Saturday, 9 January 2010

Lost Earth Disciples album 'Universal Man' rediscovered!

UPDATE: today (8/10/2011) I uploaded the track above - 'See The Earth From Space' - which is the opener from the lost second album Universal Man, by the great band , The Earth Disciples. Followers of my blog will know that I fervently hope for (and am working towards, albeit slowly) a day when the complete Earth Disciples will see the light of day as a de-luxe 'special-interest' re-release.

Wowzers! I'm writing this in a state of high excitement, having just received from the U.S. a CD, thanks to Reggie Austin and Reggie Harris (bassist and drummer respectively) containing recordings taken from an acetate (discovered by Skip Taylor, famous as manager of Canned Heat, amongst others, whose name you can just make out on the publicity photo shown here*) of the Earth Disciples lost 2nd album Universal Man.

Currently playing in my headphones is the opening track, a sprawling 6/8 odyssey called 'See The Earth In Space', the most overtly jazzy tune I've heard by the Disciples so far. A glance over the titles reveals a slightly more overt political consciousness at work: the first album, with titles like 'Serenade Of A Summer Butterfly', 'Spirit Of The Bells', 'La Bahemia', 'Earth Island Ferry' and 'Native Planet', evoked a kind of cosmic eco-consciousness, and a psychedelized summer warmth, where the titles on Universal Man seem to hint at more beneath the skin, 'Coronation Of The Sphinx' contrasting with 'Iberian Peasant', and 'Revolutionary Soldier' sitting right next to 'Lullaby For Little Ones'.

Another title with a political charge to it, and a martial military snare beat as an intro, is 'Portrait Of America', which segues into a jazz waltz after the slightly unusual musical departure of the intro. What this clearly shows is that the band weren't resting on their laurels, but pushing further in their sonic explorations. Rudy Reid (can anyone help us locate Rudy, or find out what's become of him?) plays lovely shimmering jazzy acoustic piano for the first time on this track, having up 'til now chosen to play electronic keys. The music continues to be a very strong alloy of different sources. 'Coronation Of The Sphinx' returns to a more blues rock influenced groove akin to material from the first album, but the production sounds crisper and fatter, and this helps bring out Reggie Harris' beautifully crisp drumming, his deftly articulated rolls around the snare, hats and tightly tuned toms on this tune being a real delight. I really hope they can locate master tapes for this stuff, as it's superb. The psychedelic guitar solo by Jimmy Holloway is awesome, but sadly mixed a little too low for full fat enjoyment.

'Universal Man' enters on a super tight super crisp deep-fried chicken scratch guitar figure, with Austin's drums entering with big beautifully tuned low tom action, and then an ebullient Hammond groove starts driving down your cerebral cortex, with Holloway's cosmic axe once again tickling your synapses beautifully... man, this is some seriously good music! What kind of world do we live in where this gets passed over? Not as immediately homogenous as their first album, I think Universal Man perhaps has more depth and variety, as the band dig in and stretch out. What a shame they didn't get the support they deserved, who knows where they might have gone?

After a long extended intro, in the second (or is it third?) part of 'Revolutionary Soldier', which approaches the density of prog rock or classical music in the scope of the arrangement, comprising many varied sections, the band come as close to a reprise of material from Getaway Train as they get, and are none the worse for it, as their debut is a great lost classic of instrumental psychedelic soul. Five minutes into this number, the magnum opus of the album, the groove goes up several gears, showcasing another fantastic solo from Holloway, but now over a furious 2/4 beat. The enegry is palpably visceral and exciting, the dynamics truly spectacular. Then they come down and out of this sonic epiphany, reprising an earlier section, dominated by melodious guitar and hammond organ, before finally building towards a climactic ending.

After the intensity of 'Soldier' comes the gentle closer, which lives up to the title 'Lullaby For The Little Ones'. Very much a band aware of the nuances of light and shade, with a great dynamic rapport, despite the overall softness of this last number, sadly their last ever tune waxed, they nonetheless wring a deep emotional intensity from their performance. I wonder what the vibe in the band was at this time? Having had one album out already, and undoubtedly aware that it wasn't being pushed as they might wish, did they have any idea this might be their last outing in the studio? It doesn't sound like it, as the music is strong, joyful, and overwhelmingly positive.

