Before Kraan's 1978 release, Flyday, original member Jan Fride took a break from music and was replaced by drummer Udo Dahmen, previously in Aachen's Rufus Zuphall. With compositions credited to either Peter Wolbrandt or Hellmut Hattler, the album covers much of the same ground as the last. The instrumental "Far West" kicks off with the band soaring along to the jazzy tempo. The vocal effort "My Brother Said" is a real treat, reminiscent of the aggressive rock of the band's earlier Wintrup album. "Ausflug" is (not surprisingly) light and airy, with Wolbrandt's guitar tone predating Mark Knopfler's technique; while the bold "Gayu Gaya" is the album's wordless-vocal entrant. On the second side, both "You're Right" and "Buy Buy" turn up the funk, with Ingo Bischof's keyboards taking a step to the fore. The balance of the side is contrasted with two mellow numbers: "Young King's Song" is a fairytale vocal number, while the sleepy title track is marked again by Wolbrandt's poignant guitar work. The album was released by EMI Electrola (on blue vinyl); but again, did not see an international release. A live album Tournee followed in 1980, presenting material from the last two records. The 1982 release Nachtfahrt would also see a change in drummers and something of a first for the band: German language vocals. Kraan would then undergo several personnel changes, until a late 80s lineup reunited Hattler, Wolbrandt and Fride, with newcomer Joo Kraus for a final two albums.
National Health's beginnings precede this debut recording by about two years. Two keyboardists, Hatfield and the North's Dave Stewart and Gilgamesh's Alan Gowen, founded the group as a large-scale rock ensemble in 1975. Early lineups included Stewart and Gowen, along with Phil Lee and Phil Miller on guitars, Mont Campbell on bass, Amanda Parsons on vocals and Bill Bruford on drums. Large indeed. Lee left first, to be temporarily replaced by Steve Hillage. Bruford was the next to depart, followed by Campbell and Gowen. By the time Stewart's head stopped spinning, he'd settled with Miller, Neil Murray and Pip Pyle on drums: basically, the Hatfield and the North lineup he had left! In March 1977, National Health recorded their self-titled debut, with Gowen, Parsons and long-time Canterbury stand-in Jimmy Hastings augmenting the lineup. Their music is instantly recognizable: intricate, highly arranged, partly frenetic and always melodic. "Tenemos Roads" rides over the Pyle/Murray rhythm section; Parsons's vocals are angelic and Miller's guitar tone thick, while four hands worth of keyboards fill out the lush sound. Shifting between sections with ease, it is one of Stewart's finest compositions. "Brujo," penned by Gowen, follows with the same tenacity, though punctuated by his lead Moog. "Borogoves (Excerpt from Part Two)" features Murray's bass work; the second section sneaks in a bit of that fuzz organ, something often associated with Canterbury bands. The chaotic introduction to "Elephants" is followed by a more frenetic than usual pace, before the record returns to "Tenemos Road" for a final coda. The group signed to Charly Records late in 1977, leading to the album's release in 1978. But as to be expected, more change was just around the corner.
Following the completion of the Gazeuse! Session, Gong fractiously fell apart; Pierre Moerlen however found himself in New York, where he made the acquaintance of a young American bassist, Hansford Rowe. Returning to France, he gathered up his brother Benoît, Mireille Bauer and a new talent, François Causse on congas. The band, called Gong-Expresso, played the May 1977 Gong reunion shows at Paris Hippodrome, which led to the okay from Virgin Records for a new record. Expresso II, released in early 1978, was produced-somewhat curiously-by John Wood, best known for his collaboration with folkster Joe Boyd. The chunky riff and stiff backbeat of "Heavy Tune" kick off the record, yielding to a solo from guest guitarist Mick Taylor (Moerlen would perform on his solo album). Guitarist Bon Lozaga then offers a funky rhythm on the ensuing "Golden Dilemma." Foremost however are the percussionists, offering vibes, marimba and congas over Moerlen's ever-solid beat. Allan Holdsworth's signature guitar opens "Sleepy," but Darryl Way also lends his violin. But the second side's "Soli" is the pinnacle. With Holdsworth's thick guitar lines leading the way, the combination of Rowe's rubbery bass, Bauer and Benoît's percussion is jazz-rock at its finest. The band all prove to be not only excellent performers, but adept writers, the compositions shared between the Moerlens, Rowe and Bauer. It's another excellent album from Moerlen that again emphasizes the rock in jazz-rock. The album saw release on Virgin in the UK and Europe, however it would be their last with both the label, and Bauer.
