After Colosseum’s demise following their US tour in 1971, drummer John Hiseman retained bassist Mark Clarke for his next project, the considerably hard-rocking Tempest. With Paul Williams providing lead vocals, the ace in the hole was guitarist Allan Holdsworth, previously in Igginbottom’s Wrench, a band that recorded an obscure (and unexciting) album for Deram in 1969, and who had just recorded Ian Carr’s Belladonna album. Tempest's opener “Gorgon” reveals the band's heavy mix of blues and rock. Williams has a strong but not necessarily original voice: the track owes more than a passing reference to Jimi Hendrix, in more ways than one. However, Holdsworth’s “Up And On” is more interesting, allowing the guitarist’s distinctive technique to shine. Clarke handles all the vocals for his “Grey and Black”, with Williams switching to keyboards. “Strangeher” is a straight-up swinger, with some impressive guitar from Holdsworth, but the album’s closing number, “Upon Tomorrow”, is the highlight. Written with David Clempson, the angle is much more progressive. Clarke and Hiseman are undoubtedly a powerful rhythm section, but unfortunately the material doesn’t always live up to the promise. Not to be missed however is a session for BBC Radio One's Pop Spectacular from June 1973, virtual legato slugfest between Holdsworth and second guitarist Ollie Halsall, who joined Tempest the day before! Minus Williams, the trio of Hiseman, Clarke and Halsall would perform at 1973’s Reading festival, opening for Genesis. Holdsworth went on to join drummer Tony Williams, first in the legendary band Wildlife (sic) with Jack Bruce, and then to the New Lifetime proper in 1975. He would later play with Soft Machine, before joining Bruford.
Rick Wakeman drew a solo contract with A&M Records while he was a member of The Strawbs, and while things were taking off with Yes, he found both time and inspiration for his debut solo record in a paperback book, "The Private Life of Henry VIII". It's with no surprise then to find every track on Six Wives of Henry VIII dedicated to each of the infamous King's wives. Musically speaking, Wakeman's solo career had precious little to do with Yes; he composed very little for that band (though certainly helped with arrangements). The album does however build on what Wakeman first presented on his solo track, "Cans & Brahms", from Yes' Fragile album. That of course, was Wakeman the performer. In fact, the album's lead track, "Catherine of Aragon" was originally slotted for Yes, under the aegis of "Handle With Care". In early 1972, Wakeman reworked the track, which features Chris Squire, Bill Bruford and Steve Howe. It's perhaps the most memorable piece on the album; yet after the choral break, it quickly becomes ineffectual. And therein lays the album's weakness: Wakeman's technique is nothing short of fantastic, but as often is the case, technique can only bring a record so far. The instrumental dexterity on "Anne Of Cleves" and ornate arrangements of "Catherine Parr" approach Yes-glory, but "Catherine Howard" suffers from too many ideas and little holding them altogether. All told, Wakeman's live solo segment with Yes, "Excerpts From The Six Wives of Henry VIII", (appearing on the triple- album yessongs) accomplishes the same effect as the entire album, yet in less than seven minutes! That said the album was a huge success, earning him gold records on both sides of the Atlantic. In the UK it would reach No. 7, while in the US, it would settle at No. 30.
