A Brief History
Certain record labels specialise in offering albums from hitherto unknown bands from various eras of the annals of musical history. Shroom Productions is just one of these record companies which has managed to unearth a number of gems, amongst whom is this band called Intra. Based in Cleveland, Intra started their musical life in the early seventies, a history which progressed till 1990, though the band never got to releasing a full length album. Thus this album manages to gather a number of demo sessions and the sole EP release by the band together with three live tracks and thus present us with the whole musical history of Intra within seventy six minutes.
|The main motivator behind the band was Mato Tomorowitz, the only member who remained within the band lineup from its inception to its demise. Tomorrow's initial influences lay within country rock music and his first band was called The Country. This was around 1971, a time when the musical world was being dominated by the progressive and the jazz-rock genres. These styles would be of great influence on Tomorowitz, who began to introduce gradual changes within the musical structure of The Country, for example by incorporating intense chord changes, giving the band a style that he would term as progressive country. One of the main influences on Tomorowitz was British legends Yes, an influence which shines through the music of Intra.|
The complete metamorphosis from The Country to Intra came about in the period between late 1972 and early 1973, when Tomorowitz was drafted into the Army reserves and came across the name Intra in an army manual. His return from the army saw him also changing his musical direction and together with the bass player and drummer from The Country, formed Intra.
|The years 1974 and 1975 saw the band jamming and practicing away without any major changes to the lineup. Tomorowitz started experimenting with guitar pedals and effects which would create the sonoric backdrop to their music in the absence of a keyboardist. However the main change to the band structure came about with the introduction of a lead guitarist, Billy Wright, which enabled the band to further expand their musical capabilities and record a set of recordings in early 1976, known as the Owl sessions.|
However, due to lack of public interest, mainly due to the fact that popular support towards progressive rock was on the decline, led to a certain amount of dissatisfaction within the band ranks. Due to a limited amount of clubs that featured live music, the band had to opt to including cover version within their live performance and had to find a balance between playing covers and originals, not the most favourable of environments that would allow a band to promote its own material.
|During this time the band was undergoing numerous changes as Tomorowitz persisted in trying to obtain a record deal for the band by sending out various demos to record companies. An EP was released in 1984, the Chemical EP, which sees a radical change in the band lineup with the inclusion of a keyboardist, Tom Rotar, and Tomorowitz taking over vocal duties.|
Tracks 1-5 from the unreleased "Owl" sessions, 1976
Lineup: Mato Tomorowitz (Rhythm Guitars), Jim Masar (Bass), Billy Wright (Lead Guitars), Joe Mazzolini (Drums, Vocals), Mal Barron (Flute, Saxophone)
Tracks 6-7 from the "Chemical" EP released in 1984
Lineup: Mato Tomorowitz (Rhythm Guitar), Michael Blazy (Drums), John Charlillo (Bass, Keyboards), Tom Rotar (Keyboards), Mike Baran (Lead Guitar)
Tracks 8-9 from the "You Will See) demo, 1990
Lineup: Mato Tomorowitz (Rhythm Guitar), Will Scharf (Drums), Mark Tiborsky (Lead Guitar), Jim Bossard (Bass), John Charlillo (Bass)
Tracks 10-12 recorded live in Cleveland, Ohio 3/5/80
Executive Producer - Richard S. Patz; Produced by Mato Tomorowitz
Artwork - Thomas Schelman; Design and Layout - Richard S. Patz
The first five tracks on this album date from the 1976, Owl sessions and sees the band at what could be termed as their most experimental throughout the whole of the album. There is a sense that one of the major influences on the band was British group Yes, however, this very line-up did not have a keyboardist. Instead they utilised the services of Mel Barron on flute and saxophone who augmented the band's sound akin to that of various Canterbury scene bands such as Caravan and Soft Machine. This is very evident on the instrumental Soda For A Symphony Jerk.
