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Progressive Rock CD Reviews


Affinity (4-CD Remastered & Expanded Box Set)

Review by Gary Hill

Affinity was an English jazz-rock band that really were a lot more than that. They encompassed psychedelia and more. They were also decidedly proto-prog and, at times, pure progressive rock. They actually only ever released one album, which is included on the first CD of this set. A second album was in the works from 1971-72, wasn't released until decades later. That album is included on the fourth disc of this box set. The second disc is made up of instrumental tracks, and disc three features earlier tunes that land more on the full jazz end of the spectrum. This is a cool set, and this band was quite an interesting one. I wish they had produced more music over the years. Each CD is encased in a cardboard sleeve (the first one a gate-fold). There is an informative booklet, and the whole thing comes in a cardboard clamshell box.

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Track by Track Review
CD One - Affinity:
I Am And So Are You

This drives in with a cool psychedelic rock vibe. As it works out from there some jazz elements are brought to bear. The vocals are artsy and yet mainstream at the same time. This is quite an intriguing sonic collage.

Night Flight
There is more of a focus on the artsy side here. This has some psychedelic rock in some of the more driving parts of the track. It's decidedly proto-prog more than it is anything else. As strong as the opener was, this definitely takes this to a new level of greatness. It has some killer melodies and great changes. I love the organ dominated instrumental section later in the track. The organ gets a real workout. At over seven-minutes long, this is one of the heftier tracks here.
I Wonder If I Care As Much
Psychedelia and proto-prog merge on this shorter piece. It's one of the most instantly accessible songs here, but it's still meaty.
Mr Joy
A mellower psychedelic art rock texture starts here. The cut works outward as it continues to build and evolve. There are some intriguing twists and turns and it gets fairly powered up later along the ride. I really like the vocal arrangement on this, but so much of the tune is magical. I'm reminded just a little of Curved Air here.
Three Sisters
There is a really powerful rocking mode to this. Horns bring a jazzy texture, and the vocals are soulful. This has some smoking hot twists and turns. I really love the powerhouse guitar solo on this. The tune is definitely one of the highlights of the first CD.
Coconut Grove
Jazz guitar drives this number. The song is a tasty groove that really does a great job of merging jazz and proggy psychedelia.
All Along The Watchtower
The epic of the album proper, this cover of Bob Dylan is over 11-and-a-half-minutes long. They bring this in with a hard-rocking sound that is so tasty. A cool trippy jam takes over after the first vocal section, driving this into some pure prog zones. I love how the meter of the lines of vocals are played with as we get another vocal movement. The organ takes control in the instrumental section that follows that second break. After a chorus vocal movement the organ again shows off on an instrumental section. This is definitely another highlight of this disc.
Bonus Tracks:
Eli’s Coming

This is an energetic rocker that has plenty of cool prog and jazz rock in the mix. While most of it is up-tempo, there is a mellower drop back mode.

United States Of Mind
I dig the up=front percussion on this number. The song is more of a folk rocker, but it still has plenty of proggy psychedelia built into it.
Yes Man
This track is a full-on prog masterpiece. It's another highlight of the set. Bass brings it in, and they work out from there to a jam that definitely makes me think of Peter Banks era Yes. There is a drop down before they take it out into a more driving jam from there for the entrance of the vocals. There is an exploratory kind of prog jam that takes over after that first vocal movement. Again I am reminded of early Yes. There is some killer guitar work, and the whole tune is purely amazing. It keeps reinventing and exploring.
If You Live
Here we get a pretty straightforward blues rocker. It's a classy number.
You Met Your Match
This is another bluesy rocker. It has more of a psychedelic prog edge to it.
I Am The Walrus
I love this Beatles cover. They really capture the psychedelic vibe so well, but also lend some proto-prog to it.
Little Lonely Man
This is much more of a jazz rock piece. The recording quality leaves a little to be desired, but the song is classy nonetheless.
All Along The Watchtower/ It’s About That Time
This is a live bootleg recording, but the sound is pretty good. At over 13-minutes long, this is the epic of the first disc. It comes in with some killer proggy jamming and works out gradually from there. The crowd noise can be a little annoying at times, but in terms of the song itself, I think I like this version of the Dylan tune even more than the studio one. It seems that they somehow manage to up the artsy and proggy angles even further. The sound quality does tend to suffer more later, which is a shame because that's when the song gets even more intense and works into some crazed psychedelia.
CD Two - Live Instrumentals 1969
Jive Samba

This has plenty of soul and jazz in the mix. It reminds me a bit of Booker T. and the MGs. It's a classy jam that really grooves.