Roy Harper’s life story up until this time could fill pages, but he started his career in the skiffle boom of England’s late 50s, and by the mid 60s his busking had landed him a regular slot at the influential Les Cousin’s folk club. His first album was released in late 1966, and a series of albums followed for various labels, produced by Shel Talmy. By 1970 however, Harper had signed with Peter Jenner and EMI’s Harvest label, releasing the excellent Flat, Baroque And Berserk. Equally notable was the track on Led Zeppelin III, “Hats Off (To Roy Harper)”. Ostensibly a soundtrack for the movie Made (in which Harper also starred), Lifemask was released in February 1973. The first side features a selection of Harper’s songs, from the rocking “Highway Blues”, to the tuneful “Bank Of The Dead” and closing with an ode to apartheid, “South Africa”. All highlight Harper’s songwriting talent; somewhere near folk in nature, but too dark, too poetic, and ultimately, too progressive. The second side encompasses the epic “The Lord’s Prayer”, a “spontaneous interpretations of how we are interacting with the planet”. Harper’s poetry opens the piece, his spoken words manipulated by tape, before yielding to his acoustic guitar. As the song traverses the side, he adds a little synthesizer, Jimmy Page adds lead guitar, Brian Davison drums, amongst others, shifting from mode to mode, and reprising the main theme. There’s something infatuating and seductive in Harper’s craft, whether it be the layers of guitar or his transcendent vocals and voice; probably the combination of the two. His next release Valentine featured shorter numbers composed over the previous two albums and even entered the UK charts at No. 27. After a live album, Harper shifted to rock music for HQ and Bullinamingvase, released in 1975 and 1977 respectively, both again entering the UK charts. By the end of the decade, his contract with Harvest was at an end, but his career still in full bloom.
Following his exit from Yes in August of 1971, organist Tony Kaye quickly reunited with another former Yes man Peter Banks for the first Flash album. However Kaye didn’t last with the band and by the end of 1972 he had moved on to form Badger with bassist David Foster, a former associate of Jon Anderson in The Warriors. Kaye and Foster teamed up with Roy Dyke (of Ashton, Gardner & Dyke) and guitarist Brian Parrish. Their debut album One Live Badger was recorded live at the Crystal Palace in December 1972, at a show opening for none other than Yes. Add to that a Roger Dean album cover and Jon Anderson in the producer’s chair, and you have the potential for a prog rock masterpiece; but Badger at this stage were a jam type band, perhaps most similar to Traffic. Both “Wheel Of Fortune” and “Fountain” reveal Kaye’s underappreciated command of the organ, mellotron and synthesizer; he never quite got his due with Yes, but he’s front and center here and certainly on. “River” gives Parrish a chance to shine, but the vaguely spiritual lyrics and forward-leaning rhythms lend a sameness to the album. The following year saw Kaye and Dyke split from the others, adding former Creation bassist Kim Gardner and singer Jackie Lomax. With New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint producing and Lomax writing, it’s no wonder that their 1974 release White Lady shifted gears to a mostly soulful approach. After Badger’s demise, Kaye would move to Los Angeles where he would form Detective with Michael Des Barres. A hard rock outfit, they’d most famously sign with Swan Song Record, however success not in the cards, Kaye would work as a hired hand for David Bowie and Badfinger before eventually resurfacing with his former Yes cohort Chris Squire in Cinema.
Built on the keyboard talents of its namesake, Dave Greenslade and bassist Tony Reeves had been previously been together in Colosseum. Reuniting here, the pair rounded out their line-up with former King Crimson and Kingdom Come drummer Andrew McCulloch, and quite uniquely, a second keyboardist, Dave Lawson, whose previous work included five years for the Royal Air Force band! The debut album from Greenslade is nothing short of classic. Don't let the Roger Dean cover fool you, there is no cosmic slop inside, just hard driving progressive rock. The melancholic "Feathered Friends" opens the album, revealing a rich sonic texture straight from the analog keyboard era. The classically inspired "An English Western" follows, but with an uncluttered arrangement, the dual keyboard approach never gets too busy and always remains effective. "Drowning Man" goes liturgical, while "Temple Song" offers something gentler. The second side features the unabashed prog rock of "Mélange" and "Sundance". Replete with a host of keyboards and time signature changes, it approaches Yes territory, but without the baggage. The albums' sleeper is the Lawson-penned "What Are You Doing To Me". His vocal delivery is superb, while the eastern-tinged Mellotron line predates Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" by a few years. The album was well received and followed quickly by a second effort Bedside Manners Are Extra. Guitarist Dave Clempson and violinist Graham Smith were added to the following year's Spyglass Guest, which reached the UK Top 40. Reeves left for Curved Air by the time 1975's Time and Tide rolled around. Greenslade, however, disbanded the group in 1976, just before releasing a solo album Cactus Choir. Although all highly original and appealing in their own right, none of Greenslade's records would match the songwriting (or impact) of their debut.
