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COUNTRY LANE

Heavy Prog • Switzerland


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Country Lane picture
Country Lane biography
COUNTRY LANE's "Substratum" seems to be well enough known, but it is very difficult to find information on the band itself. The album was recorded in 1973 with Raymond Amey on guitars, synthesizers, and vocals, Olivier Maire on organ, piano, spinet, and vocals, Jean-Francois Donze on drums, Giancarlo Duella on bass, and Freddy Von Kaenel on rhythm guitar and banjo.

Swiss bands generally fit well alongside German artists, but COUNTRY LANE managed to set themselves apart. Like the others, they were mainly influenced by British artists of the time. However, where most were taking after the likes of E.L.P., Genesis, and Yes, COUNTRY LANE sounds more inspired by Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, and psychedelic music. There are even some comparisons made to Nektar and Frank Zappa.

They jam heavy at times, but also keep it melodic. Epic concept is present, as well as humor (in the form of a little vaudeville). The lyrics are sung in English, and the accent is very good. Were they rebels? Maybe not, but it is a diversion form the usual mid '70s Germanic prog.

H.T. Riekels

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Substratum by Country LaneSubstratum by Country Lane
Musea Records France
Audio CD$58.10
Substratum by Country Lane (2006-06-01)Substratum by Country Lane (2006-06-01)
Import
Mals LTD.
Audio CD$21.99
Sunset MelodySunset Melody
Import
TYRO 1995
Audio CD$22.45
$1.19 (used)
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COUNTRY LANE discography


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3.18 | 27 ratings
Substratum
1973

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COUNTRY LANE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
  Substratum  by COUNTRY LANE album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.18 | 27 ratings

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Substratum
Country Lane Heavy Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 'Substratum' - Country Lane (64/100)

It would be a tough sell to convince anyone that Country Lane were doing anything new on their first (and last) LP, but they did it with enough panache to deserve attention from fans of heavy psych rock. Certainly enough, at least, to have warranted a spot opening for Daevid Allen's Gong back in the day. Their workmanly collision of German psychedaelia and British hard rock is far too common and average to give Substratum the hopeful status of 'obscure gem', but Country Lane had a good sound going for them- fans of Uriah Heep and early Deep Purple are sure to agree.

By 1973, progressive rock was already on the latter-end of its golden age. Such a concentrated evolution had taken place; the proto-proggy blues and psych foundations had given away to prog as a far more distinctive and confident organism. Although they earn a mild distinction as one of the few Swiss prog acts I've ever come across (really, Switzerland's significant prog exports start and end with Patrick Moraz) but their style sounds drawn out of a more primitive era of prog rock. The space of a few years probably means little by current standards, but considering what the genre had grown into in the space between 1970-73, Country Lane sounded a little behind the times. The organ-heavy rock approach had been done to death; there wasn't quite the sophistication nor the energy needed for the album to have struck a chord. A thousand bands threw their lot with this subset of progressive rock, and there are only a handful that managed to make it their own.

With an organ and fuzz-rich sound that should be familiar to anyone with a Rod Evans-era Deep Purple LP in their collection, it falls upon the songwriting and small nuances of personality to distinguish Substratum. For what it's worth, "With a Sweet Whistle to My Ears" is a fine tune in the tradition of classic Uriah Heep. Though the rest of the LP's first side passes as a series of short and seemingly half-baked compositions, the small snippets are largely promising (with the exception of the vaudevillian "Good Old Time" which, though the most memorable moment of the first, isn't necessarily so for the right reasons.) The second side is where Country Lane really hit their mark. "The Disgusting Story of the Captain Bloom" racks up an entire album side; and even if that sort of thing appears to be a go-to calling card in prog rock, it shouldn't diminish the weight of the ambition it takes to accomplish one. As composers, Country Lane weren't tactful enough to make the would-be epic come together in a satisfying way, but it is home to most of their best ideas. The titular "Captain Bloom" segment is a vocal gem on an album that sometimes struggles with integrating the vocals. Raymond Amey is a capable-enough frontman, but the occasional off-center inflection gives the impression of an amateur. Country Lane sound tight enough to suit the style, but compared to a lot of the progressive rock that better-stood the test of time, Substratum comes off a little on the pedestrian side of things.

Ultimately, I think most of the gripes I have with the album would have been smoothened out with some more experience; experience Country Lane did not have at the time of recording the album, and would never have, following their break-up soon after. Country Lane were barely out of their teens when they made Substratum. With that in mind, it doesn't come as a shock that their style was impressionable and a little rough around the edges. With so many one-shot bands from the golden era now all but lost and forgotten, it's tempting to imagine where a band like Country Lane might have gone in a decades- spanning career akin to their more successful counterparts. I'll withhold going too much into 'what if' territory, but given the sort of ambition it takes to tackle a multi-part suite on a debut, the experience of added years could very well have resulted in something great. However, speculation is ultimately just speculation, and as they stood here, there were still a few miles to tread before Country Lane could have manifested into something truly memorable.

