Of all the artists who passed through the cult-filled portals of the Vertigo label during the early '70s, few have attracted more attention than Ramases. His first album for the label, Space Hymns, was recorded with the nascent 10cc as backing musicians, but even more importantly, it represents one of the most spellbinding releases in the label's entire catalog, a conceptual epic that actually leaves you believing that what Ramases himself believed was true -- he really was the reincarnation of the Egyptian deity whose name he had adopted.
Born in Sheffield, England, Martin Raphael was working as a central heating salesman when he and his wife, Selket, emerged onto the late-'60s psychedelic scene, with an act that was as eye-catching as their legend. A one-off deal with CBS saw them cut the single "Crazy Eye"/"Mind's Eye" in 1968. According to Ramases, the A-side was actually called "Quasar One"; it was retitled by a crackling telephone line.
Released under the name Ramases & Selket (conjuring images of some kind of bizarre Sonny & Cher), the single did little, and the pair moved on to Major Minor, which released "Love You"/"Gold Is the Ring" later that same year, this time under the name Ramases & Seleka. Again the record fared poorly, but Ramases' musical vision continued expanding and, in 1970, the duo signed with Vertigo.
Recorded at Strawberry Studios in Manchester, the ensuing Space Hymns LP remains one of bassist Graham Gouldman's favorite sessions, out of all those that the future 10cc undertook during the early '70s. "It was great. It was a really fine album to make. We would sit down on the floor with acoustic guitars, that kind of vibe, very hippy and mystical."
The album retains that vibe, both across the music and via a majestic sleeve painting from Roger Dean. But Space Hymns sold no more than most of Vertigo's other releases (two singles, "Balloon" and "Jesus Come Back," disappeared likewise), and Ramases slipped from view for the next three years.
He and Selket resurfaced in 1975, releasing the astounding Glass Top Coffin album and, thanks to the 10cc connection, looking set to enjoy at least a degree of success. Unfortunately it didn't work out like that, and the pair returned to obscurity. Ramases died by his own hand at his Felixstowe home in 1978. ~ Dave Thompson