Having taken the prior year off, Robert Fripp's next move was forming a completely new King Crimson, coaxing away drummer Bill Bruford from Yes and bassist John Wetton from Family. Whether Fripp knew it at the time or not, the rhythm section that was the core of the new lineup would go down as one of the finest in rock history. The lineup was rounded out with violinist David Cross, and ex-Sunship percussionist Jamie Muir. Save for the gentle track "Exiles", the album contains very little of the Crimson prior. Fripp's raison d'être for resurrecting the band was now something much different: rock improvisation. The album opens with the loose form of "Lark's Tongue In Aspic Part I" as testament. Shifting, complex, the track moves between moments of beauty and fury with equal conviction. "Easy Money" exposes the fierce underbelly of the rhythm section in a more conventional form. Cross's violin always seems an uneasy proposition, but certainly it was meant that way, right? Fortunately he also doubled on Mellotron. Wetton in particular is a distinctive vocalist; his delivery of Richard Palmer James' lyrics on "Book of Saturday" is refreshing. But rising from the ashes of "The Talking Drum" is the angular guitar riff of "Lark's Tongue In Aspic Part II", both a signature and perfect close to this new chapter in Crimson history. The band made its live debut in October 1972 in Frankfurt, however Muir left for a monastery before the album's release. Lark's Tongue in Aspic was well received, both critically and commercially, reaching No. 20 in the UK and No. 61 in the US.
Having recently parted ways with Robert Fripp, Pete Sinfield entered Command Studios in London with just about every other King Crimson alumnus to record his first (and only) solo record. And although he'd already capably filled the producer's chair for Roxy Music and PFM, on Still he had assistance from Greg Lake and Mel Collins. The album's opener, "Song Of The Seagoat", takes its theme from Vivaldi's well-known "Concerto in D Major", and offers a good glimpse at what to expect: a very feminine album, with lots of words, and a vocal delivery that either you like or you hate. It's hard to say when Sinfield is in his element: Songs like "House of Hopes Of Dreams", "Envelopes of Yesterday" and "The Night People" definitely work; none would have sounded out of place on the prior two King Crimson albums. Even "Under the Sky", co-written the Ian McDonald passes, but Sinfield's hand at rock-n-roll, "Wholefood Boogie" falls way short of the mark. And perhaps it goes without saying that by 1973 no one should have been recording songs called "The Piper". But all told, the album is a final slice of Sinfield's romantic art, and perhaps another glimpse of what King Crimson minus Robert Fripp may have sounded like. The album was released on ELP's Manticore label to no particular acclaim. Sinfield would continue producing and composing before being "seduced" to work with ELP on a semi-permanent basis.
There probably isn't a whole lot of need to introduce this album; chances are you are one of the countless millions that either own the record or had one of its two enclosed posters on your bedroom wall, or stickers on a notebook. Dark Side of the Moon refined a suite of songs Pink Floyd debuted live a year prior as "Eclipse". The band then spent the second half of 1972 recording the album, albeit interrupted for a US tour. Yet, as the prism on the cover suggests, this was a new direction for the band. Gone were the psychedelic references and lengthy jams, but certainly not the experimentation: interspersed dialogue, tape effects and the VCS3 added a great deal of imagery to the album's sonic landscape. Ironically, engineer Alan Parsons' claimed, "we recorded everything very simply. The album sounds more complex than it actually is". Though the album had significant contributions from the other members, Roger Waters would begin his mark as Floyd's preeminent songwriter. Here he presents Floyd's most direct and terrestrial collection since their debut. His lyrics, which straddle the various states of the human condition, certainly have universal appeal, and it's no wonder that songs like "Time" and "Money" became radio staples. David Gilmour, on the other hand, shines through as the performer, delivering his most powerful vocal and guitar work on record. The album reached No. 1 in the US shortly after its release, but would have to settle for the No. 2 slot in the UK. The recording is one of the few rock albums that are simply perfect; perhaps even a logical heir to Sgt. Pepper's throne? It went on to spend the next fourteen years on the US album charts, eventually selling over 34 million copies. Floyd however, would spend the next two years dealing with the aftereffect of this monumental success.
