Throughout his career, David Bowie always had one eye on stardom and the other on his music. His art, however, was a careful balance of the two; his popularity rarely wavered throughout the vast swings of his musical offerings. In the 60s, he ventured from R&B artist to singer-songwriter, culminating with Rick Wakeman's Mellotron on the classic "Space Oddity." In 1970, he released an incredibly progressive album of hard rock, The Man Who Sold The World, before launching into glam rock and the Spiders from Mars. In the mid-70s, Bowie turned to both a writing collaboration with Brian Eno and, more surprisingly, the krautrock of Germany for inspiration. In 1976, Bowie and Eno headed to Europe with longtime producer Tony Visconti and a backing band to record two albums, both released in 1977. First up in January was Low, recorded in France and mixed in Berlin. Bowie provided the songs on the first side, but it was mostly Eno and his studio alchemy for their veneer. While there's modern, electronic Euro-ness afoot, it's still unmistakably tuneful; there's no denying the "Sound and Vision" the pair generate. The second side takes an abrupt left turn towards the ambient: Song-less and drum-less, the side shows Bowie and Eno following their artistic muse, painting the musical canvas with sound. The melody of "Warszawa" has a passing familiarity, one that's entirely romantic; while "Art Decade" travels over the gentle pulse of the Chamberlain, an early sampler. The eerie "Weeping Wall" is 100 percent Bowie, and the cinematic "Subterraneans" could go on forever-Bowie also provides sax on the track. Turns out, the formula was a success, as the album reached No. 2 in the UK and No. 11 in the US. Recorded at Hansa Tonstudio in Berlin, the grittier Heroes followed in October, with Robert Fripp's thick-toned guitar the unmissable addition. It reached No. 3 in the UK, yet dipped to No. 35 in the US. Bowie and Eno would reunite for a final collaboration in their so-called Berlin trilogy, the more conventional Lodger, in 1979. After one final dalliance with art rock on Scary Monsters in 1980, Bowie would sanitize his act and move into commercial territory for the remainder of the 80s.
Following the release of their last album in 1975, Pink Floyd had spent 1976 sinking hundreds of thousands of pounds into their Britannia Row Studios, where Animals was recorded. The bulk of the album had already been written before the session; "Dogs" first appeared in 1974 as "You Gotta Be Crazy," while "Sheep" was previously "Raving and Drooling." Roger Waters again dominates the picture, providing the album's grand and Orwellian concept. Dividing people into groups of dogs, pigs and sheep provided for some interesting lyrical matter (including a spattering of Psalm 23), but never mind a deeper meaning; one ultimately gets the feeling that Waters hates them all. Both memorable and unmemorable at the same time, his brief acoustic "Pigs on the Wing Parts 1 & 2" bookend the record. Waters's "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" is new material, though it certainly wouldn't have been out of place on the preceding album. Rick Wright and David Gilmour both provide some of their most heroic performances on record; in particular, check out the latter's guitar solo on "Dogs." Moreover, the album stands as one of the band's hardest rocking affairs, and perhaps one of their most listenable. The well-matured tracks are perfect constructs, and the production is well-suited for the material. Aubrey Powell's black-and-white photography furthers the Orwellian motif. In fact, the album's visual element—of a pig flying over the smoke stacks of England's Battersea Power Station—would provide a lasting image for the band, and one that featured prominently on the subsequent In The Flesh tour and, a decade later, in lawsuits. Though failing to top the charts, it earned Pink Floyd No. 2 and No. 3 spots in the UK and US, respectively. Not bad, considering that "punk" had just broke.