Synthesist Michael Hoenig got his start in the German group Agitation Free, alongside drummer Chris Franke. That connection was renewed when Hoenig filled in for a vacationing Peter Baumann on Tangerine Dream's 1975 tours; and obviously, he learned a bit of their craft along the way. In 1976, he worked with Ashra's Manuel Göttsching, but recordings would not surface until decades later (as Early Water). In 1977, Hoenig became one of the first German musicians to sign an international deal, inking with Warner Brothers in the US. It's easy to see why: Departure From The Northern Wasteland is a classic example of the so-called Berlin School of electronic music; it's even more Tangerine Dream than Tangerine Dream! On the title track, Hoenig uses repetition to great end: Pulsing, trance-inducing sequencer lines percolate, bubble and carry the listener throughout the sonic journey. He adds significant texture with a variety of keyboards, while former Agitation Free guitarist Lüül Ulbrich lays down some thick guitar lines too. "Hanging Garden Transfer" offers its sequencer lines in a bold, symphonic arrangement, while "Voices of Where" is more ethereal, layering treated vocal loops. "Sun and Moon" closes, succinctly recapping the album's aural voyage. Throughout, Hoenig presents one of the more listenable albums of electronic music. He never recorded a proper follow-up, and eventually he moved to the United States to find work in the soundtrack business. Along with the burgeoning new age genre, this brand of electronic music would see some degree of commercial acceptance over the next few years.
Produced by David Hentschel, Renaissance's next two albums reveal a significant change in direction from their previous work. Hentschel had, of course, perfected his technique with Genesis, and he certainly brought some of that influence here; just listen to the opening of "Kindness (At the End)." Predictably, the songs are shorter and more pop-oriented, with Michael Dunford's songwriting now mostly co-authored with Jon Camp. Additionally, Dunford's guitar turns steel string and electric, while John Tout traverses far more keyboards than on any previous Renaissance effort. Granted, most of the short songs are unspectacular, but the longer title track and "Day of the Dreamer" contain all of Renaissance's former appurtenances; yet coupled with Hentschel's production, they gain a greater immediacy and broader sonic landscape than ever before. Haslam's voice too was more moderate in the mix, but no less inviting. "Northern Lights b/w "Opening Out" was released as a single and hit No. 10 on the UK charts. Subsequently, A Song For All Seasons would finally push the band into the UK charts after a near decade-long absence, as the album rose to No. 35. The album also fared well in the US, reaching No. 58. Renaissance recorded the even more commercial Azure D'Or in 1979; but without an accompanying single, it sunk with little trace. The band effectively broke up following the departure of Tout and Terry Sullivan in 1980; though in the early 80s, Haslam, Camp and Dunford would record two forgettable albums for Miles Copeland's IRS label.
