For Atomic Rooster’s next lineup, Vincent Crane teamed up with the talented guitarist John Du Cann, previously in the psychedelic band Andromeda, and Crane’s own foot and left hand (on the lower manual of the organ) instead of a bassist. Ric Parnell briefly played drums, but not before Du Cann instead brought in Paul Hammond. Thus constituted, the trio of Crane, Du 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 not common at the time; and as the title suggests, the album had no shortage of gloom and doom. A consistently heavy rock affair, it’s distinguished by Du Cann’s guitar playing, but not necessarily his vocals (as the title track attests). The instrumental “Vug” ups the ante, and the interplay between Crane’s organ and Du Cann’s guitar is incendiary. Bluesy and ballsy, the track epitomizes the band’s heavy, chomping sound. “Gershatzer” is another instrumental barnstormer; this time, Hammond lets loose. Several Du Cann compositions grace the record; the best, “Seven (Lonely) Streets,” stands out with a shimmering organ arrangement. Crane switches to piano for the more accomplished melody of “Nobody Else,” a precursor to what their next album would bring. The single “Tomorrow Night” b/w “Play the Game” peaked just shy of the UK Top 10. The album reached No. 12, and would even break into the Top 100 in the US, where the band had signed to Elektra Records.
Following Malcom Mooney’s departure, Can enlisted Kenji “Damo” Suzuki, reportedly on the spot, while he was busking outside a cafe in Munich; that night, he played his first gig with the band. Intact, the band issued Soundtracks, a compilation of-you guessed it-music used in films. The band’s next studio album, Tago Mago, (named after Isla de Tagomago, an island off the east coast of Ibiza, Spain) was recorded by Holger Czukay at Schloss Nörvenich, where the band were living at the time. A sprawling double-album, the first record contains (more or less) songs, including “Paperhouse” and the trippy “Mushroom.” Suzuki’s vocals are mostly improvisatory, a flowing stream of words that fits perfectly with the band’s music. “Oh Yeah” bounces over Jaki Liebezeit’s deft drumming; but the meat of the album consists of long improvisations that illustrate what Can does best: using less to create more. “Halleluwah” begins with a funky riff and rides the groove across the album’s second side. Michael Karoli adds some violin, but it’s all about the sexy and infectious rhythm of Liebezeit and Czukay. “Aumgn” takes free rock to a whole new level; it sounds like a nightmare, but in a good way. Eventually Czukay’s engineering would eclipse his bass playing with the band, and it starts here. The fourth side closes with the quirky “Peking O.” and the more eastern-tinged “Bring Me Coffee or Tea.” In late 1971, the band would play their first concerts in the UK and release a single, “Spoon” b/w “Shikako Maru Ten” which topped the West German charts. Suzuki would record a few more albums with Can, including the magnificent Ege Bamyasi in 1972 and Future Days in 1973, and then leave the band to become a Jehovah’s Witness.
Step back a few years to the oddly named Uriel, from which Egg was (sorry) hatched; founded in 1968 by bassist Mont Campbell, guitarist Steve Hillage and Dave Stewart, who reportedly only took up the organ because he was intimidated 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 album posthumously, released under the more pleasant moniker, Arzachel. After Hillage’s departure for the University of Kent in Canterbury, the band dropped all blues numbers from their set and moved forward with compositions built around classical motifs and odd time signatures. The management of Middle Earth club then approached them, and convinced them to change their name to Egg. They eventually signed to Deram Records, releasing their first album in Spring 1970. It was a solid debut, but not without some traces of influence. The instrumental “Symphony No. 2,” encompassing the record’s second side, was notable. (Of course, it also begged the question, where is “No. 1?”) But Egg’s second album, The Polite Force, remains their classic. It begins with Campbell’s narrative on the autobiographical “A Visit to Newport Hospital.” Again, the album’s second side is dominated by an instrumental, the great “Long Piece No. 3.” Stewart provides the definitive Hammond organ and Leslie cabinet tone, while drummer Brooks keeps meticulous time. Moreover, the motifs are transcendent. Prone to digress into wonderful moments of psychedelic weirdness, the piece is complicated and original; it avoids the typical pomposity of organ rock, which is perhaps its greatest triumph. In all, the record reveals the promise of Stewart’s later Canterbury efforts. Despite BBC appearances and further touring, Deram did not commit to a third record and Egg (really sorry) broke up in 1972. Stewart next joined Hillage’s new band, Khan, while Brooks would join The Groundhogs for the excellent Hogwash album. Egg would record a final “reunion” album, The Civil Surface, for Virgin in 1974, simply because they were offered.