PFM released their second album, Per un amico ("For a Friend"), in late 1972, and saw it rise to the top of the Italian hit parade, partly the result of heavy touring. Because of this success, they signed to ELP's newly formed Manticore label to seek success outside their native Italy. Pete Sinfield was brought on as lyricist and producer for the resulting Photos of Ghosts, their first English language album. Basically a remixing of their second album, it did feature two new recordings: The high steppin' "Celebration" is reprised from their first album, while the quiet instrumental "Old Rain" is altogether new. Both "River Of Life" and the title track highlight the attention to detail that PFM bring to their compositions. "Il Banchetto", the only track sung in Italian, features some delicious synthesizer lines from Flavio Premoli, while "Mr. 9 'till 5" is positively electric. Whether or not the English lyrics add or subtract to the original music is open for debate (I like it.) Not surprisingly (with Sinfield collaborating), the album focuses on the gentler, reflective moods than its Italian counterpart. PFM's skill in arrangement takes another step forward, although some foreign influences still persist (notably Gentle Giant). PFM held their debut concert in the UK upon the album's release, followed by their first tour outside of Italy in support of Sinfield (and Mel Collins). The album even entered the lower reaches of the US Top 200 album chart.
Kingdom Come entered Rockfield Studio at the end of 1972 to record what would be their third and final album, Journey. Joining Arthur Brown, Andy Dalby and Phil Shutt were two new additions: Victor Peraino on keyboards and the band's so-called fifth member, the Bentley Rhythm Ace. Operated by Brown, the Bentley was of course one of the first drum machines, and coupled with the synthesizer work of Peraino, the two brought an original texture to the record. This pioneering effect is evidenced immediately on the opening track "Time Captives". Given the context, this was no cheap trick either; it's as integrated into their sound as any other instrument. The arrangements here are more open and spacious, the pace even subdued, particularly on the following instrumental "Triangles". Dalby's underrated guitar work features prominently on "Gypsy", while "Superficial Roadblocks" benefits from Peraino's Mellotron. The requisite R&B-tinged anthem is Brown's "Spirit of Joy"; serving also as the single from the album, it's as good as Brown would ever deliver. The album ends with the bluesy (and ballsy) "Come Alive". Unfortunately, the lifestyle and pressures of leading the band would cause Brown to abandon the band for the spiritual retreat of the then popular Gurdjieff way, but not before turning up in Ken Russell's film version of Tommy. Under the guidance of Peraino, Kingdom Come would record one final (and extremely rare) album before calling it a day. Shutt ended up in Kiki Dee's band, while Dalby appeared in a much later version of Camel. In 1975, Brown would record the first of two (more or less) commercial albums for the Gull Label, and then disappear until the end of the timeline.
