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Secret Oyster: Sea Son

John Kelman By

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For the second in a series of overdue CD reissues from the 1970s Danish progressive/fusion group Secret Oyster, The Laser's Edge has chosen 1975's Sea Son. In contrast to the through-composed approach of the 1976 ballet score of Vidunderlige Kælling, Sea Son accurately mirrors the unit's improvisation-centric live performances.

Sea Son, Secret Oyster's second release, featured a different rhythm section and consequently took on a harder rock edge than the group's 1974 debut, Furtive Pearl. While Secret Oyster didn't demonstrate the kind of harmonic astuteness of seminal fusion groups like Mahavishnu Orchestra and Soft Machine, they were clear precedents. Secret Oyster shared much in common with later period Softs, in particular on tracks like "Pajamamafia, which starts out with a delicate 11/8 theme that echoes Softs' Karl Jenkins' more lyrical side and evolves into an equally Jenkins-like riff-based vamp featuring a semi-psychedelic soprano solo from saxophonist Karsten Vogel. Kenneth Knudsen delivers a high energy piano solo, and there's some equally frenetic work from guitarist Claus Bøhling—although the fade out and then fade in during his solo is pure '70s affect.

The plodding funk of "Black Mist features some Jan Hammer-informed Moog work, and an unfettered alto solo from Vogel recalls the intensity of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, as does "Paella, which features guest trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg—heard recently on Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal's Vossabrygg (ECM, 2006)—trading off in Mahavishnu-like fashion with Knudsen, Bøhling and Vogel.

But despite Secret Oyster's fusion leanings—including irregular meters and sometimes complex arrangements, as on the subdued "Mind Movie —there's also a neo-classical element to this music. That's evident on the opening to "Pajamamafia and, in particular, "Rainforest, where the group is augmented with a string quartet arranged by Mikkelborg. Still, at the end of the day, Secret Oyster was far more comfortable with the language of rock than jazz or classical music, evidenced in part by Bøhling's clean and bluesy tone.

While the occasional psychedelic leanings and lengthy jam vamps on Sea Son sound somewhat dated, the record still deserves attention from fans of progressive rock with a fusion edge. As with Vidunderlige Kælling, this release has been remastered in fine fashion, and three bonus tracks are also included—notably the title track and "Alfresco (Part 1), which were ultimately joined together to create "Pajamamafia.

Secret Oyster may not have had the widespread influence of more seminal progressive/fusion groups, but it had its own personality, and this reissue is good news for fans of the genre who can finally pick up on this overlooked band.


Track Listing: Oysterjungle; Mind Movie; Pajamamafia; Black Mist; Painforest; Paella. Bonus Tracks: Sea Son; Alfresco Part I; Alfresco Part II.

Personnel: Kenneth Knudsen: piano, moog; Claus B

Title: Sea Son | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: The Laser's Edge

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