Ikarus’ roots formed in the Beatique In Corporation, formed in 1966 in Hamburg. Their members were mostly educated in classical music, including keyboardist Wulf-Dieter Struntz and bassist Wolfgang Kracht, but as was typical of the era, they played covers and gigged wherever they could. Singer Lorenz Köhler, drummer Bernd Shröeder, guitarist Manfred Schultz and multi-instrumentalist Jochen Petersen-also a record producer with his own label-rounded out the lineup. BIC won a competition that earned them a spot at the Hamburg’s Pop And Blues Festival ‘70 (released on the Pop & Blues Festival ‘70 compilation on MCA Records), after which they changed their name to Ikarus. Their self-titled debut is a classic slice of progressive rock-although one certainly inspired by their British counterparts, especially Van der Graaf Generator. The epic “Eclipse” opens the album, guitars blazing. A sturdy bass and jazzy drumming anchor the composition, with the Hammond front and center. But when the acoustic guitars begin the piece’s second movement, look out for Struntz’s organ solo; it’s a monster. “Mesentery” features some nice string arrangements, while the Edgar Allan Poe-inspired “The Raven” swings under Petersen’s horn work before drifting into something appropriately darker. “Early Bell’s Voice” again invokes the British progressive bent, but it’s on par with any group from England; Ikarus had peers at every level of prog rock. The record was released in 1972 on Miller International’s +plus+ label. Ikarus toured throughout West Germany with labelmates Wind and Tomorrow’s Gift-the former a heavy Frumpy-type band, while the latter was a progressive blues band at this juncture. Despite a proposed contract with Metronome Records, Ikarus broke up. Petersen went on to work with Achim Reichel, Thirsty Moon and others, and was later a member of Randy Pie.
The Yes Album was that herculean leap that not only helped Yes save their recording contract with Atlantic, but also elevated them towards rock’s elite. With new blood Steve Howe (previously in Bodast) 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 for success had been in place on their previous two albums; but here, Yes elongate their compositions, which gives them room to blossom without ever getting 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” constitute typical Yes material-hard riffing, melodic and cinematic-while the chomping “Perpetual Change” remains underrated in their canon. “I’ve Seen All Good People” would become the perennial crowd-pleaser and radio favorite; it starts as a simple sing-along acoustic number (“Your Move”) before moving into the foot-stomping second section. Jon Anderson’s words move like a game of chess, interweaving both meaning and cadence to great effect. Certainly, Howe’s versatile guitar playing is a valuable new asset; but his ragtime solo “Clap,” first presented here, would eventually be performed with circus-act regularity. Reaching No. 7, the album gave Yes its first UK Top 10 slot and even managed to rise into the US Top 40. After the album’s release, Yes made an appearance on the BBC’s Top Of The Pops, toured Europe with Iron Butterfly and then were off on their first tour of America, in support of a very popular Jethro Tull.
