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MORGAN

Symphonic Prog • United Kingdom


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Morgan biography
MORGAN was formed in the early '70s by two musicians (Morgan Fisher and Maurice Bacon) who had played in the late sixties British pop group The Soul Survivors (a pretty good semi-pro soul band) that became The Love Affair (the hit pop band of "Everlasting Love" fame, whose singer Steve Ellis left when he realised that the soul had gone and pop had taken over) and later L.A. (the prog version of the previous band, with a new singer). L.A. failed in terms of sales because their largely pop audience couldn't understand what they were up to, playing in 5/4 and so on. It was time for a new band, MORGAN: the line-up was formed by keyboardist Morgan Fisher, drummer Maurice Bacon and bassist Bob Sapsed. Singer Tim Staffel, who would put lyrics to Fisher's music, joined from Smile, the pre-Queen outfit of Brian May and Roger Taylor. Ex King Crimson's Ian McDonald even jammed with them while they were auditioning for their fourth member, although as it turned out he didn't join up. They released their debut album in 1972 called "Nova Solis", recorded in RCA Studios in Rome, one of the best that could be found at the time, with every type of keyboard and percussion instrument imaginable. The music in "Nova Solis" is typical '70s progressive rock, with the predominant sound of Fisher's keyboards (Hammond-Organ, Moog, VCS-3 synthesizer, mellotron, electric piano, piano) and a strong rhythmic section. A second record, initially titled "Brown Out", was recorded in 1973, and is a mix of crazed, hysterical-toned synthesizer solos, winding high operatic vocals, pretentious pseudo-classical keyboard art-rock ā la ELP, and artly, experimental song structures in the mold of more serious artists like King Crimson or Gentle Giant.

The "Brown Out" LP was not released after it was recorded, in part because the band pissed off RCA executives by spreading their cheeks at the photo shoot for the album cover. It was released only by Passport Records (USA) in 1977 (titled "Brown Out") and two years later by Cherry Red Records (UK) with a new title: "The Sleeper Wakes" which is also the same title as the Angel Air 1999 CD reissue.

During their stay in Rome, Morgan Fisher also found time to record a solo album in-between sessions for the MORGAN LP. The working title of his solo album was "Morgan Fisher's Hand Job", but RCA cancelled the contract with the band and this album was released only in 1984 by Strike Back Records with a different title: "Ivories". Musically this a...
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MORGAN discography


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MORGAN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.71 | 50 ratings
Nova Solis
1972
3.81 | 31 ratings
The Sleeper Wakes
1973

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MORGAN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Nova Solis by MORGAN album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.71 | 50 ratings

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Nova Solis
Morgan Symphonic Prog

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

4 stars An obscure British prog-rock band from the early Seventies, Morgan took their name from keyboard player Morgan Fisher (a future member of Mott the Hoople), so it should come as no surprise that his playing dominates much of the music! Performing in a mostly symphonic style with plenty of spacey flourishes and pop vocal melodies on their 1972 debut `Nova Solis', he was ably supported by Robert Sapsed's nicely fat and upfront bass, with Maurice Bacon's thrashing and busy charge of drums/percussion constantly powering behind the oceans of keyboards. Guitars are absent with the exception of short acoustic passages supplied by vocalist Tim Staffel, forever associated with his connection to the pre-Queen band Smile that featured guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. Sadly he sometimes falls back on a painful falsetto, but other times his confidence and optimism perfectly carries the music forwards, and the band often deliver passages similar to those found on King Crimson, Greenslade and Argent albums from the same era.

The first side presents three short to medium length pieces, all of them crossing back and forth between grand symphonic themes, dazzling instrumental prowess and slick rock/pop melodies. Opener `Samarkand the Golden' is the punchiest and most tightly-written moment on the disc, full of grooving spasms powered by Maurice's snappy drumming, Robert's grumbling and deliciously aggressive bass, and no shortage of creaking King Crimson-flavoured infernal Mellotron, glistening electric piano and bubbling Moog tastiness from Morgan. Tim's voice moves between high-pitched croons and gutsier snarls, sometimes reminding of Greenslade/Samurai vocalist Dave Lawson as well. It serves him well on ballad `Alone', delivering a nice variety of weary treated lead vocals in the verses that turn warmly optimistic for the chorus, plus his ethereal background harmonies are haunting. Instrumentally it sits somewhere alongside the softer melancholic moments on the first few King Crimson albums, but an instrumental interlude in the middle is grand and dreamy in the classic Genesis manner.

