych Prog Jazz Rock

The Masters Of Deceit "Hensley's Electric Jazz Band & Synthetic Symphonette" 1969 UK Psych Prog Jazz Rock

Masters of Deceit were an Indianapolis band that had its only release, “Hensley’s Electric Jazz Band & Synthetic Symphonette” on the highbrow east coast major label Vanguard Records.Led by keyboardist Tom Hensley, who also handled most of the vocals, the band also included Steve Blum on guitar, Gary Campbell, bass and vocals, and Stan Gage on drums. I believe the record was recorded in NYC.Soon afterwards, Hensley relocated to Los Angeles and became a successful session keyboardist, playing with many big names, including Neil Diamond, Helen Reddy, Cher, David Cassidy, The Carpenters–to name but a few.The Masters of Deceit LP is relatively obscure today. It was re-released on vinyl and CD by Comet Records in Italy a few years ago. Original LP copies can be found for less than $50 but are not common.Musically, Masters of Deceit occupy an end of 60’s/beginning of 70’s transitional niche, drawing from psychedelia, jazz-rock and progressive rock. ....................
And now, a little surprise from the archives, the band who inspired ABBA to write their world-conquering disco hit, "Voulez-Vous". Only joking. 

It was with a certain trepidation that my eyes alighted on the sleeve of this disc. The faintly absurd long-winded title, and the somewhat out-of-it expressions on the faces of the protagonists, particularly the sideways glance of the obliquely-coiffed gentleman at the front who looks uncannily like Paul Giamatti impersonating a member of Soft Machine, suggested that this could either be an elaborate hoax (kind of a prog take on the Rutles) or a lost classic in the making. 

But lo! It turns out that the record does sound a lot like Wyatt-era Soft Machine, actually. Which is remarkable enough coming from an American band, even more so considering that this was actually made in 1969, when the Canterbury Sound was still in its birth pangs. There are clavinets galore (always a good sign) and plenty of slightly askew harmonies and tricky time signatures to set the pulse of the committed Brit-prog fan racing. Particularly appealing is the whimsical jazz-rock of "Boxes", making like a prototype for Hatfield & The North's jolly japes. Even the portentously titled 14-minute closer "Pieces: Together: Pieces", almost hinting at Magma in its middle section before straying into Caravan territory, doesn't outstay its welcome. 

This record is really cool, long and deceptively strong. I think I'll be returning to it .......................

It's psych in the sound and prog in the song structure. The jazz influence is also quite strong. Rather nice, with crisp drums and some urgency in the songs. Nothing outstanding though, and the singing is a bit flat, without being annoying like a lot of singing of that era could .........

 The Masters Of Deceit 
*Tom Hensley - Organ, Clavinet, Piano, Vocals 
*Gary Campbell - Bass, Vocals, Tenor Saxophone 
*Stan Gage - Drums 
*Steve Blum - Guitar, Bass

Shining 4:31 
Boxes 4:52 
The Grand Illusion 3:34 
Long Hard Journey 7:22 
Mirror 4:32 
Pieces: Together: Pieces 15:09 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..