Following the departure of Darryl Way and Francis Monkman, Sonja Kristina and Mike Wedgewood regrouped Curved Air, bringing in two young prodigies: guitarist Kirby Gregory and keyboardist Eddie Jobson, along with drummer Jim Russell, all made their debut on the 1973 album Air Cut. "Purple Speed Queen" kicks off the album driven on by Jobson's heavy organ and Gregory's up-in-the-mix guitar runs. "Elfin Boy" contrasts this completely; it's a gentle folk number with Kristina's voice to the fore. However it's the appreciably heavy rock of the lengthy Jobson-penned "Metamorphosis" that finally fulfills Curved Air's promise; full of Jobson's keyboard acrobatics, it's veritable prog rock. For "Armin", Jobson switches to violin, again revealing a prodigious talent on the fiery instrumental. Kirby steps out with some cool Leslie-effected guitar on his "U.H.F". It's a relatively straight-forward guitar rock number, but with an odd (but effective) break thrown right in the middle. Wedgewood steps up to the microphone on his "Two-Three-Two", revealing his pop sensibilities that would later grace Caravan. But the overwrought arrangement of the closing "Easy" reveals the album's weakness: the "over the top" here is simply way over the top. This would be the only album for the lineup (an unreleased album would remain in the vaults); the original Curved Air, with Kristina, Way, Monkman, Florian Pilkington-Miksa and Philip Kohn reunited in late 1974 for a live album and tour, presumably arranged to pay off a tax bill the band had outstanding. Way and Kristina would then recruit new blood for their final two records, 1975's Midnight Wire and 1976's Airborne, both on RCA. Stewart Copeland, brother of manager Miles Copeland and husband of Kristina would join on drums, while Mick Jacques played guitar. However, without much success, Way split in 1976, and after one final tour, the band broke up for good. Stewart would join up with Gong alumnus Mike Howlett in the pre-Police Strontium 90.
Museo Rosenbach were another Ligurian band, formed from the legendary Il Sistemi by guitarist Enzo Merogno and Leonard Lagorio in 1972. Lagorio however dropped out (forming Celeste with another Il Sistemi alumnus, Ciro Perrino), and Merogno teamed with Giancarlo Golzi on drums, Alberto Moreno on bass, Pit Corradi on keyboards and Stefano Galifi on vocals. The band’s debut album, Zarathustra, takes it concept from Nietzsche's Also sprach Zarathustra and was released on the Dischi Ricordi label. Though arranged by the band, the album’s compositions were written by Moreno, while the lyrics were written by Mauro La Luce, a collaborator with another Genoan band, Delirium. The first side contains the epic five part Zarathustra, an epic, high flying, flowing piece of progressive rock. Mellotrons galore kick off the opening “L’ultimo uomo”. which alternates between gentle, English-inspired prog rock, and fiery, bombastic English-inspired rock. Galifi has as a strong, manly voice, well suited for the music, however as he sings in Italian, his message is lost on these ears. The second side features another three tracks that keep the albums continuity both sonically and thematically: “Of Men”, “Of Nature” and “Of The Eternal Return”. Layers of keyboards, guitar and synthesizer, performed with a spirited and aggressive performance offer a grand progressive epic, classically constructed and expertly executed. Despite the critical success of the album, some controversy surrounded the cover image (Mussolini bust) and lyrical content and the album was reputedly boycotted by the RAI (Italian government radio). Museo Rosenbach broke up after a final festival gig in 1973. Nevertheless the album is another prime example of progressive rock from Italy in the early 70s.
Violinist Darryl Way left Curved Air earlier in the year to form Wolf, assembling a remarkable collection of talent: a young guitarist John Etheridge had his professional start here, while Ian Mosley had previously drummed for Walrus. Canadian Dek Messecar joined on bass and vocals, and King Crimson's Ian McDonald produced the ensuing debut album, Canis Lupis. Needless to say, expectations were high. Way carried on his brand of progressive music, predictably mixing classical elements with heavy rock. The first side contains vocal numbers, though unfortunately Messecar's voice proves nondescript. "The Void" clicks along, while "Isolation Waltz" gets down right heavy; there's a slightly psychedelic and spooky feel they're aiming at and ultimately achieve. The second side is instrumental (with fairly democratic composition credits) and proves more successful. "Cadenza" is a regular hoot, highlighting Way's acoustic violin and some nice clean guitar lines from Etheridge, while "Chanson San Paroles" features Way's considerable keyboard skills. The band recorded a second album, Saturation Point, shortly after, as it was also released by Deram in 1972. Wolf then added John Hodgkinson from If on vocals and cut what would be their final album, Night Music. In mid 1974, Way returned to Curved Air, ostensibly for a reunion tour to pay off an outstanding tax bill, however he ultimately stayed on, bringing Wolf to an abrupt end. There's a happy ending though: Etheridge joined Soft Machine and Messecar went on to Caravan. Mosley recorded an album with Dutch progressives Trace before winding up a founding member of neo-progressive heavyweight Marillion in the 1980s.
