BLUE PHANTOM’S DISTORTIONS (1971)
During the Album Era (mid 1960s-mid 2000s), the LP was the dominant form of recorded music expression and consumption. Some bands recorded just one album during their time and, whether popular or not, they are the so-called one album wonders.
Blue Phantom were an instrumental group (or project) who released one album, Distortions, in 1972. Although instrumental, there’s something about the sound that undeniably speaks to the fact that it’s the work of Italians. Maybe it’s the slightly swing and gentle funkiness paired with dark, creepy atmosphere that reminds me both of Goblin‘s work and Ennio Morricone‘s score for The Exorcist II (both of which Blue Phantom pre-dated) but that Blue Phantom were Italian is almost all that is known about them.
Blue Phantom were most likely not a band in the normal sense. Rather they were probably a group of musicians assembled by violinist, conductor, and composer, Armando Sciascia. Armando MichalarosSciascia was born 16 June, 1920 in Lanciano, Italy. He graduated from the Conservatorio di Pesaro and afterward moved to Milan where he played with the orchestras of the Teatro Nuovo and Pomeriggi Musicali.
He formed his own orchestra who in 1952 (as Armando Sciascia e La Sua Orchestra) released the 10″ “Poema”b/w “Non Vedo Che Te” on Fonit. In 1953, on 10″ split with Orquesta Malatesta, Sciascia and company (asOrquesta De Conciertos Sciascia) released four songs through the Telefunken label. Sciascia began composing film scores for documentaries in the 1960s with 1961’s Tropico di notte and the 1962’s Mondo caldo di notte and Sexy.
In 1962 Sciascia formed the label Vedette, which was home to Equipe 84, Gian Pieretti, and Pooh — all of form whom Sciascia composed employing the noms de disques “H. Tical” for music and “Pantros” for lyrics. Sciascia continued composing film scores until 1966, when his last score proved to be for the film 3 colpi di Winchester per Ringo. Vedette, meanwhile, expanded into a series of imprints devoted to various genres and including Albatros, Ars Nova, Fox, I Dischi Dello Zodiaco, JAM Record, Musiche Per Sonorizzazioni E Programmi, Phase 6 Super Stereo, Pineapple Records, Quadrifoglio, Quadrifoglio International, andSpider Records.
UK (left) and French (right) versions of Blue Phantom’s Distortions
Blue Phantom’s only album was released in 1971 on Spider, which had been created the year for a Sciascia-credited library music record, Impressions In Rhythm & Sound. Distortions, though credited to Blue Phantom, sounds to me like a work by the same anonymous musicians who worked on Impressions In Rhythm & Sound. Distortions was released in France with new art on Sonimage as Distortions Pop. It was released in the UK on Kaleidoscope in 1972, again with (strange) new artwork (by an artist listed as Alan Lester) and bizarre new age word salad liner notes seemingly written by someone with limited grasp of English:
“Distortions on a theme of music and life. To outline our sleeve the artist has traced his ideas on the evolution of life through the all seeing eye. From life before birth? Through conception evolution construction resurrection and destruction: in all a total experience. The music as the titles indicate is an evolution of the avente [sic] garde. Here is a fine example of modern composition sent into orbit by Blue Phantom. The music is indicative of various states of the human mind and could well be described as an audio experience.”
The “audio experience” is of the heavy psych/proto-prog variety. There are echoes of bandsHawkwind, Pink Floyd, The Stooges, and most explicitly, Black Sabbath. Distortions found its wat into the hands of French porn director Gérard Kikoïne, who added several of the album’s songs to Spanish porn director Jesús Franco‘s film, Le journal intime d’une nymphomane (the direction of which was credited to “Clifford Brown”).
After a collaboration with Francesco Anselmo titled Notturno, Sciascia went on to record several albums of classical music done in a pop style including (as the Armando Sciascia Orchestra), La musica più bella del mondo (Music I love), Nostalgia, Largo e Appassionato (both 1972), and the film scores cover album, Hot film themes (1974). In the 1980s Sciascia retired from music and in 1988 moved to Connecticut, where he continues to live to this day.
In 2008 Blue Phantom’s sole release was rereleased on vinyl by Italian prog reissue label, AMS, with an extra track included as a bonus. In 2012 it was released on compact disc by Kismet (also with the extra track). If you like your acid rock brown, look for a copy!
Eric Brightwell is a writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities; however, job offers must pay more than slave wages as he would rather write for pleasure than for peanuts. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store,Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.