Pierre Moerlen was born in Colmar, France, in 1952. A star pupil at Conservatoire Régional de Strasbourg, one of his earliest rock groups, Hasm Congélateur included future Magma guitarist Gabriel Fédérow. During his tenure in Gong, Moerlen took more than one sabbatical for a parallel career in classical music—as a percussionist with the Percussions de Strasbourg. Thus, when he set out to recruit a new lineup for Gong, it was obvious which direction he would take-percussive! With only Mireille Bauer returning from the Shamal band-the two had known each other since they were teenagers-Moerlen added two other percussionists: his brother Benoît and Mino Cinelu. The lineup was rounded out with former Gong (and Magma) bassist Francis Moze, returning after a three-year absence, and guitarist Allan Holdsworth, fresh from a stint with The New Tony Williams Lifetime. Entitled Gazeuse! (roughly French for "Sparkling"), the album was produced by Dennis MacKay and saw release in early 1977. Both "Expresso" (also the US title of the album) and "Night Illusion" open with the guitarist's signature tone, and reveals a jazzy band underneath. Clearly, the emphasis is on rhythm; Moerlen and company provide a densely-arranged fusion, with Moze's fretless bass a superb complement. True to its name, "Percolations" is the percussion tour de force on the album, and also features Benoît's vibraphone. The second side contains another two numbers that feature Holdsworth's huge guitar riffs: "Shadows Of" first appeared as the title track on the guitarist's 1976 album, Velvet Darkness, while "Esnuria" would feature one last contribution from a lingering Didier Malherbe. Throughout, Moerlen delivers his powerful and unique take on fusion, which mostly accentuates the "rock" in jazz-rock. However, the Gong reunion concert in Paris in May (where most Gongs past and present took the stage), would signal changes for the band.
By the time Ian Anderson got around to writing this, Jethro Tull's tenth studio album, he had moved outside London for a life in the country—and, presumably, he had gotten over the fact that he was indeed too young to die. "Ring Out, Solstice Bells" was initially released (as an EP) the previous November for the holiday season and managed (surprise, surprise) to chart on the UK Top 40. Though the album's subject matter and cover image seem to have turned folksy, there's little folk music inside Songs From The Wood, save perhaps for the songs' subject matter. The title track opens with Anderson's multi-tracked vocals, before breaking into a typical Tull-style rocker. But while the production may suit the instrumental fire, his voice sounds unnatural and over-produced. Longtime orchestral arranger David Palmer is the new player, and along with John Evan, they now give the band four hands on the keyboards. "Hunting Girl" and "Pibroch (Cap in Hand)" both feature solid arrangements, making the most of both keyboardists while offering some great guitar work from Martin Barre. The second side's "Velvet Green" is primarily an acoustic number, while "The Whistler" has a folksy hook and an excellent instrumental break. As a single, "The Whistler" b/w "Strip Cartoon" only made the lower reaches of the US charts. The album, however, charted well, reaching No. 13 in the UK and No. 8 in the US. In February, Jethro Tull toured the UK for the first time in over three years.
Peter Gabriel's first solo album came less than two years after his departure from Genesis. (Trainspotters, take note: His first post-Genesis release was a cover of The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever" on the soundtrack for the 1976 film All This And World War II.) Gabriel teamed up with producer Bob Ezrin, then best known for his work with Alice Cooper and Lou Reed, to record the album in Toronto. Here, Gabriel sought to distance himself from his previous band and work; and apart from his distinct voice, the album indeed offers little of his past. Instead, Peter Gabriel is a contemporary (for the time, that is) rock record-though the results are mixed: While there's little excuse for the barbershop quartet of "Excuse Me" or the straight-up blues of "Waiting for the Big One," tracks like "Modern Love" and "Down the Dolce Vita" are good enough mainstream rock. "Moribund the Burgermeister" is perhaps the one throwback to Genesis. Gabriel's voice is in great form and he's expressing a lot of ideas, but here they tend to be stitched together Franken-style. Ultimately, the overwrought production is the biggest letdown. Yet in juxtaposing an intimate vocal against a dense arrangement of sound, "Humdrum" does give a glimpse of where Gabriel's solo work would go, while the haunting melody of "Here Comes the Flood" would be revisited a few years later on Robert Fripp's solo record, Exposure. However, the album does contain one instant classic: "Solsbury Hill." Gabriel's ode to his former band, it's a song where all points—production, instrumentation, composition and voice—connect. As a single, it reached No. 13 in the UK, while the album rose to No. 7 in the UK and No. 38 in the US. The cover featured the first in a series of iconic images of Gabriel that were used in lieu of titles. The "car" featured on the cover is a Lancia Flavia that was owned by Hipgnosis boss Storm Thorgerson.