If 1971 had been a busy year (recording three albums), Gong spent the most of the next year touring with Magma and then dealing with lineup changes. Drummers came and went, as did almost everyone else with the exception of Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth and Didier Malherbe. Late in 1972, the band attended a Kevin Ayers gig in France, which introduced them to guitarist Steve Hillage. Tim Blake, an engineer from Allen's Banana Moon sessions, joined on synthesizer. Ex-Magma bassist Francis Moze also joined, while Laurie Allen returned long enough to play drums on the ensuing album. Thus reconstituted, Allen penned the first installment of the Radio Gnome trilogy: part mystic (think eastern), thoroughly humorous and most certainly psychedelic, it's perhaps the penultimate manifestation of the Gong trip. On the surface, the cabaret of "Radio Gnome" is of course plain silly, but the slow rising mantra rhythm of "Flying Teapot" is pure invocation. The opening lines of "The Pot Head Pixies" say it all; Allen's penchant for writing hilarious lyrics is as natural as his infectious melodies. Blake's "Octave Doctors" reveals his unique synthesizer talent as well as Malherbe's sublime alto sax, while "Zero the Hero" broods under the much overlooked rhythm section of Moze and Laurie Allen. Smyth's "Witch Song/I Am Your Pussy" concludes in her own inimitable way. All in all, Flying Teapot remains one of the most consistent albums of the trilogy and a fan favorite, despite a rather awkward production (and substandard recording). Soon after the album was recorded, Allen and Smyth would (temporarily) take their leave to Majorca for parenthood, while further personnel changes would engage the band of the rest of the year. Gong were one of the first bands offered a contract with Richard Branson's new Virgin Records, though legal ties with BYG Records would dog them for years to come. The album was the second release on Virgin Records, V2002.
By the end of 1971, Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister (later of Motörhead fame), drummer Simon King and poet Robert Calvert had been thoroughly integrated into the Hawkwind fold. The summer of 1972 saw a surprise hit-single for the band: "Silver Machine" b/w "Seven by Seven" rode the UK charts all the way to No. 3, providing the band with their first bona fide success. The song, sung by Lemmy, was culled from the Greasy Trucker's benefit concert at London's Roundhouse. The band then released the excellent album Doremi Fasol Latido in November and a month later staged the concerts from which Space Ritual was comprised. Hawkwind's visual side was always a large part of their concert event, from Liquid Len's kaleidoscopic light show to Amazonian dancer Stacia, the so-called "Barbarella of Notting Hill Gate". Although this was reduced to a foldout gatefold cover, the double-album still presents the full-on live Hawkwind trip over four glorious sides of vinyl. Some of the material was from previous albums, some new, but none of that really matters. Throughout, the chug-a-chug rhythm of Lemmy and King is relentless as Hawkwind's space rock drives forward; the atmospheric synthesizers of Dik Mik and Del Dettmar and the spoken word of Bob Calvert, quite reminiscent of Arthur Brown here, provide interlude. Certainly closer to heavy metal than anything prog rock, Hawkwind's sound is definitely guilty of being monochromatic: but never mind, the songs never really begin or end - the whole ship takes off and at the end of the journey it stops, its grittiness always rendering it both genuine and enduring. The album reached No. 9 in the UK. Later in the year, Hawkwind toured the US for the first time.
