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1970 Albums

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The Grass Is Greener > Colosseum

January, 1970
United States
Dunhill
4.5
After James Litherland's departure to Mogul Thrash, Colosseum recorded a few new tracks and re-recorded some old ones with incoming guitarist and vocalist Clem Clempson, previously in the blues power trio Bakerloo. So instead of issuing Valentyne Suite in the US, the tracks were compiled as a new album, entitled The Grass Is Greener—but with the same cover. It saw release in January 1970, again on ABC Dunhill. The opening bells of "Jumpin off the Sun" signal another Colosseum stormer, but now with the much earthier voice of Clempson. Dave Greenslade's tuned percussion also features on the ensuing "Lost Angeles," where we first hear Clempson rip on guitar. The bluesy "Elegy," with a Litherland vocal, remains the only track held intact from the UK release. "Butty's 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 and also offers Dick Heckstall-Smith a chance to shine. Maurice Ravel's Boléro is the source of the following track, while the short "The Machine Demands a Sacrifice" benefits from Clempson's vocal. Personnel changes again rattled the band: bassist Mark Clarke replaced Reeves and bluesman Chris Farlowe joined on vocals, allowing Clempson to concentrate solely on guitar. Colosseum would record two final albums in 1971: the studio-produced 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, Farlowe joined Atomic Rooster, Clempson went to Humble Pie and Greenslade formed his own band with Reeves.

Concerto For Group And Orchestra > Deep Purple

January, 1970
United States
Warner Bros. Records
4.2
In 1968, Deep Purple scored great success in America with a cover of Joe South's "Hush," but their three albums for the Tetragrammaton label were patchy at best. Although the musicianship was high, with Jon Lord's classically-inspired organ breaks and Ritchie Blackmore's arpeggio runs and big riffs, they had a 60s-sounding vocalist in Rod Evans. Rocking-out Colosseum style, the instrumental "Hard Road (Wring That Neck)" from Book Of Taliesyn was arguably the best nugget from that period. When the label folded, the band regrouped and brought on Roger Glover and Ian Gillan from Episode Six. The first release from the Mark II lineup 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 Orchestra 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 with a lot—and I mean a lot—of soloing. Not a great integration; but it was, as Lord said, "a beginning." Sounds more like an excuse. Still, it was Deep Purple's first charting album in the UK, hitting No. 26. Six months later, the band released the single "Black Night" b/w "Speed King" 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 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 successful attempts at fusing rock music with an orchestra.

A Song For Me > Family

January, 1970
United States
Reprise Records
3.75
Family entered 1970 with perhaps 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. Their next album, A Song For Me, produced by the band, would be their most successful. "Drowned in Wine" blasts the record open, proving that the band's on-stage power could easily translate to vinyl. The album is littered with Chapman/Whitney classics, including the beautiful "Some Poor Soul" and the raucous "Love Is a Sleeper;" but the pair also collaborated with Weider, on the instrumental "93's O.K. J" and the long, rambunctious title track; and on the strong "Wheels" with the departed Ric Grech. The album presents a more eclectic and indeed electric selection of songs, with 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 failed to 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. Released in November, the half-studio, half-live Anyway reached the UK No. 7. The album was comprised of new material, including the powerful studio track "Part of the Load." Originally intended as a double-album, the live side was recorded at Fairfield Halls in July; the concert was also filmed, but the video footage remains unreleased.

Atomic Rooster > Atomic Rooster

February, 1970
United States
B & C Records
4
Organist Vincent Crane and drummer Carl Palmer were first paired in The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. They split off during a US tour in 1969, and returned to England and formed Atomic Rooster (1969 was the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese Zodiac). 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; bringing both influences to Atomic Rooster imbued the band with its unique character. Multi-instrumentalist Nick Graham was recruited after a short list of names failed to pan out. Graham was a versatile musician-playing bass, guitar and flute, as well as providing vocals often reminiscent of The Who's Roger Daltrey. Propelled by Palmer's driving foundation, Crane's hard-rocking songs swell with progressive arrangements (check out the horn section of "Broken Wings") and his virtuoso keyboard skills. But it's on "Banstead," an epithet to the mental hospital where he had been admitted in 1969, where Crane turns the frenzy down a notch that his talent shines through. The elegiac "Winter" is similar, its sparse arrangement enhanced by a beautiful solo cello and flute from Graham. Unfortunately, lineup changes would plague the Rooster; 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, off to join Messrs. Emerson and Lake in ELP. Crane, undeterred, forged on.

