Various Artists - Living On The Hill – A Danish Underground Trip 196 [Esoteric Records/ Cherry Red - 2020]In recent years Esoteric Records, Cherry Red's more prog focused sub-label has put out some great reissue from the Danish underground rock scene of the late sixties-to- seventies. Like album reissues from the likes of Burning’ Red Ivanhoe, and more recently a double-disc reissue of the two albums from Day Of Phoenix- who blended euro Prog with US West Coast psychedelic rock. So it’s great to see the label digging deeper into the Danish underground for this new three-disc/thirty-two track compilation- which sees known names sitting along with side lesser-known names for a nicely varied collection.
As this is a Cherry Red release you know you're going to a classy, well researched, and well put together release. The three CD set comes in a glossy flip-side box, featuring yellow, orange & blue colour scheme- with the front of the box featuring a selection of nine featured band photos. Each of the discs comes in its own slipcase- with the whole thing been topped off with a wonderful colourful thirty five page inlay booklet- this features detailed write-ups about each featured band, release artwork, & band pics. We also get a two-page write-up about the collection from Mark Powell, and of course full credits- so you can track down the original album/ release if you so fancy- so another really nice job.
As the compilation titles mentions it runs through the years 1967-to-1974, and this is followed chronologically over the three discs- so disc one runs with tracks from 1967-1970. It begins with a track from the wonderful named Beef Eaters- “Night Flight” is a nicely bounding blend of churning psych guitars, simmering organ lines, tick-tocking drums, and a rather unexpected breakdown which finds pared-back groove, and what might be a recording of mission control just before liftoff. As we move through we come to clunky piano & guitar churn-meets-jiving vocal wackiness-to soaring vocalising of “Long Before I Was Born” by Savage Rose- which sounds like a crossbreed between The Mothers of Invention & Jefferson Airplane. We have the playful flute & horn, warbling break downs, chanted male vocals, and simmering psych-rock to R’n’ B churn of “Kragrene Vender” by Young Flowers. Though to swirling wind sound effect baying, cheeky ‘n’ freaky bass playing & skittering percussion of Rainbow Bands “B.M.”. In all the first disc takes in eleven tracks, and seventy-eight minutes of music.
Moving onto disc number two, and we go from 1970-to-1971. This disc takes in nine tracks, and seventy-five minutes of music. We move from the pounding & steady jazz touched R ‘n’ B of Pan’s “To Get Along” with great urgent gravely vocals, & jaunting piano runs that come into towards the end of the track. Onto manic organ runs fed prog & warbling-to-soaring male vocals “Living Dead” by The Old Man & The Sea, which sounds like a more wayward & playful take on early Yes. Onto the epic just over fifteen minutes of Rainbow Band- Midnight Sun’s “Living On The Hillside” which moves from bonding organ-heavy jazz-rock, cluttering drums & jazz breakdown, chanted male vocals & rock groove, and more ringing ’n’ roaring jam rock work-outs.
Last up of course in disc three- this runs from the years 1971 to 1974, with twelve tracks & seventy-eight minutes of music. This disc opens with the wailing & rising organ, blinking /blooping guitar, and Jim Morrison like grand & poetic vocals of Ache’s “Equatorial Rain” which later explodes into ringing organ & bounding rock-out. Onto rough ‘n’ ready rock riffing-meets almost eastern tinged jazz rock- meets elegant jazzy piano runs of Midnights Suns “ A La Turca”. Through to the jaunting vibe lined, horn edged, and cheeky romping groove of Dr. Dopo Jam’s ”Spring Theme-Summer Theme”.
In conclusion, Living On The Hill is another extremely well balanced & wholly enjoyable compilation from Cherry Red- and like the best collections, it’s left me a new list of bands/ releases I want to check out. If you're into underground rock of the ’60s & 70’s this really is a no brainer, and a super great introduction to the Danish scene- and with a very reasonable price-tag of £19.99- direct from Cherry Red here, it’s a bargain too!Roger Batty