Prior to recording their fourth album, Yes went through yet another personnel change: Tony Kaye was given the axe (though rectified in the ensuing decade) in favor of London's hottest keyboard player at the time. Rick Wakeman, who had just finished a musically unceremonious tenancy with the Strawbs, was a Royal College of Music dropout, best known inside the studios of London. Yes offered him the opportunity to flaunt his talent, on the pretext that an infusion of more diverse keyboard sounds would further their music. It did indeed. With its rich vocal harmonies and classic analog textures, the album's opener "Roundabout" stands as the quintessential prog rock tune; though its crowning achievement is one of the wickedest bass lines since the Beatles' "Rain". It was an AM radio hit in edited form and FM radio staple, helping to propel the album into the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic. "South Side of The Sky" displays the band's hand at heavy rock (courtesy of Steve Howe's angular guitar line) albeit with a gorgeous piano break thrown in the middle. But the second side's "Long Distance Runaround/The Fish" and "Heart of The Sunrise" are Yes' greatest moments on record. The seemingly innocuous choice of sounds committed to tape - whether Bill Bruford's distinct snare, Chris Squire's trebly Rickenbacker bass, or one of Wakeman's many keyboards - are sonic perfection; within the prog context, it's perhaps the ultimate recording of the era's analog instruments. In contrast to their previous (and future) albums, Yes did more with less on Fragile. The musical ideas are by no means simple and are actually quite exceptional. Yet the technical dexterity isn't lost in itself, as the deceivingly effortless execution and spartan production create the band's most organic sounding output. One could even excuse the near -fatal inclusion of individual "ideas" (solo tracks from each member ranging from short and sweet to pure high-brow filler) for not destroying the continuity of the album as a whole. The album reached No. 7 in the UK, while going up to No. 4 in the US.
Ex-Yes guitarist Peter Banks was enlisted for a (very) short stint in Blodwyn Pig before forming Flash. True to their name, Flash appeared quickly on the horizon, released three albums for Capitol and vanished. Banks recruited vocalist Colin Carter, bassist Ray Bennett and drummer Mike Hough, with ex-Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye filling in on their debut. The album offers exactly what you'd expect: middleweight prog rock very reminiscent of the first two Yes albums: just check out "Children Of the Universe". Still, Banks is a gifted guitarist and "Dreams Of Heaven" in particular showcases his considerable talent. Carter too is an original enough vocalist (though the vocal harmonies on the album are way overdone), the acoustic "Morning Haze" is perhaps his best performance. Their debut record, as well as the edited single "Small Beginnings", had some chart action in the US, both reaching the Top 30. Kaye then left to join the Christian rock group Badger, with ex-Warriors bassist David Foster. Banks recorded two more albums with Flash. In The Can appeared later the same year, while Out Of Our Hands was released in late 1973. They offered neither more or less than the debut, in fact they may even be just as well known for their "flashy" gatefold jackets from Hipgnosis. So despite a more than capable band, Flash's songwriting would remain its Achilles' heel. In September 1973, Banks released his eponymous solo album, The Two Sides Of. Largely instrumental, the album is quite good. It featured somewhat of a prog rock who's who, but in reality was mostly a duet with ace guitarist Jan Akkerman of Focus. Their dueling guitar work on "Knights" and "Battles" are the standouts, as is the spontaneous jam "Stop That". Flash broke up in early 1974, and Banks then relocated to the US in an attempt to secure a deal for this next band, the sub-par Empire. Little was heard from him after.
Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother were first introduced to each other when they accepted an invitation to join Kraftwerk. Rother had previously spent the past few years in another Düsseldorf group, Spirits of Sound, a covers band most notable for its members Wolfgang Reichmann (later with Streetmark) and future Kratwerk Arbeiter Wolfgang Flür. As Neu!, Dinger and Rother were indeed attempting something "new", something they would call "fast-forward" music, and the rest of the world, the "motorik beat". Their debut album, housed in a stark white cover with the title Neu! spray-painted on it, was recorded quickly with Conny Plank producing. "Hallo Gallo" bursts open and what a beat! A simple 4/4 rhythm, but one that never hesitates, never turns, and never slows down; it simply carries on, over a sonic smorgasbord of backwards guitars, electronic effects and other sounds. Though not as significant (yet hardly insignificant), the remainder of the album showcases the pair's penchant for experimentation and originality, leaving a musical legacy that was truly "neu". The album was also relatively commercially successful, selling a reputed 30,000 copies. The band would record a follow up in 1973, Neu! 2, notoriously using recordings of their single "Neuschnee" b/w "Super" at various speeds to fill the second side after they ran out of studio time, but Rother's other projects would keep the pair apart until their 1975 album, Neu! 75. That album would see release on Capitol Records in the US. However, their partnership ended, Rother would continue his collaborations while Dinger would form La Düsseldorf with his brother Thomas and Hans Lampe, both who appeared on the final Neu! album. An unfinished collaboration between Rother and Dinger in the 80s would be a source of much acrimony for the duo.
Prog rock from England was a huge hit in Italy during the early '70s, so it was only a matter of course before the Italians steered their own music into more progressive pastures. At the forefront of this was the unlikely named Premiata Forneria Marconi, (translating to "Award Winning Marconi Bakery"). Originally the beat/psychedelic group Quelli, they had some relative success in Italy as both a covers band and as session musicians. But by the end of 1970, drummer Franz Di Cioccio, guitarist Franco Mussida, bassist Giorgio Piazza and keyboardist Flavio Premoli had formed PFM, named after the shop above their rehearsal space. Multi-instrumentalist Mauro Pagani joined shortly after, adding flute and violin. Their early shows were often in support of UK groups (Yes, Deep Purple) and their set included King Crimson and Jethro Tull covers. Their first album, Storia di un Minuto, is a brilliant statement. Although some English influences are apparent (most notably King Crimson), the album is uniquely Italian and PFM. The opener "Impressioni di Settembre" displays a detail quite unlike their British contemporaries. The tarantella of "E' Festa!" (I like to call it "circus prog") is both lively and loopy, a testament to both their virtuosity and lightheartedness. The compositions on the second side combine many styles, but the spirited performance keeps the album as fresh as it is unique, in particular on the dramatic "Grazie Davvero". Although the album is sung in Italian, the language has a lyrical feel (to this author anyway), rendering it more familiar rather than foreign. Prog rock turned out to be a significant movement in Italy, as droves of Italian men would produce their own unique twist on the genre. However, few, Italian, British or otherwise would surpass the excellence of PFM.
The Strawberry Hill Boys were a bluegrass trio founded by Dave Cousins, Tony Hooper and Ron Chesterman in 1967. Sandy Denny briefly passed through the band, recording one unreleased album before joining Fairport Convention. In 1969 they shortened their name and landed a recording contract with A&M. The Strawbs recorded two early albums with production heavyweights Gus Dudgeon and Tony Visconti, respectively. In 1970, Chesterman left and Cousins and Hooper added the rhythm section of John Ford and Richard Hudson. Session-keyboard wiz Rick Wakeman, recently extricated from the Royal Academy of Music, was next to join. His debut, Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios, was recorded live at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall; however his role was really just that of a soloist. The album managed to chart in the UK. Producer Visconti urged more electric influence on Cousin's songwriting and the resulting From The Witchwood, though still reflecting the band's folk roots, again put the band in the UK Top 40. By the time of Grave New World, Blue Weaver had replaced Wakeman. More importantly though, Cousins' songwriting had now gone progressive; it'd best demonstrated here on "Tomorrow" and "New World". The album ranges from the acoustic of "On Going Older" to the more eclectic rock of "Queen of Dreams". Cousins is a unique vocalist, his raspy voice not unlike Peter Gabriel or Roger Chapman. The album became the band's best selling to date, reaching No. 11 in the UK. However, boosted by the single "Part Of The Union" at year's end, their next album, Bursting at The Seams, proved to be their commercial peak. Weathering some personnel changes, the Strawbs would continue with varying success until their eventual demise in 1978.
