Without Introduction is the first and only album by the American prog rock band Polyphony which broke up shortly after recording together. Beside a cult following on the internet, Without Introduction and Polyphony mostly seem to have been lost to time. Various sources can't agree on basic facts such as whether the band had 3 or 5 members, whether the album was originally released in 1971 or 1972, and even what label the record was released under. For over thirty years the only copies available were from the original release but it was later re-released on CD in 2004 and 2005.
But these are minor details. What is known is that Without Introduction is a standout example of early American prog rock from a time when almost all innovation in the genre was taking place on the other side of the Atlantic. Polyphony is equal parts Procol Harum and King Crimson with psychedelic lyrics and long jams punctuated by moog solos. The album consists of only four songs: two epic jams, an album closer, and an eclectic electronic interlude. I'm really bad at describing music so honestly, if you're interested, you should just listen to the album for yourself.
Juggernaut 13:57 - The first half of this song is argument and rebuttal between the guitar and organ which is interesting enough on its own. But around 9:00 the character of the jam completely changes. Instead of the harsh guitar and rolling tempo you get a much more spacey feeling and cooperation between instruments right up to the end. Only downside is the lyrics, but if you listen to the vocals as an instrument and just ignore the words, it's good. If you're like me, you'll find yourself humming the melody at odd times during the day. Pretty cool.
40 Second Thing in 39 Seconds 1:17 - Could also be titled "Hey guys, we have a minute of space left on the A side, whadda you wanna put on it?" The song perfectly fits with the tongue in cheek title, a single repeating note that jumps up and down to form the melody, then alternates with a counter-melody. It's a filler track but an interesting one nonetheless and a good counterpoint to the jams of the other three.
Ariel's Flight 15:10 - This is the song where Polyphony really shows off the organ. The introduction to this song is reminiscent of Juggernaut but that quickly changes into a vocal section with organ backing. This is one of the more repetitive tracks but not to a fault. There's some real nice lyrics syncopate brilliantly at several points in this one. The most notable section is about ten minutes in where it suddenly goes into 3/4 time and resembles nothing if not a carnival.
Crimson Dagger 7:18
This is arguably the most 'proggy' sounding track on the album. Once again, it starts with a chaotic guitar and organ intro which mellows out about halfway through. Generic but solid closer.
The Review: ★★★½
Without Introduction is a solid example of prog rock and a good counterpoint to many of the better-known albums and acts. The organ and moog work is the real strength here. Though keyboardist Craig Massey is no Keith Emerson, he's technically proficient and doesn't overreach, often preferring to repeat a short but intriguing riff over the eclectic improvisation more common to Emerson. The percussion, bass, and guitar isn't noteworthy but is competent support for the strong keyboard. If I were to pick a weak point for this album it would have to be the vocals. The lyrics are full of cliches with simple rhymes—I hope to never again hear the phrase 'mellow yellow' in serious music. However, if psychedelic rock is your thing, you might enjoy them.
If you're listening carefully, you can tell that there are a few times where two different recordings were spliced together to construct the longer tracks. While this was fairly common at the time, it can be slightly distracting to hear the slight incongruity when a hi-hat or organ note is slightly off tempo. The album also relies pretty heavily on repetition and variation on a theme. Don't get me wrong, I like Philip Glass so my tolerance for repetition is high but it's something to be aware of.
Oh, and you can't review anything prog without at least acknowledging the album art. It's a little dated with the allusions to astrology but still, very proggy. The four figures are each meant to represent one of the four elements reaching towards an orb of energy which represents Polyphony. Hokey? Yes, but it's colorful and stylish.
If ELP is filet mignon, then Polyphony is steak. Not the best example of prog rock nor even a good introduction to the genre but a very worthy addition to it. If you know you like psychedelic rock or early prog rock, I'd definitely recommend this album. Copies of the CD release are reasonably common on eBay but it can also be found on youtube as well as, I'm sure, various file sharing sites.
Sources & Extras:
The album art
Some reviews and album information which may or may not be accurate
A facebook fan page apparently set up by former member Glenn Howard.