First things first: the correct title of this album is Leg End (get the sock covers now?) and the band did not derive their name from American composer Henry Cowell. Henry Cow's genesis is in 1968 when guitarist Fred Frith, keyboardist Tim Hodgkinson and bassist John Greaves were students at Cambridge University. By 1972, drummer Chris Cutler had joined. That year they played concerts under the name Cabaret Voltaire and The Explorer's Club, (both band names appropriated later by others). Their distinctive sound is some of the most avant-garde in the timeline, and certainly the highest brow of the era, especially for a bunch of leftists! "Nirvana for Mice" is trademarked with Frith's sideways electric guitar and Geoff Leigh's woodwinds, in particular the oboe. The improvisational "Teenbeat Introduction" gives way to the complicated arrangement of 'Teenbeat"; clever titles and all, the band was not without humor. Of course, this was not easy listening by any stretch, but a track like "Amygdala" isn't that far off from the free and jazzy styling of their Virgin label mates Hatfield And The North. And underneath it all is an amazing rhythm section, one that helps "Teenbeat Reprise" approach rock music. Signed to Virgin Records, the band supported both Mike Oldfield and Faust on UK tours. A year later they would release the equally definitive unrest album and collaborate with the similarly minded (but disappointing) Slapp Happy. In 1975 they released a second collaboration with Slapp Happy, In Praise Of Learning, though infinitely more interesting was yet another release, the live double-album Concerts. The latter included Robert Wyatt on vocals. Later in the decade, the band would morph into the Art Bears and champion the Rock In Opposition movement, based partly on their political leanings, and partly out of necessity.
Imagine a young musician trying to interest you in a 20-minute cassette of instrumental music, on which he played every instrument. Such was Virgin Records boss Richard Branson presented with when he first encountered Mike Oldfield. Not that the young Oldfield didn't have credentials: he'd been in a folk band with his elder sister Sally since he was fourteen, and spent the past few years in Kevin Ayers' band, The Whole World. His original demo was eventually recorded at Virgin's in-house studio The Manor, with Tom Newman producing and Oldfield playing nearly every instrument heard on the album. The rest, as they say, is history. The first release on Virgin Records (catalog V2001), Tubular Bells was an overnight sensation. It rose to No. 1 in the UK and No. 3 in the US. That the album garnered such immediate success was telltale of the time: Oldfield was presented as a multi-instrumentalist-savant, and the long of it only added to its appeal. He takes accessible, near Celtic themes, and weaves them together in a gentle and naïve fashion that approaches minimalism, but remains populist. The first side opens with the hook of a lifetime; the piece ebbs sideways more than forward, gradually building momentum until the resplendent finale, where Bonzo Dog Band's Viv Stanshall introduces each instrument. The second side works similarly: only the Moribund vocals and the bootleg chorus interrupt the circular motion of the acoustic instruments. It's a gentle extension of the first side, except with a Bugs Bunny ending this time around (in fact the traditional "The Sailor's Hornpipe"). Early the following year, an excerpt used as the theme for the movie The Exorcist would break the Top 10 in the US singles charts. And it didn't end there: An orchestrated version, courtesy of composer David Bedford followed in 1975 and again charted in the UK, but a live version from 1973 (with a host of Virgin labelmates) remains unreleased. Oldfield released Tubular Bells II in 1992, Tubular Bells III in 1998 and re-recorded the original in 2003, as Tubular Bells 2003.
Novalis took not only their namesake from German poet Friedrich von Hardenberg, but his concept of lyricism and romanticism as well. The band was unique among German progressives, generally bypassing the British idiom of prog rock, while offering something much more unique. The band was formed in the early ‘70s in Hamburg, combining the talents of bassist Heino Schünzel, vocalist Jürgen Wenzel, keyboardist Lutz Rahn and drummer Hartwig Biereichel. Their debut album, Banished Bridge was released on the Brain label in 1973. Drenched in classical flourishes, the album-side long title track presents their music: delicate strokes of acoustic and folk music brush the wide musical landscape; evolving slowly while avoiding lethargy, when the band finally ignites it’s with broad symphonic splashes of melody. Sonically, Rahn’s keyboards paint the canvas. “High Evolution” starts the second side, with organ bubbling underneath the brisk rhythm section, while “Laughing”, despite its folksy start, gains momentum after the classically inspired interlude with Rahn’s organ again dominating the picture. With its instrumental passage and long symphonic refrain, the closing track “Inside” again relies on classical structures à la Procol Harum to get its point across. Unfortunately Wenzel’s not a terribly strong vocalist and there’s a particular ‘60s vibe to the monochromatic record. After a subsequently gruelling tour Wenzel left and later, when recording sessions with producer Jochen Peterson were cancelled, the band collapsed. Nothing would be heard of Novalis for another two years.