Following Tangerine Dream's 1977 US tour and Peter Baumann's departure, Edgar Froese and Chris Franke took the dramatic steps of reinventing Tangerine Dream by inviting drummer Klaus Krieger and wind instrumentalist Steve Jolliffe into the fold. The latter had been in an early incarnation of the band during the late 60s; but his tenure at this stage would certainly be more controversial, as Jolliffe would also supply Tangerine Dream with-wait for it-vocals. This change of direction, along with further use of acoustic instruments, was an attempt to broaden both the band's sound and appeal. So, at the very least, hats off to TD for trying something radically new. The album opens with the vocoder of "Bent Cold Sidewalk;" a straight-forward song with a decent hook, the chorus fades into a more familiar sequencer terrain before returning to the vocal refrain. "Rising Runner Missed By Endless Sender" is even more of a short-take; riding on a sinister keyboard line and Krieger's quick tempo, it seems more like a proof of concept than a finished work. Taken alone (and vocoder aside), Jolliffe's vocal contribution may not be ideal, but they do integrate well with the music. Thus, whatever the prognosis, Froese and Franke must have put some thought into what they were doing here. Yet if the first side of the album left anyone feeling short-changed, the second side's "Madrigal Meridian" more than makes up for it. Here Tangerine Dream offers a journey as dark and sinister as the cover art. Krieger's syncopation with the sequencers is hypnotic, and the track ends in a gloriously romantic refrain. Jolliffe's leads—whether flute, lyricon or modulated whatever—float effortlessly, while Froese offers one of his best guitar solos on record. The album took some critical heat upon release, but didn't suffer commercially. Cyclone is the album that broke the band in their native Germany, and the subsequent European tour in support of it achieved record attendance. I must agree with the fans: The album was a bold and daring direction for the band. Yet the fact remains that Tangerine Dream would never weather this type of storm again.
Tim Blake was ousted from Gong following the completion of their Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy in 1974. After a solo recording contract with Virgin stalled, Blake found himself back in France, near penniless and homeless. He then teamed up with light artist Patrice Warrener to help pilot the Crystal Machine into what was perhaps the first full-on laser light show experience. The duo presented the production at a couple of weeklong residencies in Paris in 1975, before eventually taking the extravaganza to Britain in 1976. Blake then secured a recording contract with Barclay Records progressive imprint, Egg. His first release, Crystal Machine, was a compilation of live recordings from 1976 and 1977 that provides a sterling example of his electronic technique; however, the album suffered from a less than stellar recording. Released the following year, Blake's New Jerusalem is a better representation of his art. Blake's synthesizer music was contemporaneous of the times, including with the works of the so-called Berlin School. But rather than purely instrumental vignettes, his studio recordings are more song-based, with Blake even taking a crack at vocals on a few tracks. The excellent "Song for a New Age" is exactly that, while the quicker tempo of "Generator (Laserbeam)" has a more modern slant. The lengthy "Passage Sur La Cité (Des Révélations)" reveals a stirring combination. Under a pulsing sequenced rhythm, Blake's bubbling and burbling synthesizers provide texture, while the Minimoog takes the lead; there's even a modicum of glissando guitar thrown in for good measure. The second side is encompassed by "Blake's New Jerusalem," perhaps the most fully-realized presentation of Blake's considerable talent on the synthesizer. Although there's a hippie vibe throughout, the album gives clear insight into his contribution to the Gong sound and his much-underrated skill as a writer. In fact, "Lighthouse" would have fit perfectly on any of the albums during Gong's trilogy era. The album also features Jean-Philippe Rykiel as a guest artist; the French synthesist would form a long relationship with Blake, and with Warrener and the Crystal Machine in tow, they would hit the road again in 1978, playing throughout Europe and Japan. (An unreleased album, Waterfalls In Space, was produced the same year.) However, when the expensive production eventually landed in 1979 (after an appearance at that year's Glastonbury Festival), Blake then turned to full-time work with his old Ladbroke Grove mates, Hawkwind.
