After James Litherland’s departure to Mogul Thrash, Colosseum took the opportunity to record a few new tracks and re-recorded a few old ones with incoming guitarist and vocalist Dave "Clem" Clempson, previously in the blues power trio Bakerloo. So instead of issuing a US release of Valentyne Suite, these tracks made up a new album, entitled The Grass Is Always Greener, but with the same cover! It saw release in January 1970, again on ABC Dunhill. The opening bells of “Jumpin Off The Sun” reveal not Christmas, but another Colosseum stormer, with the much earthier voice of Clempson. Dave Greenslade’s tuned percussion also features on the ensuing “Lost Angeles”, where we first get to hear Clempson rip on guitar. The bluesy “Elegy”, with a Litherland vocal, remains the only track held intact from the UK release. “Butty Blues”, another Litherland penned tune, features Greenslade’s fine organ work and a menacing bass line from Tony Reeves. Jack Bruce’s “Rope Ladder To The Moon”, with its distinct chorus, opens the second side, also offering Dick Heckstall-Smith a chance to shine. Ravel’s “Bolero” is the source of the following track, while the short “The Machine Demands A Sacrifice” benefits from Clempson’s vocal. Personnel changes again behest the band: bassist Mark Clarke replaced Reeves, while bluesman Chris Farlowe would join on vocals, allowing Clempson to concentrate on guitar. Colosseum would record two final albums in 1971: the studio Daughter Of Time and a phenomenal two-record set Colosseum Live. Both again only charted in the UK. Upon Colosseum’s breakup in late 1971, Hiseman and Clarke formed Tempest, while Farlowe was off to Atomic Rooster, Clem Clempson to Humble Pie, and Greenslade formed his own band, Greenslade (with Tony Reeves). Phew.
In 1968, Deep Purple scored some success in America with a cover of Joe South's "Hush", but their three albums for comedian Bill Cosby's Tetragrammaton label were patchy at best. Although the musicianship was high - Jon Lord's classically inspired organ breaks and Ritchie Blackmore's fast guitar runs - they had one awful vocalist in Rod Evans. Rocking-out Colosseum style, the instrumental "Hard Road (Wring That Neck)" from Book of Taliesyn was probably the best nugget from that period. When the label folded, the band regrouped and brought on Roger Glover and Ian Gillian from Episode Six. The first release from the Mark II band was Lord's five-part Concerto For Group and Orchestra. Recorded (and broadcast) from the Royal Albert Hall, the band warmed up with three songs ("Wring That Neck", "Child In Time" and "Hush") before launching into the "classical" piece. The Royal Philharmonic play, the band rocks out, the Philharmonic play some more, the band rocks out... and so it goes. Lord's classical writing is of soundtrack quality at best, while the band's parts are typical heavy rock and a lot - and I mean a lot - of soloing. Not any great integration between the two, but it was, as Lord said, "a beginning". Sounds more like an excuse. However, it was Deep Purple's first charting album in the UK, hitting No. 26. Six months later, the band released the single "Black Night" from the album in Rock. Lord's classical ambitions were shelved (though the band's version of his Gemini Suite would follow), and Blackmore now guided their heavy riffing formula off of the timeline and on to mammoth international success as one of the premier heavy rock bands of the 1970s. Just look to Italy for more musically successful attempts at the rock plus orchestra combination.
Much like the difference between the acid rock of San Francisco's Jefferson Airplane, Love or Grateful Dead, vs the noire of New York’s Velvet Underground or Detroit’s MC5, London’s summer of love also spawned to the acceptable face of psychedelia of the Beatles and other chart-toppers of the era, and the underground of Ladbroke Grove of The Social Deviants, Pink Fairies, and most famously Hawkwind. With an art school background, Mick Farren was there in the 60s. He was a staffer at International Times, London’s first counter-culture newspaper, and a UK wannabe White Panther. In 1967, he formed the Social Deviants with Sid Bishop, Cord Rees, and Russell Hunter. Funded by a rich kid and later issued on Decca, Ptooff! was released independently, via the underground network of newspapers and shops. Disposable appeared a year later, with Duncan Sanderson now on bass, but the addition of Canadian guitarist Paul Rudolph in 1969 inspired their recorded legacy, 3. Produced by Roy Thomas Baker and released (somehow) on the folky Transatlantic label, the album was all Deviants: a large dose of 50s rock-n-roll, fuzzed-out psychedelia, and Zappa-inspired weirdness. “Broken Biscuits” is very proto-punk, while “The First Line (Seven The Row)”, a typical blues-inspired rock for the era, reveals Rudolph’s expertise as a guitarist. “Metamorphosis Explosion” however is the one track to remember: Farren’s vocals are neither good nor bad, and his words are prose, but when the song part fades away and the band kicks it in gear, it is underground rock at its finest. A tour of the US however proved fateful, as Rudolph, Sanderson and Hunter would split from Farren and eventually form the Pink Fairies.