In protest to the misconception over the previous Jethro Tull album, Ian Anderson delivered what might be the mother of all concept albums, the wryly-titled Thick As A Brick. Based on a "poem written by eight-year old Gerald Bostock and set to musical accompaniment by rock group Jethro Tull", the album contains a single "song" spanning both sides of the vinyl. So much for the approach pioneered on aqualung! This isn't a bunch of discrete sections strung together either; the track has considerable continuity and consistency over its sides, certainly a credit to Anderson's compositional ability. But more poignantly, the tight performance within is testament to Jethro Tull, the band. Although former Blackpool-mate Barriemore Barlow was the newcomer on drums, the album presents a core of musicians who had finally coalesced into a band. John Evan in particular shines through on the Hammond organ, an instrument that never really comes to mind when thinking of the band. Of course, all the other stock Tull sounds are within, with no shortage of flute and acoustic passages. Just as important, Anderson's penchant for writing a memorable melody isn't lost in the massive composition either: the main theme, with its killer hook and direct lyric, is an instant classic. The album sported a tabloid gatefold, "The St. Cleve Chronicle", which probably remains the most elaborate record sleeve ever printed. It immediately rose to No. 5 in the UK and No. 1 in the US. Regardless of intent or delivery, the response to the album was massive, and certainly a testament to the times in which it was created. Imagine, one forty minute-plus piece of music topping the charts. The album was and remains a rock milestone.
By now, Amon Düül II settled into what would be the classic lineup of Chris Karrer on guitar and vocals, Renate Knaup on vocals, John Weinzierl on lead guitar, Lother Meid on bass, Falk Rogner on keyboards and Peter Leopold on drums, with the ever-present Olaf Kübler producing. Here the band is assisted by Karl-Heinz Hausmann on keyboards, and the more permanent arrival of Danny Fichelscher as a second drummer. Carnival In Babylon marks a turning point in AD2’s musical evolution; the long psychedelic jams now yield to more composed structures, yet always contain the band’s unique musical signature and their original brand of songwriting.
“C.I.D. In Uruk” opens, a potent rocker punctuated by its rousing chorus. Immediately evident are the thematic shifts and involved arrangements, giving the music a huge lift towards the progressive. But the following “All The Years 'Round” is nonpareil; very emotive, with a great lyric, it’s Renate’s finest hour. Weinzierl’s raw guitar punctuates the left channel of both “Ballad Of The Shimmering Sand” and “Kronwinkl” (named after their commune), while the vocals of Karrer and Renate provide a vexing but thoroughly original tandem. This is certainly not the progressive rock of their British contemporaries; AD2’s music is unpolished, edgy, even uneasy, but always rewarding. “Tables Are Turned” has a folk feel, and shines with its laid back arrangement, the combination of Farfisa, acoustic guitar and Leslie-phased electric guitar is positively eclectic. “Hawknose Harlequin” closes the album, a bluesy jam driven by a fierce bass line and spooky organ, but as it paces through various themes over it’s near ten minute length, it reclaims the psychedelic realms of the previous few AD2 albums.
Caravan's fourth album was a bit of a departure: new keyboard player Steve Miller had previously been in Carol Grimes' Delivery. With his background in British blues, Richard Sinclair brought Miller in to "jazz" up the Caravan sound. "Waterloo Lily", a song about a heavy-set hooker, would be one of the last songs Sinclair would sing with the band. It's a fairly simple number, but Miller's extended electric piano solo signals the change. The next track, "Nothing At All", is extremely out of character for the band; not to its discredit though, some strong soloing by guitarist Phil Miller (Steve's brother) and saxophonist Lol Coxhill grace the number. Miller's "It's Coming Soon" is similarly blues-based. The second side is book- ended by some more conventional Caravan numbers, but its highlight is the lengthy "The Love In Your Eye." Very much in the tradition of "For Richard", the track has several instrumental sections that flow together effortlessly, and as to be expected, some more fine soloing from the band as well. Producer David Hitchcock suggested the string accompaniment and fortunately, Decca anted up. The album remains a controversial one in the Caravan catalog, but still credible nonetheless. The band toured the UK in the summer, but both Miller and Sinclair would then leave the band. A short-lived lineup with Derek Austin on keyboards and Stuart Evans on bass toured Australia in early 1973, unable to recorded before they too had moved on.
