Day Of Phoenix - Mind Funeral – The Recordings 1968-1972 [Esoteric Recordings/ Cherry Red - 2020]Day Of The Phoenix were a late 60’s-to-early 70’s Danish five-piece who managed to blend the bounding-to-edgy side of euro Prog, with the more tuneful/mellow US West Coast psychedelic rock-making for a rather distinctive, at times darting & fairly unique sound. Here from Esoteric Recordings-Cherry Reds prog label is Mind Funeral- a two-disc set that brings together the bands only two albums 1971’s Wide Open N-Way, and 1972’s The Neighbour’s Son- along with a few bonus tracks.
The two CD’s are presented in a fold-out white blue, red & brown colour themed digipak. Inside we get a twenty-page booklet, featuring full credits, track listings, and a new seven-page write-up about the albums & the band's history by regular Prog Magazine writer Sid Smith.
The band where formed in Copenhagen in 1968 from the remnants of rhythm & blues band The Maniacs- with the first line-up bringing together native English singer/guitarist Cy Nicklin, Ole Prehn- guitarist, Karsten Lyng- lead guitar, Jess Stæhr – bass, and Henrik Friis- drum/ percussion. This line-up recorded the 1968 single "Tell Me"/ "I Think It’s Going Rain Today"- but by late 1969 Cy Nicklin & Jess Stæhr had left- Nicklin forming Culpeper’s Orchard, and Stæhr joined the excellent Danish prog band Burning Red Ivanhoe.
The band's debut album Wide Open N-way appeared in 1971 on Green Gramophone- with the line-up of Ole Prehn- six & twelve-string guitar & vocals, Erik Stedet- Electric Bass, piano, and saw. Henrik Friis-drums & percussion. Karsten Lyng- Lead Guitars, and Hans Lauridsen-lead vocals. The original album took in five tracks- with three of these falling between eleven & thirteen-minute mark, and the sound through-out is decidedly shifting- moving between mellow & sun hazed tuneful-ness, darting angularity, and playful –to-light trippiness- all making for a nicely varied & unpredictable album. The album kicks off with “Cellophane #1- #2” this 13.12 track moves from mellow & lightly bonding electric/acoustic guitar playing that’s topping rising sing-song male vocals. Onto darting & angular prog rolls, though to gunning blues-rock jamming, over to darker-slightly-discordant proto indie rock-outs. By track three we've come to one of the straighter & less shifting moments of the album with “If You Ask Me” with it's darkly tolling & bounding blues-rock moodiness. Second to last we have the wonderful titled “Mind Funeral”- this shifts from grooving & gunning organ fired blues-rock, onto lulling-to-mellow cascading 12 string acoustic & electric guitar work-outs, through to chugging and bounding riff craft that’s edged with darting jazzed-out piano runs. With the album been topped-off with the mellow-yet- galloping acoustic guitar & male hippy vocals of “Tick-Tack”. This first disc is topped off with the bands first single taking in “Tell Me” which is more straight blend of pounding blue rock & West Coast rock, and “I Think It’s Going To Rain” which sits somewhere between twanging 'n' wailing blues and up-beat rock balladeering.
Disc two takes in the bands second & last album The Neighbor’s Son- which was released in 1972. This ten-track affair found the band going for a more straight & approachable sound-with most of the tracks hitting between just over two and four minutes. It opens with the upbeat piano-led 70’s rock-pop of “I’m Feeling So Lonely”. Moving to jiving & churning rock groove of “It’s Along Way” with its great rising & tolling piano chorus. Onto the urgent bounding blues rock of “So We Meet Again”- which rather brought to mind the first Mother of Invention album, with it's blend of urgently chanted male rock vocals. The bands more sweeter-to- sourly bounding side is only fully indulge on one track on this album “Paradox” which is also the longest track here at six and a half minutes. It moves from tolling & slightly discordant choppy guitar ‘n’ organ riffing, onto swooping & swooning Birds like chorusing- with moments of buzzing synth craft & baying guitar scaping. This second disc is topped off with the 1971 single "Deep Within The Storm" & it’s B-side "Chicken Skin"- the first track is fairly even mix between choppy 70’s rock craft and wavering Birds like vocalising, and the latter is a bit more interesting with its shift between glum–yet-shimmering electro-acoustic riff craft, and more wailing blues-rock chops- with once again a early Mothers Of Invention vibe on the vocals.
As a collection Mind Funeral certainly highlights how a bands sound can change & develop over time. Initially I enjoyed the more adventurous & shifting sound of the first album, but over time I’ve been equally drawn to the more straight forward & memorable second album too- as it still has it's own charms, with the bands distinctive & at points adventurous touches in place. It would have been most interesting to hear what a third album might have sounded like…but I guess we, ll never know now.