AG-355 Fresh Aire
Produced by Don Sears and Chip Davis
Released on 1975
Find it at GEMM
AG-355 cover
[high resolution scan]

B y the middle Seventies, English progressive rock had taken root in middle America. Probably had something to do with all that fertile farmland. And so you had bands like Kansas, Styx, Starcastle and Mannheim Steamroller replicating the sound (if not the spirit) of Genesis, Yes and Rick Wakeman. Mannheim took a different path than all of them, self-releasing instrumental albums on their own American Gramaphone label. Featuring drums, bass and a host of keyboards (piano, harpsichord, synthesizers), the first album invites comparison to Rick Wakeman and his English Rock Ensemble. As a composer, Chip Davis is more thoughtful and less flashy than Wakeman, though both share a passion for classical structures and medieval themes. The poem on the back sleeve aligns the twelve pieces with the life of a raindrop over twelve months. (“I am a raindrop... and you better stop following me or I’m going to kick your ass,” chortles the troll.) Since the later albums are contained to a single season, this has been called the “Spring” album (it features a cover shot of fields in what could be Springtime), but that’s a misnomer. The album alternates between quieter pieces (there are four Interludes) and bursts of keyboard-driven rock (“Chocolate Fudge,” “Rondo,” “Saras Theme”). Instrumental progressive rock isn’t for everyone, but if you enjoyed Rick Wakeman’s White Rock or Camel’s The Snow Goose (and I did), the first Fresh Aire album offers more of the same in a slightly stripped-down setting. There’s also a review of this on All Music where I reference Sergei Rachmaninoff because I’m a pretentious weiner. I gave it three out of five stars then, mostly because my mind is confounded by quantification/validation by stars, decimal system, letter grading system, etc. I’ll give it four stars now if it makes anyone feel better.

AG-355 back cover
AG-355 back cover


  2. INTERLUDE I    2:50
  3. SONATA    2:26
  4. INTERLUDE II    2:29
  5. SARAS BAND    3:43
  6. FRESH AIRe    5:27
  7. RONDO    2:33
  8. INTERLUDE III    2:31
  9. PASS THE KEG (LIA)    2:27
  10. INTERLUDE IV    2:05
  11. MIST    1:45

    Written and arranged by Chip Davis


JACKSON BERKEY -- all keyboards
CHIP DAVIS -- drums, recorder, and other toys
Bill Buntain -- trombone
Bill Fries -- poetry
Kansas City strings -- strings
Omaha strings -- strings
Denny Schneider -- trumpet
Don Sears -- synthesizer programming, engineer
Jeff Schiller -- engineer
Ron Ubel -- engineer
Michael Deacon -- album design
Walter Griffith -- photography

return to MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER discography

US 1975 American Gramaphone LP AG-355  
US September 12, 2000 American Gramaphone CD 5001 digital remaster


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