The prog universe is full of surprises. In my search for obscure prog bands I just happened to discover Universe. Although not quite as profound or mysterious as the universe we inhabit, the band is by far one of the best American prog bands I’ve ever heard. Mixing the sounds of Hawkwind and Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, Universe successfully created their own acid rock sound. Formed in the mid 1970s in California by Gary Paul Van and Dennis Lee Askew, Universe released one eponymous album in 1977, and what an album it was. Before you even listen to the music, you should dedicate some time to appreciate the album cover for its psychedelic beauty. I’ll let everyone appreciate it before I carry on.
Notice the dove and the crosses on the cover. There are religious overtones on this album. The last song, titled “Light From Above,” is the most explicity religious song on the album. The lyrics are not a distraction, however; rather, Van’s ethereal vocal work on each song only emphasizes the brilliant cosmic vibe (in the humble opinion of a self described connoisseur of space rock). Each song is keyboard, synthesizer, and guitar driven and all are performed with equal dexterity. Some highlights:
Touchdown features fine acoustic and electric guitar work. It is the longest song on the album (about 10 minutes) and reminds me of the Yes masterpiece Awaken.
Dream is the “spaciest” song on the album and may remind some listeners of The Beatles’ psychedelic classic Tomorrow Never Knows.
Remember the Stars opens with a bang and transitions with cosmic delight to Light From Above; it is one of the best American acid rock songs I’ve ever heard and my favorite piece on the album.
This is another one of those albums that does not receive the attention it deserves. All seven songs can be found on Youtube, but unfortunately none are for sale on iTunes. Although Universe will appeal mostly to fans of acid and space rock, anyone who calls themselves a progger will enjoy this album (at least to some extent).
“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything” -Plato