This version of The Queen of Spades was originally recorded in 1974 and made available as a special import; it was then generally released by Philips in 1988. Reviewing it at the time, AB gave a level account of its strengths, but had little difficulty in preferring the Tchakarov set when it was issued in 1990. Deleted by Philips, the Ermler performance has now been restored to the Melodiya catalogue. I cannot see anyone dissenting from AB's view: certainly I do not, except perhaps to regard him as being over-generous in his account of Atlantov's Herman in calling it ''loud and unsubtle''. Stronger words would also be appropriate, especially when Atlantov is compared with the sensitive Wieslaw Ochman on the Tchakarov set. Valentina Levko is a good Countess in what is a well-established Russian tradition of responses to the role: AB thought the old lady's reminiscences not so pointedly delivered as by some other singers, and I would add that she would certainly have acquired a better French accent during her long sojourn as the Venus of Paris.
Recorded live at the Roxy, Scratch was one of the Crusaders' best recordings, an extravaganza of jazz and funk with great soloing from the group on top of a set of excellent grooves. From the loose-limbed funk of "Scratch" to a restless, understated version of their live standard "Eleanor Rigby" (which they'd been performing live for over six years), the Crusaders displayed a command of R&B forms in a jazz context. Another cover, Carole King's "So Far Away," is betrayed by a muddy '70s arrangement and sound, but nothing else here fails to illustrate the excellence of the best R&B group in the jazz world.
Journey to the Centre of the Earth is the second solo album from the English keyboardist Rick Wakeman, released on 3 May 1974 by A&M Records. The album is a live recording of his second of two concerts on 18 January 1974 at the Royal Festival Hall in London. With its concept based on Jules Verne's science fiction novel of the same name, the album tells the story of Professor Lidenbrok, his nephew Axel, and their guide Hans, who follow a passage to the Earth's centre originally discovered by Arne Saknussemm, an Icelandic alchemist. Wakeman performs with the London Symphony Orchestra, the English Chamber Choir, and a group of hand-picked musicians for his rock band, which later became the English Rock Ensemble.
What do you get if you take The Nice and replace Keith Emerson for Patrick Moraz? The answer is simple Refugee, an excellent Symphonic Prog band. The previous story is well known, Keith Emerson, the heart and soul of The Nice left the band to form the first Prog supergroup ELP, so in that instant The Nice ceased to exist. They managed to survive until 1973 with to inferior releases "Elegy" and "Autumn from Spring" which mainly consist of older material and reworks of older tracks including a ghost keyboardist who was already playing in another band. But Lee Jackson and Brian Davidson wanted to revive the band, so they searched for another keyboardist who could replace Keith and they found him. The Swiss born virtuoso Patrick Moraz left Mainhorse so they recruited him and the result was incredibly solid…