Yezda Urfa - Boris

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Syn-Phonic
Catalog Number: SYNCD 20
Format: CD
Total Time: 52:51:00

This summer's release from Syn-Phonic scores pretty high marks for a number of reasons. But let's back up for a moment though, ok?

Yezda Urfa (who appeared at this year's NEARfest) was/is a Midwestern progressive outfit from the mid 1970s. They recorded an album titled Boris on a shoestring budget and pressed a few hundred copies with the idea of getting a recording contract and some radio airplay.

This effort failed on a massive level but, undeterred, the band pressed on, reworking some of the tunes from Boris and, adding their newest material, recorded another album, Sacred Baboon. This second recording was never released in any format until many years later when Syn-Phonic picked it up and offered it on CD (so you're with me now ? right? The second album was released first and I'm babbling on about the first one now ? see?). A few months ago I learned that the original recording, Boris, was to be released on CD. I was also lucky enough to obtain a CD rip from an old LP copy of this gem. So please forgive me if I seem to be unusually excited about this release, because I am excited!

The band we hear on this new release is eccentric, eclectic and sometimes baffling. This is a bizarre mixture of symphonic progressive, hardcore punk, and even a bit of bluegrass. This sounds like a collision of Yes, Gentle Giant and The Dead Kennedys. Is that quirky enough for you? I hope so, because this release is definitely a wild ride. This music is unanchored in any conventional sense of rhythm, meter or melodic development. This is music that is wildly extreme in its form and style, often manic, but often successful as well. After now hearing both the original LP version and the new CD release, I must say that it appears that this release was indeed re-mastered, but not re-mixed or enhanced to any noticeable effect. This still sounds like a low budget affair, but the quality of some of this music demands the listener's attention nonetheless. There is a fair amount of bleed through, clearly left over from the original sessions, and sometimes the predominant instrument seems to be drummer Brad Cristoff's bass drum. None of this, however, detracts from the overall favorable impression I have of this band and their music.

Some of you have certainly heard Sacred Baboon and will be familiar then with half the material from Boris. I believe half the tunes from Boris are absolutely top-notch and the other half are merely interesting. Interestingly enough, this is the same assessment I had given Sacred Baboon. Interesting because the best three songs from Sacred Baboon also appear on Boris, but in their original, and I feel better, form.

Boris was recorded at the end of what the band describes as their "acoustic" period, and this is what accounts for most of the difference of the material that is common to both of the bands releases. "Boris And His Three Verses, Including Flow Guides Aren't My Bag" (don't you love the song titles?), "3, Almost 4, 6, Yea" and "To-Ta In The Moya" all appear on both releases, and on Boris they feature a great deal of acoustic guitar and piano in spots that were later re-scored for electric instrumentation. Another huge difference between the renditions of these numbers on Boris and the later versions recorded for Sacred Baboon is the lack of any vocal harmonies on the later efforts. Some of the best elements common to good symphonic progressive rock are, obviously, a blend of electric and acoustic instrumentation and, just as important, vocal harmonies. These two elements alone make the earlier recordings heard on Boris far better than the later, somewhat slicker versions. There are other differences as well, differences that also make the earlier recordings superior. The earlier version of "3, Almost 4, 6, Yea" begins with a brief, but very nice piano etude that is stripped from the later recording. Keyboardist Phil Kimbrough tends to favour Moog, electric piano and clavinet on these original cuts, while the later recordings feature more synthesizers and organ. Vocalist Rick Rodenbaugh was in better voice on Boris, and to my ears at least, the tempo of some of these three tunes is ever so slightly slower, just enough to make a noticeable difference for the better.

Boris represents the band's original vision of this material. There is a wonderfully organic and open feel to the music, a beautiful naivety that makes this ever so odd mix of musical influence quite engaging and refreshing.

If you have heard and enjoyed the music of Yezda Urfa, I would urge you to get a copy of Boris and give the earlier music of this band a shot. This release is full of great symphonic music injected with loony, comical, breakneck speed interludes quite unlike that of any other band I am familiar with. Sure, sometimes it sounds like it was recorded in someone's garage, but so what?

This is great music from a band that never took itself too seriously, and was clearly not afraid to have a good time. Thanks to that, we can all expect to have a great bit of fun with this new release. I recommend it highly.

Boris And His 3 Verses, Including Flow Guides Aren't My Bag (10:51) / Texas Armadillo (1:51) / 3, Almost 4, 6, Yea (8:49) / To-Ta In The Moya (10:56) / Three Tons Of Fresh Thyroid Glands (10:21) / The Basis Of Dubenglazy While Dirk Does The Dance (9:51)

Brad Cristoff - drums, percussion
Phil Kimbrough - keyboards, synthesizer, mandolin, wind instruments, vocals
Mark Tippins - bass, vocals
Marc Miller - bass, vocals
Rick Rodenbaugh - lead vocals

Boris (1975)
Sacred Baboon (rec. 1976/rel. 1989/1992)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: July 25th 2004
Reviewer: Tom Karr
Artist website:
Hits: 978
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]