Fantasy, Sci-Fi and Horror themes are a source of inspiration for many progressive artists whether they are adapting literary classics from the masters or dreaming up their own original aural flights of fancy.
The Genesis tune "Attack Of The Giant Hogweed" owes more than a passing nod to John Wyndham's "Day Of The Triffids"; Sweden's keyboardist Bo Hannson and Glass Hammer turned to J.R.R. Tolkien for inspiration when recording "Lord Of The Rings" and "Journey Of The Dunadan"; Rick Wakeman adapted the Jules Verne novel "Journey To The Centre Of The Earth" for his first foray into a grand scale orchestral concept album - and returned to those cavernous neither regions 25 years later expanding upon the Verne's tale with his "Return To The Centre Of The Earth"; Jeff Wayne turned to the classic interplanetary invasion of H.G. Wells' "War Of The Worlds" for his two disc concept album; the French group Halloween were inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft for their album "Laz"; Hungarian symphonic rockers Solaris dazzled us with Ray Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles"; Alan Parson's Project turned to the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe for their debut album "Tales Of Mystery And Imagination"; and let's not forget Canadian rockers Rush who propelled us forward to the future with their classic "2112".
The list goes on and on to include tunes by Pink Floyd, YES, Saga, Pallas, King Crimson, Nektar, Hawkwind, The Moody Blues, IQ, Arena, Ethos, Eloy, Ayreon ... ad infinitum. Lets just say virtually every progressive band worth their salt has dabbled in sci-fi/fantasy prog at one time or another.
And it's not just restricted to progressive rock; sci-fi/fantasy and horror themes have been tapped into by artists of every genre including: Black Sabbath, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Alice Cooper, Gwar, White Zombie, Misfits, George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic, David Bowie, Sqwonk Opera, Deep Purple, Captain Beyond, and let's not forget Zager and Evans the godfathers of nihilistic sci-fi future with their Top 10 1969 single "In The Year 2525".
So when several artists from the now defunct Passport label came together to produce an epic concept album it was no wonder they looked to the cosmos for inspiration of their now legendary 1977 space opera "Intergalactic Touring Band". An epic tale of multi-generational space travel and colonization.
A who's who collection of prog and mainstream rock luminaries joined the fray, spearheaded by Larry Fast, who had made a name for himself as a pioneering synthesist with his project Synergy, producing the critically acclaimed instrumental albums "Electronic Realizations For Rock Orchestras" (1975) and "Sequencer" (1976)
Contributors included David Cousins (The Strawbs), Annie Haslam (Renaissance), Rod Argent, Meatloaf, Arthur Brown (The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown), Brian and Jim Cumo (Fireballet), Percy Jones (Brand X), Peppi Marchello (The Good Rats), Anthony Phillips (early Genesis), Ben E. King, Clarence Clemence (The E Street Band), Rick Parfett (Status Quo), and Marge Raymond (Flame) to name a few.
The musicians split into teams tackling songs best suited for their particular talents.
David Cousin crooned to "Heartbreaker", a gem of a song that could easily be mistaken as a track recorded for "Hero or Heroine", "Grave New World", "or "Ghosts" ... it captured the very essence of The Strawbs at the peek of their creative best.
The same can be said for the tune "Reaching Out" from Annie Haslam, it was reminiscent of her past albums with Renaissance ... and just as beautiful.
Rob Argent really got the crowd moving and grooving with his track "Silver Lady". Immediately followed by the primitive jungle beat and raucous voice of Arthur Brown as he beckons us to visit the "Universal Zoo". But it's that final track by the hefty powerhouse performer Meat Loaf who really brings down the house with his soulful closing track "Keeper Keep Us". One of the best tracks on the album. As a matter of fact it was this album that turned me on to Meat Loaf. Before "Intergalactic Touring Band" I had not yet discovered "Bat Out Of Hell" and only knew Meat Loaf from his appearance in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show". With a little boost from Passport Record the LP might have produced a few FM hit singles.
Unfortunately "Intergalactic Touring Band" isn't a perfect album by any stretch of the imagination. There are at least two songs I would have excluded: the funky number "Love Station", which had me looking for the closest escape pod - along with the tune "Space Commando". Two clunkers - but not enough to ruin the overall effect of the album. All others are near perfect, constructed with catchy hooks, great musicianship, superb production value, and an excellent sense of humor.
An example of that humor is the members of the Intergalactic Touring Band were given strange pseudonyms - listed as Raif Reed (Lase Guitar), Hope Larson (Lase Keyboard Player), Justice Conrad (Lase Bass), Ixol Phanne (Computerized Keyboard Synthesis) and Krys (Holographic Percussion). In reality the musicians were David Scance, Brian Cumo, Peter Sobel, Larry Fast and Paul Marchetti.
If you were lucky enough to have purchased the LP back in 1977 it was an impressive package, and also included an order blank for the 3077 Vibra Catalog in which you could purchase such useful items as your own personal Vibracon Globe (1000 Drimes), a Vibra Pocket Translator (46 Drimes), Vibra Image Projector (156 Drimes), Audio Video Laser Light Theater with Optical Disc Scanner plus as a special bonus the legendary Passport Records anthology (250 Drimes), The Magic Message (12 Drimes), and an Automatic Chef (74 Drimes per month). Also in the catalog - but restricted for sale only to Space Commandos was the Pultron Gun Stunner. And the special notice that Globe Robots were being withdrawn from the market for reasons beyond the control of the Company! I wonder how many orders Passport received for these bogus products? I considered the Vibra Image Projector but could never figure out the exchange rate from dollars to drimes.
I unfortunately sold my complete LP collection a while back and with it my cherished copy of "Intergalactic Touring band", but thankfully in 2002 Voiceprint digitally re-mastered and released the album on CD. And as is the case with most Cd's, the impressive packaging and extras of an LP were lacking, but the crystal clear sound quality was a vast improvement over my scratchy LP - and after all, it's the music I was after anyway when I picked up this little sci-fi treasure. Highly recommended to music and sci-fi fans.
A painstaking tribute to the album was created by Stephen Douglas Huddleston - complete with original artwork, story, lyrics, performers, and bogus product catalog at www.kongaloid.org/igtb
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on January 6th, 2012