On The Voice Of Winter, we hear the vocals of drummer Joe Mazzolini for the first time. Stylistically the band retain that British element about their playing, though the vocals are somewhat different from the classical progressive bands which tend to be somewhat smooth in nature. Instead the vocals are more along the lines of a Gentle Giant style. An impressive aspect of the way the music is conducted is the way the band manages to shift continuously in time signature with some awkward rhythms interspersed by some great duetting between guitar and saxophone, something which stands out on Heroes Of Ganymede. The weird and quirky musical style is maintained both in Farmboy and One Last View. Hearing these tracks over and over again does allow the Yes influence to permeate through especially when one hears some distinctive Howe-like guitar licks and solos, a factor that should endear this band and album to the numerous Yes fans that exist and who might be looking for something new and adventurous. Strangely enough Barrons vocals and the use of non-distorted guitar work does also at times remind of the style employed by the late great Jeff Buckley.
The next session takes us eight years forward, to the release of the Chemical EP in 1980. The lineup has changed radically except for Mato Tomorowitz who this time also inherits vocal duties. There is no presence of flute and saxophone, yet a keyboardist, Tom Rotar is brought in instead. Actually Tomorowitz's vocals are much more accessible and pleasant than those of Barron whose strained voice does get slightly irritating after a short while. In fact Tomorowitz's vocals sound very much like those of Jim Pembroke (Wigwam). Thus as can be felt on the tracks Son Of The Astronaut and The Machine, Intra seemed to have found their own sound. This involved a fusion of the open guitar styled playing that they always incorporated, and could be heard effectively on the first five tracks, as well as managing to create a fuller sound tanks to the keyboards. However, it seems that Intra did not go the way of many progressive-rock influenced bands in the eighties who made full use of the latest keyboard technology together with the complexity of the seventies influences. The keyboards still maintains that airy mellotron-like sound that makes the tracks sound older than the actually are. However, the keyboards also play a role as electric piano complementing the guitars in creating some mesmerising tunes and rhythms, a fact most perfectly exemplified on The Machine.
Six years later and we are brought to the final recording session of the band from the You Will See demo, recorded in 1990. Once again two tracks seem to have been laid down, or at least presented to us on this compilation, and they are Three's and Ritual. From the previous line-up only Tomorowitz and bassist turned keyboardist John Charlillo remain, though the musical setup as well as the style remains unvaried. Unfortunately the quality of the recording is inferior to the previous tracks with somewhat of a hollow sound with Three's seeing the band seemingly losing out on their adventurous edge, an important aspect of their earlier recordings. Ritual starts off with the theme from spaghetti western film The Good, The Bad And The Ugly and has the band returning to a somewhat familiar musical territory. What is different is that there is less of the long instrumental breaks that made the initial tracks so interesting. Instead the music features a constant driving back rhythm accompanied by heavy guitar licks interjecting throughout the length of the track.
The final three tracks present on the album take us back to 1980, and this time it is a live recording from a concert in the band's hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. By this time the band had already acquired the services of a keyboardist within their lineup and thus the music is more akin to that of the second batch of recordings (The Chemical EP sessions) rather than the Owl sessions. Sea Bird has an excellent introductory section which then descends into more of a hard rock styled tune while The Projectionist shows what Intra were best capable of. A string jazz-rock tune with some incredible bass playing, helped no little by the fact that the bass is placed relatively high up in the mix, thus really allowing it to stand out! However, this track manages to show how the band could play at ease alongside continuous shifts in time signature amidst extremely complex rhythms. It is a pity that such a tune cannot be heard in a properly recorded studio version.The album comes to a close with Circle Kings, which easily rates as one of the more dramatic songs that the band have to offer with its slow build up and climax which suffers due to the relatively poor recording of this version.
On hearing this album one can only sum up that Intra were one of those bands, of which unfortunately there were quite a few, who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrongs time. Purely on the basis of their 1976 tracks, in all probability, if they had been around before 1976 and possibly based in Great Britain, today they woudl have a number of albums to their name and possibly not have to be included as a Forgotten Son!
There is no website dedicated to Intra, though Shroom Productions does offer a sample of their music as well as some information on the band. Should you have any information pertaining to Intra which you think could be added to the site, do not hesitate to contact me.