For the next line-up of Atomic Rooster, Vincent Crane teamed up with the talented guitarist John Cann (later DuCann), previously in Andromeda, and his own foot and left hand (on the lower manual) as bassist. Ric Parnell served a brief spell behind the drum kit, but not before Cann brought in the much underrated John Hammond instead. Thus constituted, the trio of Crane, Cann and Hammond would burn bright during their short existence. Early in 1971, the band released their second album, Death Walks Behind you. Crane's obsession with the darker side of the psyche was fairly unique at the time and as the title suggests, the album had no shortage of gloom and doom. A consistently heavy rock affair, it is distinguished by Cann's guitar playing, but not necessarily his vocals (as the title track attests). The instrumental "Vug" however kicks into high gear, and the interplay between Crane's organ and Cann's guitar is positively electric. Bluesy and ballsy, it is indicative of their heavy chomping sound. "Gershatzer" is another instrumental barnstormer, with Hammond this time letting loose on the drum kit. Several Cann compositions grace the record, the best, "Seven Lonely Streets", is fitted with a shimmering organ arrangement. Crane switches to piano for the more accomplished melody of "Nobody Else", a precursor to what the next album would have in store. The single "Tomorrow Night" b/w "Play The Game" climbed just shy of the UK Top 10, while the album reached No. 12, and even break into the US Top 100, where the band had signed to Elektra Records.
Step back a few years to the unbearably named Uriel, from which Egg was (sorry) hatched. Uriel was founded in 1968 by bassist Mont Campbell, guitarist Steve Hillage and Dave Stewart - who we are to believe, only took up the organ because of his intimidation by Hillage's superior guitar playing! They eventually recruited Clive Brooks on drums through a Melody Maker advert. Uriel played bluesy psychedelia - self-described as part Cream and part The Nice. The band gigged sporadically around London and recorded one posthumous album, released under the more pleasant moniker, Arzachel. After Hillage's departure for University, the band dropped all blues numbers from their set and moved forward with compositions built around classical motifs and bizarre time signatures. At this point, the management of Middle Earth club approached them, and convinced them to change their name to Egg. They eventually signed to Deram, releasing their first album in spring 1970. It was a solid debut, but not without some traces of influence. Encompassing the record's second side, the instrumental "Symphony No. 2" was substantial. (Of course, it also begged the question, where is "No. 1"?) Egg's second album, The Polite Force, remains the classic. It begins with Mont Campbell's recitation on the autobiographical "Visit to Newport Hospital". Again the second side is dominated by an instrumental, this time the veritable "Long Piece No.3". Stewart provides the classic Hammond/Leslie tone, while drummer Brooks keeps meticulous time. The second section's motif is simply transcendent. Prone to digress into wonderful moments of psychedelic weirdness, it truly is a complicated and original piece, and one that avoids the typical pomposity of organ rock, perhaps its greatest triumph. The record has much in common with Stewart's later Canterbury efforts. But Egg (really sorry) broke up in 1972, and Stewart turned his attention to Hillage's new band, Khan. Egg would record a final "reunion" album, The Civil Surface, for Virgin in 1974, simply because they were offered.
On Aqualung, the lines began to blur between myth and man: Is Jethro Tull Ian Anderson? Is Anderson Aqualung? Is Aqualung Jethro Tull? Like the disheveled character on the album's cover or the band's portrait on the gatefold, Anderson and company become larger than life with Aqualung - and in fact became all three. Anderson (and wife Jenny who penned the title track's lyrics) tackles his views on religion, giving the album the loose distinction of "concept". Here Jethro Tull takes their music to a new commercial level, bridging their own brew with the hard riffing of the then- current heavy rock into concise pop songs. "My God", "Hymn 43" and "Locomotive Breath" are chock-full of classic riffs and hooks, with Barre's double-tracked guitar the ace in the hole. The title track and "Locomotive Breath" are also undeniably FM radio-friendly hits; the album would become standard issue to nearly every guitar-wielding teenager of the era. Yet it's also interspersed with gentler moments that hearken back to the Tull of the previous album, in particular on "Mother Goose". In a role he would hold for a decade, David Palmer debuts his orchestration skills on "Wond'ring Aloud". The band toured the US extensively in support of the album, which finally cracked the US Top 10 at No. 7. In the UK, it would rise to No. 4. It was one of the first albums of the progressive era to earn a gold award and has since garnered multi-platinum status.
