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Simply Saucer - Half Human, Half Live (2008)



Three decades after they crashed and burned, these long-lost '70s psych-punks from Hamilton have risen like a Phoenix. And on this long-overdue disc divided between recent studio and live recordings, they are definitely flying high. Moving nimbly from scrappy garage-rockers to grand space epics and acoustic hippie-folk, they do a fine job of making up for that lost time. -Darryl Sterdan

This four-piece band from Hamilton, Ontario, was formed in 1973 by Edgar Breau on lead guitar and vocals, Kevin Christoff on bass, Neil DeMerchant on drums, and Ping Romany on electronics. Though Simply Saucer had the guts to bring together tremendous influences from rock's past, including the Velvet Underground, early Pink Floyd, and the Stooges, the band was hardly noticed outside of its local area. After numerous lineup changes and shifts in sound, Simply Saucer disbanded by the end of the '70s, leaving only partial live recordings and a few studio tracks produced by Bob and Daniel Lanois in their basement. The Lanois brothers would become super-producers, but the only lasting product of that time was a reissue on Fistpuppet/Cargo, which includes the original Lanois recordings and some live tracks recorded on top of a shopping mall in downtown Hamilton.

Nearly three decades went by, and then in 2007, after regrouping for a reunion gig at the Casbah in their hometown, they returned to the studio to record Half Human, Half Live for their new label, Sonic Unyon. ~ Matt Carlson

Edgar Breau - vocals, guitar, acoustic guitar
Kevin Christoff - vocals, upright bass, bass guitar
Stephen Foster - guitar, banjo
Daniel Wintermans - guitar, piano, synthesizer, Moog synthesizer, Theremin
Joseph Csontos - drums

Simply Saucer had been out of commission for more than a decade when Cyborgs Revisited, a collection of demos and live tracks they recorded in the mid-'70s, was issued on vinyl in 1989 and established the group as a record collector geek's dream band -- a group laboring in utter obscurity who were creating something truly unique, a wacked-out fusion of Can, the Velvet Underground, the Kinks, and Syd Barrett created at a time when even those wildly influential acts were off the radar of most rock fans, especially in the Canadian factory town of Hamilton, Ontario. When Cyborgs Revisited was reissued on CD in 2003 with a stack of bonus tracks, the buzz about Simply Saucer grew a bit louder, but no one was honestly expecting the band to ever re-form (especially given the fact lead guitarist and singer Edgar Breau had given up electric guitar after quitting the band), making the existence of Half Human, Half Live, the first proper Simply Saucer album, something of a surprise. While Breau and bassist Kevin Christoff are the only two members of the original edition of Simply Saucer to appear on these sessions, the sound and feel of this album is consistent with the scraps collected on Cyborgs Revisited, though this material has the advantage of having been recorded under more welcoming circumstances, in a proper studio and with a solid lineup of musicians, and the three way fusion of the trippy, the furious, and the joyous is still potent and effective nearly three decades after the group gave up the ghost. Breau's voice isn't what it once was, but his hearty bellow works just fine on many of these songs, and for a guy who gave up rock for acoustic folk in 1979, he can still conjure up an impressive wall of electric noise, though new members Daniel Wintermans and Stephen Foster certainly help. And if the '60s pop influences of "Almost Ready Betty" and the pastoral acoustic folk-rock of "Dandelion Kingdom" seem a bit outside the boundaries of what one might expect from Simply Saucer, Breau is certainly entitled to a bit of reinvention after so many years of hibernation. Half Human, Half Live features six new compositions recorded in the studio and six Simply Saucer chestnuts played for a small but enthusiastic live audience, and while the studio tracks rock with genuine authority, live the new group sound just a bit tentative, though they build up an impressive head of steam by the end of "Illegal Bodies." If Half Human, Half Live isn't quite the triumph one might have hoped for, it does nothing to tarnish the legacy of this great invisible band, and suggests Breau's musical ambitions are still impressive (and still evolving) in the 21st century, and hopefully this isn't the last we'll hear from this band. ~ Mark Deming, All Music Guide

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