The Cluster, or rather Kluster, story begins in Berlin at the Zodiak Free Arts Lab in 1969. Conrad Schnitzler and Hans-Joachim Roedelius were older art students who envisioned a space for their radical and decidedly un-Western ”Gerausche”, or noises. Many bands that would comprise the so-called krautrock genre, including Tangerine Dream, Agitation Free and Ash Ra Tempel, and Klaus Schulze - the “Berlin School”, played their earliest gigs there. Kluster released a few albums for the Schawnn label, basically backing sound for religious texts, but when Schnitzler left for Tangerine Dream, Roedelius and fellow student Dieter Moebius connected with Conny Plank to form Cluster. Their debut album, Cluster, was released in 1971 on the Phillips label. For their second album, Cluster II, they had signed to the Brain imprint of Metronome Records and discovered song titles (vs track timings!). Neither are easy listening, and they certainly have more in common with the musique concrete and avant-garde of academia than anything remotely rock-n-roll. That said, Cluster are completely into investigating sound on their instrumental experiments. “Im Suden” has a delicate melody, that twists, turns and modulates throughout the tracks near 13 minutes, while “Fur Die Katz” pitches high to its title’s effect. “Georgl” is quite ambient, and the following Nabitte simply wobbles! It’s industrial music, in perhaps its purest form, and certainly Plank’s hand at the recording controls helped shape what’s heard on record. From here, Roedelius and Moebius would join forces with Neu!’s Michael Rother, affecting a significant change in direction for the band.
Germany's Guru Guru, formed in 1968 by drummer and vocalist Mani Neumeier and bassist Uli Trepte, gave new meaning to the "power trio". Originally from the university town of Highdelberg, the band shuffled guitarists before moving to Berlin. There they added guitarist Ax Genrich, from an early lineup of Agitation Free and proceeded to take the guitar-bass-drum format of Cream or Jimi Hendrix and turn it on its head. Loud, intrepid and thoroughly soaked in psychedelia, Guru Guru created krautrock of the highest order. Both their debut album UFO and the following Hinten, released in 1970 and 1971 respectively on Ohr, displayed not only the guitar acrobatics of Genrich, but the similarly freaked-out playing from the rhythm section of Neumeier and Trepte. Their third record, 1972's Känguru, the first of two albums for the Brain label, heralded a change. Guru Guru offer rock-n-roll, in a very much traditional sense of the word, but of course in the most paradoxical of fashion. "Oxymoron" opens with a renewed sense of purpose. Rather than soaked in acid, the band here are musical explorers, using arrangement and improvisation over sheer sonics. "Immer Lustig" (always funny) features a Neumeier march to open, but from there the rock-n-roll goes sideways, with Genrich free to explore his progressively inventive guitar work (and tones), only to shuffle it off to Trepte, then over Neumeier and so forth. "Baby Cake Walk" sports another rockin' riff from, and initially a vocal to match. Seemingly incongruous, wherever Guru Guru are musically, whatever idea they're currently exploring, one can be guaranteed they'll find their way to somewhere else the next very instant. Yet it all works, and in the most psychedelic of ways. While many groups were Guru Guru's peers, few if any, were as original or psychedelic.