Amid further lineup changes, Martin Ace and Terry Williams arrived, both also previously in Dream, adding to the core of Micky Jones, Clive John and Deke Leonard. A longstanding contract with United Artists was signed in 1970, along with the issue of their third, self-titled album, Man. The bluesy “Romain”, a tale about a Belgian policeman, opens quietly, but the ending section reveals a lot more to the picture. When it worked, Man were hugely talented and creative. When it didn’t, as on the following “Country Girl”, the band were pedestrian West-Coast rockers. But the next number, the instrumental “Would The Christians Wait Five Minutes? The Lions Are Having A Draw”, similar perhaps to Pink Floyd of the time, highlights both the band’s live potential for psychedelic rock. “Alchemist” furthers the design, a triptych trip of the highest order. The rocking “Daughter Of The Fireplace” was released as a single, but without success. Again, the middle instrumental section highlights the potential firepower of the band. Another album appeared in late 1971, Do You Like It Here Now, Are You Settling In?, however an appearance at the Greasy Truckers Party benefit concert and album (with a great extended version of “Spunk Box”), alongside Hawkwind and others, switched focus to the UK market. Leaving their psychedelic edge behind them and adopting a more mainstream rock stance, Man finally nestled into the charts in 1973 with the half-live, half-studio Back Into The Future, where they would remain for the next few years, until calling it a day in 1976.
The Yes Album was that herculean leap that helped the band not only save their recording contract with Atlantic, but also served as the artistic step that put them into prog rock's elite. With new blood Steve Howe on guitar, Yes spent a few months isolated in the country writing new material (including fantastic arrangements of Paul Simon's "America" and the Young Rascals' "It's Love"). In retrospect, the elements had been in place on the prior two albums, but here Yes stretch out their compositions, giving them room to blossom without ever getting too bloated. Nine minutes may be a long time for most songs, but not for the four epic tracks contained within. Both "Starship Trooper" and "Yours is No Disgrace" are typical Yes material, hard riffing, melodic and cinematic, however the chomping "Perpetual Change" remains underrated in the Yes canon. "Your Move/I've Seen All Good People" would become the perennial crowd-pleaser and radio favorite; it starts as a simple sing-a-long acoustic number before moving into the foot-stomping second section. Jon Anderson's words move like a game of chess, interweaving both the meaning and cadence to great effect. Certainly Howe's input and versatile guitar playing is a great new asset, but his ragtime solo "Clap" first presented here would eventually be performed with circus-act regularity. The album gave Yes its first UK Top 10, reaching No. 7 and even managed to reach the US Top 40. After the album's release, Yes made an appearance on BBC's Top Of The Pops and were then off on their first tour of America, in support of a very popular Jethro Tull.
Caravan's third album sports a fine cover illustration from Anne Marie Anderson, and on the turntable the album steps up a notch from their previous efforts. Richard Sinclair's affable (and perennial favorite) "Golf Girl" kicks off; it's concise pop Caravan style and "Love To Love You" and the title track offer more of the same. The production (courtesy David Hitchcock) and instrumentation are immaculate, while the melodies and lighthearted subject matter again typically English. Next, "Winter Wine" presents a mini-version of what the second side has to offer: the epic "Nine Feet Underground". Caravan's entrant into prog rock's album- side long composition, it certainly wins them top honors. Conceived by Dave Sinclair as an entity, the eight sections flow together seamlessly, hypnotically propelled through the twenty-minute piece by the laid-back Coughlan/Sinclair rhythm section. From the opening riff until the very end there can be little debate that Sinclair's Hammond organ steals the show. Continually shifting and changing tone, he carries the melody on each section with pure simplicity. Hastings' guitar may be way down in the mix, but his melancholic voice is the icing on the track. It remains one of the finest moments of not only Caravan, but of progressive rock in general. The album failed to chart, but remained in Decca's catalog for years, eventually earning a gold record for the band. Caravan continued hectic touring; however, change was just around the corner. Dave Sinclair left in August to join Robert Wyatt's Matching Mole.