Founded by keyboardist Chuck Leavell and the powerful rhythm section of drummer Jai Johanny Johanson (aka Jaimoe) and bassist Lamar Williams, the trio first made themselves known by opening shows for The Allman Brothers Band under the moniker We Three. Jaimoe, of course, was a founding member of the Allman Bros.; while both Leavell and Williams came on board in 1972. Now, I'm not in any way positing either act as progressive rock: Both bands played American Southern rock, but often with a particularly progressive flair; just check out the live rendition of the classic album-side-long track "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," off of the 1976 album, Wipe The Windows, Check The Oil, Dollar Gas. It's a veritable fusion of rock, jazz and instrumental virtuosity of the type that made both the Allman Bros. a legend, and Southern rock good listening. Adding Jimmy Nalls on guitar and adopting the name Sea Level, the band signed a deal with (who else) Capricorn Records and released their first album in 1977. With a bright piano hammering over the infectiously brisk rhythm, "Rain in Spain" kicks off the half-instrumental record; it's a unique mix of rock, blues and jazz. "Tidal Wave" continues the pace, with Leavell adding electric piano underneath Nalls's exceptionally clean and crisp guitar. The vocal numbers are, for the most part, throwaway boogie rock; but the lengthy "Nothing Matters But the Fever" reveals the dark edge of something deeper. With Jaimoe and Williams's rhythm section swinging underneath, both "Grand Larceny" and a cover of Paul Simon's "Scarborough Fair" conclude the album's instrumental fusion. The record's excellent production came courtesy of Stewart Levin; he also lent similar services at the time to the comparatively shallow Dixie Dregs. The album would reach No. 43 on the US charts. Later in the year, the band swelled to a septet, and released a second album this time with a sharper focus on commerciality; the jazzy fusion appeared on only a couple of tracks. The band would release three more albums, with the funky electric edge of 1978's On The Edge being a standout, until drifting out to sea in 1980. Leavell would become keyboardist for The Rolling Stones in 1982.
Anthony Phillips first appeared in the timeline as the original guitarist for Genesis. Unable to make the commitment to life in a rock band, he left in 1970 and returned to formal music studies at Guildhall School of Music & Drama. His friendship with Mike Rutherford never wavered-in fact, with Phil Collins, they recorded the unreleased single "Silver Song" b/w "Only Your Love" in 1973 for Charisma Records, during a lull in Genesis' activity. In 1974, he and Rutherford began a collaboration on what would later become his debut solo album; but the latter's commitments to Genesis would prolong the process by years. True to form, Phillips never left his musical connection to Genesis too far behind. Released in 1977, The Geese & The Ghost is a strong testament to that association. The gentle 12-string number "Which Way the Wind Blows" wouldn't sound out of place on a current Genesis album, or Trespass, for that matter; Collins even provides most of the vocals here. But it's the baroque styling of "Henry: Portraits from Tudor Times" that both dominates the album and reveals Phillips's art. With guitars fluttering away, he and Rutherford paint gentle, acoustic landscapes, not unlike the Peter Cross-penned art that also graces the album's cover. The arrangements are lyrical and exquisite, with flute, oboe and cello all adding color. Phillips takes a vocal (and piano) break on the terribly romantic "Collections," while only the second half of the title track provides any electricity to this otherwise pastoral album. Phillips would stick to the formula implemented here with his "library" series of instrumental releases, all bearing the cheeky subtitle Private Parts and Pieces. Though anachronistic with contemporary musical trends, the album was a genuine success, reputedly selling tens of thousands of copies. It also earned Phillips a contract with Arista, and a shot at a few albums that would be larger in both scope and budget.