The up-tempo and excited `War Games' reminds of both Argent and parts of Curved Air, letting rip with ravishing electric piano runs and dazzling harpsichord-like keys to provide a boppy infectiousness, but the overexcited lead vocal is a little on the grating side. The entire second side is then made up of a nine-part suite, loaded with a variety of ambitious ideas. It opens with a grand whirring lead theme that bookends the epic, moving through everything from slightly obnoxious jazzy poppy vocal pieces, droning ambience, aimless spacey noodling ala `Moonchild' off the Crimson debut, more inviting acoustic guitar balladry and loopy runaway instrumentals that again call to mind Greenslade, and it's certainly an eclectic set of fragmented ideas.

`Nova Solis' proves to be a real grower of a prog-rock work, with just a few little issues perhaps holding it back from achieving true greatness. Although the vocals are hardly a deal-breaker, it must be said that the disc really takes off every time the singing stops, allowing the instrumental playing to soar to greater heights. The extended side-long suite on the second side also doesn't flow together particularly well, but admittedly all the individual little ideas and segments sound plenty tasty on their own merits even if they're never developed properly into something more cohesive. But the album is likely to be a keyboard lovers paradise, is full of positive energy, melodic tunes and excited playing from all the performers, and it makes Morgan and `Nova Solis' a very worthwhile addition for those prog-rock collectors looking for lesser known but still plenty rewarding extras to add to their library.

Three and a half stars.

(Dedicated to Mike Hewetson, the biggest `Nova Solis' fan I know!)

 Nova Solis by MORGAN album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.71 | 50 ratings

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Nova Solis
Morgan Symphonic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Prog Team

3 stars This was Morgan's debut album, released in 1972. Along with Morgan Fisher (keys) were Tim Staffell (acoustic guitar/vocals, always to be remembered as the singer in Smile which was the pre-Queen outfit), bassist Bob Sapsed and drummer Maurice Bacon. Listening to this album now, for the first time on CD, it is interesting to hear just how similar this is in many ways to ELP. Morgan shows himself to be a fine keyboard player who loved to use his moog and mellotron whenever possible. While there are very complex pieces here (the closing title cut is over twenty minutes long), there is even a Greg Lake?style acoustic number "Alone", which Tim apparently performed at his audition with the band and got himself the gig. Although parts of it do sound quite dated, it is an album that I think any lover of classic ELP will also enjoy. It is different enough not to be called copyist, while at the same time still maintaining certain similarities. Anybody approaching this album for the first time will be pleasantly surprised. Although there are no bonus cuts, there is plenty of extra information and photographs, as one would expect from an Angel Air release.

Originally appeared in Feedback #60

 Nova Solis by MORGAN album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.71 | 50 ratings

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Nova Solis
Morgan Symphonic Prog

Review by 1967/ 1976

4 stars The only thing that strikes me as odd is that Morgan has had to come to Italy to record (and published) this album. Why, then, as too many bands (not just between RCA's bands) has disappeared as a band. Considering the high quality of music presented can only regret that this band has produced one album and has recorded a second album (released posthumously). Morgan was a band formed by great musicians, all with previous experience in famous bands (but today interesting for the presence of vocalist Tim Staffel, former Smile [pre Queen]).

The music is good, a mix between ELP, King Crimson, Yes but it is strange As there are echoes of Italian bands of the period, perhaps because many of Italian bands were trying to copy English andAmerican music (not that this is a fault, after all). (Probably the echo of Italian Prog is due to certain sounds of synths, because programmed with Italian programmers). In all these compositions like "War Games" or "Alone", shine a bright light. Although the production is a little flat (defect typical of Italian productions of the period) and it sounds so Banco del Mutuo Soccorso I can say that "Nova Solis" is an album of a band that deserved to go to the Olympus of the great bands of the 70's. Also because the suite "Nova Solis" it sounds very Yes in some parts and Greenslade in others, as well as incorporating elements of King Crimson, ELP, and other similar bands, to the point that it could be said to see in it a very personal style.

Although "Nova Solis" is an album of a minor success band, is an excellent album, that can still be good today and, indeed, to convey the same emotions as that emitted in 1972.

