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Customer reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
Format: Audio CD|Change

Calling your band after a burrowing nocturnal African mammal (of the Tubulidentata family if you must know) and denying your group guitars of 'any' kind was probably not the smartest of moves. And just to annoy punters even further - you release the damn thing in Mono and Stereo at the beginning of a decade when Mono was so last - well - last decade. But then it was early 1970 and this was Prog Rock.

As Jon Wright's hugely informative and level-headed liner notes tell us - AARDVARK hailed from the Midlands of England and were the brainchild of principal Songwriter and Vocalist DAVE SKILLIN who along with trio of hard-shelled hairy-men signed to Decca's Prog and Avant Garde label 'Deram Nova' and released their eponymous and lone album in March 1970 to deafening disinterest and equally cruel sales charts.

However heroes of all things Prog Reissue - 'Esoteric Recordings' of the UK (part of Cherry Red's label roster) feel there's a reason for those £350 and £250 price tags in the latest Record Collector Price Guide (2018 issue) - and its not just that either format is ludicrously rare (£350 for the Mono in its famous Red Inner Bag) - but that the music actually warrants a second look. And I think they're partially right. There’s some genuinely great stuff on offer here for genre lovers - shades of Van Der Graaf Generator, Focus and Rare Bird with a driving Hammond-Organ anchoring the sound. If that grabs you by the Prehistoric Species – then here are long-nosed details...

UK released 25 July 2011 (2 August 2011 in the USA) - "Aardvark" by AARDVARK on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2286 (Barcode 5013929738621) is a straightforward CD Reissue and Remaster of their 1970 debut album and plays out as follows (43:04 minutes):

1. Copper Sunset
2. Very Nice Of You To Call
3. Many Things To Do
4. The Greencap
5. I Can't Stop
6. The Outing - Yes [Side 2]
7. Once Upon A Hill
8. Put That In Your Pipe And Smoke It
Tracks 1 to 8 are their debut (and only) album "Aardvark" - released March 1970 in the UK on Deram Nova DN 17 (Mono) and Deram Nova SDN 17 (Stereo) - the Stereo mix is used for this CD. Produced by DAVID HITCHCOCK - All songs are written by David Skillin except "Once Upon A Hill" which is by Steve Aldous.

STEVE MILLINER - Organ, Piano, Celeste, Vibes, Marimba & Recorders
FRANK CLARK - Drums and Percussion

Co-ordinated by the label's head honcho MARK POWELL - the 18-page booklet is the usual feast of rare photos (Biography Pages, Tape Boxes, the cute Aardvark logo and a bunch of publicity photos of the four-piece looking like students of Tolkien in need of a good wash and a proper day job). The CD is a picture disc and there’s an advert photo beneath the see-through tray for other like-minded bands reissued by Esoteric (Home, Dog Soldier, Earth And Fire and Tudor Lodge) - the album is also available digitally from losttune.com

It's a shame the Mono Mix isn't here as it was the last LP apparently put out by Deram Nova in that format (no room of course). But that mix absence is more than made up for by an amazing Remaster from original tapes by BEN WISEMAN and PASCHAL BYRNE of the Stereo Version. Wiseman and Byrne are Audio Engineers who've handling huge numbers of Rock Reissues both for Esoteric and other labels. This CD sounds incredible - punchy, clear and in amazing clarity...

The music borders on brilliance and boredom - the opening song "Copper Sunset" features a Jon Lord keyboard raunch - like "Fireball" Deep Purple but without Blackmore's guitar. But that's let down by silly knob like "The Outing - Yes" where they sing "we're going away" repeatedly against a swirling backdrop of mad keyboards - the kind of Prog nonsense that stretches your patience at a full ten-minutes. But then there's the very cool Piano shuffle of "Very Nice Of You To Call" when suddenly they're Caravan or even Soft Machine. "Many Things To Do" is very swirling Prog with treated drums and a great underlying Hammond Organ drive.

There's no doubting the chops of Keyboardist Steve Milliner who'd played with the much-revered Black Cat Bones (featured Simon Kirke and Paul Kossoff of Free) - his soloing on "The Greencap" is superb - while even Bassist Steve Aldous gets a go on the track making his instrument sound like a fuzzed-up guitar (very Jack Bruce from Cream or Chris Squire from Yes). The three-minute "Once Upon A Hill" is a whimsical instrumental dance and comes complete with fairy-lore Celeste and Recorder sounds wafting above the C.S. Lewis soundscape. It ends on the near eight-minutes of "Put That In Your Pipe And Smoke It" - a full-on keyboard swirling Prog whig out - all doom laden keys - thumping fuzzy bass and thrashing drums. Proper out-there Prog - but not for the faint hearted frankly...

