A Brief History
If there ever had to be a list of the most eclectic musicians/rock groups, then Ramases would be a definite contender. Very little is known about this enigmatic person, and very little in terms of music was ever produced. However, his two albums, especially the first one, have built up a form of cult following within progressive rock circles.
Born in the late thirties, in Sheffield, England, Martin Raphael worked as a PT instructor in the army after serving a conscription period and after that started a lucrative business as a central heating salesman in Scotland. One day, whilst in his car he claimed to have had a vision from the Egyptian Pharaoh god Ramases, who informed him that he was actually the re-incarnation of this deity and that his duty on earth was to inform the world the truth about the universe. (This has been corroborated by various people such as artist Roger Dean and musician Eric Stewart amongst others.)
The next step for Martin Raphael was to change his name to that of his "original" self, Ramases and try to get himself a recording contract so that he could preach his views via the musical world. Incredibly so, he managed to obtain a recording contract with CBS and released a single (CBS 3717) in 1968 together with his wife under the moniker Ramses And Selket. The tracks featured were Crazy One with Mind's Eye on the B-side. The original title was to be Quaser One, but there was a misunderstanding with the operator at the recording company with the resultant single having a different title! This single was also made available on volume 3 of the new Rubble Series which has now been released by Voiceprint Records. This single is the rarest of Ramases material valued at 70 British Sterling by the Record Collector Magazine.
Next single, this time under the name of Ramases And Seleka, to be released would be on a much smaller label, Major Minor (MM 704), with Love You on the A-side, backed by Gold Is The Ring, in 1968. (valuation 15BS). Some sources cite a single released in Germany at the same time with the title Screw You, though this was probably the same single as Love You, and the name mis-spelt or mis-heard. Apparently these tracks also appeared on the Exploding Plastic Inevitable Volume 2 compilation album.
What is a definite fact, is that in 1970, Ramases signed a deal with Vertigo, which was the progressive branch of Phillips. Recordings for an album took place at Strawberry Studios in Stockport. Owned by the future members of 10CC, this is what probably gave this album the cult status it currently has. Four members of this group (which would be formed in 1972) played and most definitely had a hand in the musical input to the album, They were Eric Stewart, Lol Creme, Kevin Godley and Graham Gouldman. The album had a lavish cover, which folded out into a large cardboard poster, designed by Roger Dean.
Two singles were released from this album in 1971. First out was Ballroom backed by Muddy Water (Phillips 6113 001; valuation 15BS). Once again there probably was a typing error as it seems that Ramases never wrote a song titled Ballroom, but one called Balloon which eventually appeared on Space Hymns. Next single had two tracks which would find there way onto the album , Jesus Come Back and Hello Mister (Phillips 6113 003).
Space Hymns was released on the Vertigo label (6360 046) in 1971, and is a rather strange sounding album for this label as it possesses none of the normal musical traits usually characteristic to Vertigo. Musically speaking it sounds somewhat folksy having a strong hippy commune feel, very different to the the jazz tinged bands or the heavy/hard rock bands that characterized this label. The album created a certain amount of hype within certain rock circles especially with those who were fans of the more psychadelic leaning style of progressive rock. The main areas of popularity were England and Germany were there was always a certain amount of affinity for rock bands who tried to fuse their music with certain cults especially Middle Eastern religions (A classic example would be the group Quintessence). The album with the spiral label; has become a collectors item fetching 30 BS, while the spaceship label would fetch something in the region of 18BS.
Following the release of Space Hymns, Ramases and his wife moved to Stanley Road,Felixstowe in Suffolk where he lived in a house together with his mother. Very little was heard from him until 1975, when he released his second album which was rather different to Space Hymns having a musical feel slightly skin to that of early Strawbs material.According to friend and neighbour, Paul Hollyer, Ramases was very disappointed with the cover of Glass Top Coffin (Phillips 6360 115; Valuation 15BS). The original intention was to have a cut out showing a man falling backwards into space into the Horsehead nebula. When the gatefold cover was to be opened up, this was to reveal a bird. the record company would not change the artwork as this was already done. However he managed to obtain permission to modify the lithographs and create an impression that the man falling backwards was wearing a spacesuit with helmet on. The album, however sunk without a trace as did Ramases and his wife Sel.
Little is known about Ramases following the release of Glass Top Coffin. He seems to have slipped into obscurity, remaining in Felixstowe. Reports in the nineties quote Ramases as having died, with suicide being the cause of death.
Musicians: Eric Stewart (lead guitar and moog synthesizer), Lol Creme (lead guitar and moog synthesizer), Kevin Godley (drums & flutes), Graham Gouldman (guitar & bass guitar), Martin Raphael (sitar)
All tracks were composed by Ramases except for And The Whole World and You're The Only One, composed by his wife Sel, and Jesus Come Back, composed by Ramses and Sel.
The album is dedicated to the earth people who are unusual because they have begun to pause, look back, and wonder where they have come from and why, and where they are going to!
The earth is a living thing just as we all are and has a soul as we do.