After the departure of Damo Suzuki in 1973, Can reverted to a four-piece, which was first heard on the excellent Soon Over Babaluma. In 1976, Can scored a hit single in the UK with the bizarre disco of "I Want More" b/w "...And More" (it reached No. 26). Released in 1976, Flow Motion pointed the band in a new direction, which reached a pinnacle on 1977's Saw Delight. New to the fold were two ex-Traffic members, percussionist Reebop Kwaku Baah and bassist Rosko Gee. The groovy riff of "Don't Say No" leads off—it's "Yoo Doo Right" seven years later. The tracks here have a slightly ethnic flavor, favoring the percussive drumming of Jaki Liebezeit and the rhythm guitar of Michael Karoli. With lyrics by Gee, "Call Me" is introduced by some of Holger Czukay's sound manipulations; it's a path his solo career would follow. But the track's groove is immediate and incessant; Irmin Schmidt's keyboards float in and out of the mix, as does Karoli's guitar feedback, while Gee's vocal is the perfect supplement. The longer "Animal Waves" continues the ethnic trip with a bit more authenticity and grit. "Fly by Night" closes the album, and it's a matured slice of Can's now (more or less) commercial music. The band would release two further records, mostly without Czukay's involvement: An underrated album of smooth ethno-fusion Out Of Reach appeared in 1978 (so underrated, in fact, that the band have dropped all references to it); and in 1979 one final album, Can (later retitled Inner Space). Can remains perhaps one of the most musically enigmatic groups of the era, and these later albums, unfortunately, were their most misunderstood.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer's long absence from the rock arena broke during the heyday of "punk." While the band's surfeit had always been an easy target for pundits, Works Volume 1 was perhaps their most unfashionable offering to date. Styled to resemble an album of classical music, even the black-and-white album cover cries pretension. Three sides of the vinyl are each credited to a band member, while the fourth is claimed by the band as a unit. Keith Emerson's contribution is "Piano Concerto No. 1." Influenced by the usual suspects (Copeland, Ravel), it was a side of classical music, featuring the London Philharmonic Orchestra, with John Mayer conducting. Greg Lake's songs are both overtly earnest and unmemorable, although he did provide the album's single, the languorous "C'est La Vie" b/w "Brain Salad Surgery." Pete Sinfield's lyrics and Godfrey Salmon's syrupy orchestrations are well-matched companions to the singer's overwrought croon—that is, if you like that kind of pap. Palmer's side fares little better; though on a positive note, he did manage to get two-thirds of the way through without a drum solo. The fourth side provides one track of redemption: ELP's cover of Aaron Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man." Broad, bold and, of course, somewhat pretentious, it just works; it also provided the band with a No. 2 single in the UK. "Pirates" follows, however look to live versions by the trio for a more definitive version. But whatever was written or said about the album (it was universally panned), it was a success, reaching upwards to the Top 10 spot on both sides of the Atlantic. Works Volume 2, a compilation of shorter tracks recorded over the preceding years (including the non-album track "Brain Salad Surgery" and Greg Lake's 1975 hit "I Believe In Father Christmas"), saw release six months later. ELP would then embark with a full orchestra in tow (though quickly jettisoned), for a well-attended though financially disastrous tour of North America in 1977, recordings of which were eventually released as In Concert in 1979.
Following his time with Neu! and Harmonia, Michael Rother turned to a solo career, releasing a series of albums on the Sky label during the late 70s and early 80s. First up was Flammende Herzen, ("Flaming Hearts"), in 1977. Recorded with Conny Plank, the album also marked the beginning of Rother's relationship with drummer Jaki Liebezeit of Can. Purely instrumental, the album features Rother's signature guitar work. Pure in tone and simple in execution, the title track expertly layers each guitar part, creating a gentle, poignant mood that's eventually boosted by Liebezeit's drumming. "Zyklodrom" follows with a big synth, yielding to strumming guitar, before again bursting open when the drums kick in. Layered with various sonic textures, simple melodies predominate, propelled by a motorik beat. The overall feel to Rother's music is both stirring and uplifting, and indeed, heartening. "Karussell" is similar, but the more minimal landscape and drum machine beat of "Feuerland" is a little starker. "Zeni" closes, driven by Liebezeit's quick beat. In 1978, the album would become the soundtrack to a film of the same name, from director Walter Bockmayer. Rother's next album, Sterntaler, also appeared the following year, while the excellent Katzenmusik saw release in 1979. Both were successful, in fact, the guitarist was voted Musician of the Year by readers of Germany's longstanding Sounds magazine. By the early 80s, though, Rother had signed with Polydor Records and ventured away from the guitar-dominated work of the Sky albums, yet onto continued musical success.