It's all dreadfully dated of course - but like so much Prog - there is always something worth returning to and much of it is just so imaginative. Snout down - armour on - once more into the Midlands clay for Aardvark and their truly eclectic underground rarity...
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on 3 August 2011
I have just bought the 'Aardvark' album because as an avid fan of 70's Prog Rock I have consistently been reading what a great debut album it was and also what a shame it was that they didn't release a follow up. Now that it has been remastered I thought it was time I checked the album out for myself and I must say I am not dissapointed. Although some of the songs go on a shade too long ('The Outing - Yes') that's the way it was back then. Prog bands would all experiment by stretching themselves as far as they could. In order to be able to do this you had to have great musicians to begin with of course, and that is exactly what you have here. Steve Milliner's keyboard work is extraordinary and would have had to have been in order to compensate for the band not featuring a lead guitar player. Not that unusual at the time. Keith Emerson (The Nice/ELP) and Vincent Crane (Atomic Rooster) being two other classicaly trained Hammond Organ players of the period who had no problem at all in creating sounds interesting enough to sustain a keys, drums & base set up and Milliner is no different here. Along with the powerful and varied drumming of the young Frank Clark (wow! what a drummer he was, and only 17 years old) they managed to drive this exiting unit fearlesly along. Although Dave Skillin's vocals are not great, his unique style and evocative, off the wall lyrics are enough to keep the listener glued. However,it is the musicianship of messer's Milliner, Clark and Stan Aldous on base that makes this album as exiting as it is. Best tracks for me are 'Very Nice Of You To Call', 'I Can't Stop', 'Once Upon A Hill' and 'Put That In Your Pipe And Smoke It' which was apparently the original title for this terrific album (wonder why the old guard at Decca scrapped that idea?)It's a trajedy that Aardvark did not go on to record a second album. Had they done so, there is more than enough evidence herein to predict that it would have surely catapulted them to that honorary position of Prog Rock God's that their talent truly deserved.
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on 4 August 2012
Operativni prog,vrlo furiozan s malim ehom Floyda na dugu The Outing-Yes!Prekrasna Once Upon a Hill u laganom stilu.Zadnja skladba pokazuje koliko je bend bio u glazbenoj kondiciji.Pomalo konfuzno slozen,album zavrjedjuje punu paznju prog fanova,cucete odlicno bubnjanje i dobre orgulje(ex.BLACK CAT BONES).Vrjedno nabave jer ipak je ovo mali biser Brit proga!
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on 30 October 2015
For those of you thinking of buying this LP, It may not be everyone's taste, but to lovers of progressive keyboard-driven rock it's pretty good, no filler and definitely a bit wild. In fact it's crazy-man-crazy wild-man-of-Borneo wild with some excellent improvisation and hard rocking
tracks that don't disappoint. There is a bit of meandering off course, but not much, and mostly it's a beneficial listening experience with few injuries. No lead guitars, it's all keyboards, drums and bass with vocals and that is definitely part of it's appeal. A great album from 1970,
and merits 4 stars easily.
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on 13 October 2012
Having named themselves Aardvark no doubt to ensure they would be the first band buyers would come across at the record stores (the English jazz-rock band Zzebra had more or less the same idea a few ears later), this band's only album is a great example of how good prog can be without electric guitar when one has an able and creative organ player. Aardvark had such a player, and he came up with some fantastic riffs, as on Copper Sunset, where it sounds like he has added some fuzz or distortion to make the riffs sound heavier, much like the Supersister organist. He demonstrates that he can improvise well too. There are a few moments when the momentum is lost, but on the whole for me this is a 5 star album.
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on 6 October 2005
A Truly stonking LP from start to finish, it may contain no guitars at all, but that just adds to the appeal. The Lp starts off with the song "Copper Sunset" a Hammond heavy groovy riff based tune, this type of stuff carries on through the cd until track 6 "The Outing - Yes", which starts off as an annoying little pop ditty (a'la Giles & fripp)before turning into a psychotic electro Hammond weirdo freak-out improv. The next song "Once Upon A Hill" is a nice quiet refrain obviously influenced by traditional English folk songs (Scarborough Fair, greensleeves). The Last track on the cd is "Put That In Your Pipe & Smoke It" which finishes this U.K. Prog Gem off nicely with another crazy freak-out improvisation. So if you like the sound of it and have a spare £70 to £100 go out and buy it on vinyl if not the cd is certainly a more viable option....
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on 4 August 2012
One of the GREAT lost albums from the days when groups went out on a limb,in this case with fantastic results from the weirdest "Greencap" to the beautiful "Once upon a hill".Just don't expect the usual guitar noodling.
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on 17 April 2013
excellent service arrived well within time scale.. great CD, bought for my partner who is an avide music fan and he loved it.
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on 21 November 2013
This is really a piece of old hat boring stuff, just constant organ music going nowhere !
I fell asleep half way through, thank god!
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on 21 November 2011
Lots of hype about this old album. They have something going here and with a limited output this is a bit of buried treasure.
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