 Nova Solis by MORGAN album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.71 | 50 ratings

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Nova Solis
Morgan Symphonic Prog

Review by The Doctor
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars I purchased this album primarily because I wanted to see what Tim Staffel got up to after leaving Smile. As a big Smile fan (as big a fan as one can be for a group that released only 6 songs clocking in for a total of less than 30 minutes), I had hoped for a bit of that Smile sound in this album. I wasn't quite sure what to expect of keyboardist Fisher, as I knew he would later go on to Mott the Hoople, and although a fan of that band, I wasn't sure how much in terms of "chops" the guy had. I was disappointed on neither account.

The vocal portions are quite reminiscent of the Smile/early Queen sound, especially on the Staffel penned "Alone" and on the chorus of "War Games" and of course on the old Smile tune "Earth" which made its way into the middle of the epic "Nova Solis". As others have said, the instrumental work reminds me a lot of ELP, that is bombastic, pretentious and a whole lot of fun. Fisher tackles the keys as ably as Emerson, and the bassist and drummer (Robert Sapsed and Mo Bacon respectively) are more than capable of keeping up and providing some over the top playing to go along with the over the top keyboard work of Fisher.

The epic "Nova Solis" is actually three songs, "Floating", the previously mentioned "Earth" and "May I Remember" connected with interwoven instrumental passages composed by Fisher (think Tarkus here). "Alone" is more of an accoustic song and definitely reminds of Smile, and a bit of the more accoustic ELP style. "War Games" has a bouncy, rhythmic piano during the verses, and the choruses are definitely Smile or early Queen in their sound. The opening track, "Samarkhand the Golden" kicks things off with ample amounts of pomp. This is an easy 4-star album, a great edition to anyone's prog collection. If you are a fan of Smile or early-Queen and ELP, add a star, as this is essential listening.

 Nova Solis by MORGAN album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.71 | 50 ratings

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Nova Solis
Morgan Symphonic Prog

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars

Morgan Fisher is a genius.

There, I said it. I mean, how else could he make some of the most inventive and interesting prog rock on the planet and end up in his late 50s writing music for commercials in Japan, and getting a pretty penny for it I would hope. Sounds like a good gig to me, and a good life lived for this king of B-list prog, master of the sideshow and winner of countless Best Music No One Really Cares About awards. I don't know, maybe Fisher's playfulness appeals to me (something usually missing from today's prog). Or maybe his truly impressive musical range and compositional gifts are just too hard to ignore despite the funhouse feeling on this debut from 1972. And then there's the spectacle. All I know is Nova Solis is spilling over with atmosphere and imagery, and the fact is that Morgan Fisher gave more on his records than many of the bigger names of the time. It's an album wherein, as John Lennon said of Mr. Kite; "You should be able to smell the peanuts".

Solis is an extravaganza of what had become possible with the rock format, a parade of idea after idea passing like giant floats, each eagerly waiting in line to be revealed. This is prog when things were closer to the wild west, with as many snakeoil salesmen and roaming criminals as reliable merchants and ranchers. But among the scoundrels, Morgan Fisher and songwriting partner Tim Staffell were legit. Simply put, this LP was the sh*t-- the absolutely real thing, authentic, strong as aged goat cheese and stinking of a far off place where no good things were happening. It's what the guys who have heard it all and know classic era prog inside & out quietly listen to when no one else is around. Every aging, coffee-swilling cigarette smoker with a bad hankerin' for prog and a tragically steady paycheck who's collection from Britain between 1969 and 1979 is larger than that thing they launched the space shuttle from will deny to their death this is the godsmack of second tier symphonic prog. But it is and they know it.

Similarities are hard to peg for these guys, it was such an original group. Certainly the brilliant descriptive and incidental work of Raymond Scott is apparent in Fisher's material, as well as Syd Barrett's sense of adventure, the circuses of Dave Greenslade and maybe a whiff of Zappa. 'Samarkhand the Golden' is wonderful vintage stuff enhanced liberally by Fisher's VCS 3 synth, Hohner & DK 1, Mo Bacon's eager drums and bassist Rob Sapsed doing a heroic job enhancing Fisher and Staffell's arrangement. Derivative 'Alone' is a miss but 'War Games' rocks, Bacon tearing up his drums, Staffell's vaguely biblical lyric and giddy vocal, and Fisher terrific on all number of keys from a Steinway Grand to a Hammond to a Spinet as he knits up the background, always sure to never let a good moment go to waste. Holst's 'Jupiter' from The Planets starts the second half, the nine part title piece. It's not long before things start melting apart into sound effects and space sickness but Morgan picks it up and pumps out the prog; mean organ flurries, unexpected jazzplay, piano lines merging into squealing synths, descriptive mood-setting, carousels, calliopes, histrionic dramaturgy, and more Holst at the end.

