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Various Artists

Living On The Hill: A Danish Underground Trip 1967-1974

Review by Gary Hill

This collection of music is very cool. Not everything here is prog, but the vast majority is at least proto-prog. Really, psychedelic music was a big part of the roots of progressive rock and a lot of this is psychedelia. While not everything is stellar, nothing is of the "skip it," variety, and there are definitely some real highlights. The whole set is classy with each CD getting its own cardboard sleeve. The whole thing is assembled with a massive book into a cardboard clamshell box. It's a great way to delve into the music of a lot of different bands. I should mention that I previously reviewed one of the Secret Oyster songs here on one of their albums. For the sake of consistency, that track review was modified for use here.

You will find bonus video footage of this release is available at the Music Street Journal Youtube channel here: .youtube.com/watch?v=4K7g6w4VExQ

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 1. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
CD One
                
Beefeaters - Night Flight

There is a lot of space rock sound built into this instrumental. It's sort of a straightforward tune turned into jam band music for the opening section. The cut works through some varied movement, but the general concept remains largely unchanged. Sounds of people talking emerge later, and this number drives forward with a cool vibe from there.

Day of Phoenix - Tell Me
Drums bring this into being. The cut becomes a cool psychedelic rocker as the other instruments and vocals join. This feels more dated than the opener did. Still, it has some real hippie charms. I love the busy bass work that drives along in the background of the number.
Young Flowers - Overture / Take Warning
The "Overture" part of this is a trippy, psychedelic freak-out. The cut works out from there to a killer rocking number for the entrance of the vocals. I dig the guitar solo on this thing, and the whole piece just screams "1960s."
The Savage Rose - Long Before I Was Born
This high energy tune is much more of a proto-prog tune. It has plenty of psychedelia in the mix, too. Some super-high pitched vocals in the mix are an odd sort of touch, sounding a little chipmunk-like. This thing is really a powerhouse, driving tune.
Burnin’ Red Ivanhoe - Ksilioy
A hard rocking and rather psychotic movement opens this with strange vocals attached. The cut works out there to more of a melodic, but still up-tempo movement. The piece continues to shift and evolve with varying themes taking over for a while. It is very much what I would consider proto-prog as it's easy to see how this kind of exploration gave way to progressive rock. This thing gets into some really powerhouse zones in the almost space rock jam later. At over ten-and-a-half minutes long, this track is epic in scale. It's also epic in scope and range.
Alrune Rod - Natskyggevej
Another extensive tune, this is over ten-minutes long. Keyboards start it. The cut hits a crescendo from there, but then drops down to mellower tones to continue. This definitely makes me think of Vanilla Fudge quite a bit. Like Vanilla Fudge the cut rises up to dramatic powerhouse movements, but also drops back to mellower zones. That creates an admirable dynamic range. There are parts of this that make me think of early Pink Floyd, too. I particularly love the rocking, guitar-led jam that takes over around the seven-and-a-half-minute mark. It has some particularly tasty soloing. The cut continues to evolve nicely from there, working into some of the hardest rocking sounds of the whole piece for the return of the vocals.
Young Flowers - Kragerne Vender
Freaky psychedelic jamming of the rather chaotic variety starts this cut. At over ten-and-a-half minutes long, it's another epic number. It eventually starts to coalesce into a jam that merges an almost tribal space rock element with more standard psychedelia and some real weirdness. It's quite a tastefully freaky musical groove. This thing really has some freak-out zones. There are some killer echoey guitar parts that bring that space rock thing to the fore. This is such a cool jam, strangeness and all.
Delta Blues Band - Opus 1
There is, as you would guess, some blues built into this thing. It's packed full of psychedelic and proto-prog music, though. This instrumental piece works through a number of changes and has some full on classical music show up at times, particularly through the use of the organ. This thing just keeps evolving as it drives onward. There is very much a concept of taking a fairly simplistic song structure and turning it into something a lot more complex and magical.
Day of Phoenix - Wide Open N-Way
More of a pure psychedelic rocker, this has more of a mainstream sound as it begins. That said, the instrumental fills and twists bring this fully into proto-prog zones. This is quite a powerhouse piece with a lot of shifts and changes. Then again, at almost eleven-and-a-half minutes long, it's another that's epic in scale. After working through several variants, it drops down after the four-minute mark, seeming to end. Then a driving sort of neo-classical element rises upward from there. That holds it for a time, but then drops away, leaving silence. A new jam emerges from there with a rather dramatic psychedelic proto-prog jam. This thing grows into a killer movement that shifts this way and that with all kinds of intriguing instrumental work. Some of the guitar playing makes me think of Yes' first guitarist Peter Banks. In fact, musically I'm reminded of his post-Yes band Flash a bit. This has a real driving kind of intensity to it. The vocals eventually return as it works into more of a pure song structure for the closing.
Rainbow Band - B.M.
The sounds of wind open this. The cut comes upward from there with a cool jazzy arrangement built around some smoking hot standup bass playing. This is a short cut for the set at less than three-minutes. It's more than half over before we get any vocals, and it gets more into psychedelic zones at that point.
Burnin’ Red Ivanhoe - Jingle Jangle Man
I dig the fuzzy, psychedelic tone of this. There is a real mysterious edge. The vocals (and in some ways the whole arrangement) makes me think of David Bowie a bit. The horn solo is a classy touch, but that fuzzy guitar really makes this piece in a lot of ways, particularly on the expressive and exploratory solo section.
CD Two