Brand X began around the trio of guitarist John Goodsall, keyboardist Robin Lumley and bassist Percy Jones. Of course, having Phil Collins in the drummer's seat didn't hurt their prospects, either; but Brand X was truly a collective, and Collins was, lest we forget, once just a drummer. They first teamed up during sessions for The Eddie Howell Gramophone Record in 1975, and then again on Lumely's album with Jack Lancaster (of Blodwyn Pig fame), Peter & The Wolf. Though earlier recordings exist, the first Brand X album proper was released in 1976. Unorthodox Behaviour was a rather predictable set of fusion: slightly funky, superbly executed and, for the most part, forgetful. Their follow-up, Moroccan Roll, however, is another matter. Of course, the caliber of Brand X was never in question, nor was the production of Dennis MacKay. Here, the compositions make great use of these potentials, following little formula but their own. Percussionist extraordinaire Morris Pert had joined their ranks, adding his unique talent to the band's vibrant sound. The opening track "Sun in the Night" features Collins making a rare vocal appearance (for Brand X anyway), and in Sanskrit nonetheless. His "Why Should I Lend You Mine..." makes great use of space; the interplay never gets too congested. Goodsall is a blistering guitarist; his "Hate Zone" is funky, while his "Macrocosm" traverses the ethereal. Lumley's "Disco Suicide" offers a more conventional melody, to which the band coalesces; Jones offers his manic bass work throughout, with a more typical fusion on "Malaga Virgen." The album, released by Charisma in the UK and Passport in the US, reached No. 37 on the UK charts. The band toured the US and Canada with rotating drummers (most notably Kenwood Dennard), as Collins divided his time between Genesis and Brand X as best he could. Like an ever-revolving door, Brand X, in one lineup or another (and sometimes two), continued, and released a few more albums—all of similar quality and interest—over the ensuing years. Shortly after the turn of the decade, however, the band finally collapsed. Their final two albums were compilations of previous recordings and outtakes —though Monty Python's Michael Palin would contribute liner notes for 1980's Do They Hurt?
Grobschnitt reconvened to complete their fourth record in the winter of 1976, having spent most of the year writing and rehearsing their new musical concept; in particular, Eroc had spent the previous months perfecting the lyrics. Here, the band furthers their symphonic proportions for the progressive fantasy of Rockpommel's Land. Sung in English, but with German liner notes included inside (go figure), the fairy tale revolves around a boy daydreaming about his paper airplane. Ernie and a large bird, Maraboo, travel to Severity Town, where Black Shirts punish Mr. Glee for being nice to children…you get the idea. Inside the Roger Dean-like cover, however, is an equally illustrative record. "Ernie's Reise" sets the stage. The band sounds light and effortless, alternating between moments of gentle beauty and symphonic grandeur. "Severity Town" offers more of their romance with sound; and, oddly enough, what might be the first "scratching" on record. The short "Anywhere" opens the second side, the rest of which is dominated by the title track; "Rockpommel's Land" is again indicative of the band's tight execution and luscious melodies. The album also sports slick production, courtesy of Conny Plank and Eroc, and remains the band's classic statement. Grobschnitt's next record was the 1978 album Solar Music Live, which succeeded in replicating the band's live set on record. The band then promoted lighting man Toni "Moff" Mollo to vocalist for the 1979 album, Merry-Go-Round. Gone was their large, symphonic aspirations and in was something shorter, but of high quality. Another like-minded album followed; 1980's Illegal saw bassist Popo depart, replaced by Milla Kapolke. But with continuing changes in personnel and musical direction (including a switch to "Rock in deutsch"), Grobschnitt's best days were behind them.