Hailing from Morges, Switzerland, Patrick Moraz was a classically trained keyboardist, who spent the 60s as a student and jazz musician, touring throughout Europe and England. With friend and bassist Jean Ristori, the pair travelled to England in 1969 in search of musicians to start a group with, enlisting drummer Bryson Graham and vocalist David Kubinec, the latter previously in The World Of Oz. Back in Switzerland and aided by the same Dutch millionaire that funded Supertramp, the band, now called Mainhorse Airline, expanded to a six piece and recorded some demos. Kubinec however suffered a heart attack in 1970 and returned to England. Shortening both their name and line up, Moraz, Ristori and Graham, added guitarist and vocalist Peter Lockett to the fold, signed to Polydor Records and released their eponymous album in 1971 at De Lane Lea and Morgan Studios in London. “Introduction” does that just that: big chords from Moraz and some great breaks set the stage for a blistering lead from Lockett; it’s classic material of the time. “Passing Years” and “Pale Sky” are holdovers from the Kubinec era, the latter offering an extended jam that illustrates the groups dexterity. “Such A Beautiful Day” and “Basia” keeps the energy high, with “More Tea Vicar” opting for a more pastoral feeling. The closing “God” is of course epic, as any track with that name should be, reprising it’s theme through the long fade. Lockett’s guitar adds diversity to the band’s sound, avoiding most comparisons to any contemporary keyboard trios of the day. However, success not forthcoming, the band broke up in early 1972. Moraz switched to composing film scores to bide his time before surfacing with his next project, Refugee, while Bryson went to work with Gary Wright and Spooky Tooth. The album saw release in the US on the Import Records label in 1976.
The Pink Fairies were a rebranded Deviants, but not directly. Following the recording of his debut album, Twink formed the Pink Fairies with Mick Farren and Steve Peregrin Took, playing a one-off gig in Manchester in October 1969. Farren soon left after they recorded his debut solo album, then Took went on to found Shagrat, leaving Twink to contact the remainder of the Deviants, guitarist Paul Rudolph, bassist Duncan Sanderson and drummer Russell Hunter, to reboot the Pink Fairies. Much like mates Hawkwind (with whom they played together with as Pinkwind), the Fairies were all about the festival scene, appearing most famously naked at Phun City in July 1970. After a single “Black Snake” b/w “Do It” in January 1971, the band got the go-ahead from Polydor Records to record their debut album, Never Never Land, produced by Neil Slaven. The album blasts open with the classic riff of “Do It”. Raw and raucous, it offers the Fairies’ raison d'etat. The dreamy “Heavenly Man” slows the pace, but “Say You Love Me” again blows the doors wide open. “War Girl” offers an unlikely rhythmic vibe, but the boogie rock of “Teenage Rebel” gets things back on track. The wild jam of “Uncle Harry's Last Freak-Out” however is the album’s shining star. Truncated to half its time here on record, it’s the type of number that put the Fairies’ live shows on the map. Following the album’s release, the band played the Glastonbury Faire in June, 1971. Twink left shortly thereafter, with Trevor Burton from the Move joining for their 1972 album, What A Bunch Of Sweeties. It made the charts in the UK, reaching No 48. However, Rudolph departed, and after a brief spell with Mick Wayne on guitar, Larry Wallis (ex Shagrat) was recruited for their 3rd album, Kings Of Oblivion. But the plot seemed lost, at least musically, and the band broke up. Wallis later formed Motorhead form with Lemmy. The Pink Fairies had a brief reunion in 1975, from which live recordings eventually were released.