Family entered 1970 with what was arguably their strongest lineup – vocalist Roger Chapman, guitarist Charlie Whitney and drummer Rob Townsend were now accompanied by bassist and violinist John Weider and Poli Palmer on keyboards and vibes. Produced by the band, their subsequent album A Song For Me would be their most successful. “Drowned In Wine” blasts the record open, providing proof-positive that the band's on-stage power easily translates to vinyl. The album is littered with Chapman/Whitney classics, include the beautiful “Some Poor Soul” and the racuous “Love Is A Sleeper, but the pair also collaborated with Weider, on the instrumental “93's Ok J” and the long rambunctious title track, and with the departed Ric Grech, on the strong “Wheels”. The album presents a more eclectic and indeed electric selection of songs, the arrangements also benefiting from Palmer's diverse instrumentation. Released in January, the album reached No. 4 in the UK. Further touring in the US did not change their fortunes stateside, but there was no shortage of work in the UK; Family recorded for another three BBC programs. A single in August, “Strange Band” b/w “The Weaver's Answer”/”Hung Up Down” nearly broke the UK top 10. The half studio - half live Anyway also provided further commercial success, reaching No. 7. Bar the previous single, the album comprise all new material, including the powerful studio track “Part Of The Road”. Originally meant as a double album, the live side was recorded at Fairfield Halls the previous July; the concert was also filmed, but the video footage remains unreleased.
Organist Vincent Crane and drummer Carl Palmer were first paired together in Arthur Brown's Crazy World. They split off during a US tour in 1969, returning to England to form Atomic Rooster. According to legend, it was during a psychedelic experience that Crane first envisioned the "rooster", and after which his subsequent psychiatric problems began to surface. Crane was a huge fan of James Brown, while Palmer was into Buddy Rich; that they both brought those influences to Atomic Rooster gave the band its unique character. Nick Graham was recruited after a short list of names failed to pan out. Graham was a versatile musician, playing bass, guitar and flute, and providing vocals, often reminiscent of The Who's Roger Daltry (not necessarily a good thing). Propelled by Palmer's hard-driving foundation, Crane's hard rocking songs are fit with progressive arrangements (check out the horn section of "Broken Wings") and his virtuoso keyboard skills. However, it's on a track like "Banstead" - an epithet to the Mental Hospital he was admitted to - where Crane turns the frenzy down a notch that his talent really shines through. The lamenting "Winter" is similar, its sparse arrangement augmented with a beautiful solo cello and flute. Unfortunately line-up changes would always plague the Rooster and shortly before the album's release, Graham quit the band. The album reached No. 49 in the UK, but by the end of the year, Palmer too had left, to join Messrs. Emerson and Lake. Crane, undeterred, forged on.
After their debut album's release, careful manipulation from Tony Stratton-Smith released Peter Hammill from his contract with Mercury Records, allowing Van Der Graaf Generator into the Charisma stable. The band reformed permanently (enough): Guy Evans brought bassist Nic Potter from their interim gig in The Misunderstood, but with the arrival of sax player David Jackson, previously with Chris Judge Smith in Heebalob, all the pieces were in place. Thus, VDGG began in earnest with their second album. They weren't your typical band: lacking (for all intensive purpose) electric guitar, Jackson's saxophone was the lead instrument, and in Roland Kirk style, he would even play two or three at a time. Hugh Banton was, of course, the ace in hand and an organist of great distinction; certainly in the league of a Keith Emerson or Vincent Crane. The powerful "Darkness" opens the album, at once revealing VDGG's original craft. Jackson is the true signature of the band; his wailing sax work is unique, masking any trace of influence with his own originality. The elegant "Refugees" carries on in the tradition of "Afterward", as does the second side's "Out Of My Book". Both are in sharp contrast to the apocalyptic refrains of "After The Flood" and "White Hammer". Bold, brash, and above all genuine, they alternate between calm and storm, another of the idiosyncrasies that would define the band. The album served as their debut in their native UK, and even managed to do something no other VDGG album would: it reached No. 47 in the album charts. The band toured considerably in the first half of the year, returning to Trident in the summer to record their third record.