Formed in 1970, Hoelderlin initially occupied a unique space in German rock music, combining the influences of British folk with a musical classicism, obviously a nod to their namesake, the 19th century German poet Friedrich Hoelderlin. Formed in Wuppertal, the core of the band included the Grumbkow brothers, Christian and Joachim, and Christian's wife, Nanny de Ruig on vocals. Longtime members Christoph "Nopps" Noppeney on viola and Michael Bruchmann on drums also joined at this point, and story has it that after just a few gigs (and at the behest of German folkies Witthüser & Westrupp) krautrock svengali Rolf- Ulrich Kaiser offered the band a chance to record an album. Their debut, Hoelderlin's Traum, was released on the Pilz label. Primarily an acoustic album in a folk tradition, it is a record of evocative beauty, featuring the German language vocals of de Ruig. "Waren Wir" opens gently, but the Mellotron-led section under the quick beat highlights the electricity the band could generate. The following "Peter" is more conventional folk, yet the baroque melody of "Erwachen" adds a certain formality and classicism to the mix. Even over a short six minutes "Requiem fur Einen Wicht" showcases the band's extensive composition skills, while the quite acoustic "Wetterbericht" again features the melancholic beauty of de Ruig's voice. The instrumental "Traum" is another electric and eclectic number, pointing in the direction the band would eventually follow. The album has (rightly so) achieved cult status since its release. But relations with Pilz would dog the band for the next few years to come.
Matching Mole was Robert Wyatt's post-Soft Machine group, its name a play on the French "machine molle". He recruited a great band: bassist Bill MacCormick was previously in Quiet Sun, guitarist Phil Miller in Delivery, and pianist David MacRae in Nucleus. He also managed to draw Dave Sinclair, who rounded out the lineup as second keyboardist, from Caravan. The debut album begins with Wyatt's idiosyncratic and affected "O Caroline", one of only two vocal songs on the record. It slides straight into the sublime "Instant Pussy", where Wyatt's voice is used in a non-singing role. From there, the album is instrumental, flush with fusion-like textures that rely heavy on improvisation. There is a hint of the so-called Canterbury sound, but the playing is distinctively looser and decidedly jazzier. Of course, the performances are all first rate, particularly on Miller's "Part Of The Dance", the only non-Wyatt composition. The album closes with the Crimson-esque Mellotron-fest "Immediate Curtain". Not surprisingly then, Robert Fripp was called in to produce the band's second album, Little Red Record, released in October of the same year. Absent was both Wyatt from the composition credits and Sinclair's fuzzed- out Hammond, the latter having left for Hatfield & the North. Overall, the sound is decidedly heavier; the uncharacteristic "Gloria Gloom", sounding not unlike its title, features guest Brian Eno. The debut's charming cover was replaced with an equally charming play on a Chinese communist postcard, a not-so-subtle hint at Wyatt's political future. In June 1973, Wyatt's paralysis from an accident led to the group's abrupt end, shortly before a third album with a new lineup (with Francis Monkman on bass) could be recorded. Wyatt spent the next six months in hospital recuperating.
Italy, more than any other country represented in the timeline, produced some of the most genuine and decadently delicious progressive rock during the early ‘70s. Even more obscure than the English “cult classics”, only the polycarbonate and aluminum of the compact disc has allowed these treasures, originally pressed in the hundreds, to be resurrected from both obscurity and oral legend. One of the most prime examples is Il Balletto di Bronzo (“bronze ballet”). Another Neapolitan band, their debut album Sirio 2222, released in 1970 on RCA, owed much to the ‘60s psychedelia; prog rock it certainly wasn’t. However, in 1971, guitarist Lino Ajello and drummer Giancarlo Stinga added two new players to the line-up: bassist Vito Manzari and most significantly, ex Città Frontale keyboardist Gianni Leone. Leone quickly instigated a new musical direction for the band, and the resulting album, Ys, remains one of the most revered classics of the era. A concept album about a mythical city in Breton folklore, the album consists of five movements. With a foreboding chorus, “Introduzione” unfolds to the classically inspired organ of Leone. Halfway through the track Manzari’s bass cues up a prog rock workout which the band hammers out with a manic intensity reminiscent of Van Der Graaf Generator, yet certainly original in their own right. While the band is up to task, it’s Leone’s keyboards that steal the show, presenting a classic palette throughout: organ, piano, Mellotron, Moog and spinet (similar to a harpsichord); it’s almost a dissolute pleasure. Leone’s Italian language vocals and the female chorus are similarly discordant, as “Secondo Incontro” (“second encounter”) attests, yet throughout the album, Il Balletto di Bronzo is heavy, dissonant, reckless, completely over the top and all the more wonderful for it. This is classic Italian progressive rock. The band attempted an English language version of the album, however it never saw completion. (Decades later two tracks were released as a CD single; in addition to the English lyrics, it features a different mix from the album). After a bout of touring and a second single in 1973, the band broke up due to lack of success. So again, I’d like to tip my glass to Il Balletto di Bronzo, and the many, many other Italian progsters that offered some of the most interesting and eclectic music of the era. Salute!