You look at the heavens through a telescope. Reverse the telescope and you have a microscope through which (if powerful enough), you would see almost the same sight. (Electrons in orbit around their stars.) "In my fathers house there are many mansions." (The Bible)
We are most probably existing on a molecule inside the material of, perhaps, a living thing the next size up.
The rocket ship shape of a church probably dates back to Moses' visit to speak to God on the mountain and what he saw there.
The above bold typed-words are what one finds in the liner notes of the album, and could be considered a synthesis of what Ramases' beliefs were all about. The album itself speaks little for itself in musical terms yet nonetheless still manages to incorporate some interesting moments coupled with others that are almost laughable.
The opener, Life Child, is possibly the best track on the album and induces the listener into thinking that the whole album is going to be based on these lines. The sound has a definite psychadelic tinge to it with the whole group involved in the track which has some great guitar playing accompanied by an acoustic-based band. Sadly this is a case of what could have been, yet, was unfortunately not. Nowhere on the album does the song-writing and musicianship scale the heights of this track.
Oh Mister is a sharp contrast to the musically stimulating Life Child. However, it is also the main musical medium that Ramses seems to want to use to be able to transmit his message. With a nice percussive backdrop, the track involves a repetitive chant utilizing the same words over and over again in a similar fashion that Middle eastern/Asian religions utilize tantric chants.
And The Whole World, is the first of two tracks that written by Sel and starts off with the track almost sounding as if Joan Baez was singing. The backing is totally acoustic and is something that you would expect to hear if you where present in one of the many popular sixties hippy communes. Quaser One, the single released from this album is also a relaxed affair with the introduction of synthesizers giving that faint psychadelic touch to the track.
Next up is the closing number to the first side of the album, You're The Only One. This is the classic case of one being brainwashed. The line "You're The Only One Joe, The Only One" is repeated ad infinitum in an arpeggio-like fashion with the progression of the track moving along a blues scale. The repetitiveness becomes decisively annoying, yet at the same time you remain hooked and unfortunately for those around you, you'll spend the whole day humming this blessed tune! There have been suggestions that the cue for this track was taken from the film Midnight Cowboy which featured Dustin Hoffman and John Voight (who played the part of Joe). In a particular scene, Joe has a dream in which his girlfriend appears and repeats over and over again the same line "You're The Only One Joe, The Only One", which is the line Sel repeats over and over again!
Onto side two and with Earth People the chants continue with alternations of Ramases asking What Can I Speak To The Earth People and What Can I Say To the Earth People. At least Molecular Delusions shows a certain amount of musical diversion with the vocals sounding something like a muezzin making his call to prayer though the backing vocals retain the chants. In this track Ramases poses further questions about where he is from and where to he is about to go. An interesting note is the fact that Ramases credits himself in his "earthly" name Martin Raphael as playing the sitar, which features prominently on this track.
Balloon has is a rare moment on the album wherein the whole band (that would later become 10CC) is involved together with the generation of a certain amount of rhythm. However, once again there is little ground-breaking material here with the track reminiscent of the sixties hippy scene. The short Dying Swan Year has Sel singing almost acappella sounding like a cheap version of Sheila Chandra.
Jesus Come Back is an acoustic sixties tinged track that could easily fit on one of these Born Again Christian albums as there is an obvious religious inclusion (the title says it all!) which could irk some listeners. Journey To The Inside is probably the most musically adventurous track on the album with Ramases chanting "What Are You Gonna Do With Me" over a drone of sound effects that seem to be a loop of the band played backwards. As the music dies down, the album draws to an end with Ramases talking about his belief in the theory that the universe is just a number of atoms making up a larger body. Even as he talks, he is abruptly cut off, somewhat like the musical world did to his music.
As the title implies, this album is extremely spacey and sixties influenced. From a musical point of view there is absolutely no groundbreaking material, yet on the other hand it is another Western musician trying to incorporate Eastern sounds into the rock world. As I have mentioned a number of times, this album is of particular interest to those who also are fans of the group 10CC, as this album was recorded with four of the members of this group, prior to the band being formed.
Musicians: Jo Romero (acoustic and electric guitars, tablas), Pete Kingsman (electric and string bass), Roger Harrison (drums and tuned percussion), Barry Kirsch (piano, synthesizer), Bob Bertles (saxophone), Colin Thurston (bass on Long Long Time), Kay Garner, Sue Glover, Sunny Leslie and the Eddie Lester Chorale (backing vocals), Orchestral Arrangements by Rob Young with the Orchestra featuring members of the Royal Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestra
All songs were written by Ramases and Sel.
"The dreamer dreamed the dust rose up and walked; But when the dreamer woke did anyone tell the dust -and I fell- and stars like dust covered me" (Ramases)
The failure of Space Hymns and the elapse of three years before the release of Glass Top Coffin seem to have taken their toll on Ramases' musicianship. Gone are the obvious religious overtones within the music as well as the tantric chants that characterized the debut album. Instead the music presented is totally unreflective and has practically no musical link at all with Space Hymns.
In fact one feels that over this period, which was an especially long period in musical terms during the seventies when groups would churn out even two albums a year, that Ramases has matured musically. The overall layout of this album involves a rich orchestral sound coupled with straight forward ear-friendly tracks, almost sounding like a musical at times, yet on the whole a pleasant album to listen to.