Having rechristened themselves as Samurai, the bulk of Web regrouped for a new album, signing to the Greenwich Grammophone Company. Replacing the departed Tom Harris were two brass players, Don Fay and Tony Roberts, the former having played on Elton John’s debut and the latter with Ian Carr’s Nucleus. Samurai recorded their eponymous album at Wessex Sound with Robin Thompson at the controls. The funky little groove of “Saving It For So Long” starts the album and picks up right were Web’s i Spider left off. Dave Lawson’s compositions are exemplary, and the additional horns add yet another dimension to the band’s jazz influenced - yet never styling the then emerging fusion - progressive rock. “More Rain” slows a bit, highlighted by flute and a plaintive lyric, while “Maudie James” and “Holy Padlock” feature Lawson’s distinct vocal delivery. “Give A LIttle Love” powers away with Tony Edwards’ guitar, and “Face In The Mirror” has a that fury, reminiscent of VDGG. The final track, “I Dried Away The Tears” again offers everything Samurai has to offer: superb musicianship, precise execution, expert arrangement, it’s a wonder why the album did not set the charts on fire. But their record label was short-lived and to the vaults Samurai would remain. Lawson took an invitation to join Greenslade, where he would remain for the course, but little if anything would be heard of the other members, save Roberts. Following his tenure in Greenslade, Lawson would work with many others, including Stackridge and Roy Harper, before launch a very successful career in soundtrack work.
Amon Düül II’s second release, the double-album Yeti, appeared in November 1970. The improvisations here were more structured, hinting towards the direction the band would pursue. The hard rocking “Archangels Thunderbird”, also released as a single, points to the future. The cover featured an iconic collage of a grim reaper, in fact a tribute to Wolfgang Krischke, their soundman that died of hypothermia during an LSD trip. Another single was released, “Rattlesnakeplumcake” b/w ‘Between The Round”, again featuring the heavier aspects of the band’s music. Their next album, Dance Of The Lemmings (later rechristened Tanz Der Lemminge), saw international release on the United Artists label in June 1971. Lothar Meid had arrived on bass, replacing Dave Anderson who left for the UK and Hawkwind. Three of the sides are album-side long tracks: “Syntelman’s March Of The Roaring Seventies” is exemplar as any here; there’s a hint of acoustic folk in Chris Karrer’s writing, but propelled by Lothar Meid’s pummeling bass and Peter Leopold’s brisk drumming, the track takes on a new dimension. Aided by Mellotron, “Restless Skylight - Transistor - Child” descends into darker space, while “The Marilyn Monroe-Memorial-Church” treads the kosmische. The fourth side (“Chasm Soundtrack”) features several shorter tracks, all more or less guitar-based, with “Toxicological Whispering” featuring the lead guitar of Weinzierl. There’s little precedent for Amon Düül II’s music, krautrock, progressive or otherwise. Both albums present true classics, the four sides of vinyl remain a cornerstone of what would eventually be known as “krautrock”.
If Emerson, Lake & Palmer had earned a "flash" rock reputation, their second album, Tarkus offers something in defense. "Tarkus" tells the story of a battle between a mythical manticore and a tank/armadillo beast, but more importantly, it's where ELP gets down to the business of serious composition. And what they present is nothing short of impressive. "Tarkus" is busy, fierce and perhaps best of all, relentless. No slow middle sections or acoustic interludes; this is full on ELP, hammering on the organ, bass and drum kit all the way through and adding a modicum of electric guitar and synthesizer for good measure. In contrast, the second side offers more discrete (and shorter) material. A honky-tonk piano kicks off the cross-dressing tale of "Jeremy Bender", perhaps another progressive cousin to Syd Barrett's "Arnold Layne". "Bitches Crystal" gives a hint or two of things to come, while "A Time And a Place" is just downright heavy rock. Lake provides a passionate, even Crimson-esque, vocal to the credited Bach adaptation "The Only Way", however the hypnotic piano riff of the interred "Infinite Space" is a welcome moment of restraint - and jazz - for the band. Eddie "Are you ready?" Offord again engineered the record while Lake produced, and as usual, the pair achieved sonic perfection. The album gave ELP their first and only No. 1 record in the UK and broke them into the US Top 10.