With Alto Pappert's departure, Kraan was again a quartet. Although Ingo Bischof's tenure would be intermittent over the long run, it was stable for now. He brought along fellow Karthago member Tommy Goldschmidt for the sessions that resulted in the band's sixth album, Wiederhören. Half of the album was recorded with Conny Plank at his studio in Neunkirchen, while the band self-produced the other half at Rüssl Studio in Hamburg. Yet both sides kick off with atypically feel-good numbers ("Just One Way" and "Let's Take a Ride"), proving again that Kraan may indeed have been the happiest band in Germany. The instrumentals "Vollgas Ahoi" ("full steam ahead") and "Yaqui Yagua" are the album's highlights. The former is driven by the relentless rhythm of Hellmut Hattler and Jan Fride, while the latter is charmed by Peter Wolbrandt's excellent guitar and wordless vocal. Kraan put on the brakes for the quieter "Silky Way," a rare entrée in their repertoire, and close with Bischof and Wolbrandt playing show-off on the title track. Kraan seem to hit their stride, both in composition and execution, with the eight tracks contained in the oddly-named record. It garnered much acclaim in their native Germany; however, it would not see a foreign release. In the spring, Hattler assembled the Kraan clan and a slew of the usual suspects (Guru Guru, Cluster) at Plank's studio to record his first (and only) solo album. Not surprisingly, Bassball—also released by EMI in 1977—wasn't that different from a Kraan record; and the band quickly returned to Plank's studio to record their next album for EMI.
When Brian Eno arrived in Germany, he had just begun his foray into ambient music. In the meantime, Cluster had switched to Sky Records and released Sowiesoso in 1976. Amidst his work with David Bowie on the so-called Berlin trilogy, Brian Eno began a collaboration with Roedelius and Moebius. The first, billed as Cluster + Eno, saw release in 1977. Recorded at Conny Plank's studio in June, the album is quite ambient in nature. The tinkling piano of "Ho Renomo" opens, revealing a simple improvisation, with Can's Holger Czukay adding bass. "Schöne Hände" features some nice synth work, but it's obvious that the exploration here is that of sound and texture, and not necessarily composition. "Wehrmut" and "Mit Simaen" barely crawl over their piano motifs, though "Selange" offers a bit of rhythm and melody. "One" turns presumably to the inside of a piano, rendering it a slightly Eastern bent, while the closing "Für Luise" epitomizes their slow-building landscapes. Befittingly, the album's cover features a lone microphone and stand held up to the sky. Next, Eno then camped up with Harmonia in Forst in September. Recordings, both studio and live, were made, but wouldn't see release until decades later. Another album, After The Heat, billed to Moebius, Roedelius and Eno, saw release in 1979 and is far more substantial in composition, even offering vocals. Both albums did not see release outside of Germany. Cluster would record a couple more albums for the Sky label, the first with Peter Baumann producing, before Moebius and Roedelius turned to solo work for the ensuing decade.
Coming into 1977, Alan Powell, Paul Rudolph and Nik Turner were given the boot from Hawkwind following a failed coup orchestrated by Turner. Retaining Simon House and Simon King, Dave Brock and Robert Calvert recruited Adrian Shaw on bass to complete the new lineup. Released in 1977, Quark Strangeness and Charm proves the Brock/Calvert songwriting team had hit their stride; and musically, Hawkwind is at its most progressive. House's keyboards add punch to the recordings, but it's Calvert's presence that's most immediate; it's little wonder that he would become such an influential artist. "Spirit of the Age" motors over a krautrock beat. The riff in "Damnation Alley" indicates typical rock ‘n' roll, but the song's middle section offers a complex instrumental workout that glides effortlessly into the somber "Fable of a Failed Race." The honky-tonk of the title track is then contrasted with the menacing Middle Eastern-tinged riff of "Hassan I Sahba" (sic). House again steals the show with the percolating electronic sequence of "The Forge of Vulcan" that leads into the autobiographical "Days of the Underground." Lastly, King provides another fiery instrumental to close: "The Iron Dream," the title taken from the Norman Spinrad book of the same name. The album continued the band's chart success, as it rose to No. 30 in the UK. But after returning from a US tour in early 1978, the whole Hawkwind ship crash-landed and once again, Brock and Calvert were forced to find a new lineup.
