Nine Days Wonder - The Best Years Of Our Life?

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Garden Of Delights
Catalog Number: CD 057
Format: CD
Total Time: 62:33:00

Nine Days Wonder's The Best Years Of Our Life? is a collection of forgotten pieces that the band recorded that band member Walter Seyffer found in "boxes and crates when I was moving house?" He opens the liner notes by mentioning this fact and the poor quality the tapes were in. But enough for an album was salvaged and presented here by Garden Of Delights. As usual, there is a biography of the band as well as pictures, here quite a few, and a discography.

Nine Days Wonder's music itself is a collection of elements or influences from various different bands all combined together. They were a heavy, bluesy, jazzy, sometimes fusiony, rock band who were active, in various line ups (see the Musicians section below), from 1971 through 1976. You'd think that this variable line up would account for the band's various sounds, but truly the variation happens within each track, as well as between, in some cases it seeming as though the band got bored with one rhythm before they'd played more than one or two measures, switching to something else. It is isn't as choppy as that sounds, as the transitions flow easily from one to the other, but trying to say any one piece is any one thing is difficult at best. But, that doesn't mean I can't give you an overview with examples.

"Yellow Rose" is, perhaps, the track that illustrates this variation best as it sounds like a lot of different folks at different times - a guitar part that reminds of America, a vocal bit that reminds of Peter Gabriel, organs that remind of Procol Harum, and a David Bowie-like voice all mixed together. What Seyffer says of this piece is "[h]ere we have a construction of interestingly different musical aspects, which later, bit by bit, can be detected on [?] Sonnet To Billy Frost. A typical part of the creation of that album was the use of worthwhile 'residues'."

In fact, what I hear mostly in the material from 1972 and later is a David Bowie influence, especially in one of the pieces I especially like, "Time Is Due" (1974). What I like about it is the shimmeriness of the chorus. Okay, I must add that it's so very 70s, bringing forth images of the disco ball and silver lamé jumpsuits -- funny how lamé and lame are spelled the same (but for the accent) isn't it? Bowieness can be heard on the track that follows, "Lipstick" (which also features ex-Van Der Graff Generator saxophonist Dave Jackson). In both cases, if you think of Bowie's performance in "Suffragette City," then you'll understand what I'm getting at. A bit of this is also present in "Long Distance Line," but truly here the feel is of The Who. Here Seyffer sounds like both Daltrey and Townsend at the same time, though the arrangement seems more Townsend (with a thin slice of MeatLoaf in certain phrasings).

The first two tracks on the CD are, according to Seyffer, atypical. "North Pole" and "Look At This" were recorded as result of their manager suggesting they record "something more commericial." Listening to the whole collection, those first two don't really sound too far from the rest of the material. One difference is that saxophonist/flutist John "Irish" Earle is on vocals rather than Seyffer, the former having a raspy, "whisky soaked" type of voice, while Seyffer has a smoother voice. "North Pole" is funkier than the rest of the material, with female backing vocalists not heard elsewhere, and unlike elsewhere, one thinks a bit of Jimi Hendrix at times in terms of overall vibe. These two, and the following two pieces, "Drag Dilemma" and "Mechanical Adventures" (which were recorded at a radio broadcast at VfR Hall in Mannheim) date from 1971, when sax and flute were much more prominent in the band's sound. A highlight comes in the latter of these, "Mechanical Adventures," a track that appeared on their second album, We Never Lost Control, as "We Grasp The Naked Meat." While this is initially a mellow piece, almost balladic, soon it is as if they were bored with that after only a few measures and shifts gears into more energetic, bluesy, organ and sax dominated piece. The other piece recorded then, "Drag Dilemma," is so varied that at the 10-minute mark one gets a hint or two of something that sounds like hard-rock Elvis.

"Andromeda Nomads" is an upbeat piece, prompting the word "whimsical" to come to mind again (cf. my review of Krakatoa). It starts in a very breezy and easy manner, moving into a late 50s/ early 60s style rocker, and quite danceable. This kind of rhythm continues in the more contemporary (i.e., 70s) piece "Lemming," a piece that was previously unreleased (as was the earlier "Lipstick").

Some of the other artists name-checked in the blurb at the GoD website are Mothers Of Invention, Soft Machine, Supersister and King Crimson, among others. I don't hear Crimson at all, except that maybe Seyffer sounds vaguely like Greg Lake. But then the comparison really would be to ELP's rock pieces - "Benny The Bouncer" or "Jeremy Bender" - which they don't.

The performances are good, especially as some of these were demo versions of material. But there is nothing here that makes this an essential release for those who aren't already Nine Days Wonders fans. But then, archival releases are generally directed towards those collector types. It is not especially prog, though there are some progressive leanings in the earliest material. But for those who are fans, the inclusion of previously unreleased or alternate versions of released pieces would certainly be of interest.

North Pole (3:04) / Look At This (2:46) / Drag Dilemma (12:53) / Mechanical Adventures (10:50) / Andromeda Nomads (4:19) / Lemming (3:00) / Time Is Due (5:25) / Lipstick (3:37) / Yellow Rose (6:35) / Only The Dancers (3:02) / Frustration (3:20) / Long Distance Line (5:43)

Walter Seyffer - lead vocals, drums, percussion (all tracks)
John "Irish" Earle - sax, flute, guitar, vocals (1-4)
Rolf Henning - guitar, piano, (1-4, 7-8, 10-12)
Karl Mutschlechner - bass (1-4)
Martin Roscoe - drums (1-4)
Michael Bundt - bass (5 - 8)
Hans Frauenschuh - guitar (5-7)
Freddie Münster - saxophone, keyboards (5-7)
Karl-Heinz Weiler - drums (5-7)
Sidhatta Gautama - drums (7-8, 10-12)
Steve Robinson - keyboards (7, 8)
Rainer Saam - bass (11-12)
Bernd Unger - guitar, vocals (11-12),BR> Peter Oehler - guitar, vocals (11-12)


Dave Jackson - saxophone, flute (8)

Nine Days Wonder (1971)
We Never Lost Control (1973)
Only The Dancers (1974)
Sonnet To Billy Frost (1976)
The Best Years Of Our Life? (2001)

Genre: Various

Origin DE

Added: August 9th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 716
Language: english


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