Review Summary: East meets West on this progressive acid trip. What’s not to like?
I’m not ashamed to admit that the two reasons I initially checked this album in one of my random YouTube music searches, were its cover art and release year. Nonetheless, I was immediately hooked by its weird and exotic atmosphere that blends late ‘60s psych with jazzy passages and strong Indian influences.
Quintessence were formed in London in 1969 and as individuals were greatly influenced by the Indian tradition as well as Hinduism and Buddhism as a lot of hippies in the late ‘60s. They managed to become well known in London due to their live shows and as a result they were signed by Island Records along with acts like Jethro Tull and Nick Drake.
In Blissful Company
is their debut and was released in 1969; a time where psych was transforming to prog and that is evident in the album’s sound. There are various instruments utilized on this album (apart from the usual guitar, drums and bass) such as sitar, Jew’s harp and Tanpura that are commonly used in Indian music and create a very spiritual atmosphere. Moreover, the vocals are more reminiscent of chants or psalms rather than traditional singing which makes the overall experience even more mystical. As a whole, In Blissful Company
has a dronish atmosphere and those of you who are familiar with Om’s Advaitic Songs
may feel a similar vibe as both albums sound exotic or even religious at times even though musically there aren’t many similarities between Om and Quintessence. In addition, those of you who love folk in their psych or prog will certainly find some sweet flute melodies, courtesy of band leader Raja Ram. However, don’t expect Jethro Tull-ish flute tunes as the band here follows a different, rather Eastern, approach to playing the instrument. What is more, even though there are standout moments or songs, the album is better enjoyed if one approaches it a single piece of music rather than searching for individual tracks. It can be said that the whole record could have been an extended jam as the structure here is very loose for a Western music album; imagine something similar to The Grateful Dead’s jams.
Lastly, Quintessence’s approach to making music and playing it live made them quite a popular act back in the late ‘60s to the point where they sold out the Royal Albert Hall twice but since then they disappeared after releasing a few albums. In Blissful Company
is a highly interesting and intriguing work that was released at a time of musical transformations. The jazzy passages and Indian melodies combined with late ‘60s psych reminiscent of Sweet Smoke make this album quite a unique experience that is bound to be enjoyed by fans of the aforementioned genres.