Back with Harvest Records, Kevin Ayers retained only guitarist Ollie Halsall for his next record, Yes We Have No Mañanas (So Get Your Mañanas Today); the title a play on a song from the 1922 musical revue, Make It Snappy. Along with a bevy of special guests, Muff Winwood was brought in to produce; and by all accounts, the combination should have been magic. "Star" is a shining beauty of a track, with Family's Rob Townsend and Taste's Charlie McCracken providing the rhythm. "The Owl" contains a witty lyric, while "Mr Cool" and "Everyone Knows the Song" go for the Caribbean vibe. "Help Me" turns up the heavy, while "Blue" goes for the epic, with old friend David Bedford providing the choral arrangement. "Yes I Do" is simple and effective, with Ayers's voice accompanied by piano alone. Only "Ballad of Mr. Snake" should have stayed on the scrap heap. Throughout the record, Ayers's songwriting is typically commercial (enough). It's hard not to be seduced by his deep baritone and lyrical wit, however the album also contains everything that simultaneously impresses and disappoints one about Ayers's work. He put a band together for some BBC gigs (including Andy Summers and Zoot Money), but no tour was forthcoming. The album also saw release on ABC Dunhill in the US. Rainbow Takeaway appeared the following year, produced by Slapp Happy's Anthony Moore; but again, and despite a good (enough) showing, Ayers would indefinitely retreat to Majorca. One final album for Harvest appeared in 1980, That's What You Get Babe. Ayers would then continue to release albums on a variety of labels, working most notably with Ollie Halsall, for many years; but as the decade progressed, his better days and work were behind him.
Estranged son of famed composer Maurice Jarre, French synthesist Jean-Michel Jarre studied with Pierre Schaeffer's GRM during the late 60s and early 70s. His earliest release was a single, "La Cage" b/w "Eros," a mixture of electronics and tape collages, none of which should be surprising, given the pedigree. From this release to the international success of Oxygène was quite a leap, especially considering that heretofore, Jarre had only composed a few soundtracks at his burgeoning home studio in Paris. Of course, this was no academic affair; his electronic styling on this record is akin to that of Vangelis, Synergy or even Tomita: "populaire" music played with electronic instruments. In between the whooshes of sound, Jarre uses melody to hook the listener; in fact, "Part IV" offers a variation on a motif from Gershon Kingsley's 1969 synthesizer novelty song "Popcorn." Jarre uses a battery of keyboards and synthesizers to create an album that's entirely enjoyable, with the latter half even approaching the progressive. To wit, the album's sonic signature, one bound to those aforementioned instruments, is perhaps its greatest triumph; it sounds fantastic. It's also a musical statement, predating the lighter, instrumental new age music of the 1980s and providing a career path for many others to follow. Jarre's celebrity aside, the album is largely responsible for launching electronic music into the mainstream of popular music as well. Not only was it a phenomenal success in his native France, but the album also reached No. 2 in the UK (the single, "Oxygène Part IV" b/w "Oxygène Part VI" rose to No. 4), while breaking into the Top 100 in the US. In 1978, Jarre released the follow-up Equinoxe to similar success. Since then, he has made a habit of performing concerts on a grand scale, including some of the first from a Western artist in China. Jarre would release Oxygène 7-13 in 1997 and a re-recording of the original album for its 30th anniversary in 2007. 2017 saw the release of Oxygène 3. [US release date]
Though late in the game for progressive rock (especially of the Italian variety), Locanda Delle Fate ("The Fairy Inn"), hailed from Asti in the Piedmont region. The band featured two keyboard players, Michele Conta and Oscar Mazzoglio, as well as two guitarists, Ezio Vevey and Alberto Gaviglio. The rhythm section was rounded out by Giorgio Gardino on drums and Luciano Boero on bass. Their lone album, Forse le Lucciole non si amano più, was released in 1977 on the Polydor label. The substantial interplay between the guitarists and keyboardists dominates, which makes for some very dense and highly arranged music. A playful piano opens the instrumental "A Volte Un Istante Di Quiete;" both guitars then join in, revealing the group's big and romantic sound. The lengthy title track (which translates to something about "fireflies not loving each other anymore") offers Italian vocals. Leonardo Sasso's voice is a strong Italian tenor that is perfect for the album. Gaviglio, Conta and Vevey are the main composers; throughout, they provide a consistent and even perky sound, with only "Non Chiudere A Chiave Le Stelle" offering respite from the incessant arrangements. "Vendesi Saggezza" closes, its final section turning up the rock quotient. The album is regarded as one of the classic examples of Rock progressivo italiano, but buyer beware: If classically-inspired symphonic rock is not your taste, then you may not be so impressed. A single "New York" b/w "New Lune" was released in 1978, but it was commercial in nature and not of much interest. Further shedding of members and tweaking of their name didn't change the band's fortunes, however; and Locanda broke up in 1980.