Immediately recognizable by their oriental-flavored album covers, Jade Warrior was based around the duo of guitarist Tony Duhig and percussionist Jon Field. They drifted through a series of bands during the mid-to-late '60s, eventually forming July with Tom Newman and releasing one often overlooked psychedelic album before breaking up. Adopting the name Jade Warrior, the pair then recruited Glenn Havard on vocals and bass and secured a contract with Vertigo, reportedly because they shared the same management as Afro-rock band Assagai (also courted by Vertigo). Although the Jethro Tull comparisons are inevitable, their music occupies a much different space. Foremost, Field is a percussionist. Suitably, their songs are not anchored with drumming, allowing for a far more expansive sound. Havard is a good vocalist and his bass always adds substance; the remainder is dynamics, ranging from the gentle of Field's flute to the overdriven guitar of Duhig. Their compositions also range from the bluesy "A Prenormal Day at Brighton" at one end of the spectrum, to African influenced "Masai Morning" at the other end. But the gentleness of "Windweaver" or "Dragonfly Day" is the Warrior's strong suit. The second side opts for more bluesy numbers, but the acoustic "Sundial Song" gives a glimpse at their future. The following year the band released two albums: Released, its highlight being the lengthy jam "Barazinbar" with drummer Allan Price and saxophonist Dave Conners; and Last Autumn's Dream, offering the closest the band would come to regular songs. The band then toured the US in support of Dave Mason, adding Duhig's brother David on guitar. Two further albums were recorded in 1973, but would not see release for decades. With their recording contract with Vertigo canceled, the band would creep into 1974 in limbo.
The Trip were an Anglo-Italian group that had origins in London. Enrico “Riki” Maiocchi, of the pop group I Camaleonti, recruited a young Ritchie Blackmore, Billy Gray, Avrid Andersen amongst others, and moved to Turin. Blackmore bowed out early, being replaced by organist Joe Vescovi and by the time the band recorded their first album in 1970 for RCA Italiana, Maiocchi was out too. Their debut finds The Trip mixing blues rock and heavy organ with rich harmonies and some minor Classical influences. However their second album, Caronte, based on the the mythological character Charon, finds the band moving towards the realm of British prog rock. Vescovi and his self-proclaimed influence of Keith Emerson is up to task, so while the influence is obvious, there’s still originality in The Trip’s take on the progressive; they never lose their heavy blues-rock roots, as the opener “Caronte I” attests. “Two Brothers” follows suit, opting for vocals this time, ala Atomic Rooster or Lucifer’s Friend. “Little Janie”, an ode to Janis Joplin, eschews the prog for something lighter, while the similar “L’ultima ora e Ode a Jimi Hendrix” is perhaps a little more run of the mill, offering only a few plaintive guitar lines over the prolonged final section for Jimi. Gray and drummer Pino Sinnone then left, the latter replaced by Furio Chirico, and the new three piece recorded 1972’s Alantide. Still further in the style of Emerson Lake & Palmer, it features the furious drumming of Chirico. One final album, the still more playful Time For a Change was released for Trident Records in 1974. But it was time for a change, indeed. The band split with Chirico founding Arti e Mestieri, and Vescovi moving briefly on to Aqua Fragile and then I Dik Dik.