Shortly after mixing Seconds Out, Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford (hence the album title) headed to Amsterdam to record this, their 11th record. Rutherford chose to fill Steve Hackett's now vacant position, but that wasn't the only change: Genesis also made a conscious decision to shorten the songs in order to present a greater diversity across the record. Boasting 11 tracks, …And Then There Were Three… still contains the band's substantial musicality, and a wonderfully dark production that gives it a uniform feel—something not usually associated with the band. Driven by a deep bass pedal, "Down and Out" leads things off. The songs are not only shorter, but also a lot more concise; gone is most of the instrumental flash (but not necessarily the fire). The second side's "Deep in the Motherlode" ambulates over a similarly rollicking bass line. "Undertow," "Snowbound" and "Many Too Many" carry on in the tradition of "The Carpet Crawlers" or "Afterglow;" beauty was never in short supply in Genesis' repertoire. The romantic "Burning Rope" is most similar to the previous Wind & Wuthering album; and at seven minutes, it's the longest track on the record. Also comparable are both "Scenes from a Night's Dream" and "The Lady Lies." The album closes with "Follow You Follow Me," a track that nearly didn't make it onto the album. Written in "jam" fashion by the band, its simple enough structure contains an even simpler lyric; it marks not only the end of side two, but also the end of an era in Genesis history. As a single, it reached No. 7 in the UK and a respectable No. 23 in the US. The album was also quite successful, reaching No. 3 in the UK and No. 14 in the US, where it charted higher than any of their previous releases. Genesis spent most of 1978 touring in support of the album, which included two treks across the US with "the mirrors" in tow. Milwaukee-born Daryl Stuermer, previously in Sweetbottom and Jean-Luc Ponty's group, joined the band as their touring guitarist, in another relationship that would extend decades.
Jethro Tull celebrated a decade in the music business with a second compilation, Repeat – The Best of Jethro Tull – Vol II (released in November 1977), and their 11th studio album—no small feat. On Heavy Horses, Ian Anderson continues his lyrical dalliance with most things country, including farm animals and...two songs about mice. Anderson again sticks to the tried-and-true Tull formula he first pitched on Too Old To Rock ‘n' Roll: Too Young To Die!, and precious little seems to have changed, save the song's titles. Darryl Way lends a fiddle to the upbeat jig of "Acres Wild." In sharp contrast is the altogether heavy "No Lullaby;" like the previous album's "Pibroch," it's this album's potent rocker. While "Journeyman" reveals a little nostalgia with a twinge of old Tull, the album mostly opts for acoustic numbers that bypass instrumental flash for richer arrangements. Technical perfection may have its place, but was rock ‘n' roll ever supposed to sound so sterile? "Moths" and "Rover" opt for a little simplicity, while the title track sports a big orchestral gown. Despite the rural nature of the compositions, Anderson's voice again sounds like it was canned in a studio; he is almost always doubled-tracked, sounding both hoarse and processed. Regardless, the album still scored well on the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching into the Top 20s. The band then set off on the annual round of touring, dragging along their Masion Rouge mobile studio to record what would make up their next release: the live double-album Bursting Out. Former Blackpool mate and Stealers Wheel bassist Tony Williams replaced an ill John Glascock on the US leg of the tour. Released later in the year, it again placed Tull into the Top 20 on both the US and UK charts.