Uriah Heep, named after the Charles Dickens character, was certainly one of the more critically-derided bands of the era. The classic quote goes something like “if this band makes it I’ll have to kill myself” (Rolling Stone, Melissa Mills, 1970). Sadly, a few of the members did, New Zealander Gary Thain in 1976 while David Byron (nee David Garrett) died in 1985. Lead singer Byron and guitarist Mick Box had previously been in Essex based The Stalkers, which mutated into Spice in 1967. With the arrival of bassist Paul Newton the following year, they recorded a lone single, but also signed on with manager Gerry Bron. Former The Gods’ keyboardist Ken Hensley came on board during recording sessions in late 1969, at which point Spice changed their name to Uriah Heep. Recorded at Lansdowne Studio, their debut album appeared in 1970 followed quickly by two albums in 1971. Heep’s sound was much closer to the heavy thunder of Deep Purple or Lucifer’s Friend than anything strictly progressive, but their albums were original and contained epic gems such as “Salisbury” and “July Morning”. All through this, the band endured persistent personnel changes (mainly with drummers) before settling down in 1972 with Thain (formerly with Keef Hartley Band) on bass and Lee Kerslake (another Gods’ alumnus) on drums. Demons And Wizards is certainly Uriah Heep's finest hour. It has all the accoutrements of a good prog rock record: songs about wizards and demons, plenty of Hammond organ and a Roger Dean cover. But the one element that raises the bar is quite simply great songwriting. Whether “The Wizard”, “Traveler In Time” or “Circle Of Hands” each track rocks hard and is full of tasty hooks. From start to finish, the album moves with total consistency and sets a blueprint for the stadium-sized anthem rock that appeared later in the decade. The Heep nearly had a hit single in the classic “Easy Livin’” and the album reached the Top 20 in both the UK and US, earning gold status as well.
The roots of Agitation Free were in the same creative scene that most bands in Berlin of the late 60s shared. The group was founded in 1967 by bassist Michael Günther and guitarist Lutz "Lüül" Ulbrich, and by the time their ranks had congealed enough to record their debut album, drummer Christopher Franke had already departed to Tangerine Dream, and guitarist Ax Genrich to Guru Guru. Improvisation and experimentation were at the band's core, and fortunately endurance as well. By 1971, keyboardist Michael Hoenig, guitarist Jörg Schwenke and drummer Burghard Rausch had joined Günther and Ulbrich, and teamed up with avant garde composer Thomas Kessler and his Berlin studio. Using a grant from the Goethe Institute, the band traveled to Egypt, Lebanon and Cyprus. Returning to Berlin, Agitation Free recorded their debut album, Maelsch, for the Music Factory label in 1972. "You Play For Us Today" opens with a soundbite from their trip, one of the many field recordings interspersed throughout the record, while "Sahara City" drifts in stasis until it erupts. "AlaTul" offers a progressive sound, anchored by organ and punctuated by a gripping rhythm from Rausch and guest Uli Popp. "Pulse" rises from a simple pulsating synth, just as the title track "Malesch" does from an organ line. Much like music from the Middle East, the band builds on a pattern, propelled forward by a fluid and moving rhythm. As avant-garde or even academic as their roots may be, there's still a musicality to the band that defies their pedigree. Like the best of American psychedelia, Agitation Free harbor nothing for weirdness' sake, but offer a free rock that's both stirring and moving. The closing "Ruecksturz" reprises a melodious theme, pointing the direction for their next album.