A one of a kind release by a band that epitomised the working prog musician and what a few inspired guys could do with some good equipment. Someday along your listening journey, Morgan Fisher's work deserves your attention. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But soon, and for the rest of your life.

 The Sleeper Wakes by MORGAN album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.81 | 31 ratings

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The Sleeper Wakes
Morgan Symphonic Prog

Review by DREAMFISH

5 stars This album shadowed by its recognized predecessor "Nova Solis" 1972 has exceeded all my expectations. Unlike "Nova Solis" (which generally speaking is a kind of "mix bag" of pop, sympho with some jazz-rock-fusion touches) here we have one of the very beautiful, uniquely formed, crafted, keyboard-driven kind of sympho-rock and jazz-rock outfits. To get a rough idea just imagine how it could be if ELP would play jazz-rock. Morgan Fisher has proofed him self as one of the most intricate keyboard wizards (Moraz-Wakeman-Emerson level). The album was tragically underrated at the time due to poor promotion. In US the album was issued in 1976 by title "Brown Out". A must for all fans of keyboard dominated type of symphonic-rock direction. Highly recommended, five stars without any doubts! Progressively yours. Dreamfish.
 Nova Solis by MORGAN album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.71 | 50 ratings

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Nova Solis
Morgan Symphonic Prog

Review by ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends (Alphonse de Lamartine)

Smarkhand the Golden - For those scholarly and academic types out there (of which I am neither) this 8 minute epic may be based on a poem by James Elroy Flecker called The Golden Journey to Samarkand written circa 1913 (just after he puts the kids to bed) But no, I don't have a clue what Mr Flecker or Morgan are babbling on about, except that Samarkhand just might stand as a (lazy) metaphor for exoticism and wise up, this type of stupefied romanticism was ripe for those woolly heads sliced into the prog basket by revolting punks. (n'est pas?) The piece is very well arranged with good and judicious use of competing meters, dynamic contrasts/timbre and pace together with some mouth watering synth work from Morgan Fisher, who appears to have sold himself rather short with his subsequent stint in the decent but undistinguished Mott the Hoople ? (Everyone has to the pay the rent after all)

I was quite astonished at just how technically accomplished and advanced Mr F's playing and writing is, and those of you with a fondness for analogue synth weirdness, gritty Hammond organ and Usain Bolt piano may well be in hog heaven with this album. (Must dig out my long abandoned Mott the Hoople LP to see if I can catch a glimpse of this turncoat progger)

Unfortunately, this one man jury is still out on the vocals of Tim Staffel, which irritate and delight in equal measure, with his delivery alternating between egomaniacal showmanship and quirky excitability. Yep, our Tim is one of those vocalists blessed with an admirable range, but he cannot bear to let the listener ever forget this for a second. I like his voice very much in the lower to mid range area, but unlike most of the dogs in our neighbourhood, do not care for his tonsilry in the upper registers. At times he comes across as a jollier version of Robert Smith or Kevin Rowland selling fish at Billingsgate Market.

Alone - Vaguely reminiscent of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds as if played over different chords, but a very strong song delivered with some restraint by the previously histrionic Staffel, who dispenses with his irritating falsetto conceits as heard on the opening track. The band sensibly douse their fiery bombast on this one, and let a very strong vocal track breathe by accentuating the melody and not overpowering the delicate fingerpicked guitar accompaniment.