Beggar Julia's Time Trip > Ekseption

February, 1970
US
Philips
0
Ekseption's history goes back to the mid-60s in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Trumpeter Rein van den Broek's high school band The Jokers morphed into The Incrowd, gaining keyboardist Rick van der Linden in 1966; subsequently they renamed themselves Ekseption. Both classically-trained musicians, driven on by The Nice's fusion of rock and classics, made a name for themselves-playing rocked-up versions of classical themes! Released in 1969, "5th Symphony" b/w "Sabre Dance," an arrangement of Ludwig van Beethoven's famous short-short-short-long motif, was an instant hit. The bustling horns, swirling organ and a driving rhythm was met with open arms and the single soared for weeks in the Dutch charts. Ekseption's debut album, released in the US as Symphonic Revelations on the Philips label, saw a further mix of classical and jazz standards, plus a cover of Jethro Tull's "Dharma For One" for good measure. Infinitely more interesting was their second album, Beggar Julia's Time Trip, released in 1970. The lineup had now shuffled a bit, adding drummer Dennis Whitebread, vocalist Michael van Dijk and flautist Dick Remelinck, along with producer Tony Vos on saxophone and electronics. In addition to the classical arrangements (here including J.S. Bach, Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Tomaso Albinoni), van der Linden shelled out over half an album's worth of original material; though one can't imagine why he didn't offer more like the multi-faceted monster of "Pop Giant." Coupled with Linda van Dyck's groovy spoken word and some electronic interludes, the album is an expertly performed classic, if one very much of the era. Ekseption continued offering classical rock for several more albums, before mutiny hit their ranks and van der Linden was asked to leave. He did, moving on to form the more progressive Trace in 1973. With new keyboardist Hans Jansen, Ekseption continued before breaking up in 1976.

The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other > Van Der Graaf Generator

February, 1970
United States
Probe/ABC
4
Following the release of The Aerosol Grey Machine, careful manipulation from Charisma label founder Tony Stratton-Smith released Peter Hammill from his contract with Mercury Records, allowing Van der Graaf Generator the freedom to join the Charisma stable of artists. Hammill and Hugh Banton then reunited the band, with Guy Evans recruiting bassist Nic Potter from The Misunderstood. Yet the arrival of sax player David Jackson, previously with Chris Judge Smith in Heebalob, was when all the pieces fell into place for the band. Thus constituted, VdGG begins in earnest with their second album, The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other. Mind you, VdGG weren't your typical band; effectively without electric guitar, Jackson's saxophone was the band's lead instrument and, in Roland Kirk style, he would even play two or three horns at a time. Banton was also key-an organist certainly in the league of Keith Emerson or Vincent Crane. The powerful "Darkness (11/11)" opens the album, immediately revealing VdGG's original craft. Jackson's wailing sax work is the band's signature, masking any trace of influence with his own originality. The elegant "Refugees" continues 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." Brash and brazen, the band alternate between calm and storm—another of the idiosyncrasies that would define their music. The album served as their debut in the UK, and even managed to do something that no other VdGG album would accomplish there: chart, at No. 47.

Magick Brother > Gong

March, 1970
France
BYG Records
3
The wacky world of Gong began in 1967, after Daevid Allen found himself ex-Soft Machine and stranded in France, courtesy of British Immigration. Returning to Paris, Allen secured a guitar, Binson amplifier and a "gynaecological surgical instrument" through benefactors; subsequently, he invented his trademark glissando guitar technique. Reunited with Gilli Smyth, the pair found like-minded musicians 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 May 1968 in France sent the couple to Majorca to avoid authorities. The couple returned to Paris in September 1969, enticed by a three-album deal with the French BYG (Fernand Boruso, Jean-Luc Young and Jean Georgakarakos) label. Didier Malherbe and Richard Houari, along with a few guests, participate in the sessions that produce the Magick Brother album. Opening with the sound of a gong, the title track unveils a loose, almost chaotic backdrop to Allen's songwriting. His penchant for a catchy melody is instantly identifiable, as are his lyrics: "Change the World" and "Chainstore Chant: Pretty Miss Titty" both contain his anti-establishment ethos. "Ego" highlights the jazzy yet wobbly nature of the group and Smyth's unique style of singing, or "space whisper." "5 & 20 Schoolgirls" dispenses with pointless soloing for a much tighter structure, and to great reward. Immediately following the album's completion, bassist Christian Tritsch, violinist Dieter Gewissler and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Laloux were recruited for live gigs, including an appearance at the Amougies Festival in October 1969.

