Eela Craig – Missa Universalis (1978)

LPFrontCover1Eela Craig was an Austrian rock band of the 1970s and 1980s, that combined progressive rock with jazz and classical music influences as well as Christian lyrics. The band’s name is without known meaning.

The band was founded in Linz in 1970, and recorded its first album, entitled Eela Craig, in 1971 with a circulation of 1,500. Critics compared this album with established bands such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer, King Crimson, Gentle Giant and Colosseum. The band had a few onstage performances with the Zürich Chamber Orchestra in 1972, which led to more performances in well-known opera houses of Italy, Germany and Austria, uncommon venues for a rock band at the time.


The band signed a contract with Virgin Records in 1975, to release a number of singles and albums, including the Christian concept album Missa Universalis, and a signature ethereal cover version of Chris de Burgh’s “A Spaceman Came Travelling”, both released in 1978.

Missa Universalis was a musical translation of a (Catholic) high mass, which embraced lyrics in Latin, German, English and French. The compositions resembled the works of Anton Bruckner, mixed with elements of rock and electronic music. The premiere was performed at the Brucknerfest of the city of Linz and received positive acceptance.

Eela Craig01

The band was largely inactive between 1982 and 1986, but the two founding members produced solo music under the Bognermayr/Zuschrader name with Bognermayr’s own New Age label, Erdenklang. 1987 saw the release of three singles, which were targeted to match the contemporary pop music style. Eela Craig released their last album, Hit or Miss, in 1987.

On 17 November 1995, the band reunited for a one-time live performance in Linz. At the same time, Hubert Bognermayr published a compilation of the band’s music entitled Symphonic Rock. (wikipedia)

Wonderful symphonic rock that takes you to cloud number nine! (Erik Neuteboom)


And here´s theird 3d album.

Now here’s something you don’t hear too much in the world of prog rock: a Christian prog rock album. But EELA CRAIG did such an album in 1978. “Missa Universalis”, their fourth album takes a Roman Catholic Mass to a prog rock context. Luckily they didn’t have to water down their prog rock sound to have a religious theme. At this point, they were playing a rather lush style of prog rock heavy on the string synths, not unlike what ELOY was doing at the same time, only more polished, and surprisingly (given EELA CRAIG were Austrians), no ridiculously accented vocals like you do Frank Bornemann. For this concept, the members of the band decided to sing in four languages, Latin, French, German, and English, quite a lot for the band to do, put they pulled it off. Without a doubt, the opening cut, “Kyrie” is by far the highlight. The droning string synths and a voice that repeats “Kyrie Eleison” over and over really trips me out. “Credo (Part 1)” is a pretty nice ballad while “Credo (Part 2)” tends to be a bit more on the funky side. “Sanctus” borrowed from Anton Bruckner, and at the end goes for a funky jam reminescent of “One Niter”.

Eela Craig02

The closing song, “Amen” reminds me a little of VANGELIS circa “Heaven & Hell”.

But I also have a big complaint of this album: since I’m not Christian, every time I listen to this album, I really feel like I’m being preached at, like on “Credo (Part 1)” where the lyrics go: “And I believe, in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God”. I expect to feel like I’m being preached at when I’m unlucky to hear something from a CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) artist, not a prog rock band. Regardless, like the ELECTRIC PRUNES’ “Mass in F Minor” some 11 years before, “Missa Universalis” is a not entirely successful attempt at a rock Mass, but the music itself is decent enough. (by Proghead)


Hubert Bognermayr (keyboards, vocals, electronics)
Gerhard Englisch (bass, keyboards)
Frank Hueber (drums)
Wil Orthofer (vocals)
Fritz Riedelberger (guitar, vocals)
Hubert Schnauer (keyboards, flute)
Harald Zuschrader (keyboards, guitar, electronics)
Walter Karlberger (lyrics)


01. Kyrie (Bognermayr/Orthofer/Schnauer/Karlberger) 12.06
02. Gloria (Englisch/Orthofer/Karlberger) 6.04
03. Credo Part I + Part II (Zuschrader/Orthofer/Bognermayr/Karlberger) 8.07
04. Sanctus (Bruckner/Riedelberger/Schnauer/Karlberger) 8.53
05. Agnus Dei (Schnauer/Orthofer/Karlberger) 5.26
06. Amen (Englisch/Zuschrader) 2.02



Liner Notes1

More from Eela Craig:

Eela Craig – Same (1971)