For his second album for BYG, Daevid Allen returned to London as Jean Karakos wanted some Soft Machine star power on board. After nearly four years, Allen was able to legally enter England, and after a gig supporting Soft Machine at the Roundhouse, Marquee studios was booked and the ensuing Banana Moon album was recorded over a period of “bacchanalia-filled” days. Gongster Christian Tritsch’s guitar and bass ignite the opening “It’s The Time Of Your Life”, which also features Delivery’s Pip Pyle on drums. The wistful “Memories”, penned by Hugh Hopper and a staple from early Canterbury days, features Robert Wyatt on vocals, thus fulfilling Karakos’ wish. Wyatt and bassist Archie Legget provide the rhythm section for most of the album. “Fred The Fish” has a sing-along feel, obviously reflecting the pub-like mood of the recording session. “White Neck Blooze” features Allen performing an uncanny and dead-on Kevin Ayers impersonation, complete with backing vocals from Barry St. John and Legget’s cohorts of Maggie Bell and Gary Wright. The second side however features Allen’s “Stoned Innocent Frankenstein”, a lovely melodic number that descends into the darker space of “His Adventures In The Land Of Flip”, a full-on monster of a spontaneous jam, again featuring Wyatt, Legget and violinist Gerry Field. The side closes with “I Am A Bowl”, another instant composition, graced with the trombone of Soft Machine guest Nick Evans. The album saw release in July on the French BYG label and was reissued countless times by Caroline and Charly Records. Both Pyle and Tim Blake (a studio hand) would later join Gong. Legget would eventually join Kevin Ayers’ band.
Having already spent the majority of the year on tour with VDGG (including dates on the now legendary Charisma "Six Bob" tour), Peter Hammill's first solo album was recorded in what must have been an exceptionally busy year for him. As a solo artist, Hammill was a slightly different creature. It wouldn't be incorrect (at this stage) to call the singer-songwriter acoustic, but in a progressive tradition he certainly was original. The album, as Hammill states on the liner notes, is "an album of songs rather than a musical extravaganza". (That of course, he was saving for the next VDGG album). Most of the songs were years old by the time the album was recorded, many first being cataloged in the early days of VDGG. Adding to the overall color of the album, Fool's Mate features a host of colleagues, including all of VDGG, Robert Fripp, and Ray Jackson and Rod Clements from Lindisfarne. Both sides of the album open with uncharacteristically rollicking numbers. "Imperial Zeppelin" is one of two co-written with former VDGG member Chris Judge Smith (the other being the excellent "Viking"). Some of the album has the zest of the Aerosol Grey Machine album, in particular the plodding of "Candle" and the brisk "Re-awakening". But the portraits of "Solitude" and "Child", both are bleak and beautiful simultaneously, point in the direction Hammill's career would follow (for now anyway). Two other tracks, "Vision" and "The Birds", would both crop up a decade later in re-recordings, again reaffirming their timelessness. Hammill would become one of the most prolific solo artists of the genre, but all of that would have to wait; there was still much unfinished business in VDGG to attend to.
Judging by the success of their last album and single, this was indeed the year of the Rooster (actually the Boar). Another single, this time penned by John Cann, was released in July. "Devil's Answer" b/w "The Rock" was another genuine hit reaching No. 4 in the UK Charts. However, the creative differences between him and Vincent Crane had come to a head. Crane recruited vocalist Pete French to re-record the vocals on the nearly completed album. In retrospect, it was a decidedly good addition; French is a more accomplished vocalist and the album In Hearing Of rates as one of their finest. "Breakthrough" and the instrumental "A Spoonful of Bromide Helps the Pulse Rate Go Down" are fierce rockers. But again, the slower tracks best demonstrate Crane's significant talent. He switches to piano for the bittersweet "Decision/Indecision" and the absolutely sublime "Black Snake" is proof positive of Crane's expert command of the Hammond organ (and a rare vocal from him as well). Drummers also take note: John Hammond's drumming is simply superb throughout. The album's strength though is its songwriting, giving it a continuity that the previous efforts lacked; it definitely ranks as their finest. Of some minor note to prog rock punters, the album cover and gatefold sport one of Roger Dean's most un- cosmic creations! The album reached No. 18 in the UK charts and again saw release in the US. Yet both Hammond and Cann would depart the band, first forming Bullet, and then the hard rocking Hard Stuff. Crane, with French, brought in guitarist Steve Bolton and drummer Ric Parnell for the subsequent tour, including a supporting slot for The Who at George Harrison's UK Benefit for Bangladesh.