Mona – The Carnivorous Circus > Farren, Mick

March, 1970
UK
Transatlantic Records
0
Following his ejection from The Deviants during their 1969 US tour, Mick Farren returned to the UK. With a contractual obligation to Transatlantic Records outstanding, he teamed up with guitarist Steve Hammond and both John Gustafson and Peter Robinson of Quatermass. Farren also enlisted Twink and Steve Peregrine Took, as a sort of precursor to the Pink Fairies, 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 love for rock ‘n' roll as he played it with The Deviants. The opening "Mona (A Fragment)" adds some congas to accentuate the beat, while the closing "Mona (The Whole Trip)" features some rough-sounding cello from arranger and Elton John cohort Paul Buckmaster. It's not easy listening by any stretch, but perhaps that's the point. Sandwiched in between is a rousing if unspectacular cover of "Summertime Blues." But the real meat of the album begins when the band, including bassist Gustafson and organist Robinson, join guitarist Hammond and drummer Twink for the funky, dark groove of "Carnivorous Circus." The second part is more varied, with transitions between the different sections that are sometimes quite abrupt. The final part, led by a lone, acoustic guitar, breaks down to thick, elegiac guitar lines. Farren would put his music career on the back-burner for the remainder of the decade. He would become a noted journalist, writing for New Music Express and International Times, and an author. His first novel, The Texts of Festival, was published in 1973.

Benefit > Jethro Tull

April, 1970
United States
Reprise Records
3.714285
Prior to the release of their third album, Jethro Tull scored another two Top 10 singles in the UK with "Sweet Dream" b/w "17" and "Witch's Promise" b/w "Teacher." The flip side of the latter single would become an FM radio staple in the US, where the band's success prompted their first headlining American tour. With Benefit, Jethro Tull puts the cap on their initial period, defined by their classic bluesy sound. In came Blackpool mate John Evan (yes, from the John Evan Band) on piano and organ, but more importantly, up went Ian Anderson the raconteur: With acoustic guitar in one hand and flute in the other, Anderson's 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 than the band's previous output, yet just as exceptional. "Alive and Well and Living In" benefits from Evan's piano, while "Inside" reflects the album's toned-down nature. The record reached No. 3 in the UK and No. 11 in the US, and solidified Jethro Tull as one of the first commercially accepted and successful progressive rock acts, on par at the time with Led Zeppelin. Following the album's release, bassist Glenn Cornick left for Wild Turkey and was replaced by another John Evan Band alumnus, Jeffrey Hammond. His name might sound familiar, as he was the subject of a couple of prior Tull songs.

Magma > Magma

April, 1970
France
Philips
4.5
Magma's music didn't always revolve around its drummer and founder, Christian Vander. Formed in Paris in 1969, the band released two albums for Philips, the first in 1970 and the second in 1971. Some great musicians passed through their ranks, 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, fueled 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 shtick: inverted tantric symbol, dark black dress and a post-apocalyptic sci-fi storyline. The sprawling double-album Magma offers a solid look toward their future, but musically offers something more grounded. "Kobaia" opens the album with a swing, propelled by Engel's guitar and a great chorus, before breaking down into something improvisational. "Malaria" approaches Gong weirdness, while "Auraë" is a not-quite-realized glimpse of Vander's future direction. The tracks written by Lasry, Cahen, Engel and Thibault on sides two and three present more conventional fusion, yet one distinctively Magma-fied. Their 1971 release Magma 2 (later renamed 1001° Centigrades) saw Engel temporarily depart, but marked another point in the band's development. Thibault was behind the 1972 side project Univeria Zekt and its commercially-minded album, The Unnamables; but then Magma splintered, with Cahen and Seffer departing to form the similar-minded Zao.