The wacky world of Gong began in 1967 after Daevid Allen was left stranded and subsequently ex-Soft Machine in France, courtesy of British Immigration. Returning to Paris, Allen secured a guitar, Binson amplifier and a ”gynaecological surgical instrument” through benefactors, and promptly set upon inventing his trademark glissando guitar technique. Reunited with Gilli Smyth, the pair found like-minded souls to create their improvised art. The earliest magick brothers and mystic sisters were Loren Standlee and Ziska Baum, as well as the proto-Gong Bananamoon band, with Patrick Fontaine and Marc Blanc (both later in Ame Son). But the student uprisings of summer 1968 sent the couple to Majorca to avoid authorities. Eventually the couple worked their way back to Paris in September of 1969, enticed by a three album deal with the French BYG (Fernand Boruso, Jean-Luc Young & Jean Georgakarakos) label. Didier Malherbe and Richard Houri along with a few guests participate in the sessions that produce the Magick Brother album. The title track opens with the sound of (you guessed it) a gong, revealing a loose, almost chaotic backdrop to Allen’s songwriting. His penchant for a catchy melody is immediately identifiable, as are his lyrics: “Change The World” and “Chainstore Chant: Pretty Miss Titty” both contain his anti-establishment ethos. “Ego” highlights the loose and jazzy nature of the group and Gilli’s unique style of singing, or “spacewhisper”. “5 & 20 Schoolgirls” dispenses the pointless soloing for a much tighter structure, and to great reward. Immediately following completion of the album, bassist Christian Tritsch, violinist Dieter Gewissler and instrumentalist Daniel Laloux were recruited for live gigs, including an appearance at the famous Amougies Festival in October of 1969.
Following his break from the Deviants, Mick Farren returned to the UK. As story goes, he met guitarist Steve Hammond at a party and related he was looking for a band for his upcoming solo album. Hammond obliged, basically offering the services of Quatermass. Farren had already enlisted Twink and Steve Peregrin Took, as the precursor to the Pink Faries, along with a few other mates. Both sections of “Mona“, yes, the same Bo Diddley number covered by the Rolling Stones and the Troggs, are typical of Farren’s take on rock-n-roll as he played with the Deviants, the added congas here accentuating the beat. “Mona The Whole Trip” adds some rough sounding cello from Paul Buckmaster, who had previously worked with David Bowie. It’s not easy listening, by any stretch, but that’s the point. Yet sandwiched by a rousing if unspectacular cover of “Summertime Blues”, the real meat of the album is when the band, including bassist John Gustafson and organist Pete Robinson, join guitarist Hammond and drummer Twink for the funky, dark groove of “The Carnivorous Circus”. The second half is more varied, offering differing sections, the transition sometimes quite abrupt. The final section, led by a strumming guitar, breaks down to some plaintive and thick guitar lines. Farren would put music on the back-burner for the remainder of the decade, instead directing his efforts towards writing. He was a noted journalist, writing for the NME and IT, and author, his first novel The Texts of Festival published in 1973.