War Games - Inside every progger there is a peace emissary just bursting to get out it would seem. Ah, the futility of war (most of which are waged to allow us the right to condemn their stupidity) Lovely dislocated jazzy piano on this one replete with another strong tune before a very skilful transition of pace into the Tonight we ride on Bethlehem section which employs a sloping and languid groove in perfect empathy with Staffel's warbling melody. Thereafter, we encounter a bewildering array of start/stop section writing but Morgan carry off this tricky compositional device admirably. If overdone, this technique can condemn the music to incoherence or sounding contrived, but the band exercise just enough suitable restraint in this area. Lovely snaky bass from Sapsed and I particularly like his tone throughout this record. Gutsy, but neither distorted or flat and woolly (see the 1st two Crimson albums)

Nova Solis - In keeping with symphonic prog's time honoured recipe, this 20 minute monster opens with a suitably bombastic adaptation of a classical piece, re the Planets Suite by Holst. Great fun all round, with synth pyrotechnics flying left, right and centre and buried distantly way back in the bowels of the mix, the sound of the inconsolable sobbing of the composer. At it's conclusion we meet the eerie morse code distress signal as tapped out on a Moog in homage to the latter's Mars, the Bringer of War. Yet more dizzying piano from Fisher which provides some welcome relief from Staffel's affected and wearying bonhomie during the sung section. Even through a ring modulator (as they attempt here) his voice still cannot be cajoled into anything other than mildly annoying. The noodling bass departure and spacey sound collage that follows is entertaining, but strictly atmospheric filler. Strummed acoustic guitar chords introduce a very robust song section, ah this is better lads, please keep it up. This is shaping up to be the highlight of the album and even Timmy boy is a delight on this part. Some very brisk ostinato passages follow which are reminiscent of the instrumental portions of 'Tarkus' and Morgan even preface the Latin flavoured live improv of Aquatarkus as heard on Welcome Back My Friends. However, these are merely reference points, and although the influence is palpable the music is not merely a slavish reproduction, so let's not get too picky here. Perhaps the comparisons to ELP crop up simply because there is no electric guitar on this record ? (or they both have an irritating singer, Go figure)

All the ingredients that go to baking a yummy prog puddy are here in abundance, with liberal garnishes of ELP, Argent, Greenslade, Yes and all the other celebrity chefs you can shake a ribbon controller at. Although many of the compositional structures and instrumentation employed do ape the gatefold masterpieces of yore, the music itself is very accomplished and certainly on a par with much of the output from that golden age of caped young men in tight pants.

There is a prevailing tendency to appraise Nova Solis as though it were a rather cold and calculated foray into the then burgeoning prog marketplace by some unscrupulous musos and record executives, but I can honestly say that such skulduggery cannot be deduced from the very fine music that is contained therein

(They mean it man, so who cares)

 Nova Solis by MORGAN album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.71 | 50 ratings

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Nova Solis
Morgan Symphonic Prog

Review by JackBH

4 stars 4,5 stars - This debut of the obscure prog outfit Morgan is perhaps the best prog I've ever heard, and believe me, I know more about prog than any of you out there. The music is very dominated by synths (in fact, no electric guitars can be heard on this album), especially the VCS-3, and Morgan Fisher sure knows how to use that thing. And what a precious little gem Roger Taylor and Brian May lost when Tim Staffell quit Smile. No wonder they picked Freddie to replace him - their voices are very similar. If you are looking for dreamy melodic prog rock in the vein of Yes, (early) King Crimson, Genesis, etc., this is NOT what you're after. This is much more complex and inaccessible than any of those bands. If I wasn't such an expert on prog rock, I'd probably say that it reminds me of ELP. But it doesn't! Emerson never played this complex music. Fisher is far more talented, and it goes without saying that Tim Staffell is a better singer than Greg Lake since his voice is downright mediocre. Now you run along and buy this album and expose your little ears to experimental rock extraordinaire!!
 The Sleeper Wakes by MORGAN album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.81 | 31 ratings

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The Sleeper Wakes
Morgan Symphonic Prog

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars A band that falls into that gray area of prog rock during the early 1970s when everyone and their brother was getting into it with mixed results. That being said, 'The Sleeper Wakes' is not a half-bad record, though only about four of the cuts are above average. But those few are excellent, even brilliant at times, and certainly superior to material of similar ilk by Greenslade at their duller moments or Tempest (UK). Keyboardist Morgan Fisher leads a kind of ELP organ prog meets Frank Zappa jamming with Cartoon (American). Classical rockers 'Fire in the Head', 'The Right' and avant-symphonic pieces like 'What is - is What' make this easy-to-scoff-at album worth a few dollars if you see it.
Thanks to Sean Trane for the artist addition. and to bhikkhu for the last updates

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