Aphrodite's Child was a Greek singles group that had some success in the UK, but more importantly spawned two of Greece's greatest musical exports, singer Demis Roussos and composer/performer Vangelis. By the time their seminal 666 was released, the beat era and any pop legacy were all behind them. Based on the Apocalypse of St. John, 13/18, the double-album was recorded in Paris over the prior two years. Musically it's all over the map; what Vangelis offers here is something far more psychedelic and progressive, and as wholly conceived a concept as any other record of the era. From great pop hooks ("The Four Horsemen"), heavy rock ("Do It"), to Magma-esque prog rock ("Altamont"), the album covers a lot of musical ground while remaining unique, cohesive and even quite idiosyncratic of Vangelis' later solo recordings. "Infinity", a female orgasm trip offered by Irene Papas, was controversial upon the album's release, yet any of which has certainly worn off with age. The performances are all top notch, in particular, Silver Koulouris' psychedelic guitar work and Lucas Sideras' drumming. The album's magnum opus, the twenty-minute finale "All The Seats Were Occupied" is simply fantastic. Drifting in and out of the mix, the twenty-minute track reprises the album's various themes as it gradually unfolds into a tight psychedelic groove. The album would be the last for the band. Roussos left for a solo career in Greece after the recording, while Vangelis would eventually move to London to begin a long and distinguished solo career.
The Parisian born Kravetz was classically trained (on alto saxophone) at the prestigious Conservatoire de Paris, making his way to Hamburg in the mid-60s as a music teacher, where he also moonlighted with the City Preachers. Around the time of Frumpy's metamorphosis into Atlantis, organist Jean-Jacques Kravetz assembled some friends to record a solo album in Hamburg for the Vertigo label. Drummer Udo Lindenberg brought his former Mustangs band mate bassist Steffi Stephan, and adds vocals to a couple of tracks. Inga Rumpf guests on "I'd Like To Be A Child Again", offering her voice and lyrics, but it's really Thomas Kretzschmer's guitar solo that steals the show. Except for Kravetz, that is, and his remarkable organ playing; not only does he have the chops, but his tone is exemplary, ranking him up with any of the top British vets. Lindenberg offers some vocals on "Ann Toomuch", while Kravetz adds a synthesizer solo towards the end. "Routes" drifts into chaos before emerging on a nice groove, again with Kretzschmer providing the solo. The simple piano of "When The Dream Is Over" backs another Lindenberg vocal, while "Master Of Time" is indeed masterful, and wouldn't have been out of place on Frumpy's second album. The album was re-released in 1975 on the German Fontana label, as 8 Days In April, The Hamburg Scene. Stephan, Kravetz and Kretzschmer would later work with Lindenberg in his Panik Orchestra, while Kravetz was also a member of Randy Pie and Peter Maffay's band.
Khan was the brainchild of Steve Hillage. Previously in Uriel (or Arzachel, whichever your prefer), the guitarist went off to complete his studies at Canterbury University, where much of the album was subsequently written. In 1971, he formed Khan with Nick Greenwood on bass and Eric Peachy on drums, gaining support from Caravan's manager Terry King. Dave Stewart replaced original keyboardist Dick Henningham just prior to recording Space Shanty, their first and only album. The title track reveals some heavy psychedelic rock, but with a fair amount of melody and hippie flair. Building on the Arzachel/Egg formula, the record obviously showcases Hillage's guitar playing. He's found the echo effect that would provide a signature to his guitar work with Gong, but also doesn't shy away from bending a few notes and rocking out either. Stewart's organ, of course, is the perfect compliment, in particular on "Stranded". Hillage's first solo album, Fish Rising would be the logical successor to the album; just check out the closing section of "Driving to Amsterdam". After the album's release, Hillage and Stewart carried on with a new rhythm section for a few short months, but offers from Kevin Ayers and Hatfield And The North lured both away and the band came to an abrupt end. The album was originally issued by Deram in the UK and Brain in Germany, but also reissued years later in the US on Passport Records.