John Charles Edward Alder, aka Twink (after a popular home perm kit), hailed from Colchester, Essex, where he had an R&B band called the Fairies. Moving to London in 1966, the band released three singles that went nowhere, prompting him to join The In-Crowd, which later morphed into Tomorrow. While still a member of The Pretty Things, he and Steve Peregrin Took, soon to be ex-Tyrannosaurus Rex, started an embryonic Pink Fairies, the fruits of which were Twink’s debut solo album, Think Pink. Released in 1970 on Sire Records in the US, the album was produced by Deviant Mick Farren, and featured Took, guitarist Paul Rudolph, bassist Junior Wood (from Tomorrow and The Aquarian Age), and some of the Pretties. The album opens with the eastern-tinged “The Coming of the One”, complete with sitar from Jon Povey. “Ten Thousand Words In A Cardboard Box” follows, and presents a heady dose of psychedelia, with solid guitar from Rudolph. Following the om-mantra of “Dawn Of Magic”, another of the album’s full-on electric numbers “Tiptoe To The Highest Hill” offers sterling psychedelia of the highest order. The sexy “Fluid” slows the pace, while “Mexican Grass War” is a drum-led and dated freakout. “Rock-N-Roll The Joint” dips back for some good old time rock-n-roll, while “Suicide” is reminiscent of the Pretty Things. The final numbers were penned with Took, “Three Little Piggies” being plain silly, the latter Bowie-esque. The album an important document, mapping the path from psychedelia as it went underground, and very much a Ladbroke Grove all-stars product, or as they were known, Pink Fairies Motorcycle Club and All-Star Rock and Roll Band. Following the album’s release, Twink teamed up with former Deviants Rudolph, Duncan Sanderson and Russell Hunter to start the Pink Fairies proper. The album saw release in the UK in January of 1971.
Jethro Tull scored another two Top 10 singles in the UK with "Sweet Dreams" b/w "17" and "Witches Promise" b/w "Teacher" prior to the release of this, their third album. The flip side of the latter would later become an FM staple in the US. The success prompted their first headlining tour of America (with Yes in support). On Benefit, their bluesy jazz took some substantial refinement into what would eventually become the Tull sound. In came Blackpool mate John Evan on piano and organ, but more importantly, out came Anderson the raconteur. Acoustic guitar in one hand, flute in the other, his highly original songwriting soars in such songs as "Sossity; You're a Woman" and "For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me". The album is darker and moodier, but still exceptional: "Alive and Well and Living In" benefits from Evan's piano, while "Inside" again reflects the less aggressive nature of the album. The album would reach No. 3 and No. 11 in the UK and US, respectively. One for the books, Jethro Tull was now one of the first commercially accepted and successful progressive rock acts, on par with Led Zeppelin. Bassist Glenn Cornick departed after the album, to be replaced by another John Evan Band alumnus, Jeffrey Hammond. His name should be familiar, as he was the subject of many prior Tull songs.
True to form, King Crimson imploded after their US tour in late 1969. Ian McDonald and Michael Giles had too much too soon and would depart to record an eponymous record. Similarly, Greg Lake had met up with Keith Emerson while on the tour, and agreed to form a band upon their return to the UK. Thus, Robert Fripp and Pete Sinfield were left with the reigns of the band, and faced with the task of recording the follow- up (though both Lake and Giles did make contributions to the album, with the latter's brother Peter adding bass). With all the upheaval, little new material was written. The crazy "Cat Food" b/w "Groon" single came out in March, previewing where the following album (and not this album) would go. Much of the material for the album then was culled from their live set. The rocking "Pictures Of A City" was first heard as "A Man, A City"; it tracks the same territory as "21st Century Schizoid Man", but Mel Collin's horns and Giles fabulous drumming are sublime on record. Another archetype, the title track takes its stately melodies and refines them further. It's those two tracks and the fierce Mellotron orgy "The Devil's Triangle", based on Gustav Holst's Mars (from the composer's orchestral suite, "The Planets"), that make up the bulk of the album. "Cadence and Cascade" is also reprised, this time with Gordon Haskell singing. Perhaps overlooked in Crim history, In the Wake of Poseidon did closely follow the blueprint of its predecessor; however, it's a carefully constructed album, with excellent production one of its many charities. The album was again well received, reaching No. 4 in the UK, and No. 31 in the US charts. Haskell, another Bournemouth native, and hired hands Collins and Keith Tippett would remain in service for another album, barely.
