For album downloads and samples click here

"Music
is well said to be
the speech of Angels"

 

If you like Prog-Rock, Art-Rock, Space-Rock or Acid-Rock; if you like Floyd, Yes, Hendrix, Tangerine Dream, Genesis, EL&P, the Moody Blues; then you’re gonna’ like this-!

The Universe is essentially a progressive rock studio band that initially released two albums through 1975 to 1978. Based in blues and jazz; Prog-Rock grew out of drawing classical, madrigal, and operatic elements into the mix. The results were unexpected, unpredictable surprises at every turn. Hard and driven or spacey and psychedelic, the twists and turns of the Universe adventure often goes beyond the expression of things we’ve already heard.


About the new compilation…

Painting is colored space. Isn’t music colored time? I think so…

I owe a debt of thanks to Prog-Bloggers Eric Abrahamsen at Prognosis.com and Aaron Milenski at Lost-In-Tyme.com for giving the first Universe album such great reviews 3+ decades after the fact. They inspired me to put together a compilation of the ‘very best’ of the Universe I could assemble and move the tunes from analog to digital. I also owe a debt of thanks to Connor Mullen at Progarchy.com for reviewing the first Universe album in his series, ‘the-best-prog-bands-you’ve-never-heard-of-part-seven’ that came out in in early January of 2014 and ‘kept the fire burning’ through the completion of this project. Thanks to all three. Their reviews are included below.

Doing a compilation isn’t an easy task… The tracks I chose for this compilation came from a thousand plus hours of recordings on ¼, ½, and 2 inch tape, various work, demo, rehearsal and practice cassettes, and two vinyl masters. To the best of my ability I believe I’ve captured the essence of our endeavors as the Universe. 

About sample rates… When creating digital files there is a trade-off between the amount of space used and the resulting sound quality. It’s my intention to release this compilation on MP3 files, a couple hundred hand-signed CDs’ and then ultimately on Vinyl. Using any of these formats, this music was MADE LOUD to be PLAYED LOUD so if you have the chance, find some big wattage and some durable speakers with high quality tweeters to give it a listen. A set of pro headphones will also do nicely.  
Den

 

… in memory of …

Since my early Universe days, so many true Lovers of Music that had a direct impact on me have taken their talents with them to the next world and I feel it’s only right to remember them here…

Two people I didn’t personally know were Richard Wright (of Pink Floyd) and George Scott (of the Blind Boys of Alabama) both of whom I’ve been listening to since I was a kid… a remembrance to Richard Marcus and Bob Moog as well.

Lovers of music that I did know personally who have moved on are Gary Paul Van, Tina Clark, Allen Scott (of Marvin Gaye fame), Ted Goodman of the Generics, Marty Mahoney, Henry Ransom, Mark Jacoby, Ted Vesely Sr., Sarah Nevins, Marti Williams, Mel Taylor, the former drummer of The Ventures and my guitar teacher of five years Don Overberg who played with the best of the best and was probably one of the finest jazz guitarists ever. I dedicate this compilation to them all and the work is so offered to the glory of God.

 

About the first Universe album …


Here are the three reviews mentioned above that inspired me and kept me going …

OVER THE EDGE - ERIC ABRAHAMSEN - PROGNOSIS.com PROGRESSIVE ROCK & FUSION - Copyright 2000 - 2006

One of the finest of all US progressive albums and crying out for legit CD reissue! Universe were a duo which included poet and artist Dennis Lee Askew (Den the Pen) and offered up an excellent and cosmic music verging on the psychedelic with elements of Yes, Hawkwind, and even Tangerine Dream offering a truly creative work. There seems to be a psuedo religious / space ritual / cosmic messenger thing happening in Askew’s lyrics which only adds to the mystery and flow of this superb album that includes one of the most beautiful covers in progressive rock. Supposedly the group recorded a second album, but I’m not sure they could have topped this. It would be interesting to hear though. Highly Recommended.

LOST-IN-TYME.COM 2007 - AARON MILENSKI

"Universe" 1977 (PBR International 7002)

The opening “Rock In The Sky” starts with a little acoustic guitar, then, wham! Synthesizers come in double barreled, with a loud bass-y one anchoring the song and a higher more unpredictable one soloing over it. THIS is a synthesizer song! It would only be a couple of years before digital synths would rule the world and the instrument would ruin a lot of otherwise good music, so it’s hard to remember how cool the early analogue synths could be. Here it’s as powerful and as mind expanding as any guitars. The mix of space-rock and Christian themes is unique, making this fall into the “I didn’t know Christians made music like that” category.