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 the rest of Jethro Tull become larger than life with Aqualung-and in fact, became all three. Anderson (along with wife Jenny, who wrote the title track’s lyrics) tackles his views on religion, giving the album the loose distinction of “concept.” Here Tull takes their music to a new commercial level, mixing their own progressive brew with the hard riffing of the then-current heavy rock (think Led Zeppelin) to deliver very classic rock songs. “My God,” “Hymn 43” and “Locomotive Breath” teem with classic riffs and hooks, and Barre’s double-tracked guitar is the ace in the hole. The title track and “Locomotive Breath” are also FM radio-friendly; 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 gracefully employs 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 record and has since achieved 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. Man signed what would become a longstanding contract with United Artists in 1970, beginning with the issue of their third album, Man. The bluesy “Romain,” a tale about a Belgian policeman, opens quietly, but the ending section adds a lot more to the picture. When Man were on, they proved themselves to be hugely talented and creative. When Man didn’t work, such as on the following track “Country Girl,” they sounded like pedestrian West Coast rockers. But the next number, the instrumental “Would the Christians Wait Five Minutes? The Lions Are Having a Draw,” though perhaps similar to Pink Floyd at the time, accentuates the band’s live psychedelic rock potential. “Alchemist,” a triptych trip of the highest order, furthers this design. The rocking “Daughter of the Fireplace” b/w “Country Girl” was released as a single, but without success. The middle instrumental section of the former highlights the potential firepower of the band. Another album appeared in late 1971, Do You Like It Here Now, Are You Settling In?; but an appearance at London’s Roundhouse in 1972, immortalized on the Greasy Truckers Party album alongside Hawkwind and others, switched focus to the UK market. Leaving their psychedelic edge behind and adopting a more mainstream rock sound, the Manband nestled into the charts in 1973 with the half-live, half-studio album Back Into The Future, where they would remain for a further few albums, before calling it quits in 1976.
In the 1960s, trumpeter Ian Carr played in a series of jazz bands with Don Rendell and Neil Ardley. As the decade turned, he caught the international fusion bug, as did many jazz musicians in the late 60s. Carr assembled a group of British jazz A-listers, including keyboardist Karl Jenkins, guitarist Chris Spedding, drummer John Marshall and bassist Jeff Clyne. In addition to Carr’s trumpet, Brian Smith contributed saxophone. The band then signed with Vertigo in 1969 and quickly recorded two albums in 1970. Released in June, Elastic Rock is a groundbreaking album of fusion, the amalgamation of electric jazz with rock. Recorded in September in just two days, the group’s second album We’ll Talk About It Later saw release in March 1971. Once again, the album is packed with Jenkins’s compositions. But this time around, Nucleus emphasized rock over jazz. The opening horn riffs of “Song for the Bearded Lady” herald the band’s big jazzy sound, but it’s the guitar’s infectious riff that grabs one’s attention. The song breaks down into some subdued soloing from Carr and Spedding before reprising its main theme. “Sun Child” finds its groove in Clyne’s tight bass and Marshall’s deft drumming. The title track offers Spedding another chance to shine, while the ensuing “Oasis” finds Jenkins plotting a different course, driven by Marshall’s cymbal work and Carr’s trumpet. “Ballad of Joe Pimp” is a rare vocal effort from Spedding, while the closer “Easter 1916” again offers Smith plenty of room to solo. Carr’s next release was a solo record; but by 1973, he would recruit an entirely new lineup for Nucleus, recording a dozen or so albums throughout the 70s. Most were on the jazz side of jazz-rock, but typical of Carr’s work are of the highest quality. Beginning with Marshall in 1972, many Nucleus members would jump ship and find employment with Soft Machine.