In The Wake Of Poseidon > King Crimson

May, 1970
United States
Atlantic
4.076925
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 tour, and agreed to form a band upon their return to the UK. Thus, Robert Fripp and Pete Sinfield were left with the reins of the band, and faced the task of recording the follow-up-though both Lake and Giles did make contributions to the album, with the latter's brother Peter Giles 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 their next album would go; much of the material for this album then was culled from their current live set. The rocking "Pictures of a City" was first heard as "A Man, A City." The song covers the same territory as "21st Century Schizoid Man;" Mel Collins's horns and Giles's fabulous drumming are both sublime on the record. Another Crim archetype, the title track sees those stately melodies refined even 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" also is reprised, here with Bournemouth native Gordon Haskell singing. Perhaps overlooked in Crim history, In The Wake Of Poseidon closely followed the model of its predecessor; however, it's a carefully constructed album, with excellent production being one of its many strengths. The cover featured The 12 Archetypes or The 12 Faces of Humankind by Tammo De Jongh. Like the band's previous work, the album was well-received, reaching No. 4 in the UK and No. 31 in the US. Collins, Haskell and pianist Keith Tippett would remain in Crim service for another album, barely.

Quatermass > Quatermass

May, 1970
United States
Harvest
4.166665
Bassist John Gustafson was a member of the Merseybeat band The Big Three in the early 60s. With organist Peter Robinson, he first joined up with drummer Mick Underwood in Episode Six. That lineup, however, proved to be short-lived, as the trio went off to form Quatermass in July 1969. The band derived their name from Professor Bernard Quatermass, a character from the first science fiction program on the BBC in 1953. They signed to EMI's Harvest label and their debut was recorded at EMI Studios. Similar to Atomic Rooster and Deep Purple, their music is hard-driving organ rock that never forgets its R&B roots-just check out "Good Lord Knows." Robinson is a fine organist; his solo in "Gemini" is over-the-top, while "Make Up Your Mind" dances in more progressive steps. "Laughin' Tackle" features Robinson's string arrangements, but is interrupted, unfortunately, by a drum solo. All told, the album is a unique take on the bass-drum-organ combination and features a brilliant cover from Hipgnosis. Known as a formidable live act, the band 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, Brand X. Gustafson formed Bullet/Hard Stuff with John Du Cann and Paul Hammond of Atomic Rooster, before turning to session work, most notably with Roxy Music and Ian Gillan.

Think Pink > Twink

May, 1970
US
Sire
0
John Charles Edward Alder, aka Twink (after a popular home perm kit), hailed from Colchester, Essex, where he had formed an R&B band called The Fairies. After moving to London in 1966, the band released three singles that went nowhere, so Twink joined The In Crowd, which later morphed into Tomorrow. After a spell with The Pretty Things, Twink and a soon to be ex-Tyrannosaurus Rex Steve Peregrine Took started an embryonic version of the Pink Fairies, the fruits of which became 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 Pretty Things. The album opens with the eastern-tinged "The Coming of the Other 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 on the Highest Hill," offers sterling psychedelia. The sexy "Fluid" slows the pace, while "Mexican Grass War" is a drum-led freak out. "Rock An' Roll the Joint" dips back for some good old-time rock ‘n' roll, while "Suicide" is reminiscent of The Pretty Things. Took penned the last two tracks: "Three Little Piggies" is plain silly, and the closer, "The Sparrow Is a Sign," quite Bowie-esque. The album presents a Ladbroke Grove all-stars product-or as they were known-Pink Fairies Motorcycle Club & All-Star Rock & Roll Band. The album would see release in the UK in January 1971. Following the album's release, Twink teamed up with former Deviants Rudolph, Duncan Sanderson and Russell Hunter to start the Pink Fairies proper.