I'll be updating this post as more info comes in: the search for the masters of both albums goes on, as the big idea is a 'Complete Earth Disciples' release at some point, with a comprehensive remastering of their whole ouevre. If you have any pertinent info, pics, memories of the band in concert etc, please get in touch.

I won't share this music here without the consent of the band, or proper legal clearance, esp. as the aim is to see all the material re-released. But here's some basic info to whet your appetite for the planned re-release:


See The Earth In Space (6:00)
Iberian Peasant (7:12)
Portrait of America (3:34)
Coronation Of The Sphinx (4:35)
Universal Man (6:03)
Revolutionary Soldier (8:07)
Lullaby For Little Ones (2:36)

Personnel (as far as I know, the same as the 1st album):

Reggie Austin - Bass guitar
Reggie Harris - Drums
Jimmy Holloway - Guitar (poss also keys and bass)
Rudy Reid - Keyboards and piano

Any info from any quarter about the dates, location, producer/engineers etc would be greatly appreciated.

* Many thanks to both Reginalds, Austin and Harris, for sending me some wonderful archival pictures (which I hope will see the light of day in an article on the band's history some time soon), of which this is one, sent to me by Reggie Austin in this instance.


cheeba said...

Brilliant! The Earth Disciples story keeps getting more engrossing each time you return!

I'd agree with you moreso these days on your lament over a world that doesn't recognise good music but keep in mind the early-to-late 70s were probably one of the most fertile periods in recorded music. Genres were proliferating, studio technology was changing and getting less expensive, FM AOR stations were skewing the market, AM radio was playing all kinds of off-the-wall stuff, private presses were everywhere...a lot just simply got lost in the shuffle. Still, it's a headscratcher why these gents would get passed over by the public unless they were not often on the road.

Wonderful news about the acetate and plans for a "complete" release. Your review has me salivating at a chance to hear it in the future. Look forward to more on the ED saga!

mike said...

One day probably about 12 years ago my father brought home a box of records from work (insurance company). Somebody's basement had flooded and they were claiming the records as damaged and did not want them back. My dad gave me the box to see if there was anything that I was interested in. Most of the stuff in the box was crap (Van Halen, WASP, and other 80's garbage). As I was quite young and didn't have much interest in records of any kind I put the box away. Fast forward a decade and I'm listening to tons of vinyl at my friends houses and really getting into good rock and fusion. I found the box of records at my house and amoungst all of the bad music is the Earth Disciples "Getaway Train" Promotional copy. When I heard it, I couldn't believe my ears. The perfect bridge between jazz, rock, and soul! Anyway, I have been trying to find other copies of the record because my friends constantly borrowing it. When I looked on-line I could find nothing about them other than your first article about "Getaway Train", which I certainly enjoyed. In conclusion, I am asking that you please make that second album available. It is straight up painful to hear you describe how good it is and then not make it somehow available. I would be happy to send a check to the guys from the Earth Disciples to hear this thing. The world needs music like this!!!!

mike said...

Forgot to say this:

Please e-mail me at with any more information you might have about the Earth Disciples. Group is intense!

bobhowe said...

Any news on the Earth Disciples reissue yet please? It's OK whetting our appetites about Universal Man but now we want to hear it, all of us who have owned Getaway Train for well over twenty years. If it isn't going to happen couldn't you get a sanction from your source to post it somewhere?


thefunkygoat said...

Bob, Mike, Cheeba... and any other interested parties... I just posted a sample track from the album. I hope you like it!

So far I've not had any interest from the small indie labels I've been approaching regarding a reissue project, but I'll keep plugging away!


The Hermit said...

Hey do you mind if I use Reggie's quote on my own blog ( this week? I'm playing a track (Native Planet) from Getaway Train on next week's edition of Stuck in the Psychedelic Era and would like to use the quote to give listeners a bit of background info on the band, which is making its first appearance on the show.

Ade said...

I really hope this will happen!!! I truly hope this album does not remain lost, especially after that taster you have provided. Have you any updates on the reissue?

Ade said...

I really hope this will happen!!! I truly hope this album does not remain lost, especially after that taster you have provided. Have you any updates on the reissue?