  Substratum  by COUNTRY LANE album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.18 | 27 ratings

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Substratum
Country Lane Heavy Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

3 stars Well, I am kind of lost for words here.

Country Lane is from Switzerland and they play rock. Rock as in heavy prog with a large element of vintage symph prog, cabaret music and a large dose of "trying to be funny". The latter part is carried out on a couple of cringe worthy songs like for example Captain Bloom which I cannot play in public without feeling both stupid and shameful. This band is not funny at all. Please leave humour to those who masters this art, guys.

Thankfully, the band also has a serious side, displayed with some very good vintage Hammond organs and guitars. The guitars is also very good. The songs are well developed too. They are typical songs from that time with a large dash of hippie'ism in the sound. Think The Nice and Deep Purple mk I. Or for that matter; Captain Beyond.

The songs are mostly very good with a couple of cabaret songs who simply falls flat on their face. The overall impression is therefore good. But there are far better bands around in the vintage heavy prog genre and this album will cover dust in my collection.

3 stars

  Substratum  by COUNTRY LANE album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.18 | 27 ratings

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Substratum
Country Lane Heavy Prog

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
Special Collaborator Symphonic Prog Specialist

3 stars Really 3.5 stars

Some years ago a former co-member of the Symphonic Team and very good friend H.T. Riekels and I decided to own at least one album from each band in the Symphonic catalog, one of the few bands missing was COUNTRY LANE, so when I found a copy of "Substratum" on a second hand store at a very cheap price, bought it without any doubt.

In the route to my house, placed the CD in my car stereo and for my surprise I couldn't find almost any Symphonic traces, it's true that EL&P have certain influence in them (Almost every Prog band in 1973 has something of the Symphonic pioneers), but this influence is limited to the aggressiveness of their sound and use of keyboards, because the massive distorted guitar and the URIAH HEEP and DEEP PURPLE sound, proves they are clearly a Heavy Prog band with some Psych inheritance.

Immediately discussed with my team and we asked the Heavy Prog guys to accept them (Something they did almost instantly), so now the band is where they belong for fans of the heavier side of Prog to discover a group of musicians that present a hard and interesting style that other wise would still be lumped with Symphonic bands where very few will ever notice them.

So now is the tie for the first review.

The album is opened by With a Sweet Whistle to my Ears, a track that starts with an EL&P sound that soon fades behind the power of distorted guitars and an organ that is clearly influenced by the strength of Ken Hensley. In this opening song, COUNTRY LANE blends influences and moods, from (as I said before) EL&P to URIAH HEEP and touch of BEATLES with a Baroque edge product of the Hammond organ. The vocals by Raymond Amey are heavy but at the same time clear, reminding me a bit of David Byron but without the drama. Strong opener.

It's Only Your Memory Playing Just The thought Of A First Love is quite different, from the first notes we notice a strong Psychedelic influence but again morphs into some sort of Power Ballad with extremely elaborate timing and radical changes. Maybe too short, but when all the ideas are developed in a couple minutes, you don't really need more time.

Substratum is a 1:46 minutes interlude in which for the first time the band tries to do an elaborate vocal work, at a first listen they seem to be out of key, but after a few seconds I noticed they were recreating that mysterious sound that URIAH HEEP created. Almost immediately is the turn for In the Morning Sun, a song that moves from fluid and soft to extremely heavy and frantic, some sort of Proto Metal blended with melodic Prog.

Good Old Time is just a joke, after a bizarre introduction they start playing a 12 bar tune with jazz-blues harmony,a lot of saloon piano and funny voices, not to be taken seriously but still some fun.

Song to Ivan marks a radical change, unlike the previous tracks they stay more in the Symphonic Prog realm without leaving totally behind their Heavy nature, the keys, drums and bass interplay is fantastic. The Hammond solo around the fourth minute followed by a powerful guitar is breathtaking. Reminds me a bit of Jon Lord..... in my opinion the best song from the album, and it has my name :)

Letter to a Friend and Captain Bloom are two sides of the same coin, well developed songs linked by a common concept and even when the second one is more melodic, both tracks are incredibly fluid but not exempt of radical changes.

The album ends with the short Lilliput's Safari another high point of the alum, after a beautiful piano intro the band hits us with all they have in the most heavy mood, somehow like a mixture of SLADE, GRAND FUNK RAILROAD and URIAH HEEP, great closer.

It's hard not to feel the need to rate "Substratum" with four stars or more, being that the sound is reminiscent of my youth and sometimes nostalgia can cloud the objectivity a reviewer must have. So after leaving this sweet memories brought by COUNTRY LANE, I will say that the album is very good but doesn't reach the status of masterpiece or essential addition, so I will go with 3 stars that should be 3.5 if our system allowed this.

Highly recommended for Heavy Prog fans and people who grew with bands like DEEP PURPLE and URIAH HEEP.

Thanks to bhikkhu for the artist addition. and to Ivan_Melgar_M for the last updates

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