Lucifer’s Friend had their roots in Hamburg in a group called The German Bonds. Founded by organist Peter Hecht and bassist Dieter Horns, they were a typical 60s beat group, releasing a few singles to no particular acclaim, however they were all studio musicians in bustling Hamburg music scene. By 1970, with guitarist Peter Hesslein and drummer Joachim Rietenbach, they teamed with Englishman John Lawton and another singer, and released an album of heavy rock for Decca as Asterix. Shedding the extra singer and with producer and former Rattle Herbert Hildebrandt-Winhauer, they recorded their debut album proper, now carrying the band’s new name, Lucifer’s Friend. It’s an excellent album of heavy rock, rivaling similar works from Deep Purple or Uriah Heep, and best encapsulated with the stone classic track “Ride The Sky”. Their second album, Where The Groupies Killed The Blues, changed musical direction, something the band would be guilty of throughout their career. Released in 1972, it features lyrics and music from John O’Brien-Docker, founder of the City Preachers, a band that morphed into Frumpy. Not surprisingly, the acoustic “Burning Ships” opens the album, with Lawton’s strong voice. “Prince Of Darkness” contains a heavy riff, but Hecht’s piano on the track tempers any potential sonic onslaught. “Hobo” is an instant classic, while “Mother” features Horns on bass-fiddle; the tense, shifting arrangement goes from something symphonic. “Summer Dream” shows Hecht’s hand at orchestration, but it’s the diverse structure of “Rose Of The Vine” that’s the album’s highlight. It’s an interesting album, one that attempts to embrace the burgeoning progressive, with generally excellent results. Like many of their releases, the album did see a US release on Passport Records (with an improved track order), but some three years after it was recorded. The band carried on throughout the 70s, releasing a number of albums of mainstream hard rock. Lawtown left the band in 1977 to Uriah Heep.
The Osanna story begins in Naples, with the band Città Frontale. The original lineup consisted of vocalist Lino Vairetti, drummer Massimo Guarino, bassist Lello Brandi and guitarist Danilo Rustici. When keyboardist Gianni Leone left for Il Balletto di Bronzo in 1971, they added Elio D'Anna on sax and flute, and changed their name to Osanna. The band earned quite a reputation as a live act, being one of the first to wear costumes on stage and integrate theatre. In addition to playing the major Italian festivals, they opened for Genesis on one of their earliest tours of Italy... Their first album, L'Uomo, released in 1971 on Fonit Cetra was a curious mix of hard rock with progressive overtones, with more than a little affinity to the earliest of Jethro Tull's works. In 1972, they teamed up with Luis Enríquez Bacalov to produce Milano Calibro 9, a soundtrack for the film noir by Fernando Di Leo. Bacalov of course, was hot on the heels of the New Trolls' Concerto Grosso. "Preludio" sets the stage: the contrast of flute and synthesizer yield to the sharp string arrangements; when the band kicks in, they're in high gear. Throughout each of the seven "Variatione" the combination is genuinely eclectic, except perhaps for the closing "Canzona". Yet it's not just the strings mixed with rock instrumentation (guitar, bass, drums + synthesizer and flute) that makes the album unique; it completely ignores the British idiom of adding orchestral arrangements as an accouterment: it's a true fusion of rock and classical music. Of course the Italians of this generation had a rich musical heritage rooted in baroque music and little tradition of rock-n-roll. Yes, the album does take some listening to fully understand and there's no concealing the fact that the album sounds dated; but none of that's really the point. The album was the first released on the Peters International Cosmos Label in May of 1974, in a valiant attempt to bring "Eurobands" to the US. Osanna would release two more albums; Palepoli would follow up in 1973, while after a break, Landscape Of Life would appear in 1974 (again seeing a US release). However, success not in the cards, the band broke up. Vairetti and Guarino would reform Città Frontale for one record in 1975, before reuniting as Osanna again (with Rustici) to release one final album in 1978 on CBS.