Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5
I first caught sight of this one back in college. I headed over for a party at a mate's apartment and he'd just snapped this one up at a boot sale (yes, I'm from the redneck American south, but now I live in Japan and I feel like going with the Brit English). I couldn't figure out if the cover was a joke or not - the graphic design seemed goofier than hell and the look in ol' Brian's eyes seemed to display some kind of trickery. And the train's coming out of his chest, man. Did we actually play the thing? I can't remember - I hope I didn't insult the poor chap.
Anyway, we probably should've played it, although I was still working on my doctorate in the psychedelic and I may not have gotten it at the time. Dang if I don't now, though. This is some prime psychedelic jazz rock, with some deep meat and grit festering in the grooves. Triangulate the Canterbury with contemporary Floyd and a healthy dose of Miles Davis' fusion experiments and you've got this. Well, there's a touch of 70's bare-chest Brit blues yelping, but most of this stuff is instrumental anyway.
Auger was probably, like, the eighth most notable rock organist in England at the time, but that's still pretty good and he's backed himself up with a pretty spectacular band, with the rhythm section deftly riding the rails of the Oblivion Express and guitarist Jim Mullen shining through as the MVP with some awesome Cream-inspired soloing.
The instrumentals that bookend the album is the real gold here. "Dragon Song" and "Total Eclipse" open the album and come pretty close to filling in the album side with some heavy riffing in a jazzy context. A few years later, with instrumental wankery having taken center stage and record production getting more hi-fi shimmer, these tunes probably wouldn't have fared so well, but 1971 seems to have been the time and place for the Auger Express. The side closes with "The Light," one of the two vocal numbers, but side two's "The Sword" is a far better vocal showcase for Auger. I wonder if the modern sludge rockers "The Sword" named themselves after this track? "Oblivion Express" end the proceedings, taking us back to the rockin' fusion world of the first two tracks.
I'll have to apologize to Anthony for giggling at his Brian Auger's Oblivion Express vinyl all those years back. This nicely breathes in the psychedelic exhaust of the late 60's while suggesting some of the fusion and prog routes that rock would barrel down in the 70's.