Fusing together 1970’s occult rock influences with huge stadium rock production and psychedelic prog soundscapes – Ukrainian Rock trio Sinoptik manage to pay homage to the classic era of rock bands whilst injecting a contemporary edge that makes their songs truly unforgettable.
The band have recently released their excellent new album, The Calling. Sinoptik join us to help us continue our celebration of the great year of 1971. They chose to pay homage to one of the greatest bands to have ever existed; Uriah Heep and their 1971 opus, Look At Yourself. This was one of two albums Uriah Heep released that year.
Without further ado…here are Sinoptik.
Has anyone ever counted how many times in 50 years the significance of this album was mentioned? And some things you can’t even measure, for example there is a tradition of going ashore of the Black Sea on July 1st every year for meeting the dawn!
I did not want to dissect the album in parts, and it is just corny to talk about the genius of Ken Hensley and about his organ which sounds like the flowing water in a stream. Or about the rapid flow of the entire album, which is listened to in one breath. There is either no point mentioning once again the very simple mixing or production timeline. Or find out what exactly makes the 1971’s sound so dark, heavy and powerful. Or examine lyrics that have so much confidence and pain in them. Everything about this album is perfectly balanced. And even if this is not so, the boy, who heard “July Morning” for the first time in the winter of 1993 on the AM waves of a Ukrainian radio station, did not care. He felt the vibe and the power of this music, even without knowing English.
Let me tell you a story about how I fell in love with Look at Yourself in post-Soviet Ukraine.
At that time my dad worked at the Donetsk Metallurgical Factory. One day he came home after a shift and said with a joyful excitement in his voice: “Dima, ‘July Morning’ was aired on the radio today! The last time I heard it was about 20 years ago. We can hear the replay today at 1 am.” I must note that at that time musical recordings were in great deficit in Ukraine – it was an unprecedented luxury. There was a lot of low-quality Pop music, but access to Hard Rock was practically closed. And finding vinyl was very rare, and only for a lot of money.
So now imagine: 1am at night, we are trying to catch the constantly outgoing radio wave of the receiver. And suddenly, here it is: “Dear friends, a track from the private collection of Tovarisch Petrov will now be played on radio Promin. The song of the English band Uriah Heep – July Morning.”
In a moment, my world literally turned upside down from the sound of Hammond! Then everyone else steps in, and the Mick Box’s guitar takes you to the skies. Paul Newton’s monotonous bass, which is barely audible from the small speaker, still does his job, and the groove of Iain Clark’s drums carries it all right down to the first verse. But I did not expect such a turn. David Byron’s voice changes the mood, paints a picture and was embedded in my memory for my whole life. My attitude to music changed that night forever. I don’t remember how we listened till the end, but I recall exactly how my dad reincarnated from a tired hard worker into a sixteen-year-old smiling boy …
…Summer has come. An ordinary day off and my parents and I are doing usual food shopping at the market. And suddenly we hear a familiar melody. Dad and I are following the sound… It turned out to be a seller of pirated audio cassettes with a small tape recorder. And we were just lucky that it was at that moment that he decided to turn on Uriah Heep. The price of the cassette was very high due to the rarity of the recording. Dad took out the money, looked at it and took the cassette, and our food shopping suddenly ended.
In those days instead of a standard tape recorder, I had a car tape recorder, to which we connected a power supply and two homemade speakers. I don’t know how it all worked, but the title song “Look At Yourself” sounded very powerful, fresh and progressive. The confidence of the intentions of those guys just burst out of the speakers!
On that day I heard all this in stereo speakers for the first time. I was able to clearly distinguish between the gorgeous sound of the guitar and the unusual playing of Mick Box from the flowing Hensley’s Hammond. The dark bass and drums seemed to me as some kind of viscous substance, absorbing and rolling as an asphalt roller.
Then, “I Wanna Be Free” bursts in almost nonstop (on Spotify it sounds different). It’s a very uncompromising and life-affirming song too. In it, you completely immerse yourself in the album and become 100% ready for “July Morning.”
But surprisingly enough my favorite song is somehow “Shadows Of Grief;” perhaps because of its psychedelic mood and musical progression. It was like traveling through an abandoned castle or a pyramid with many chambers.
The most interesting thing is that “Love Machine” was not on that cassette. It did not fit on the tape, which, of course, I did not know back then. My Look at Yourself ended with the philosophical “What Should Be Done”, which sounded like quite a natural ending for me. It was only in 2000 that I bought a CD, which had a booklet with the tracklist and lyrics. The puzzle was complete, when, at the end of the “Love Machine”, the tape stopping effect interrupted this road roller.
Then I found out that Manfred Mann was involved in the recording, and it became clear to me why the solo on Moog at the end of “July Morning” seemed so mad to me in childhood. So I surely have a long-lasting relationship with this album.
This is how it all started for me. Later on, Ken Hensley himself came to my native city of Donetsk, and at his concert I saw the same immense music power. Immediately after his performance, I went to a local rock club, where I was playing with my band. And destiny decided so, that Hensley also showed up there to chill out. He, of course, was invited to the stage and that’s how we actually met personally. And a few years later I was lucky to play as support for Uriah Heep at a concert in Kiev.
I can say that after this show they won me over even more. Played live, after so many years, the songs from Look At Yourself still sound very powerful and modern. This is an album and songs without age, played by people who are not subject to the concept of time. A real timeless classic that continues to give emotions and light energy.
Thanks to Sinoptik for such a beautiful homage to an album and a band, and a story of enlightenment and the power of music. You can find more from our archive of articles on 1971, here.
Check out the powerful Sell God’s Number from Sinoptik below; and you can listen to the bands debut album through their Bandcamp page, here.