Quatermass drew their name from Professor Bernard Quatermass, a character from the original science-fiction program on the BBC. Bassist John Gustafson and organist Peter Robinson first joined up with drummer Mick Underwood in Episode Six. That line-up however proved to be extremely short-lived as the trio went off to form Quatermass in July 1969. They signed to EMI’s Harvest label and their debut was recorded at A.I.R. Studios. Not that far from Atomic Rooster or Deep Purple, the band’s music is hard-driving organ rock that never forgets its R&B roots - just check out “Good Lord Knows”. Robinson is quite an organist, his solo in “Gemini” is quite over the top while “Make Up Your Mind” dances in more progressive territories. “Laughin’ Tackle” features Robinson’s string arrangements, but unfortunately is interrupted (for some reason or another) with a drum solo. All told, the album is a very original take on the bass-drum-organ combination and features a brilliant cover from Hipgnosis. Known as a formidable live act, the band even managed to tour the US in 1971. However, with little success to show for their efforts, they broke up. Around the time of the album’s release, both Gustafson and Robinson made significant contributions to the soon-to-be-released Jesus Christ Superstar album. Robinson would next team up with percussionist Morris Pert in Come To The Edge and then Suntreader, and much later in the timeline in Brand X. Gustafson formed Bullet/Hard Stuff with John DuCann and John Hammond of Atomic Rooster, before turning to session work (most notably with Roxy Music and Ian Gillian).
Originally from Oldham, Lancashire, guitarist John Lees, keyboardist Stuart “Wooly” Wolstenholme, bassist Les Holroyd and drummer Melvin Pritchard first turned professional together in 1967, drawing the names Barclay, James, and Harvest out of a hat. They released a pair of singles to some acclaim (notably John Peel), before being signed to EMI’s new Harvest label. Their debut album was produced by EMI’s Norman Smith, but its rich orchestration from “resident musical director” Robert Godfrey is certainly more characteristic. Both “Taking Some Time On” and “Good Morning Lovechild” contain punchy if uncharacteristically rocking melodies. The Beatles’ influenced “Mother Dear” and “The Iron Maiden” also turn to folk influences, but “Dark Now My Sky” is what the album is all about. The orchestra kicks off, topped with Lees’ soaring lead guitar, coalescing into a gentle melody before the waves of orchestra follow in to close. More than classically inspired, the band and orchestra actually achieve a far greater degree of integration than most; though what it has to do with rock music is really anyone’s guess. To wit, following the album’s release, the band undertook a tour accompanied by an orchestra. Their next few albums for Harvest followed in similar fashion; however, it would take a label change and live album for the band to finally hit the charts in the UK. Though not strictly prog rock, BJH would endure fashion and fate for over two decades with their unique brand of middleweight music. They would eventually find a substantial audience in Germany.
Magma’s music didn’t always completely revolve around its drummer and founder, Christian Vander. Formed in Paris in 1969, the band released two albums for Philips, one each in 1970 and 1971. Some great musicians passed through their ranks at this time, including bassists Laurent Thibault and Francis Moze, pianist François Cahen, guitarist Claude Engel, and sax players Teddy Lasry and Yochk'o “Jeff” Seffer. Featuring compositions from Vander and the others, both albums were vaguely jazzy affairs. Of course Vander’s tracks, fuelled with considerable dark matter, had the most unique trait: their musical expression was sung in its own language, Kobaïan, a kind of scat-Germanic phonetic invention. Not only did Vander offer the language, but the entire Magma schtick: inverted tantric symbol, dark black dress and a post-apocalyptic sci-fi storyline. The sprawling double album Magma offers a solid look towards their future, but musically offers something a little more grounded. “Kobaia” opens the album with a swing, fuelled by Engel’s guitar and a great chorus, before breaking down into something more improvisational. “Malaria” approaches Gong weirdness, while “Auraë” is a not-quite-realized glimpse of where Vander was heading. But the tracks written by Lasry, Cahen, Engel and Thibault on sides 2 and 3 present a more conventional fusion, yet one distinctively Magma. Their 1971 release Magma 2 (later renamed 1001° Centigrades) saw Engel temporarily depart, but marked another point on the curve in the band’s development. Thibault was behind the 1972 side project Univeria Zekt and its commercially-minded album, “The Unnamables”, but Magma then splintered, with Cahen and Seffer departing to form the similar-minded Zao.