Dis Here
I dig the bluesy, jazzy groove to this tune. It's a cool little jam.
Comin’ Home Baby
Things turn a bit proggier on this number. It gets more psychedelic, too. The guitar work on this is on fire.
Out Of The Storm
A slower moving cut, this is so classy. It has a lot of jazz and blues in the mix, but it's also artsy and exploratory.
I dig the classy jazz jamming on this. The organ and guitar are both magical on this grooving tune.
13 Death March
This is a powerhouse jam with some smoking hot organ work built into it.
All Blues
Another killer tune, there is plenty of jazz in the mix here. I love the bass work on this, but you also can't ignore the organ or guitar.
This is another classy slab of Booker T and the MGs sort of sounds.
A Day In The Life
I really like the jazzy, bluesy guitar work on the intro to this version of the Beatles tune. It has a nice energy and classic groove to it. As they move into the song proper I'm reminded both of early Yes and Vanilla Fudge. The jamming on this is positively inspired as they keep expanding on the musical themes.
All Blues
I like this version of the tune better than the one that came earlier on this disc. The performance just seems to be more impassioned and on fire. This is so cool.
This has a fun groove sound and energy to it. It's another solid take on the earlier tune.
Mercy, Mercy, Mercy
I love some of the bass work on this a lot. It's classic, but also classy. This has a cool jazzy, soulful groove to it.
Jive Samba
As good as the other version of this was, this one really stands taller. It's a killer romp.
A Day In The Life
This version of the tune feels more jazzy. While I definitely prefer the vibe and intensity of the other take, this has its charms.
CD Three - Origins 1965-67
Autumn Leaves

The piano drives some killer melodies on this smoking hot jazz romp.

I really dig the more serious vibe of this killer number.
My Funny Valentine
I know this is a jazz standard, but I've never been a big fan of it. I think it might be because I've heard so many people do terrible vocal renditions of it. This instrumental tke works pretty well. It has a lot of class and style.
I Got Plenty Of Nothing
There is a bluesy jazz concept at the heart of this tune. It's a solid one, but not really a standout.
Dat Dere
Now, this is elevated beyond the previous tune. It has a great groove provided by the bass. The melodies are so classy and cool.
Lover Man
There is a slower, bluesy groove to the first part of this piece. It's another strong one. IT grows outward into a faster jam after a while.
Blues Etude
This is spirited and classy.
Some Day My Prince Will Come
I love the tasty jazz groove to this cut. It;s another fun one
Cubano Chant
Now, this just oozes fun. It's up-tempo and classy. It might be my favorite of these jazz cuts. It also has a cool rhythm section break.
This is a short, playful tune.
My Funny Valentine
Here we get another version of the old chestnut. I think I might like this better than the other version, but there is a bit of an odd flavor to the sound on it, like perhaps the tape was a bit damaged creating a bit of a pitch waver.
Autumn Leaves
Here we get another up-tempo jazz romp packed full of style and charm.
You Look Good To Me
While not a big change, this is another effective up-tempo tune.
The Preacher
This has some particularly strong jamming. It's a real slab of pure class. I really like the bass showcase section a lot.
Waltz For Debbie
I really dig the piano work on this romp.
Here we get another version of the earlier tune. I think I prefer the first take, but this is solid, as well.
On Green Dolphin Street
There is some great energy and groove to this number. It's another classy, if not standout, tune.
CD Four - Affinity 1971 – 1972
Moira’s Hand

More rocking than some of the rest here, oddly enough some of this almost sounds like Greta Van Fleet to me. Mind you, this was many years before those guys were born, let alone playing music. Whatever you call this, though, it is a smoking hot rocker that is so classy. This is still proggy. I'm also reminded of a proggier Jefferson Airplane at times. The dramatic closing chord is all class.

Grey Skies
I'm reminded of a mix of Renaissance and Yes on the opening instrumental movement. The track drops to a mellower approach from the entrance of the vocals, and the Renaissance comparison is even more valid. There is plenty of folk prog built into this tune. The mid-track instrumental section has some particularly expressive bass guitar work. I really dig the keyboard playing on that section, too. This has some great twists and turns as it continues.
Cream On Your Face
A bit more of a mainstream rocker, this has an intriguing vocal arrangement and some great moments. It still has enough prog in the mix to keep it from feeling trite or simplistic. It gets a lot more complex and shifts and changes much more later. It's a real powerhouse.
Acoustic guitar and vocals bring this into being. It has a definite Renaissance vibe to it as it gets underway. The arrangement fills out after the first vocal section, but gradually. Other layers come over the top intensifying it as they do. It doesn't really rise beyond balladic, though, and the next vocals come in over the top of the more full arrangement.  It gets pretty powered up and intense as it continues, but never gets too far from ballad zones.
All Along The Watchtower/It’s About Time
Coming in more direct and mainstream rock based than any of the earlier versions, this works out to more trippy prog stuff on the instrumental break after the first vocal section. They work this through all kinds of changes, creating a real prog rock masterpiece out of this thing. They go wandering but come back to the main themes for the vocal segments.
Not quite a ballad, this is a melodic tune that has some jazz along with the prog at its core. This is quite and intriguing piece.
Poor Man’s Son
Acoustic guitar based, this is melodic and energetic. It has a definite jazzy edge to it, too.
Sarah’s Wardrobe
I dig the cool melodic prog vibe of this number a lot. This works through a number of changes, and is a strong instrumental piece.
I love the contrast of mellower music in the backdrop as a tasteful electric guitar line dances overhead through a lot of this instrumental. There is a sense of grounding brought by this number.
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