                    

Ache - De Homine Urbano

A mellow and rather trippy musical motif created largely from guitar and organ brings this into being. It has a decidedly prog-based sound to it, and that's reinforced as the cut starts to grow outward. This thing is over 19-minuites long, making it a pure epic. It has a lot of shifts and changes, bringing psychedelia in along with the prog concepts. Near the halfway point it drops away to near silence before growing back upward from there. As it continues to build this thing gets very popular and some classical musical elements are heard in some of the progressions. There are some real world music concepts at play at times, too. This is such a prog rock powerhouse piece that just keeps driving forward with shifts and changes. It gets pretty crazed and freaky further down the road as it continues to explore sonic territory. There is a short blast of a section that sounds like Zeppelin's "How Many More Times" at the end of this piece.

Pan - To Get Along
Trippy and dramatic mellow tones are punctuated by a blast of powerhouse jamming at a couple points. Eventually the cut grows out into a killer psychedelic rock groove for the entrance of the vocals. This is a somewhat straightforward rocker. It has some twists and turns, as you would expect, though.
Rainbow Band - Rainbow Song
A mellower kind of groove with flute brings this into being. That flute is a huge part of the piece as it wanders around a sedate musical tapestry. This is an effective instrumental piece.
Blast Furnace - Toytown

This comes in with a folk meets psychedelic feeling to it. The number works into some smoking hot, but still rather restrained jamming further down the road. The guitar weaves some great melodies as it solos in that instrumental movement.

Culpeper’s Orchard _ Mountain Music (Part One)
Hard rocking sounds with a decidedly prog arrangement brings this into being. The cut is driving and so classy. The vocals are on the dreamy side of the spectrum, but the music is fiery hot. This is such a perfect transition piece between psychedelia and full progressive rock. The changes are classy, particularly the timing shift and twist to seriously heavy modes. It gets incredibly intense before it all drops back down to a mellower arrangement to continue. It eventually makes its way to more powered up, but less than the way it opened, for a melodic jam that ends the track.
The Old Man and the Sea - Living Dead
A dramatic introduction gives way to a fast paced jam that is pure early progressive rock. The organ really drives it. The cut has a bit of a Vanilla Fudge sound in this opening. It drops to more of a groove oriented section that has an almost jazz vibe for the entrance of the vocals. The cut continues to shift and evolve as it works forward. This is another that makes me think of the band Flash at times. It's also another that does a great job of merging progressive rock and psychedelia. This is such a powerhouse piece.
The Savage Rose - Tapiola
Coming in ambient, this grows up very gradually with some organ eventually rising barely above the background sounds. This doesn't rise up far with weird psychedelic ambience becoming the premise for the first portions. As it approaches the three-minute mark, the volume level increases and the cut builds outward a bit, but doesn't really coalesce from a freeform sounding oddity. It drops back again beyond that to mellower zones once more. It rises upward again, and then goes downward once more. This odd instrumental piece remains freeform and experimental throughout its duration.
Rainbow Band / Midnight Sun - Living on the Hill
Epic certainly applies to this cut. It's over 15-miniutes long. It comes in with a jazzy, driving prog jam that is so tasty. It drives through getting into some more "song based" movements with some vocal hooks on the chorus. It's actually rather catchy. Then it works out to a jazzy jam that shifts and twists as it drives forward. The horn soloing is on fire. The cut drives out into a killer fast-paced jam with a lot of great psychedelic instrumental work. At times there is a real neo-classical vibe to the guitar work. When it drops to just guitar that brings that home for a time. When they come out from there, it's into a riff-driven blues rock jam with some seriously soulful vocals over the top. They get a lot of mileage out of the instrumental movement that emerges based on that, perhaps a bit too much. The number gets back out of that into a song proper movement to eventually end.
Ache - Shadow of a Gypsy
This has such a killer sound to it. It's keyboard dominated and has a real drama and beauty to it. It reminds me quite a bit of Procol Harum, really. This number, while somewhat balladic, is a powerhouse that is one of my favorites of the whole set. As it works out into the closing movement, it gets into a bouncy, horn-laden section that has some real Beatles-like elements. A killer bit of prog drama ends the track.
CD Three
                      
