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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Tim Blake

Crystal Presence: The Albums 1977-1991

Review by Gary Hill

This new collection gathers up three albums by Tim Blake. Blake is best known for his work in Gong and Hawkwind. One of the discs here seems aligned with the Hawkwind kind of sound. The other two are closer to keyboard dominated stuff like Tangerine Dream and Synergy. It's all strong, though. This comes in a cardboard clamshell box. It includes a great booklet, and each CD comes in a mini-LP sleeve. One of those is a gatefold. This is a great collection. It should be noted that I previously reviewed all of the tracks here on the original CDs. So, for the sake of consistency I've used those track reviews here.

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Track by Track Review
CD One: Crystal Machine

Space keyboards open this in style. The cut grows with layer of sound stacking and dancing around one another. This is quite lush and very pretty. There is a definite enchanting quality to it.

Metro / Logic
There is much more of a rhythmic, almost tribal vibe here. Spacey keyboard sounds enter. The cut gets very rubbery and nearly funky as it moves forward. There is almost a jazz vibe to it in some ways. I dig the bass sounds on this thing.
Last Ride of the Boogie Child (Seasalter Free Festival 1976)

Cool waves of keyboard textures take us on this great ride. There are some almost jazz meets space rock vocals on this. The cut gets some cool energies built into it. This is a fun cut.

Synthese Intemporel (Le Palace Theatre Paris, 18/02/1977)
More killer keyboard sounds open this and move it forward in dramatic style. This is a fifteen and a half minute instrumental that feels a bit like a cross between Synergy and the electronic side of Hawkwind with some Tangerine Dream thrown in for extra points.
Crystal Presence

This comes in very machine-like and rather freaky. It's a bit noisy, but also melodic. This feels like something out of a science fiction film.

CD Two: Blake’s New Jerusalem
A Song for a New Age

Acoustic guitar starts this. The first vocals come in over the top. Bits of keyboards lend some cool textures as the song gradually shifts toward more space rock based music. The song gets more rock built into the mix beyond that. This is such a classy tune.

Here's a song that Blake did with Hawkwind. This version is so strong. It's such a great space rock piece of music. It creates an extremely cool mood. The music has a lot of change and variety, even though it all changes slowly and gradually. This is easily recognizable as Hawkwind styled music, whether you've heard their version or not. "Lighthouse" is definitely a highlight of this set.
Generator (Laser Beam)

This is much more of funky electronic song. It feels more like something from Blake's Magick album. That said, it does get into more traditional space rock territory, too.

Passage Sur la Cite' (Des Revelations)
Combining the Crystal Machine textures with something more like Hawkwind, this is energetic electronic space music. This instrumental is pretty amazing stuff, really.
New Jerusalem

Atmospheric keys serve as the backdrop for some spoken elements. The cut works out from there with style. It works through purely instrumental after those first spoken bits until around the five minute mark. Then the real vocals join. The cut continues to evolve from that point. This is perhaps a bit like a cross between the Crystal Machine period and the Magick one. It's more of a purely electronic tune. At over sixteen minutes in length, this is the epic of the album proper.

Bonus track
The Woodland Voice (B-side of single)

Electronic sounds create a cool texture on this piece. It's not a huge change from the Synergy type stuff heard on Crystal Machine.

CD Three: Magick
A Magick Circle

White noise styled sound effects brings this into being. Other elements with a special effects bias emerge to move it forward. Eventually trippy keyboard sounds take over. It feels to me a bit like something from Synergy or Tangerine Dream. This instrumental covers a lot of musical territory and gets quite intense before its done.

Keyboards create the opening elements here, feeling a bit more "song-like" as it starts. There is a bit of a world music thing here. The vocals are almost whispered at first. They get more traditionally sung later. The cut moves in some cool ways, creating an intriguing sonic tapestry.
The Strange Secret of Ohm-Gliding

I dig the cool trippy keyboards that open this. The cut grows from there with a dramatic, insistent energy. There are some cool space rock styled sounds that emerge amongst the layers of keyboards. There are no vocals until around the six minute mark. Even then, they are spoken. Some of the vocals later are sung. This is a cool cut that has a lot of range and some great grooves. At over twelve minutes in length, it's also the epic of the set.

A Return to Clouds
The kind of keyboard based sounds one expects by this point open the cut. It grows outward from there with some intriguing space rock jamming. This instrumental is rather fun.
Waiting for Nati

Coming in with an energy and a bit of that Synergy vibe, this is another cool cut. The vocals here lean on the high range. This is more of a rocking tune in a lot of ways. It's a bit more straightforward than some of the rest, too.

A Dream
Chiming keys that make me think of tuned percussion start this. As it works forward it makes me think of "Tubular Bells" just a bit. This instrumental is very much trippy space prog electronica.
More Magick
The keyboard sounds on the first part of this are in the mellower spectrum. There are some pretty active percussive elements, though. The number gets more vibrant and energized as it carries forward. This piece sits somewhere between electronic music, space rock and fusion.
With You

The closing number has those high pitched vocals again. It's a bit more of a pop rocker. It's bouncy and rather fun. Personally, I think this is the weakest cut of the set. It might have served the album better some place in the middle.

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