Week of June 19, 2005


Vittorio Vergeat (guitars)
Cosimo Lampis (drums)
Werner Froehlich (bass)
Benj Jäger (vocals)

Stay / Animals World 7" Hallelujah NIL ? (Switzerland, 1971)
Fly / No Need 7" Hallelujah NIL 9054 (Switzerland, 1972)
I Saw Her Standing Here / Green Ham 7" Hallelujah NIL ? (Switzerland, 1971)

Toad - Hallelujah X 616 (Switzerland, 1971), Bellaphon BLPS 19047 (1971), RCA Victor 8241 (UK, 1972)
Tomorrow Blue - Hallelujah X 626 (Switzerland, 1972)
Dreams - Frog FRL 36001 (Italy, 1975)
3CD set: Toad, Tomorrow Blue, Dreams – Akarma AK 083/3
Stop This Crime - Akarma AK 183
Behind The Wheels – Akarma AK 309
B.U.F.O. Blues United Fighting Organization - Akarma AK 268

Swiss hard rock band formed by members of the original Brainticket, Toad's history is obscure and largely undocumented. Their debut is said to be in the realms of Dies Irae, being heavy, bluesy and experimental. However, despite getting a British release, we've never managed to locate a copy. Their second album, "Tomorrow Blue" was surprisingly straight hard-rock, akin to Sperrmüll, with Hendrix, Status Quo and R&B influences. Their original lead singer Benjamin Jäger went on to Island.

Taken from: “The Crack in the Cosmic Egg”, Steven Freeman, Alan Freeman. ISBN: 0-95295-06-0-X, Leicester 1997

(Alberto Gioannini, 1972)

In numerous groups, components come from different nations. One of which is often England. Toad together constituted an absolute mixture of genius with one Brit, one Italian and one Swiss man and was also one of the more international groups, having worked all over Europe.

If we want to classify their country of origin as a group, this would have to be Switzerland, where the three met each other many years ago. All things considered, they all came from diverse groups: Cosimo Lampis, the drummer, had come from Brainticket (he was on the album, "Cottonwoodhill"), guitarist Vic Vergeat worked in England where he was also part of the original formation of Hawkwind, from which he separated himself due to musical differences with the band’s leader, Dave Brock, right after they recorded their first album. Added to that pair was bassist Werner Froehlich - in October 1970, during the course of a jam session, in which they had the opportunity to appreciate each other’s skill. Their first concert was in November, while their first album was recorded in December (the press spoke about them as the new Cream).

In January, Toad showcased themselves at the International Jazz Festival in Montreux and were booked for the Pop Festival in Palermo in August where they opened for Colosseum during the second evening. Then they recorded a single, "Stay" b/w "Animal's World", which went on to chart, and the three dedicated themselves to creating the new album, "Tomorrow Blue". To present it to the Italian public, Toad played, for the first time in Italy since Palermo, at the Piper in Rome between 11th and 13th February. As I witnessed those concerts, the conditions were definitely not ideal: they came back onto the scene after a recess, and the carnival-esque crowd that had filled the room was more interested in having fun and creating disorder than paying any attention; yet Toad managed to easily maintain the interest of the entire audience - for the entirety of their performance!

The group knows without a doubt that they are, in the final analysis, "old fashioned"; they have modelled themselves on various acts from years past, having found their niche in the bluesy rock popularised and revolutionised with maximum expression by Jimi Hendrix, who they consider to be the most important musician in rock. "Jimi was great as a singer and as a composer, other than being the best guitarist that ever lived. It does not make sense, after him, to define as "progressive" such groups as Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep, because, in reality, neither they nor others constitute progress when compared to Hendrix", said guitarist Vic, and it is easy to understand his position. All in all, he is not referring to the great loss of the genre overall, but rather that it is now devoid of personality, not to mention that desperate, exasperated distortion, and instead is filled to the brim with useless virtuosity. Werner, who was not always able to make a significant mark on their records, nevertheless has not been precluded from constructing the necessary background as a soloist in his own right, and has done so with a rare capacity and fantasy: it seems that doing the same thing twice for him is a matter of dishonour, as it is so rarely that he does so. Cosimo, a person who is extremely picturesque, is instead one of those drummers who seldom breaks away from the accompaniment, but his solos were probably the best I have ever heard from any Italian musician, rich in ideas, personality and humour. Toad included tracks from both their albums that were much longer, demonstrating how improvisation was for them an essential element.

"We are different from those who prepare the parts for every instrument in anticipation and don't allow any possible variation, or those groups on the German scene who trust the inspiration of the moment totally for the duration of a concert." They further explain, "We know how to improvise, but it is necessary to hold yourself within certain pre-established schemes." All of the live pieces were extremely raw and much more loaded with feeling than those on the records. Other than the obvious scenic presence, I thought that it would depend on a certain, precise availability of the trio, which they’ve confirmed to me. "We believe that the technique is fundamental to an album, so much so that we recorded in London, at the infamous studio, De Lane Lea, with the same engineer as Deep Purple and Donovan, Martin Birch. To the contrary, live, the feeling is essential; if in the studio the two elements contribute 50%, live they can contribute up to 90%."

Vic then explained to me that on the first album, they’ve also included a singer named Benj Jäger, but that the group’s tendency towards long jams while playing live left less and less space for singing. For this, they decided to return to their original trio format. "It is incredible how much a singer can characterize a formation, and this is because the voice is the first thing to hit the listener. Try to switch the singers in Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath for example. Their music would change totally, while I don't believe that if you swapped lommi for Page you would find the same effect. We don't want to imitate anyone", says Cosimo. "And, regardless, our vocal parts are pretty limited. For this, we immediately returned to a trio." Without a doubt, “Tomorrow Blue" constitutes a tangible progress: abandoned are the scholastic blues lines of "They Say I'm Mad" and the Deep Purple themes like "A Life That Ain't Worth Living", the trio having instead developed an approach more precise and valid, of which the best examples are the opening, "Thoughts", and the long "Change In Time", on which they present often truly epic moments. "No Need", which makes up the b-side of their new single, "Fly", is one of those fast and aggressive tracks with a work that is frenetic in solos, which masters like Led Zeppelin are known for in such number as "Communication Breakdown" and "Living Loving Maid". Amazing, too, is the phrasing of Vic. A lot of space is left for the acoustic guitar, often presented together with the soloist, and obviously completing the sound. Everything was penned by Vergeat and Froehlich, with the exception of the two tracks that move away from the prevalent motif, "Three O'Clock In The Morning" - a brief but conclusive piano solo by the guitarist, and "Blind Chapman's Tale", which calls for a particular note. "I Racconti Del Venditore Cieco" features a guitar-violin dialogue, but not an electric one like Gentle Giant or PFM, to name two other groups that have recently played Rome. Dreamy tones and slightly bitter vocals tint the track vaguely similarly to the sweet’n’sour flavour of Genesis. Toad opens up a prospect that will be very interesting in the future. As always, we talk about the need for the band to bring together various directions undertaken by them thus far and liberate themselves as much as possible from the influences of the more commercial aspects of rock. Contrary to the inferred feeling of the title "Tomorrow Blue", the group actually project a strong hope and trust in their musical genre's future. It seems appropriate to conclude with a quote by a noted English journalist who wrote, having listened to the album, "This music will not die, ever!"

Translated by Peter Galanek
Taken from the 3CD set: Toad, Tomorrow Blue, Dreams – Akarma AK 083/3

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