Caravan’s third album sports a fine cover illustration from Anne Marie Anderson; on the turntable, the album steps up a notch from the group’s previous efforts. Richard Sinclair’s affable (and perennial favorite) “Golf Girl” kicks off; its concise pop, Caravan-style, while “Love To Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly)” offers more of the same. David Hitchcock’s production and the band’s instrumentation are immaculate, while the melodies and lighthearted subject matter are, again, typically Canterbury. Next, “Winter Wine” presents a mini-version of what the second side has to offer: the sprawling “Nine Feet Underground.” Caravan’s entrant into the album-side-long compositions is nonpareil. Conceived by Dave Sinclair as an entity, the eight sections flow together seamlessly, hypnotically propelled through the 20-minute piece by the laid-back Richards Coughlan/Sinclair rhythm section. From the opening riff until the last note, there is little debate that Sinclair’s Hammond organ steals the show. Continually shifting and changing tone, Sinclair carries the melody on each section with pure simplicity, always resting on the tonic. Hastings’s guitar may be 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’s history, but of progressive rock in general. The album failed to chart but remained in Decca’s catalog for years, eventually earning a gold record. Caravan continued a hectic touring schedule; however, change was just around the corner. Dave Sinclair left the band 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 with whom to start a group. They enlisted 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, Stanley “Sam” August Miesegaes-the band, now called Mainhorse Airline, expanded to a six piece. Kubinec, however, suffered a heart attack in 1970 and returned to England. Shortening both their name and their lineup, Moraz, Ristori and Graham added guitarist and vocalist Peter Lockett to the fold, signed to Polydor Records and recorded their eponymous album in 1971 at De Lane Lea Studios in London. “Introduction” does just that: Big chords from Moraz and some great breaks set the stage for a blistering lead from Lockett; it’s classic keyboard rock. “Passing Years” and “Pale Sky” are holdovers from the Kubinec era, the latter offering an extended jam that illustrates the group’s dexterity. “Such a Beautiful Day” and “Basia” keep the energy high, with “More Tea Vicar” opting for a more pastoral feeling. The closing “God” is majestic, as any track with that name should be, reprising its theme through the long fade. Lockett’s guitar adds diversity to the band’s sound, and mostly avoids comparisons to other contemporary keyboard trios of the day. Still, with 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 also saw release in the US on the Import Records label in 1976.
Born in 1944 in Tilsit, East Prussia, Edgar Froese came to Berlin in the mid-60s as a student. A guitarist, he formed The Ones, a predictably beat-era combo that recorded one single. The band were fortunate to spend two summers in Catalonia, Spain, at the invitation of surrealist Salvador Dali. Then, catching the rising underground spirit of the late 60s, Froese formed Tangerine Dream in 1967, its name inspired from a lyric of The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” They gigged at the Zodiak Free Arts Club, and by their first album, 1970’s Electronic Meditation, the lineup consisted of Froese, drummer Klaus Schulze and cellist Conrad Schnitzler; both would also become pioneers of electronic music. Yet the lineup only lasted for one album; joined first by organist Steve Schroyder and then drummer Chris Franke, previously with Agitation Free, the band recorded their “kosmische” classic Alpha Centauri for the Ohr label in 1971. The massive chords of Shroyder’s organ announce “Sunrise in the Third System.” “Fly and Collision of Comas Sola” quakes under the incessant pounding of Franke’s drumming, with only guest Udo Dennebourg’s flute providing a way through. Side two is encompassed by the title track; Tangerine Dream offer what’s been called “space rock, without the rock.” Here, the band utilize the sonic armory of the studio-including Roland Paulyck on synthesizer-intermixed with silence to create pure atmosphere: Like the star system in space, there are no fixed points-only brief flashes of light as elements passing through the soundscape. The album was a success, selling a reputed 20,000 copies in West Germany alone. Guitar and Mellotron dominated a rare single, “Ultima Thule, Teil 1” b/w “Ultima Thule, Teil 2,” released around the same time. The massive Zeit followed, with Froese and Franke now joined by a young Peter Baumann on VCS3, and accompanied by Schroyder, Florian Fricke and Joachim von Grumbkow of Hoelderlin. A “largo in four movements,” it was again recorded with Dieter Dierks’s Stommeln studio, and furthered their deep sound exploration.