With S.F. Sorrow a non-starter, The Pretty Things again donned their alter-ego Electric Banana to record library music for DeWolfe Publishing, ostensibly to fill the coffers. Three albums, containing both vocal and instrumental versions, were released between 1967-1969. Also recorded around this time was an album with Philippe DeBarge. The wealthy Frenchman commissioned the band the to record an album that featured himself on vocals. In Fall 1969, The Pretty Things headed back into Abbey Road studios with producer Norman Smith. Skip Alan was back behind the drum kit, however, founding member Dick Taylor had departed, being replaced by Vic Unitt from the Edgar Broughton Band. The result is the dark psychedelia of Parachute. The album is split, one side reflecting city life, while the other, escape to the country, however the tracks flow together seamlessly, their melodicism and vocal harmonies a kind of glue, as well as Smith's masterful Abbey Road production. "Miss Fay Regrets" and "Cries From The Midnight Circus" present a much harder and heavier edge, while the second side's "Grass" is haunting, even without the Mellotron. It is again another undisputed masterpiece from the band, and a testament to the Phil May and Wally Waller writing team. Although critically acclaimed upon release (there is some talk of it being Rolling Stone's "Album of the Year"), the album spent only a few weeks in the UK charts, reaching #43, and again saw belated release in the US on the Rare Earth label. Pete Tolson joined the group shortly thereafter, yet touring and a phenomenal single ("October 26th" b/w "Cold Stone") didn't change the bands fortunes, and they fell apart. The Pretty Things regrouped to record several albums in the 70s, even hooking up with Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant and the Swan Song label. Yet commercial success remained elusive as did stable lineups, and by the early 80s the Pretties were no more.
Soft Machine's Third album represents a significant shift from previous efforts. Their stream of consciousness songwriting had now given way to straight-out instrumental fusion. The album presents four compositions, each spanning one album side, further confusing whether the Softs were really ever a rock band. And so intense within the group was this change that the only vocal track - Wyatt's superb "Moon in June" - was recorded (for the most part) without participation from any other member! The change was precipitated by the arrival of a four-piece brass section led by saxophonist Elton Dean in late 1969. This short-lived septet was a monster, as live recordings of Hopper's opener "Facelift" suggest. But by the time the Softs got around to recording the album, only Dean and saxophonist Lyn Dobson remained. The version here was recorded live in January by the quintet. Ratledge's "Slightly All The Time" suffers slightly from languor and foreshadows the direction he would take the band, but his redemption is just two sides latter in the quasi-electronic "Out Bloody Rageous". The album remains a landmark recording of British jazz-rock and even managed to bring the Softs into the UK charts, resting at No. 18. The quartet (sans Dobson) soldiered through one final album, Fourth, before Wyatt quit. Then under Ratledge's exclusive tutelage, Soft Machine would continue in the direction of instrumental jazz-rock. They recorded a number of albums, some distinguished, some not, but all worthy of a listen. By mid-decade however, the band would be hijacked by ex-Nucleus members and contain not a single original member.
Although Traffic had broken up, two posthumous releases (a live album and a compilation) still managed to chart for the band in America. Yet Blind Faith barely got started before it ended and Winwood's next move, tentatively titled Mad Shadows, was originally conceived as a solo record. However, the album quickly became a Traffic release with the addition of Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood, and certainly ranks as one of the band's finest recordings. Traffic absolutely tears down the first album side with "Glad/ Freedom Rider". The former is a driving instrumental that cops the riff of the Soft Machine's "We Did It Again". Having abandoned any trace of psychedelia from their previous work, Traffic stretch out into instrumental improvisation without ever noodling around. Winwood's ability to merge his influences (and handle both keyboard and guitar) is impeccable and certainly cemented his ever-growing reputation as a musician. Both "Empty Pages" and "Stranger to Himself " present a mature Winwood and foreshadow his massive solo success a decade later. "Every Mother's Son" sounds like a Blind Faith leftover, yet it breaks down into some of Winwood's finest organ playing. But John Barleycorn Must Die may always be remembered by the sublime acoustic arrangement of its title track, based on a traditional folk song. The album was a bona fide success, reaching No. 5 in the UK and No. 11 in the US.