Here’s an excerpt of the CONNOR MULLIN post on JANUARY 19 2014 at PROGARCHY.COM

The prog universe is full of surprises. In my search for obscure prog bands I just happened to discover Universe. Although not quite as profound or mysterious as the universe we inhabit, the band is by far one of the best American prog bands I’ve ever heard. Mixing the sounds of Hawkwind and Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, Universe successfully created their own acid rock sound. Formed in the mid-1970s in California by Gary Paul Van and Dennis Lee Askew, Universe released one eponymous album in 1977, and what an album it was.

There are religious overtones on this album. The last song, titled “Light From Above,” is the most explicitly religious song on the album. The lyrics are not a distraction, however; rather, Van’s ethereal vocal work on each song only emphasizes the brilliant cosmic vibe (in the humble opinion of a self-described connoisseur of space rock). Each song is keyboard, synthesizer, and guitar driven and all are performed with equal dexterity. Some highlights: Touchdown features fine acoustic and electric guitar work. It is the longest song on the album (about 10 minutes) and reminds me of the Yes masterpiece Awaken. Dream is the “spaciest” song on the album and may remind some listeners of The Beatles’ psychedelic classic Tomorrow Never Knows.

Remember the Stars opens with a bang and transitions with cosmic delight to Light From Above; it is one of the best American acid rock songs I’ve ever heard and my favorite piece on the album. This is another one of those albums that does not receive the attention it deserves.

With reviews like that 30+ and 37 years after the fact, who wouldn’t be inspired? Here are some reviews and bulletins from back in 1977 when the first Universe album was released…


PBR, PYE In Tie
LOS ANGELES - PBR International has pacted with Pye Records to distribute the label in the U.K., France, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Greenland, and Iceland. The first releases will be LPs by Universe and Ruby, new band of Tom Fogerty, former guitarist with Creedence Clearwater Revival. Variety reports that PBR has distributorship with RCA in Brazil and Japan.

Distrib Pact For PBR And All Ears
Los Angeles- PBR International and All Ears Records have signed a distribution agreement. Now All Ears will come under the PBR International network with its worldwide distribution, promotion and publishing system. Current and future All Ears product will be made available to PBR’s licensees. All Ears, a Los Angeles company specializing in progressive rock and avant-garde music will release the PBR band the Universe as its first offering.


 


 

Universe on PBR International, will have Pye Distributorship in Europe, RCA in Brazil and Japan. Universe is receiving a plethora of spins on national as well as local stations.

DARK STAR - Nick Ralph - United Kingdom
UNIVERSE - PBR - The dominant sounds are the synthesizers, but don’t let that put you off, it’s melodic and spacey, late ‘60s psychedelia harnessed to late ‘70s production. Predictably, most of the tracks are interstellar in nature with quasi-spiritual undertones. But that doesn’t detract, it rocks out too. Particularly fine is “Touchdown”, with its inventive changes.

 

About the second Universe album… Star Child…

From the desk of ...  J. K. Maitland

Wayne:
Musically this is excellent, and it is quite professional.
I think there is a message somewhere, but I don’t understand it.
We would have no interest. Thanks.

Mike
President MCA Records



(click images above to view larger)

The conceptual albums Blows Against the Empire by Paul Kantner and Grace Slick and Quadrophenia by The Who really inspired me to get away from a single song format and give something ‘bigger’ a try.

About Star Child... It is a sci-fi fantasy I wrote and turned into an operetta (a mini opera). It briefly goes like this... a space traveler lands in a civilization and hands over his technology. The people turn the technology into tools of leisure instead of tools of practical use and they become hedonists. They eventually ask ‘who is greater than our pleasure machines’ and then Christ shows up! Whoa!

Star Child was held to a smaller U.S. and overseas release than the first album, some records, mostly cassettes, because distributors wanted Disco. Even long-established progressive bands suffered during that time and so too the Universe: simple as that.

Some of the Star Child material is on this new compilation. I chose a few some alternative versions to a few songs to keep the project interesting and their production value holds up to the originals thanks to the studio-wizardry of original engineer and co-producer Bob Lentini.

My Star Trek Connection

During the years of writing and recording the UNIVERSE albums, when my talents as a synthesist were at their peak, I entered Pre- pre-production talks with producers of “STAR TREK: the Motion Picture” to provide the sound effects.

