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Oceans of Bliss: An Introduction to Quintessence

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Album Review

While this "introductory" overview only includes selections from Quintessence's Island records (a 1969-1971 period that saw the release of their first three LPs), that's the part of the career that listeners are most interested in hearing. So this is the best Quintessence compilation, drawing pieces from all three of those Island albums, also including the 1969 B-side "Move Into the Light." Island were signing some pretty offbeat acts in the late '60s and early '70s, and Quintessence were one of the most offbeat, combining West Coast-style psychedelic rock with much jazz and raga. The California guitar psychedelia of groups like the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service was a particularly strong influence, but with a difference that goes beyond Quintessence's stronger meditative jazz and Indian elements. The Dead and Quicksilver have sometimes been criticized for a shortage of good songs, but they had a bountiful of riches in that department compared to Quintessence, who really didn't have any. That's not to say Quintessence were worthless, but that their semi-improvised-sounding, noodly brand of hippie music was far more dependent on mood and flow than conventional song structure. For that reason this music isn't that enduring, coming off as well-intentioned but kinda stoned whimsy without much memorable melody or meaningful content. But they were good musicians and the tracks, though very dated in their meandering way, aren't bad mood pieces, particularly when Raja Ram's oceanic, proto-new age flute waves are at the center.

Biography

Formed: Finland

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '00s

Quintessence was among the first true progressive rock outfits signed by Island Records. Led by Australian-born Shiva Shankar Jones (keyboards, vocals) and Raja Ram (flute, violin, percussion), the group also included Alan Mostert (lead guitar), Sambhu Babaji (bass), Maha Dev (guitar), and Jake Milton (drums), all of whom, in addition to a common interest in Indian music, also shared the Hindu faith. The group's roots lay in the hippie community in the Notting Hill area, which was to London roughly...
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Oceans of Bliss: An Introduction to Quintessence, Quintessence
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