Frumpy’s beginnings start with a folk rock band, The City Preachers, out of Hamburg. Formed by Irishman John O’Brien-Docker, the band featured (among others) vocalists Inga Rumpf and Dagmar Krause, and drummer Udo Lindenberg. They split in 1968, with Rumpf, Krause and Lindenberg teaming up with French keyboardist Jean-Jacques Kravetz and bassist Karl-Heinz Schott. By 1970 however, change was in the air: Krause left to England to eventually form Slap Happy, while Lindenberg was off to Doldinger’s Passport. Carsten Bohn was brought in on drums and reconstituted as Frumpy (a play on Inga’s name), they switched musical directions to the newly awakening progressive. Signed to Philips, their debut album All Will Be Changed was recorded in August 1970, and they promptly hit the road with a 50 date German tour supporting Spooky Tooth. The blueprint was all there: bluesy rock with classical digressions, even separated out as individual tracks, and though tracks like “Floating” and “Indian Rope Man” showcase the band's talents, nothing, absolutely nothing, could prepare the world for the sonic onslaught that was Frumpy 2. “Good Winds” opens like a punch in the face; Kravetz's roaring organ tone just perfect, Inga’s voice belting out a growl unparalleled by any woman in rock. “How The Gypsy Was Born” and “Take Care Of Illusion” continue the pace, with the rhythm section of Bohn and Schott pounding furiously with aplomb. The addition of guitarist Rainer Baumann enriches the overall sound, but his role is mainly playing leads. It’s a magical record, one of the heaviest, most relentless in rock history. The intensity however would not last; after a third album, By the Way, released in early 1972, Frumpy split. Rumpf, Kravetz and Schott then recruited new members drummer Curt Cress and guitarist Frank Diez, both formerly with Emergency, and formed the more commercially orientated Atlantis.
The title of Gentle Giant's second album, Acquiring The Taste, was of course a reference to their musical oeuvre. The liner notes insist, "It has taken every shred of our combined musical and technical knowledge ... to expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music". And there you have it - the progressive ethos! The band plays what seems to be an orchestra of instruments over the course of the album. From the baroque recorders on "Wreck" to the alto and tenor saxophones of "The Moon Is Down", Giant extends the range of their music in a genuinely eclectic way. Remember this was 1971: if you wanted new sounds, you had to come up with them on your own: there were no magic buttons to press. The string quartet on "Black Cat" is highly effective, lending warmth to the feline interpretation. Dig the Carlos-esque Moog synthesizers of the title track. Throughout the album the Giant's performance is, of course, exemplary, as is Tony Visconti's impeccable production. Both "Plain Truth" and "The House The Street The Room" carry a familiar heaviness the band would often revisit. Lyrically, the album also stretches out, referencing literary works such as 16th century monk François Rabelais in "Pantagruel's Nativity". The liner notes further offer the conclusion "to give you something far more substantial... at the risk of being very unpopular". For the most part they succeed on both accounts: their technical ability was never lost in itself as it was used to further the compositions, and they did not sell very well! The album, like the previous, did not chart on either side of the Atlantic. Gentle Giant would, however, record another two albums for Vertigo.