Pink Fairies were a rebranded The Deviants, although that wasn’t the original intention. Following the recording of his solo album, Twink teamed with Mick Farren and Steve Peregrine Took; they played a one-off gig in Manchester in October 1969. Farren left soon after recording his solo album, and 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 (they sometimes played together as Pinkwind), the Fairies were all about the festival scene, most famously appearing 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 with producer Neil Slaven. The album blasts open with the classic riff of “Do It.” Raw and raucous, it offers the Fairies’ raison d’état. The dreamy “Heavenly Man” slows the pace, but “Say You Love Me” again blows the doors wide open. “Wargirl” 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 juggernaut. Truncated to half its time 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 Fayre in June 1971. Twink left shortly thereafter, with Trevor Burton from The Move joining for the band’s 1972 album, What A Bunch Of Sweeties. It made the charts in the UK, reaching No. 48. But shortly thereafter, Rudolph departed; and after Mick Wayne’s brief spell on guitar, Larry Wallis (ex-Shagrat) was recruited for the Fairies’ third album, Kings Of Oblivion. But the plot seemed lost, at least musically, and the band broke up. Wallis went on to form Motörhead 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 Gramophone Company. Replacing the departed Tom Harris were two brass players, Don Fay and Tony Roberts, the former having played on Elton John’s debut album. 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 progressive rock. “More Rain” slows a bit, highlighted by Fay’s flute and Lawson’s plaintive lyrics, while “Maudie James” and “Holy Padlock” feature Lawson’s distinct vocal delivery. “Give a Little Love” powers away with Tony Edwards’s guitar, and “Face in the Mirror” contains a fury reminiscent of Van der Graaf Generator. The final track, “As I Dried Away the Tears,” again offers everything Samurai has to offer: superb musicianship, precise execution and expert arrangement; it’s a wonder why the album didn’t set the charts on fire. But their record label was short-lived, and to obscurity Samurai would remain. Lawson then joined Greenslade, where he would remain for that band’s course; but little if anything would be heard of the other members, save Roberts who did extensive session work. Following his tenure in Greenslade, Lawson would work with many others, including Stackridge and Roy Harper, before launching a career in sound design.
Spring hailed from Leicester, in the Midlands of central England, and consisted of vocalist Pat Moran, guitarist Ray Martinez, keyboardist Kips Brown, drummer Pick Withers and bassist Adrian Maloney. Strangely enough, when their van broke down “somewhere in Wales,” it was none other than Rockfield Studio boss Kingsley Ward who came to their aid. Subsequently signed by the Neon/RCA label, the band recorded their eponymous album in 1971, with Gus Dudgeon producing. The opening chords of “The Prisoner (Eight by Ten)” reveal the key to the Spring sound: the gentle voice of Moran and Brown’s stately Mellotron. “Grails” features some tasty guitar licks from Martinez; but again, it’s those blasts of Mellotron halfway through that provide the edge to an otherwise melodic tune. “Boats” has a folky vibe, while “Shipwrecked Soldier” rides the marching beat of Withers’s drums. “Golden Fleece” and “Inside Out” bear down harder, with the former’s middle section offering Martinez and Brown the chance to show their chops. Throughout, the band offers a warm, gentle progressive rock, yet one completely awash in Mellotron, played by up to three members of the band. Despite an active touring schedule, attempts to get a second album together failed and the band subsequently broke up after recording only a handful of demos. But the members of Spring had good fortune. Moran became a sound engineer, most famously working at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth with Van der Graaf Generator and Rush. Withers worked as a session musician, until he became a founding member of Dire Straits in 1978.
Amon Düül II’s second release, the double-album Yeti, appeared in November 1970. The improvisations there were more structured, but encompassed most of the album. Released as a single, the appreciably hard-rocking “Archangels Thunderbird” b/w “(Excerpts from) Soap Shop Rock” was a stormer, pointing to the future. The cover features 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 Eyes,” again featuring the heavier aspects of the band’s music. Their next release, the double-album Dance Of The Lemmings (aka Tanz der Lemminge), saw international release on the United Artists label in June 1971. Lothar Meid had arrived on bass, replacing Dave Anderson after he left for the UK and Hawkwind. Three of the sides are album-side-long tracks: “Syntelman’s March of the Roaring Seventies” is as exemplary as any here; there’s a hint of acoustic folk in Chris Karrer’s writing, but propelled by Meid’s pummeling bass and Peter Leopold’s brisk percussion, 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 remainder of the fourth side, “Chamsin Soundtrack,” features several shorter tracks, all (more or less) guitar-based, with “Toxicological Whispering” featuring the lead guitar of John Weinzierl. There’s little precedent for Amon Düül II’s music, progressive or otherwise. Both albums present true classics, with their eight sides of vinyl remaining a cornerstone of what would eventually be known as krautrock.
Hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland, Clouds’ history goes back to the early 1960s and a band called The Premiers. Among its members were bassist Ian Ellis and drummer Harry Hughes, and later, keyboardist Billy Ritchie. Relocating to London, the band, now a trio called 1-2-3, they landed a residency at the Marquee Club in 1967. This eventually attracted the attention of NEMS and Brian Epstein, and along with a slew of fledgling keyboard players to witness Ritchie’s command of the organ. Following Epstein’s untimely death, the band changed their name to Clouds and signed with Terry Ellis and Chrysalis Records. Their debut recording, The Clouds Scrapbook, was released in 1969. Like all of their recordings, it featured orchestral arrangements from future Jethro Tull member David Palmer and production from Andy Johns. Firmly rooted in the 60s, the album is a pastiche of short songs, ranging from music hall to pop to schmaltz; so whatever their live legacy may have been, it didn’t translate to vinyl. A second album, Up Above Our Heads, saw release on Deram in 1970, but in the US only-an empty attempt to break into the North American market. Fortunately, the band’s third album-Watercolour Days, released in 1971-was head and shoulders above the rest. The opening title track is a compositional triumph, combining brilliant songwriting and musical arrangement. “Cold Sweat” grinds deeper, approaching the heavy organ of Atomic Rooster or Deep Purple; while the sultry swirling organ of “Lighthouse” mixes perfectly with the dual vocals of Ritchie and Ellis. The second side’s “Mind of a Child” and “I am the Melody” remain rooted in 60s pop, yet the album’s uniform texture provides a cohesiveness. Despite an international touring schedule throughout their career and capable records, Clouds never found the success they hoped for, and the band called it quits in late 1971. While the prog genre was just coming into full bloom, Clouds would drift from memory and remain a relic of a decade past.
If Emerson, Lake & Palmer had earned a “flash” rock reputation through their live appearances, their second album Tarkus offered up more than something in their defense. Encompassing the first side of the album, the seven-part “Tarkus,” excellently depicted on the album sleeve by William Neal, relates a story of reverse evolution, in a battle between a mythical Manticore and a tank/armadillo beast Tarkus. More importantly, it’s where ELP-and Keith Emerson in particular-buckled down for some serious composition; what they present is nothing short of impressive. “Tarkus” is fierce, engaging, and perhaps best of all, relentless. With no slow middle sections or acoustic respite, the track presents the full-on power of hammering organ, bass and drum through to its end, with a modicum of electric guitar and synthesizer thrown in for good measure. By contrast, the second side offers more discrete (and shorter) material. A honky-tonk piano kicks off the cross-dressing tale of “Jeremy Bender,” which is perhaps another cousin-track to Syd Barrett’s “Arnold Layne.” “Bitches Crystal” hints at things to come, while “A Time and a Place” is the heaviest organ rock. Greg Lake provides a passionate, even Crimson-esque, vocal to the credited J.S. Bach adaptation “The Only Way (Hymn);” though the hypnotic piano riff of “Infinite Space (Conclusion)” submits a welcome moment of restraint-and jazz. Eddie “Are you ready?” Offord engineered the record, while Lake produced; and as usual, the pair achieved a result that nears the gold standard for the era. The album gave ELP their first and only No. 1 record in the UK and finally broke them into the US Top 10.