Ache - Equatorial Rain

A creepy, trippy vibe brings this into being. An organ movement settles in after a time, and the vocals enter over the top of that. The number grows gradually from there, but only subtly, with some other layers being heard more as accents. This is strange, but also oddly compelling. Then, near the two-and-a-half-minute mark, the cut explodes into a powerhouse jam that is much more rocking. A cool vocal section with accents from harpsichord takes it from there. Then the song explodes into more rocking zones again to continue. There is another trippy section further down the road as this piece continues to shift and change. That movement holds the last vocals before a blast of prog ends it.

Burnin’ Red Ivanhoe - Avez Vous Kaskelainen?
I dig the driving prog sound that opens this and holds it. The organ texture brings the 60s sound to the table. This really becomes a powerhouse up-tempo prog jam as it continues driving forward.
Day of Phoenix - Paradox
I love the almost experimental prog vibe that creates the musical backdrop here. It does have a definite psychedelic leaning, too. As this continue to evolve there are jazzy things added to the mix at times. This really has a soaring, driving prog sound that is so classy.
Midnight Sun - A La Turca
Guitar and bass create a killer fast-paced arrangement as this instrumental drives outward. The cut gets some jazzy elements as it continues building on that theme. When it shifts to a less crazed movement the jazz side of the equation really takes over. The horns bring a lot of style, but don't ignore the piano soloing. It's so evocative and classy. This instrumental piece doesn't remain staid, though. It works into more fast paced jamming beyond that movement, while still retaining much of that jazz angle.
Thor’s Hammer - Mexico
Fast paced prog with jazz stylings is the order of business on this number. I love the powerhouse exploratory guitar solo movement later. It gets rather soaring as it drives outward. This has a great mix of psychedelia, melodic rock and prog built into it. It's another killer tune.
Blast Furnace - Ginger Cake
I like the bluesy rocking groove that permeates this. I'm reminded of some of the bluesier King Crimson pieces in some ways. There is some real jazz in the mix here. The cut works out into a killer jam later in the track. I love the organ jamming in that section. Some smoking hot guitar soloing comes in after that as the instrumental movement continues driving forward. It eventually makes its way back to the song proper from there.
The Old Man and the Sea - Going Blind
This cut has quite a  few varying movements and themes. It gets quite powerful and soaring at times. This is another of the epic variety, weighing in at almost ten-and-a-half minutes long. There is great guitar soloing, powerful keyboard work and more on the extended instrumental movement mid-track. I dig the melodic section that comes in after that instrumental section has worked through. We're taken into another screaming hot instrumental movement, largely built around the organ later, with that passage ending the track. This is a powerful piece.
Secret Oyster - Fire and Water
They start this off in melodic territory with a slow moving groove that’s quite tasty. It gains some momentum and power, but retains the overall musical themes as it carries on, a funky sort of wahing melody line winding its way over the top. The guitar really begins to tear across this landscape in a wahing sort of ecstatic journey. This mixes jazz with space rock, funk and other elements. The jam later in the piece reminds me a lot of Hawkwind at times – sometimes to a major degree.
Hurdy Gurdy - Lost in the Jungle
Coming in hard rocking, with a real blues rock sound, the vocals continue that with this feeling quite a bit like Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac. This one is not really proggy, but it has plenty of killer music in it, nonetheless. I can even hear some hints of the kind of thing Black Sabbath used to do in the early days. That said, there is some killer jamming at times that leans towards psychedelic, space rock or jam band zones.
Dr. Dopo Jam - Spring Theme - Summer Theme
There is a playful, almost 1960s pop vibe as this comes into being. It's a bouncy and lightweight jam. Then it shifts to a real classic 1960s movie soundtrack kind of movement from there. There is plenty of jazz built into this along with some hints of psychedelia. The horn soloing gets pretty intense. This is a fun little number.
Culpeper’s Orchard - Classified Ads
Coming in with a driving, hard rocking sound that is decidedly proggy in a blues rock way, this is another smoking hot tune. It shifts to a more melodic, 60s pop rock based sound after a time. The vocals get seriously rocking. I love the guitar soloing over the top of a more purely prog based movement further down the road. That movement ends the piece.
Secret Oyster - Mind Movie
A classically based keyboard movement brings this into being. The cut works out from there gradually with some guitar coming over the top. Then it shifts to a bit more rock driven motif. As it continues to explore the soundscape there are portions that feature some killer bass work. The keyboards and guitar really provide a lot of the drama on this instrumental number, too.
 
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