Yes' second album didn't break a whole lot of new ground for the band, but it did confirm what most already knew: they were a force to be reckoned with. In the studio, Eddie Offord sat fortuitously at the engineer's desk for the first time with the band. But Time and a Word wouldn't be the quantum leap Yes needed to propel them into the big league. In fact, the only leap here was Tony Cox's orchestral arrangements, a rather de rigueur post-psychedelic ornamentation of the day. To their credit, the strings work better here than on other albums from the era, thanks in part Tony Colton's up-front production. The album has a huge sound, propelled relentlessly by the Squire and Bruford rhythm team. Yes still aren't 100% on original tunes as capable covers of Ritchie Havens and Stephen Stills songs comprise half of the first side. The Jon Anderson penned "Then" is particular satisfying, while his "Clear Days" benefits from Cox's "Eleanor Rigby" style arrangement. Anderson's lyrics tackle some cosmic themes for the first time on "Astral Traveler", something he'd more than return to. His old Warrior's mate David Foster co-wrote both "Time And A Word" and "Sweet Dreams", two great pop songs that would crop up in Yes' live set over the next decade. But wait, this was supposed to be prog rock, wasn't it? The album managed to crack the UK charts, rising to No. 45. Peter Banks left the band just after the album was released; so soon after, in fact, that it was Steve Howe who appears on the album's US cover!
Hailing from Esher, Surrey, singer/drummer Paul Davis and guitarist Alan Cowderoy were in a blues-inspired combo called The Disciples. They eventually teamed up with drummer Robert Lipson and keyboardist Martin Kitcat, and were chosen to support The Who’s national tour in 1968. An unreleased pop album was recorded with Norrie Paramour and Tim Rice, but a gig supporting King Crimson in 1969 turned them full-on progressive. During a 1969 German tour, Tim Wheatley joined on bass and they landed a deal with Vertigo Records. Their debut album Gracious! was recorded in 1970 and featured a stark white cover with just an exclamation point. “Introduction” opens brings it on: under a chomping harpsichord, the band offer a curious mix of blues, pop and progressive. Davis’ voice is first rate, reminiscent of Paul McCartney, and his lyrics have a religious bent. “Heaven” brings on the Mellotron, but unfortunately some of the worst lyrics committed to vinyl: “Do you have a clean mind?” The following “Hell” provides juxtaposition, darker and heavier, with phased cymbals crashing away, Kitcat’s keyboard skills feature prominently. “Fugue In D Minor” is just that, a classical fugue, but the ensuing “Dream” is quite the epic suite. After a slow introduction, Cowdery lights up his electric guitar for a bluesy little vamp, before trading off with Kitcat’s electric piano. It’s improvised, but not without structure. Davis then goes all psychedelic, offering an Arthur Brown type rant, before the Mellotron kicks in; the band’s all fireworks, and the blues influence - and percussion - never gets too buried. Success however, wasn’t in the cards for the band. A second album, This Is, was recorded in 1971, but the band was dropped by Vertigo, and by the time it saw release on Phillips budget label, Gracious! had already broken up. It features another of their epic compositions, “Supernova”. A reunion gig was performed in 1972 at the Marquee Theatre.
In 1969, guitarist Dave Brock and drummer Terry Ollis gathered up saxophonist Nik Turner, synthesist Dik Mik Davies and guitarist Huw Lloyd-Langton, and after a few name and personnel changes launched the ultimate underground band, Hawkwind. The band came to the attention of Doug Smith of Clearwater Productions after opening (as “Group X”) for High Tide at a gig Smith organized in Notting Hill. Signed to United Artists, their debut album was produced in April of 1970 by the very recent ex-Pretty Thing Dick Taylor. The bulk of the album, a big live jam known as “Sunshine Special”, was separated into tracks for the record. It’s completely psychedelic improvisation, akin to Pink Floyd’s early sonic excursions. But the key to its uniqueness is Hawkwind’s complete lack of musical proficiency; they managed to use this handicap as a gateway to originality, though acid probably helped too. Perhaps at odds with the progressive era, the band would however show a musical “progression” over the next several albums. The record is bookended by two tracks, the perennial favorite “Hurry On Sundown, an upbeat folksy number, and it’s cousin “Mirror of Illusion”, both forged from Brock’s days as a busker and issued as a single. The album did not chart, but was released on both sides of the Atlantic, as would all their albums for United Artists. Bassist John Harrison left the band shortly before the album’s release, the first of a myriad of personnel changes for the band.