Barclay James Harvest > Barclay James Harvest

June, 1970
United States
Sire
4.6
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. Often described as "the poor man's Moody Blues," BJH did draw some similarities to their namesake, particularly that 60s vibe to their music. They released a pair of singles (including the folksy "Brother Thrush" b/w "Poor Wages") to some acclaim (notably DJ John Peel), before being signed to EMI's new Harvest label. Their debut album was produced by Norman Smith, but the record's rich orchestration from "resident musical director" Robert John Godfrey would be more characteristic of the band. "Taking Some Time On" is a wonderfully psychedelic song filled with awesome guitar from Lees, while "Good Love Child" contains a punchy if uncharacteristically rocking melody. "Mother Dear" and "The Iron Maiden" turn to folk influences; despite being immaculately executed, they wallow in earnestness. Clocking in at 12 minutes, the epic "Dark Now My Sky" is the album's magnum opus. The orchestra kicks off, topped with Lees's soaring lead guitar, and coalesces into a gentle melody before the waves of orchestra follow in to close. More than classically-inspired, the band and orchestra are a perfect fit for each other; though what it has do with rock music is anyone's guess. A second album, Once Again, saw release in February 1971, and the band then embarked on a UK tour accompanied by Godfrey and an orchestra. The next two albums for Harvest followed in similar fashion; however, it would take a label change and a live album for the band to finally hit the charts in the UK. BJH would endure fashion and fate for over two decades with their unique brand of staid, forthright music, eventually finding a substantial audience in Germany. Godfrey would form The Enid in 1973.

Parachute > Pretty Things, The

June, 1970
United States
Rare Earth, Rare Earth
4
The Pretty Things donned their alter-ego Electric Banana to fill their coffers; they recorded three half-albums of very good psychedelia for library music producers DeWolfe Publishing between 1967 and 1969, while also appearing in the low-budget film with Norman Wisdom, What's Good for the Goose. The band even teamed up with a wealthy Frenchman, Philippe DeBarge, who commissioned them to record an album that featured himself on vocals! In Fall 1969, The Pretty Things headed back into EMI studios with producer Norman Smith. Skip Alan was back behind the drum kit; however, founding member Dick Taylor had departed and was replaced by guitarist Victor Unitt from the Edgar Broughton Band. The result is the dark psychedelia of Parachute. The album is split: one side reflecting city life and the other illustrating escape to the country, however, it flows together seamlessly, via Smith's masterful Abbey Road production and the band's infectious melodicism and vocal harmonies. "Miss Fay Regrets" and "Cries from the Midnight Circus" present a harder and heavier edge, while the second side's "Grass" is haunting, even without the Mellotron. It's another masterpiece from the band, in particular the epic suite of songs on the second side; and a testament to the Phil May and Wally Waller songwriting team. Although critically acclaimed upon release (there was talk of it being Rolling Stone's "Album of the Year"), the album spent only a few weeks on the UK charts, reaching No. 43, and saw belated release in the US on the Rare Earth label. Pete Tolson replaced Unitt shortly thereafter, yet touring and a phenomenal single ("October 26th" b/w "Cold Stone") didn't change the band's fortunes, and they briefly fell apart. The Pretty Things regrouped to record several albums in the 70s, with Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant and the Swan Song label. Yet commercial success continued to elude them, and by the early 80s the Pretties were no more.

Third > Soft Machine, The

June, 1970
United States
Columbia
4.4
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-adding to the confusion as to whether the Softs were still a rock band. The change was so intense within the group that the only vocal track, Robert Wyatt's superb "Moon in June," was recorded (the first section anyway) 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, just witness live recordings of Hugh Hopper's opener "Facelift." 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. Mike Ratledge's "Slightly all the Time" suffers from languor and foreshadows the direction he would take the band; but his redemption comes just two sides later, in the quasi-electronic "Out-Bloody-Rageous." The album remains a landmark recording of British jazz-rock and even managed to bring the Softs onto the UK charts, resting at No. 18. Without Dobson, the quartet would soldier through one final album, Fourth, before Wyatt quit. Then, under Ratledge's exclusive direction, Soft Machine would continue in the direction of instrumental jazz-rock. In this iteration, they recorded several albums-some distinguished, some not-but all worthy of a listen. By mid-decade, however, the band would be hijacked by ex-Nucleus bandmates and contain no original members.