Hailing from Genoa, the New Trolls were one of the first original Italian rock bands (the other was the Anglo-Italian invention, The Trip). Story has it the band was “created” by a music critic choosing an ideal lineup: Guitarist Vittorio Di Scalzi, vocalist (and guitarist) Nico Di Paolo, drummer Gianni Belleno, keyboardist Mauro Chiarugi and bassist Giorgio D’Adamo were also fortunate enough to land a supporting spot on the Rolling Stones 1967 tour of Italy. After several successful singles (and two albums compiling them), the band collaborated with Argentinean composer Luis Enríquez Bacalov for Concerto Grosso per i New Trolls. Based on the baroque form of music, the piece opens with “Allegro”; alternating between the brisk waves of strings is the proto-typical hard blues of the era. The syrupy “Adagio” follows, a rather unspectacular vocal number, while “Cadenza Andante” features solo violin. Only the closing “Tempo Shadows” gets really electric, courtesy the Jimi Hendrix-influenced guitar of Di Paolo. Encompassing the second side is an in-studio improvisation from the band. After a protracted organ intro, the band rocks out, ranging from more flute-driven rock to jazzy Santana-esque grooves, and ending in one long drum solo… No, I’m not really impressed. But according to Paolo Barotto in his “The Return Of Italian Pop”, the record sold a phenomenal 800,000 copies in Italy and is generally regarded as the foundation of Italian progressive rock. Bacalov, who spent the ‘60s composing soundtracks for spaghetti westerns, would render the same services for Osanna the following year and Il Rovescio Della Madaglia in 1973, the former undoubtedly the crowning musical achievement. In 1972, the New Trolls issued two albums: the half-live, half-studio Searching For A Land included a switch to English-language vocals, while UT was generally better received. The band then famously split; De Scalzi would form the New Trolls Atomic System (to avoid legal hassles) and issue one excellent self-titled album of progressive rock in 1973. Di Palo would form Ibis with most of the other members of the New Trolls, releasing three albums of (more or less) hard rock. In 1976 the factions made up and reformed the New Trolls, uniting De Scalzi, Di Palo, and Belleno with new members. Their first recording was Concerto Grosso No. 2, but unfortunately it provided little to further their legacy.
One of Germany's rock pioneers, Achim Reichel founded the beat-era Rattles, Germany's answer to the Beatles, with Herbert Hildebrandt in 1960. Military service drew Reichel from the band, but upon discharge he continued his musical career with the pop group Wonderland. However at the start of the '70s, his interests in Eastern philosophies coincided with the burgeoning progressive trend. Teaming with lyricist Frank Dostal, first up was the just plain weird Wonderland Band. The story really begins in 1971 with Die Grüne Reise (The Green Journey), the first album under Reichel's new moniker, A.R. & Machines. Billed as a "soundtrack to the intended motion picture", the album is certainly a trip. Reichel recorded the album by himself, adding voice, percussion and electronic effects (Dostal provided the lyrics). Of course "Machines" refers to the tape recorders that made up Reichel's signature "echo-guitar". He layers guitar line over guitar line into a very hypnotic effect, and effectively predates just about everyone that came after (Fripp, Göttsching, Schickert, etc.). "Schönes Babylon" for example is truly resplendent; it's a completely different take on the kosmische. There's also a hippie vibe throughout the record that could be seen as strength ("I'll Be Your Singer") or not ("Come On, People"). Yet twangy, mantric and certainly psychedelic, the album is Reichel's own progressive twist on rock-n-roll, culminating in the whacked-out "Truth and Probability", where Reichel now layers his voice through the tape machines! The album saw release on Polydor, as did the following year's double-album opus, Echo. Produced again by Reichel, the album enlisted the services of Conny Plank as engineer, and a host of guest musicians. With the "Machines" hypnotic echo-guitar in full force, it's mostly augmented with acoustic guitar and tabla rhythms, and Reichel's deep baritone croon, however Lucifer Friends' Peter Hecht's orchestration is sublime. It's an unprecedented set, certainly one of the most massively amazing albums of the era. Reichel then setup his own Zebra imprint with Polydor, releasing a variety of artists, including Kin Ping Meh, Ougenweide and Randy Pie. He would release a few more A.R. & Machines albums, including the excellent IV in 1973; however by mid-decade Reichel's involvement with the progressive would be limited to that of a producer and label head, as his (very successful) solo career would pursue more commercial grounds.