Polyphony Without Introduction


In 1972, while residing in Virginia Beach, Virginia USA I was in a band called “Polyphony”. The word stuck with me after reading about the masters and how they used “many voiced textures” in movements designed to excite and capture the attention of their listeners. Of course, very few people actually knew what it meant, let alone how to pronounce it. Today, mainly from the advances in synth technology and MIDI, it is a somewhat common term. The band consisted of Craig Massey, Marty Ruddy, Chris Spong, Chatty Cooper, and myself, Glenn Howard. I remember waking up early in the morning and hearing something rolling down the hill of the front yard outside my window. As I rubbed the sleep from my eyes I caught a glimpse of the top cabinet of my Marshall Plexi rig breaking the speed limit on the way to the equipment truck under it’s own power. At the last possible second I see one of the road crew stop it just before the missle would have scored a direct hit… When people ask me what I recall about the day we recorded the album “Without Introduction”, that is always the first thing that comes to mind. Anyway, I have dedicated this page to give the authentic “Polyphony” a home. Since the unforseen resurgence of it’s popularity on the net, I have listened to and read some very interesting things indeed. Here I will try to keep things simple and to the point. And maybe tell you what the actual track listings are as well as a few other minor details like oh, let’s say the correct name of the songs. I was listening to a couple radio stations that had my song “Crimson Dagger” listed as “The 40 second thing in 39 seconds”… trust me, there is absolutely no similarity. I recorded “40 second thing” on the Mini Moog for Nick Colleran the engineer, to add another 1:07 in order to complete side one of the album. Here are the track listings in the correct order:

Side One:
Juggernaut 14:04
40 second thing in 39 seconds 1:07
Side Two:
Ariels Flight 15:15
(Gorgons Of The Glade)
(The Oneirocritic Man)
(Gift Of The Frog Prince)

Crimson Dagger 7:05

The Cover:
The master was sent to Betty Cherry in Nashville, Tennessee. She was working for the Shelby Singleton Corporation, more widely known as “Sun Records”. Betty was working with the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich and others. After listening to the master, she used her meditation technique from which she had a vision of the painting that would soon follow. What appeared were the “four elements of the universe” subsiding toward an energy force which was “Polyphony”. As you look at the painting you will see it shine at the tip of “water’s” left index finger. The three other elements; “fire”, “earth”, and “air” are just below. You would have to see the painting to truly appreciate her beautiful work of art. It won several awards, as did the cover.

“Polyphony is another King Crimson-like band. Only 37 minutes of music … but what kind of music! Long, dynamic tracks with great guitar and keyboard solos and very nice vocals. Highly recommended to all King Crimson fans … and not only!”
“Try to imagine a band who, upon hearing Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Tarkus for the first time, indulges on heavy amounts of mescaline and drops by the studio to have a blow. Okay, assume also that they are competent musicians (by no means virtuosi) and have carefully considered their music before recording those chops to magnetic oxide. Well, I suppose you have a vague idea of what this seminal act from America were all about. Many sordid tales of the band, none that shall be taken up now, have floated about over the many years since their jaw-dropping debut; though it is also safe to say that dumping an innovative product such as this on an unsuspecting audience, even back in 1972, would have baffled most listeners. Hence, this one release, then a disappearing act which has reckoned this gem to the obscurities hall of fame!
Their music, huh? Okay, they play an extremely up-tempo brand of quasi-pyschedelic rock which is dominated by heavy Hammond and an active core of drum play and congo bashing. Add to this an extremely surrealistic lyrical bent and off-centered vocals and you get a bigger picture. Well, is it progressive, you may be wondering? Extremely so! The Hammond is employed to the hilt – the liturgical chords, the wicked fanfares, and the multitudinous exhibitions of machismo evocative of a certain Jimmy Smith, Brian Auger or, of course, a Mr. Emerson.
A casual listen to, say, “Ariel’s Flight” cannot be ignored. It’s attack and strange use of dynamics are not to be dismissed but are not for the faint of heart or weak-kneed either. This music jams, and jams hard. Very hard! Same too with the frenetic and busy “Juggernaut”, and I could even swear I heard snippets of something familiar somewhere. Oh yes, it was the excitement – the feeling of being let loose to play around – which was so evident on Tarkus. I can divine no meaning from these lyrics, nor do I really give a damned to. They are fantastical, even impressionistic, and a vital part of what made this work so different. Hey, I think my imagery of them dropping acid might be valid, owing to the wanking off bit of “40 Second Thing In 39 Seconds”. That’s it … it seems so much clearer now!!
Suffice it to say, this is not your typical progressive rock by any means. Yep, even for 1972. It is, ahem, a special document from a band who existed in a period of time where releases such as this were not uncommon. Well, perhaps I’m pushing it. This is truly unique. So, fellow traveler, if you have recently heard the early work of Keith Emerson, and even liked it, this one is bound to hit you on some level. Yes, really. My hope is that someone, anyone, will dig the vaults for the masters and give this the digital treatment!”
gsk41 Progressive Ears

“German reissue of 1971 album, totally influenced by early UK exponents of prog rock of the time..think King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator, The Nice/early ELP. Features some excellent guitar work, keyboards naturally and cool percussion along with surrealistic lyrics and off center vocals making it moderately jaw-dropping for fans of this sort of thing, like me. Here`s a review translated from German. “The musical Melange on “Without Introduction” reflects its time of origin in many facets. Fuzz and Slidegitarrensounds pair themselves with key board sounds A l Keith Emerson and seem in this combination growing out of the Progs from the Psychedelic era to document to want. The singing contributes in particular in the last TRACK a clear Sixties Touch.. In summary, I would say Summa that the music of “Polyphony” experienced strong suggestions by “The Nice” and the early ELP.”BabyBlueEyes.”
Bruce Brodeen, Not Lame Recordings