Recording again for the American label Asylum, our Italian friends took off for Los Angeles to produce another English-language album, the appropriately-titled Jet Lag. Inside the West Coast jazz-rock scene, PFM struck up some friendships, including Frank Zappa and Jaco Pastorius; and even added an American, Greg Bloch, ex-Mark-Almond and It's A Beautiful Day, to replace Mauro Pagani. It should be no surprise then that the resulting album completely ditches the band's prog rock styling for something a lot closer to jazz fusion. The album opens with "Peninsula," a solo acoustic piece from Franco Mussida; but once the title track kicks in, things really take off. Strong and melodic, the nine-minute track is a showcase for the band's brisk and effortless pacing. Flavio Premoli's keyboards, meanwhile, had made a sonic shift, with the Mini Moog and electric piano sealing the band's new direction. Bernardo Lanzetti's voice was never a stronger fit for the band than here, and the lyrics are worth noting as well (again, Marva Jan Marrow contributed). This track segues into "Storia in LA," which features Bloch on violin; while "Breaking In" sustains the vigorous pace. Side two opens with the Italian-language "Cerco La Lingua" ("Search for the Language"). The instrumental "Meridiani" features Mussida on electric guitar, a real treat. "Left-Handed Theory" is another vocal track, while the long coda of "Traveler" concisely reprises the album. Certainly, a nod must be given to Patrick Djivas's previous band Area for the new direction; but by now, quite a few Italian bands had taken their music down this route. Blending their Mediterranean muse with jazz-rock, PFM offers something fresh, without ever forgetting that they were a rock band; Jet Lag remains one of the most classic albums in the timeline. However, commercial success did not follow, and this was to be the end of an era for the band. PFM (without Bloch) returned to Italy to produce their next album, Passpartù, and again changing their focus, this time back to both their Italian language and musical roots. It would be the last for Lanzetti as well; and subsequent albums in the 80s would have little to do with their progressive past.
Having spent the previous two years getting solo albums out of their system, the individual members of Yes were now pressed with the task of being Yes again. First up was a move to Switzerland (for tax reasons) to record; and second, oddly enough, was to dump their Swiss keyboardist in favor of an old friend. Rick Wakeman had enjoyed a relatively successful solo career over the last three years, but was up to the call, bypassing a possible group with Bill Bruford and John Wetton. Absent from the album though were two other friends: Eddie Offord and Roger Dean. Yes self-produced the album, while the cover sported...skyscrapers and a naked man's butt (courtesy of Hipgnosis). But as Steve Howe's slide guitar blasts open the record on "Going for the One," the changes are more than just superficial. Anderson, in an act of minor literary justice, even pokes fun at his "cosmic mind." Yes is still larger than life, but one thing is for sure: They emerged from their sabbatical invigorated and up to task. "Turn of the Century" offers a Pygmalion story, again featuring the versatile Howe on acoustic and electric guitars. Chris Squire's "Parallels" is one of the strongest tracks here, Wakeman's church organ notwithstanding. Still, it remains an underrated track in the Yes canon. Jon Anderson's "Wonderous Stories" (sic) b/w "Parallels" was the easy (and throwaway) single; however, the bulk of the second side is taken up by the massive "Awaken." Yes may have learned a lesson or two from their previous releases, but Going For The One still wouldn't have been a Yes album without a "big" piece of music. All the wiser though, "Awaken" clocks in at a mere 15 minutes; but it feels like a much longer voyage. Yes still manage to push all the right buttons: flashy keyboard intro, ripping guitar solo, ethereal middle section, quasi-spiritual concept and big symphonic refrain. Although the "new wave" was in full swing at the time of the album's release, their fans maintained an appetite for Yes. The album rose to No. 1 on the UK charts, and scored a No. 8 spot in the US, where the band toured with Donovan in support of the record.