Sending along a dozen cassettes with hundreds of effects and corresponding with them over a couple years; they treated me with the highest respect and truly appreciated my submissions. But, alas my involvement was not meant to be … the music was given to Jerry Goldsmith and another synthesist was brought on shortly thereafter. I was out … but well-schooled in the ‘Hollywood learning curve’



About the new Compilation… The Universe - Dennis Lee Askew - 1975-1978


(click images above to view larger)

Here’s a rundown of the tracks…

1 Touchdown 10:08 (first album)
2 Rock in the Sky 5:38 (first album)
3 Remember the Stars 3:54 (first album)
4 The Axiom 8:12 (the second album: Star Child; SC)
5 Drifting 5:01 (SC; alternative track)
6 If You Only Knew 8:19 (SC; alternative track)
7 The Great Event 1:11 (SC)
8 We Wonder 0:59 (SC)
9 I AM 7:39 (SC; alternative track)
10 Forever and a Day 10:55 (a rehearsal track)

from the first Universe album…

1) Touchdown 2) Rock in the Sky 3) Remember the Stars

THE PLAYERS
Den: Lead & Rhythm Guitars, Electronic& Synth Programming, Keyboards and Vocals
Gary Paul Van: Lead Vocals, Keyboards
John Sterling: Additional Guitars
Adam Shendal: Drums on ‘Remember the Stars’
Walfredo Reyes, Jr: Drums and Percussion on ‘Touchdown’ and ‘Rock in the Sky’

from the second Universe album “Star Child”

4) The Axiom 5) Drifting 6) If You Only Knew 7) The Great Event 8) We Wonder 9) I AM

THE PLAYERS
Den: Lead & Rhythm Guitars, Synth’s, Keyboards and Vocals, Orchestra
Harp Gary Paul Van: Lead Vocals, Keyboards
John Sterling: Additional Guitars
Violin: Pam Davis
Drums and percussion: Tim ‘Joshua’ Sage
Bass: James “Cha-Cha” Vaughn
Choir: David and Shawn Fletcher Cathy Lucas, Ben Litvinoff, and Mike Ozuna

from a Universe practice cassette

10) Forever and a Day

THE PLAYERS
Den: Piano and Vocals
Gary Van: Lead Vocals

from Den on #10...

This is probably the best piece of music I’ve ever written and certainly the best piano that I’ve ever played. I was working on a symphony called the Trinity and this piece was the only one I had brought to cohesion. This was recorded in one take, on a cheap, hand held cassette recorder sitting on top of my parents old Steinway in their living room. To me, the atmospheres created by the lingering ambiance of this old piano with its half-broken sustain pedal remain beautiful to this very day. No effects have ever been added and you’re hearing the song exactly as it was performed (directly transferred from the original cassette to AVI ProTools).

I put this song in the compilation because I wholly believe that wherever “it” begins, in a garage, in a bed room, on a porch, in a garden, on the back of a truck, sometimes the most beautiful music is simple and raw, primitive and unrefined. The lyrics are ‘mostly there’ and you can use your imagination for what’s not quite clear.

For all you downloaders, the sequence of 7 & 8 is true and correct, but the track titles and samples were switched by the ‘ghost in the machine’ to avoid compulsion.

The songs on this compilation were digitally re-mastered from the original analog sources by Disney audio engineer Steve Litten at JEL Recording Studios and the odd ‘crackle or pop’ were attended to by Steve and Den.

The publishers request was to sell this CD at $6.99, but download sites set their own pricing …


 

Reviews of the New Album

Google Play
RE-ENTERING "THE UNIVERSE" by CONNOR MULLIN RE-ENTERING "THE UNIVERSE" by CONNOR MULLIN Progarchy.com / October 3, 2014

" ... It is a superb blend of Pink Floyd and The Moody Blues with some Yes added for good measure ..."

Well, it has been exactly one year since I first joined Progarchy, and what a positive experience it has been. In celebration, I have decided to briefly give another shout out to my friend Dennis Lee Askew of the band Universe, one of my favorite American prog bands. I very much enjoyed reviewing his first album in an earlier post. Dennis recently issued a new album consisting of some songs from his first album and a few others previously unreleased.

If you enjoy the sounds of psychedelia, space rock, acid rock, and prog, you will enjoy this album. It is a superb blend of Pink Floyd and The Moody Blues with some Yes added for good measure. My two favorite songs on the album are I Am, which is keyboard driven and definitely has an early Pink Floyd vibe, and The Axiom, which features a cool synth opening and some great guitar work.


Amazon
I highly recommend “The Universe”.

For those of us who claim to remember the 70’s some things stand out. One pivotal event was the introduction of “Progressive Rock”. You could sit down and listen to King Crimson or Emerson, Lake and Palmer while marveling at Roger Dean album covers. The symphonic structure coupled with the synthesizer used in Prog Rock gave music the feel of an entire awesome meal rather than the three minute snack you got from a song on the radio.

