Bondar & Wise is an obscure American duo which seemed to gain some sort of recognition as a live act in mid 70s. However from one reason or another they weren’t able to record any album back then. So it’s a really happy information for organ-dominated prog fans that in 2009 CD with their material was finally released. “A Live Legacy” is an album including band’s live performance from 1972 and it’s a damn good concert I can tell you. Music of Bondar & Wise is often compared to Emerson, Lake & Palmer and The Nice but I can also find some Hansson & Karlsson or Brian Auger’s & The Trinity influences in their few more jazzy fragments. Definitely you can expect full-blown, restless Hammond organ slaughtering all the way through this LP, so if you prefer melodic symphonic prog, you have nothing to look for here. But if you’re in love with busy, bombastic & technical music, these two guys should fully satisfied your needs.
Let’s check out all of these instrumentals one by one:
1. “Quintessence” – it’s just a quintessence of organ-led madness! Unbelievably fast, blasting organ & high-pitched, noisy analog synthesizer solos are truly spectacular here. References to ELP’s flashy style are obvious here.
2. “Sin” – from this track we clearly see what’s the main problem of the album: horrible bass pedals sound. I suppose that it’s some kind of recording fault, not a real mistake of Allen Bondar but it doesn’t change a fact that this ultra-loud, booming & distorted bass sound is a sheer horror for listeners’ ears. It’s a pity. However overall “Sin” is a truly spectacular (albeit short) piece as usual dominated by lightning-flash speed organ riffing.
3. “Man” – in the beginning our ears are devastated by blasting bass pedals sound (again…) but later isn’t so bad with it. I love this marching-style drums making perfect background for thrilling, doomy Hammond solos. Somehow similar to German proggers from “Tyburn Tall”, “Sixty-Nine” or “Amos Key”.
4. “Woman” – this one begins with untypical slow-moving, very gloomy melody (a bit like Atomic Rooster’s “Black Snake”) which is at first very calm but becomes louder & more “oppressive” as the track proceeds. Brief description: “Quatermass” meets “Trikolon”. Near the end there are truly up-beat organ runs in the vain of another legend of Hammond-driven rock – “Beggar’s Opera”.
5. “Psychic Necessity” – surprisingly this track is much more synth-oriented and Hammond stays mainly in the background. Allen Bondar’s ARP 2600 sounds really spacey here, so I can compare it to “Eloy”. However “Psychic Necessity” is more dynamic than most of Eloy’s space rock period material.
6. “One More Time” – the most jazzy composition with clear references to Brian Auger’s output but more rocky & “out there”. I can also think about “Hardin & York” or “Tetragon” while listening to this staff. Synthesizer fragments sound a bit out of place here (I think piano would be more suitable for jazz-like track) but in general it’s a really good piece. As the time goes on, “One More Time” starts to sound more aggressive and then Atomic Rooster comparisons become more precise.
7. “Midnight Ride” – first minute of this track is a galloping drums beat taken almost directly from “Rondo” which was popularized by Emerson’s “The Nice”. But the rest of the track is equally impressing showcase of ARP & Hammond furious playing. Middle part with bagpipes-like sounding synthesizer is really hilarious! Nice Scottish element.
8. “Indecision” – “A Live Legacy” finishes with another wild, organ-driven track in a truly ELPish tradition style. Wow, these guys surely had ADHD . Jazzy fragment in the middle is another highlight of the album.
To sum up: Bondar & Wise’s sole album is a solid prog-rock record which can be easily recommended to fans of the genre. The only real problem of “A Live Legacy” is this horrible bass sound, but it’s not played all the time so it’s bearably. This material is especially directed towards fans of such organ-based groups like: “ELP”, “The Nice”, “Triumvirat”, “The Trip”, “Collegium Musicum”, “Trace”, “Refugee”, “Trikolon”, “Amos Key” and so on. I can even find clear parallels to Allen Bondar’s style in Toshio Egawa’s (from “Gerard”) flashy keyboard playin’ (but I don’t think Egawa ever had a chance to listen to these guys in fact…). And of course Bondar & Wise is a must have for duo bands collectors, who like such 2-people-only formations like: “Twogether”, “Magma”, “Attila”, “Hardin & York”, “Bondar & Wise”, “Rustichelli & Bordini”, “Hansson & Karlsson”, “Atlantis Philharmonic”, “Sound Express”, “Sixty-Nine” and “Bootcut”.
Best tracks: “Quintessence” & “Man”
5. Psychic Necessity
6. One More Time
7. Midnight Ride
* Allen Bondar – Hammond B3 Organ, Bass Pedals, Arp2600
* Bob Wise – Drums