FrontCover1This often overlooked Austrian band epitomizes the whole Austrian progressive movement. The prime mover is Hubert Bognermayr (keyboards and vocals) who later became known because of his pioneering with the Fairlight computer and his ‘electronic hunter’s lodge’ (blessed by international musicians and the famous Bob Moog). The other members were Hubert Schnauer (keyboards and flute), Harald Zuschader (keyboards, flute and guitar), Fritz Riedelberger (guitar, piano and vocals), Gerhard Englisch (bas and percussion) and Frank Hueber (drums and percussion). They released the eponymous first album (’71), “One Niter” (’76), “Hats of Glass” (’77), “Missa Universalis” (’78), “Virgin Oiland” (’80), “Hit or Miss” (’88) and “Symphonic Rock” (from ’95 containing the 2nd and 3rd LP on 1 CD). I’m only familiar with the LP’s “One Niter” and “Hats of Glass”. The music on these albums is 24-carat symphonic rock but hard to compare, maybe some hints from RICK WAKEMAN solo, ELOY, PINK FLOYD and CAMEL can be traced.


My collection contains the great compilation-CD “Symphonic Rock” including the songs from the albums “One Niter” and “Hats of Glass”, considered as their best ones (I prefer the more compelling “One Niter”). The melodic and harmonic music from EELA CRAIG is build upon beautiful interplay between four members with their keyboards (ranging from soaring strings and bombastic choir-Mellotron to the typical sound of the Fender Rhodes electric piano, sensational Moog flights, swinging clavinet and powerful Hammond organ runs) and sensitive and howling electric guitarplay.


The moving compositions sound warm and are coloured with lots of instruments, from the aforementioned keyboards to flute, acoustic guitar and assorted percussion. Wonderful symphonic rock that takes you to cloud number nine! (Erik Neuteboom)


Austria really isn’t a hotbed of prog rock, but EELA CRAIG was by and far that country’s best known prog rock band, name, for no apparent reason by original guitarist and founder Heinz Gerstmair. This self-entitled album from 1971 is very obscure and known by very few, as it was originally released on a small Austrian label called Pro-Disc and original LPs since commanding around the $500 range (but luckily a small German label called Garden of Delights reissued this on CD, meaning that you shouldn’t worry about spending more than $20 to hear this album).


While their later albums tended to be synth-heavy symphonic prog, this one tends to the bluesy/jazzy psych/prog realm, with the Wurlitzer electric piano dominated (and Hammond organ on only two cuts). The bluesy nature of this album has to do with original guitarist Heinz Gerstmair, and vocalist Wil Orthofer, while drummer Horst Waber gave the band that jazzy touch, add that on with the flute, organ, and acoustic guitar of Harald Zuschrader, bass of Gerhard Englisch, and electric piano of Hubert Bognermayr, and you have the original EELA CRAIG lineup.


The biggest problem I have with this album is the crappy production, it has that very obvious homemade feel to it, so it’s really lacking in the dynamics. But still, it’s full of good stuff like the drug-oriented “Selfmade Trip” and “A New Way”. “New Born Child” starts off in that psychedelic manner with terrifying screams in the most inappropriate time (when the song slows down, unlike PINK FLOYD’s “Careful With That Axe, Eugene”, which the song reaches its most intense climax). Despite the flaws, it’s a pretty nice piece of underground prog/psych you come to expect from this era. (by Proghead)


Hubert Bognermayr (piano. vocals on 07. + 08.)
Joe Drobar (drums, percussion on 05. – 08.)
Gerhard English (bass)
Heinz Gerstmair (guitar, organ, vocals on 01.- 04.)
Will Orthofer (saxophone, vocals, saxophones on 01. – 04.)
Fritz Riedelberger (guitar, piano, vocals on 07. + 08,)
Hubert Schnauer (flute, mellotron on 07. + 08.)
Horst Waber (drums, percussion on 01.  – 04.)
Harald Zuschrader (organ, flute, guitar, saxophone on 01. – 06.)


01. New Born Child (Bognermayr) 7.45
02. Selfmade Trip (Gerstmair) 10.30
03. A New Way (Gerstmair) 7.04
04. Indra Elegy (Bognermayr) 11.43
04.1. 1st Movement – From Nowhere
04.2. 2nd Movement – Burning
04.3. 3rd Movement – Elegy
04.4. 4th Movement – To Nowhere
05. Irminsul (1972) (Peschek) 2.10
06. Yggdrasil (1972) (Peschek) 3.38
07. Stories (Single A-Side,1974) (Riedelberger) 4.39
08. Cheese (Single B-Side,1974) (Bognermayr) 4.39