“The Universe” totally immerses you in that heady mix of synth and rocking guitar which takes you to a distant place in your mind. The music ebbs and flows, not as a collection of songs, but more like a train of thought. This is a crisp mix and arrangement with an excellent sound that has you ratcheting up the volume as you let the moody rhythm surround and comfort you. Close your eyes and travel to places you haven’t been in years.

If you buy the album you also get a bonus song at the end. At first I felt it didn’t fit the rest of the collection. Then I realized it was the sorbet at the end of a heavy meal, there to refresh your palette. In 70’s parlance it helped bring you down easy from the intensity of a powerful mental trip, across “The Universe”.


iTunes
Well Crafted Musical Art
by TheSaneScientist

A great album. I hidden gem in the iTunes store. Rhythm, driving beats, and a groove that will draw you into its melodic vortex. 

My personal favorite is the first song “Touchdown.” At 10 minutes, I first thought that this would be a skip since rarely have I found a song that has fine enough blend of rhythm and variety. But this one has it all. After short spacey intro that sounds like a Sci Fi lunar landing, a driving beat gets you psyched and ready for the vocals and swaying melodic beats of the middle portion of the song. Finally, the song leads into a soft and calming finish that leaves you satisfied.

The rest of the album is a well crafted work of musical art. Forged in the era of musical greats of yesteryear, this album ranks up there with any of the greats when it hits its pace.

Listen to the samples ------>

Purchase the album here

$8.99 at AmazonMP3 click here
$8.99 at GooglePlay click here
$9.99 at iTunes click here


YouTube
Listen to "The Axiom" plus more!

by clicking here

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MADE LOUD to be PLAYED LOUD

Gear

About the guitars: I used a Dan Armstrong, the clear, Lucite guitar. I also extensively played a Gibson SG and sparingly; a Fender Telecaster. I played Martin, Gibson and Guild acoustic guitars. I played a Sho-Bud steel pedal on Star Child. I played through a Marshall 1984 stack, a Fender Dual Princeton amp and a Leslie 150 cabinet. I also played a Lion & Healy orchestra harp on Star Child (thanks Kippie Lou Hedron for the six weeks of lessons!).

As a synthesist, on the first album, I was using an EMU, which I recorded with its inventor Pat Gleeson at his studio, Different Fur in San Francisco. I also recorded an ARP Odyssey synthesizer at the Sons of Champlans’ Rock Bottom Recording Studio, a renovated church in San Anselmo, CA and I used an ARP 2600.

On Star Child, I was using two hand-patched ARP 2600s combined together, an Oberheim expander module, a Mini-Moog, a bank of home-made oscillators, an oscilloscope to create my own waveforms and a Hammond B-3 organ. For the ARP 2600 patch bays, I had over 300 pages of patches that I had created to accomplish certain tones, events and sounds.


My SG and Marshall Stack
My Keyboard Stack An ARP chart

an EMU

 

Studios

On the first album, we recorded at numerous studios: Vegas Sound, Hanks Studio, Stronghold Studios, and Location Recording Studios in Los Angeles. I also recorded certain guitar overdubs at the Youngblood’s studio in Bolinas Beach, CA. On the Star Child album, the bulk of recording was done at Bob Lentinis’ Exit 33 Studio with John and I doing additional guitar overdubs at Al Thomas Studios in North Hollywood and at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles.

I used Franz Metronomes and did numerous studio tricks on both albums like flushing a mic in the commode (a Hendrix trick from Electric LadyLand), using a prepared piano with nuts and bolts inserted in the piano strings (a Pink Floyd trick), playing upside down gongs filled with rivets and screws (a Tim Sage trick), and sometimes recording my guitar with the amp placed in a metal trashcan (a Den trick).

Art Direction

The art work on the first Universe album was done by: Painting; David Meyers with Art Direction by Woody Woodard. The replacement art work on Star Child was done by: Paintings; David Meyers and Den with graphics by Michael G. Wallace.

The art work for the new compilation was done by: Owen Jones with graphics done by Michael G. Wallace. All the great personal photographic imagery scans on this web page were processed by Trigger Thinker at http://austinmcclellandphotography.com

Gordon “Surfdog Mystic” McClelland has given his nod of approval to a few of the photos, images and visuals I’ve used here; but mind you… only a few …

Thanks to John Shaffer for getting the project started on this compilation.


Gordon


Austin


Michael G. Wallace

 

A Gallery of Friends … Family … Musicians …


Dennis at 9 years old at Ted Vesley's
Gary Paul Van James "Cha Cha" Vaughn

Dave Noise

Tim Sage

Den
Den


Inspiration


John Sterling


Bob Lentini


Den

Inspiration


Walfredo Reyes Jr.