Born in Bournemouth, Dorset, Gordon Haskell was a childhood friend of Robert Fripp. The pair formed their first band, League of Gentlemen, while at grammar school, with Haskell on bass and vocals. When Fripp went off to college, Haskell joined the Southampton-based psychedelic band Les Fleur de Lys. Working as a house band for the Atlantic/Stax label, the band recorded a couple of classic singles, including “Gong with the Luminous Nose” b/w “Hammer Head.” By the late 60s, however, Haskell was writing his own songs and took a paying gig with The Flowerpotmen. His first, somewhat obscure album offered his songwriting to the world; others would hit the charts in South Africa and Australia with his songs. Haskell then teamed with Fripp on a track for In The Wake Of Poseidon, “Cadence and Cascade,” which, after some cajoling, led to Haskell’s further participation on King Crimson’s third album, Lizard. However, the relationship between Haskell and Fripp turned toxic, and his time with the band was short-lived. Haskell then signed with Ahmet Ertegun’s Atco Records and recorded a second solo album, with producer Arif Mardin and guests Dave Kaffinetti from Rare Bird, Alan Barry from Fields, and John Wetton and Bill Aktinson (Harrison) from Mogul Thrash. It Is And It Isn’t highlights the gentler side of the progressive, with poignant songwriting and affecting lyrics. Certainly, the aforementioned “Cadence and Cascade” provides a blueprint; whether it’s the hooks of “Could Be,” “Sitting by the Fire” and “Spider,” or the introspection of “Upside Down” and “Just a Lovely Day,” Haskell’s songwriting is top-notch. His voice, distinct and pleasant, and the musicians offer an excellent backdrop to Mardin’s string arrangements. Unfortunately, the album was released to little acclaim, despite some high-profile gigs backing Stackridge and Wishbone Ash; the former would cover his excellent “Worms” on their 1975 Extravaganza album. With his solo career on hold, Haskell reverted to bass playing, spending the rest of the decade as a journeyman.
Immediately recognizable by their Orient-inspired album covers, Jade Warrior formed around the duo of guitarist Tony Duhig and percussionist Jon Field. During the mid-to-late 60s, the two drifted through a series of bands, eventually forming July with Tom Newman. Adopting the name Jade Warrior, the pair then recruited Glyn 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). Though the Jethro Tull comparisons are inevitable, their music occupies a much different space. Foremost, Field is a percussionist; and suitably, their songs are not anchored by drumming, which allows for a more expansive sound. Havard is a good vocalist and his bass adds substance; but the rest of the magic is dynamics, ranging from the mildness of Field’s flute to the heavy of Duhig’s overdriven guitar. Their compositions range from the bluesy “A Prenormal Day at Brighton” at one end of the spectrum, to the African-influenced “Masai Morning” at the other end. But the gentleness of “Windweaver” and “Dragonfly Day” is the Warrior’s strong suit. The second side opts for more bluesy numbers, while the acoustic “Sundial Song” bestows a glimpse into their future. The following year, the band delivered two albums: Released, its highlight being the lengthy jam “Barazinbar” with drummer Allan Price and saxophonist Dave Conners; and Last Autumn’s Dream, which offered the closest the band would come to mainstream songs. The band then toured the US in support of Dave Mason, adding Duhig’s brother David on guitar. Two subsequent albums were recorded in 1973, but without a label, neither would see release for decades.
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 and Avrid Andersen, among others, and moved to Turin, Italy. Blackmore bowed out early, and was replaced by organist Joe Vescovi; but 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 with heavy organ and rich harmonies, and some classical influences. However, their second album, Caronte, based on the mythological character Charon, finds their music moving toward the realm of British prog rock. Vescovi, with 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. Yet they never lose their heavy blues-rock roots, as the opener “Caronte I” attests. “Two Brothers” follows suit, opting for vocals this time, à la 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 J. Hendrix” is a little more run-of-the-mill, offering only a few plaintive guitar lines over the prolonged final section. Gray and drummer Pino Sinnone then left, the latter replaced by Furio Chirico, and the new three piece recorded 1972’s Alantide. Venturing deeper into the style of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, it features the furious drumming of Chirico. One final album, the even more playful Time For A Change, was released on Trident Records in 1974. But it was time for a change, indeed. The band split, with Chirico co-founding Arti e Mestieri and Vescovi briefly joining Aqua Fragile and then I Dik Dik.