Munich was an especially ripe breeding ground in the late ‘60s for rock music, perhaps for its reputation as a jazz center in Europe, and groups as diverse as Amon Düül I &amp II, Popol Vuh, Passport and Embryo all called it home. Percussionist Christian Burchard founded the latter in late 1969, after a brief stint in Amon Düül II. After releasing their debut album Opal on Ohr, the group more or less solidified with Burchard on drums and vocals, bassist Roman Bunka, flautist Hansi Fischer and Edgar Hofmann on sax and violin. Signed to United Artists, they release a pair of albums before being dropped for not being commercial enough; recordings made in the interim were subsequently released by the more liberal-minded Brain. These featured American pianist Mal Waldron as a guest; he originally worked with Burchard in the late ‘60s. In late 1972, Embryo hooked up with another iconic jazz musician, American saxophonist Charlie Mariano. Signed to BASF, Embryo was now a quartet featuring Burchard, Bunka, Mariano and keyboardist Dieter Miekautsch, from Missus Beastly, another Munich jazz-rock outfit. Their first release, We Keep On, is one of the most inspired albums of fusion. The album kicks off with the electrifying groove of “No Place To Go”. Under the rhythm of Miekautsch’s crisp electric piano and Burchard’s persistent drumming, both Mariano and Bunka let loose on their respective instruments. It’s definitely got a krautrock vibe, and there’s an intensity here that’s heavier than any contemporary fusion. “Flute and Saz” is exactly that, featuring the lute-like instrument from Turkey. “Ehna, Ehna, Abu Lele” again goes for intense fusion, but this time with far more ethnic flavoring in the beat, while “Hackbrett-Dance” features Mariano on nagasuram, an oboe-like instrument from India. The final two tracks, “Abdul Malek” and “Don’t Come Tomorrow” are reminiscent of Can, certainly a contemporaneous coincidence. The collaboration with Mariano brought considerable attention to the band; the album was even billed as “featuring Charlie Mariano” and saw a US release in 1974. Embryo would release another album for BASF before Burchard co-founded April/Schneeball Records in 1976. His interest in ethnic music would then lead him to extended sabbaticals throughout the world, and with constantly fluid lineups, as Embryo’s music moved more and more towards a different world fusion.
Jethro Tull headed off to Michel Magne's famous Chateau D'Herouville studio in France to record the follow-up to the prior year's Thick As A Brick. Unfortunately, the sessions were abandoned and the band returned to England without a record. (The sessions were eventually released on CD in 1993). Reconstituted in London, Tull started anew and recorded another album-length epic, this time centering on the altogether heavier topic of life and death! Although a concise edit (#8) was found for a single, A Passion Play is best taken as a whole. The band is again in prime form and exceptionally tight; running throughout the more elaborate arrangement is that dense meter that is unmistakably Tull. Ian Anderson adds saxophone this time around, and John Evan reaches his hands across a few more keyboards, both giving the album a more varied sound. The Lewis Carroll- esque "The Story of the Hare who lost his Spectacles" (co-written with Evan and Jeffrey Hammond) is good humored, while the musical passage that immediately frames it quite refreshing. Obviously any attempt to write a passion play in a rock context left Anderson and company wide open for criticism, especially on the heels of the preceding extravaganza. Some of the self-deprecating Python-esque humor too was absent (the album's promotional movie notwithstanding), not to mention the affable hook of the predecessor's glorious refrain. Guess what: the music press was nothing but hostile towards it. Yet despite universal panning, the album shot again to the US No. 1 position, and No. 13 in the UK, again proving the band delivered more of what their fans wanted. The band toured in support of the album, performing "A Passion Play" in its entirety. However, Anderson didn't weather the hostility well and spent the next year off, giving Jethro Tull a re-think.