A true and loving fan of the Universe

Once a fan always a fan...

Family!!!




The Princess ...


and the Poet ...
Brotha’ Eric “The Axiom”
at work listening to The Universe.

Prog-Rockers Ride ECfoam!



A Love and a Lifelong Fan of The Universe...


Then, Now and Tomorrow; The Universe Remains a Fan of...

 

Thanks …

Just before I get too far, here are some people whose ‘voices’ have warmed my ears and heart and soul during the ‘compilation process’ and thanks to each and every one of you for helping me get through it… Elizabeth Fraser, Samantha Brown, Diana Mangano, Miki Berenyi, Ana Vidovic, Allison Krauss, Julia Fischer and sisters Katia and Marielle LeBeque.

Thanks to all the college radio stations who gave the first two albums so much airplay! And thanks to all our Prog-Friends in the U.S., Germany, Canada, Brazil, France, Japan and the U.K.

Thanks to Executive Producers Maura Healy, Melissa Moore and Michael G. Wallace.

Thanks (!) to: Dave Noise at Factory Records, Bill Fitzhugh for his book RadioActive, Bob Mercer from the Fantasy, Prestige & Milestone days, Pat Hart, a ticket taker at Terripin Station and Lisa Marcus (she a baggage handler at Terrapin Station).

Thanks to… Debi McClelland for not killing Gordon and Austin, music-experimentalist Pami Ciliax, lyricist and poet Amber Rudy, Barry ‘Between the Lines’ Kibrick, and Laura ‘Where’s my St. George?’ Medley.

Thanks to Kathy Aquaviva-Rawson, the publicity sage of Atlantic Records and my dear, darling friend, and thanks to Bob Merlis, the publicity sage of Warner Brothers Records. Thanks go out to Lark ‘the Spark’ Williams – a great lover of music and thanks to the quiet gentleness of the ‘silence between the spaces’ often provided by Carolyn Jones.

Thanks to guitarist and dear friend Teresa Clark, thanks to Lindy, whose brain thinks at 1125 feet per second or 768 mph which is the exact speed of sound. Thanks to guitarist Eric Christenson who strums away inside his force field as the Evil vortex swirls about, and to drummer John Frazier who still believes in prog-rock. Thanks to Zelmolian ‘Rock Talk’ believer Mike Williams for continuing to blast the neighbors with the James Gang and to John Weir for keepin’ the musical conversation lively.

Thanks to guitar player Tyler Johnston for keeping that Les Paul chirpin’, Teenage-Gypsy Kristina Bucklew, Odyssey Record store lover Chrissy Cuglietta, punkers John and Cricket Conant, Debi Curtis (who knew me so well; way back when), Tom Spellman who’s seen and heard so many of the great bands that I have, and to renaissance man Patrick O’Reilly, Naomi and Ladeshia, Lisa Grandizio, Engineer-Extraordinaire T-Bone Demman, and the ever-lovely Chris Blue.

Thanks to Little Sister Rachel Lehman, thanks to Tarah Grace (and Janis), fretboard-man Doug Sawyer, drummer Freddie Woods, master-chef Lawrence Gatens and thanks to Katherine Angela & Jake McLemore, a Great (and dangerous!) mom and son combination.

Thanks to Victoria ‘Bubbles’ Lopez, Rani ‘you heard this stuff when you were a kid’ and ‘Mini-Rani’ Sanders, Patty Couture ‘Hendrix at Christmas’, Crazy-British rocker Eileen McMillan, Gina ‘Thumpety-Thump’ Connors, a HUGE thanks to Jeff & Bernadette Olsen and to Melanie Nellor; the cutest girl in the world. A special ‘Thank You’ for all the inspiration to the best friend a writer could have: Barry Kibrick. Thanks to CeCe ‘Everything Everything Right Back to You’ Boultwood, Punker-Prog-Rocker-POETs’ poet Erica Ratzon and to composer Wilderness Hansen and pianist Franz Leo Hansen.

 

Legal Stuff

All music and lyrics: Dennis Lee Askew. All arrangements, synthesizer and electronic programming: same. Publishing, production and Universe tm: same. Copyrighted 1975-78; 2014. ASCAP on everything. Digital release by White Stone Records.

Contact: contact@mgwds.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dennislee.askew

Twitter: soon to come... maybe...

Also visit: www.DenthePen.com


Also visit: www.RockTalkLasVegas.com


Also visit: www.mysticforestmedia.com


Love One Another

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