Golden Landing opens the album and the title, at least, shows that Ramases still had a penchant for aliens and religion. The initial sound involves some high-pitched violins, almost like a scenario out of a horror film. Interestingly, vocals seem to be by Sel and one is immediately impressed by the musical changes between this album and its predecessor. The setting could easily have been for a 50's song sung by Judy Garland or Frances Faye! Ramases' voice enters midway through the song, smooth and crystal clear, yet not even his entry encourages a hint of rock music.
Long Long Time sees the inclusion of rock instruments, yet one can sense the influence of groups such as The Moody Blues when you hear the inclusion and incorporation into the framework of an orchestra. Somehow throughout the track there is an underlying sense of melancholy, a feeling of disappointment from Ramases, and this feeling seems to be deep set and prevails throughout the album. Musically the orchestra maintains that edge over the rock instrumentation, though that musical maturity shows up once again as the instrumental sections of this track demonstrate together with the filling licks.
Ramases returns as the main vocalist on Now Mona Lisa in which he analyzes the thoughts of the Mona Lisa as she stares out from her portrait at the world going by. Eventually, Sel enters the fray taking on the part of Mona Lisa creating a nice vocal duet, though musically there is little difference from the previous track with a mixture of orchestra and group.
The first link to Space Hymns appears relatively late on in the album. On God Voice, Ramases (whose voice sounds so much like early Chris de Burgh!) there is a touch of that mantra style that was splashed all over the first album. This time the chants are just relegated to the chorus while Ramses speaks out about being a god (or a chosen one) and how he should be revered by all. Backing vocals are used to good effect here, as on most of the album. An interesting point is that two of the backing vocalists (Sue Glover and Sunny Leslie) were from Brotherhood Of Man.
God Voice merges into Mind Island which is also the first track that does not feature the orchestra. Here one can hear Bon Bertles (Nucleus) with one of his characteristic solos to the sound of a gong that creates that spacey effect together with an acoustic backing. This is a pleasant enough and unobtrusive track that blends in well with the laid back and melancholic nature of the album. Side 1 comes to an end with Only The Loneliest Feeling which retains that effect that sounds like breaking surf while the voice is accompanied by a cello and double bass.
Side 2 starts off with Sweet Reason, which has a touch of Marianne Faithful in it (at least as far as the voice goes!). The track utilizes all the musical derivatives to be expected of a seventies track with soaring vocal harmonies responded by a horn section while the backing rhythm is almost cabaret-like in style, yet somehow still being able to maintain that religious almost church-like touch. Hearing it reminds me of the track My Sweet Lord from All Things Must Pass (George Harrisson).
Stepping Stones acts as a filler being devoid of any musical value and extremely repetitive, though not to the extent of the tracks on Space Hymns. Notwithstanding that, it serves as a relaxing piece of music with the gentle whispers towards the end of the track acting as a beckoning to those who could have been hypnotized by it. It also serves as an introduction to what could be assumed to be the most commercial track on the album, Saler Man. Possibly this track could have been short listed as a possible single with the Chris de Burgh comparison re-emerging as Ramases sings accompanied by an orchestra with the occasional touch of an acoustic guitar.
Retaining that orchestral based structure, Children Of The Earth acts as a beckoning to all followers/faithful to be collected from the star field for a promise of a better life. The title track Glass Top Coffin sounds so much out of place as instead of the laid back orchestral sounds we have a wailing guitar and a rock beat, though the orchestra is still present but relegated to the background. All in all it remains an interesting piece of music and shows that despite everything, Ramases still had place for rock music! Of interest in this track is the vocal harmony break mid-way through the track followed by a short hint of delving into what could have been a nice instrumental section (in true progressive style!) yet this is short-lived as Ramases re-enters the fray with his vocals. The closing number Golden Landing II is a reprise of the opening track sounding very much like the closing number of a soundtrack!
Musically, Glass Top Coffin is by far superior to Space Hymns, however, this album like its predecessor has sunk without a trace. In actual fact it makes a very relaxing listen as the orchestration as well as the vocal parts is superb. Monotony and repetitiveness is almost non-existent on this album (unlike Space hymns) while the religious undertones, when present, are almost negligible.
Unfortunately history would dictate that this album would flounder to the extent that it has not even been made available on CD as yet, which is a pity. From a progressive rock point of view, this would be of no great loss as Space Hymns should be the one to appeal to the progressive rock fan. Having said that Glass Top Coffin does have its moment and the combination of rock and orchestra is brought out to full effect here and it is of particular interest to see how a musician could have progressed from two widely different bodies of music in such a short time span.
Related WebsitesThere is as yet no official Ramases website, however the best (and only!) informative site relating to this musician belongs to Brian Currin.
Stuart's Space Hymn's website has sound samples of the first album Space Hymns, as well as the track Saler Man from Glass Top Coffin and Only You.
Derek Gray's homepage has the whole Space Hymns album in Real Audio.
Should you have any further information regarding Ramases that could be added to the site, do not hesitate to contact me.