Soooo, after one album that's not at all space rock, two 'proper' space rock bands, three psych-pop albums (well, two, but one is a double), four Hawkwind reissues, five links and six 'shout out' for friends ... we are back to a single review. But! To capture and keep the symmetry, and to make a posting that I've been intending to do for many months and hadn't so far had an opportunity to, it comes with seven photographs taken by Roger Neville-Neil who is no stranger to the blog, a contributor to Sonic Assassins and whose concept album with Don Falcone and Spirits Burning, Behold The Action Man, is, I'm delighted to say, now pressed and on-sale, just eighteen months after being previewed here! Best laid plans and all that, but I'm really chuffed to see that it's now available.
Roger's been photographing bands for many years – you'll see some of his Hawkwind studio photographs in Sonic Assassins – and continues to do so among his other creative interests which most notably include the 'Film Noir / Hard-Boiled' styled live reviews that have been appearing in Aural Innovations over the past few years. He sent over some of his Mars Retrieval Unit pictures after I'd reviewed the band's Soundcloud page quite some time ago, and also sent a copy of their Two Sides album.
Here's what I was saying about MRU back then. "I've heard from Joel Davis of Portland band Mars Retrieval Unit, or MRU, who recently had the opportunity to support Ozric Tentacles in Portland. They've just released a CD, Two Sides, and Joel's directed me to some tracks that he particularly thinks of as being space rock. I'll note these tracks here and plan to produce a proper review in due course. 'Amanita Dream' is a delicious mix of a rather clean and cool jazz sound mixed with a heavier spacey lilt in places, 'Osmosis' (featuring dual vocals that I believe are from Chelsea Luker, who is really good on 'Amanita Dream', and guitarist Rob Sipsky) is again a clean sounding, leaning almost to AOR, song with some lovely sax playing, also from Chelsea, extending out to ten and a half minutes so that MRU can lay claim to jam band status in the way that they extend and use the running time – though I don't know much about them aside from one live CD in my collection I'd say they touch a bit of the same ground as Phish. 'Ares' has space rock lyrical themes and resides to towards the modern progressive rock side of the genre, consummately professional in delivery and contemporary in feel. I've delved into their Facebook page and see that my old mate Roger Neville-Neil is a fan of theirs – that's a good enough recommendation for me and I'll follow up and cover this band in more depth in the future."
In writing up Two Sides, which I liked very much indeed, I can't really add too much to what I wrote back then, really. It's consummate and smooth progressive jazz rock that wanders into space rock imagery, principally lyrically but occasionally in its sounds, though certainly not in a heavy way. Instead the music is night-time jazz with a touch of the jam-band and, most everywhere, Chelsea Luker's sophisticated and silky sax blowing. What they have, they have a sound that is slick and, in a way, quite visual; not visual in any specific imagery but just a music that is bright and vibrant and extremely classy. Where a lot of the bands that get reviewed here are outfits for the great festival outdoors, MRU have a nightclub vibe to them – you'd hear them indoors – it's that sort of groove. Here are seven of Roger's excellent pictures for the seventh in this blogging sequence – huge thanks to Roger for both the photos and sending the album across! (Please note all photos (c) Roger Neville-Neil and used with kind permission; do not reproduce without Roger's knowledge and agreement).