Befour >

July, 1970
US
RCA Victor
0
Hailing from Hammersmith, London, Brian Auger was a jazz pianist and session man, most notable for playing the harpsichord on The Yardbirds' single "For Your Love" b/w "Got to Hurry" in March 1965. Later, Auger became a member of Steampacket with singers Julie Driscoll, Long John Baldry and Rod Stewart, where he shined on the Hammond organ. The band, however, produced no real recordings (apart from some demos); so along with Driscoll and Victor Briggs, they next formed The Trinity, scoring a No. 5 hit in 1968 with Bob Dylan's "This Wheel's on Fire" b/w "A Kind of Love-In." Departing with Driscoll in 1969, Auger then teamed with Dave Ambrose, Clive Thacker and Gary Boyle for another album, Befour, released in July 1970. The album opens with a stiff cover of Sylvester "Sly" Stewart's "I Wanna to Take You Higher;" though, of course, Auger's command of the Hammond organ is second to none. Cover versions fill the remainder of the first side, ranging from French composer Gabriel Fauré to Traffic and Herbie Hancock. In particular, the latter's "Maiden Voyage" is best suited for the quartet, offering a sublime slice of fusion, with Boyle's clean lines are the perfect complement to Auger's Hammond tone. The second side adds further covers, including another stab at classical music, before closing with Auger's supreme groove on "Just You Just Me." Auger then split with both Trinity and manager Giorgio Gomelsky, and formed his Oblivion Express in 1970, most notably with Robbie McIntosh and Jim Mullen. Singer Alex Ligertwood joined for the album Second Wind, but by 1972, Trinity had collapsed and Auger moved to Paris. He eventually regrouped the band and found success touring the US with his soulful music. After a series of live albums, a final studio album appeared in 1977.

John Barleycorn Must Die > Traffic

July, 1970
United States
United Artists Records
4.555555
United Artists released Last Exit following Steve Winwood's departure to Blind Faith. A collection of live tracks and singles, it rose to No. 19 in the US. However Blind Faith barely got started before it ended; and Winwood's next move, tentatively titled Mad Shadows, was originally conceived as a solo record. With the addition of Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood, the album quickly became a Traffic release, and stands as one of the band's finest recordings. Having abandoned any trace of psychedelia from their previous work, Traffic stretch out into instrumental improvisation without ever noodling around. The band tears down the first side of the record with "Glad/Freedom Rider;" the former is a driving instrumental that cops its central groove from Soft Machine's "We Did It Again." Winwood's ability to merge his influences (and handle both keyboard and guitar duties) is impeccable, and certainly cemented his ever-growing reputation as an artist. 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 the highlight of John Barleycorn Must Die is 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.

Time And A Word > Yes

July, 1970
United States
Atlantic
3
Yes' second album didn't break much new ground for the band, but it did confirm what most already knew: that 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. Yet 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 (including quotes of Gustav Holst's "Jupiter") work better here than on other albums from the era, thanks in part to Tony Colton's up-front production. The album has a huge sound, relentlessly propelled by the Squire and Bruford rhythm team. But the star of the album is the grinding organ of Tony Kaye; classic in tone and always in the right place, whether anchored to the rhythm, counterpoint to Peter Banks's guitar or at its best, to the fore. The band still aren't 100 percent on original tunes, as capable covers of Richie Havens and Stephen Stills songs comprise half of the first side. The Jon Anderson-penned "Then" is particularly 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 Traveller," something he'd return to on subsequent albums. With his old mate in The Warriors, David Foster, they 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. The album managed to crack the UK charts, rising to No. 45. Banks left the band just after the album was released; so soon that it's his replacement, Steve Howe, who appears on the album's US cover.

Gracious! > Gracious

August, 1970
US
Capitol Records
4
Hailing from Esher, Surrey, singer/drummer Paul "Sandy" 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 UK tour in 1968. Sessions with Norrie Paramor and Tim Rice yielded only a single for Polydor, but a gig supporting King Crimson in 1969 turned them full-on progressive as Gracious!. During a 1969 German tour, Tim Wheatley replaced Mike Laird on bass, and the band then 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: under a chomping harpsichord, the band offer a curious mix of blues, pop and progressive rock. Davis's voice is first rate, reminiscent of Paul McCartney, and his lyrics have a religious bent. "Heaven" brings on the Mellotron, but unfortunately some terrible lyrics: "Do you have a clean mind?" The following "Hell" provides juxtaposition. It's 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 "The Dream" is an epic suite. After a slow introduction, Cowderoy 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, their blues influence never far away. Although the album saw release in the US on Capitol Records, success just 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. The album features another of their epic compositions, "Supernova."