Robert M. Briggs III at Amazon.com … Review:

This review is from: Without Introduction (Audio CD)
This was a great, lost find in terms of early progressive rock. A trio comprised of keyboards, guitar and bass, drums and percussion, and from AMERICA, no less! This album is very comparable to the very first ELP album, and came out in 1971. Anyone who thinks (like I did) that all of America had its musical head up its you-know-what MUST get a listen to this music.
Only 4 tracks make up this one and only release by Polyphony.
1. Crimson Dagger
2. Ariel’s Flight
3. Juggernaut
3. 30-Second Thing in 39 Seconds
Two of the tracks come in at 13+ and 15+ minutes each, while a third is just over 7 minutes long. The last track (humorously titled) actually clocks in at just over 1:15. The lyrics are off-kilter, enigmatic, and would fit in oh-so-well with those great British and German prog rock bands of the early 70′s.
If you like ELP, Genesis, or Gentle Giant, do check out this gem of a domestic release, and be proud that not all American musicians were trying to be “the next Eagles” or “the next…[whatever]“.

UPDATE 2-22-11


Review by Mellotron Storm:

This is one of those mythical releases that you think you’ll never hear because it’s been out of print for so long and there seems to be no intention of re-issuing it. A huge thankyou to Todd for allowing me to finally hear this album.I first heard about it when i received Greg Walker’s legendary list of his top Prog albums.I had never heard of this American band who are from Virginia Beach,Virginia. Glenn Howard came up with the name POLYPHONY after seeing this term used by some of the great Classical composers.They used this word to describe “the many voiced textures in movements designed to excite and capture the attention of their listeners”.Man that so describes this music. A five piece band with a drummer,percussionist,guitar,keyboard and bass player.And vocals too although the extended instrumental excursions are the focus. The cover art was done by this woman who worked for Sun Records.She would listen to the master tape then meditate over it waiting for the vision of what the cover art should look like.That was how she always did it.This art work won several awards.It’s a picture of the “four elements of the universe subsiding toward an energy force which was “polyphony”.” Released in 1972 this really doesn’t sound like any particular band or album.And it’s originality certainly is not forgotten when it comes to my rating here. “Juggernaut” opens with outbursts of sound until it stays.Some intersting spacey sounds after a minute as percussion and drums support.Synths and heavier sound follows.Solo organ before 4 minutes then drums and bass return followed by the guitar which proceeds to rip it up.Vocals for the first time after 9 1/2 minutes.So good. Guitar and organ lead when the vocals stop. “40 Second Thing in 39 Seconds” is a mini-moog extravaganza.Very experimental but short. “Ariel’s Flight” features these angular sounds early on with some raw sounding guitar.It changes a minute in as the organ and drums start to lead.Chunky bass 3 minutes in and vocals follow.Man this is so good.The bass is ground-shaking.A change 5 1/2 minutes in as the organ comes to the fore.This is actually ANGLAGARD-like.Amazing.Vocals come and go.A calm with vocals 11 1/2 minutes in then it gets fuller again with pulsating organ and vocals.Hello! “Crimson Dagger” opens with organ and drums as guitar and bass join in.A spacey vibe comes in before 3 minutes.A relaxing soundscape follows then the vocals join in.Backing vocals too on this one. The hype is justified here.This suits my tastes perfectly

26 thoughts on “Polyphony Without Introduction

  1. Chuck Taylor

    Great to see this “way before it’s time” group memorialized on the internet. I have always been particularly proud of this album. The only slight change I would make in the above remarks are that Shelby Singleton Productions had no connection to Sun Records although Miss Cherry may have. Little Eleventh Hour Records also produced a group called Mason, whose first album went no where, however their 2nd album “Harbor” did quite well. The company also released an album by “Vandy” and although the album went no where, Vandy did have a very interesting approach to Folk Music. I often thought that if we had not spent so much money on the Polyphony Cover, we might have had more to spent on promotion, but that was then and that’s just the way it worked out.

      1. Chuck Taylor

        Glenn, I think that Woody Cohen, one of the 11th hour investors got the original cover art. He owned a Shakeys Pizza in V Beach so if you are in the area you might want to look him up. On one other note, another Album we released was the Strawberry Hills Blue Grass Festival Album which sold around 11,000 copies.
        Sorry it took so long to reply. Had not look at this website for over a year.

  2. price of gold

    Hey There. I discovered your weblog the use of msn. This is a really smartly written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and come back to learn more of your helpful information. Thank you for the post. I will definitely comeback. price for gold

  3. Andrew Pelt

    I’d have to examine with you here. Which is not something I normally do! I enjoy reading a submit that may make individuals think. Additionally, thanks for permitting me to remark!

  4. Florian

    I am really inspired with your writing skills as
    neatly as with the layout to your weblog. Is that this a paid subject
    matter or did you modify it yourself? Anyway stay up the
    nice high quality writing, it is rare to look a nice blog
    like this one nowadays..

  5. Carmen

    You are so awesome! I do not believe I’ve truly read through something like this
    before. So nice to find another person with unique thoughts on this subject.
    Really.. thanks for starting this up. This site is something
    that is needed on the web, someone with a little originality!

  6. rogers

    I have been browsing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
    It is pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the net will be much more useful than ever before.

    my blog … rogers


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>