The start of the Here & Now band stretches back to 1974 and the squats of London's Ladbroke Grove. Taking their name from the book Be Here Now by Ram Dass, the band's lineup was as fluid as their improvisations: never recorded and performed for free. A sort of critical mass, however, was reached at Watchfield Free Festival in 1975. Here, the band comprised of drummer Keith "Kif Kif Le Batteur" Dobson, synth player Paul "Twink" Noble, bassist Keith "Da Missile Bass" Bailey, and guitarist Stephen "Steffe Sharpstrings" Lewry, along with dancer/singers Suze Da Blooz (Allport) and Anni Wombat. By the time they teamed up with Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth for Planet Gong in 1977, Keith Da Bass had left and returned, while Twink was ousted for Gavin "Da Blitz" Allardyce. Tipped off by Gong bassist Mike Howlett, Allen and Smyth rechristened the band as Planet Gong and took to the road. A concert in Toulouse provided the tapes for Live Floating Anarchy 1977, released in 1978 on Charly Records. After a familiar introduction, "Floatin' Anarchy" blasts the record open, presenting an electric mix of so-called "space and punk." The tune, along with much of the album, was repurposed Here & Now material (denoted by the writing credit "Zero"). But Allen's "Stone Innoc(ent) Frankenstein" puts the match into historic perspective: Allen's been there all along. "New Age Transformation Try: No More Sages" stretches out into long-form free-form; it's a heady groove, as hypnotic and satisfying as anything from Allen's former group. The studio "Opium for the People" was released as a single, but the second side's improv "Allez Ali Baba Black-Sheep Have You Any Bullshit: Mama Maya Mantram" again goes big, offering a much harder edge. In particular, Steffe Sharpstrings and Keith Da Bass shine throughout the record. The album reputedly sold quite well, making it one of the most successful in the greater Gong canon. Yet Allen and Smyth backed out of a tour in early Spring 1978, bringing Planet Gong to a screeching halt. Nevertheless, Here & Now was just beginning their recording career.
In late 1977, Steve Hillage spent some time with his ex-Gong cohorts producing ex-Hawkwind member Nik Turner's 1978 solo album, Xitintoday. He then toured the UK, assisted by Americans Joe Blocker on drums and Curtis Robertson on bass (from the funk band Karma) and, of course, his ever-present partner Miquette Giraudy on keyboards. For his fourth album, Hillage manned the producer's chair with Pink Floyd's Nick Mason; so it should be no surprise that Green is one of his spacier releases. "Sea-Nature" opens in style; immediately the track establishes a much larger sense of space, both inner and outer. "Ether Ships" bubbles with electronics (and a Roland guitar synthesizer), while "Musick of the Trees" (sic) kicks back with some nice acoustic touches. Hillage gets in the mood on "Palm Trees (Love Guitar)," while "Unidentified (Flying Being)" is a throwback to the funky groove of his previous album; both tracks feature some great lead guitar from Hillage. Beginning with "UFO over Paris," he and Miquette weave their ambient magic over the next few tracks: The hypnotic pulse of "Leylines to Glassdom" floats right into the luscious "Crystal City." Eventually, Hillage reprises a quite heavy "The Glorious Om Riff" from Gong's "Master Builder" to close. There's little doubt the album is one of his strongest ever, and it would again see Hillage chart in the UK, cresting at No. 30. And yes, the album was pressed on green vinyl.
Following the demise of King Crimson in 1974, the rhythm section—the formidable duo of Bill Bruford and John Wetton—took some journeyman work (separately, for Gong, Genesis, National Health, Roxy Music and Uriah Heep) and then tried to form a trio with Rick Wakeman; scuttled by management, the keyboardist opted to return to Yes. Then, in 1977, the pair decided to each pick a bandmate: Wetton brought in violin and keyboard man Eddie Jobson, while Bruford recruited guitarist Allan Holdsworth. Now given the pedigree of the members ("super" being the operative word), their debut album was eagerly anticipated. The three-part "In the Dead of Night" leads off—co-penned, like most of the other tracks on the album, by Jobson and Wetton. The latter certainly knows a decent hook, and how to make it an ideal complement to his distinctive tenor voice. Holdsworth adds his signature guitar playing, while the second section showcases Jobson on the electric violin. Bruford's drumming is crisp throughout, but the highly-rated Bruford/Wetton rhythm section is, unfortunately, mostly understated. However, Jobson's keyboards, and their unique sonic signature, provide a wonderful document of the technology he used (early polyphonic synthesizers). "Time to Kill" gives Jobson another turn on lead violin, but Holdsworth's single note accompaniment is equally enthralling. On "Nevermore" and "Mental Medication," Holdsworth has one hand in the composition and two on the acoustic guitar. Overall, the songs are good; the album is punctuated by a rock heaviness and, of course, lots of virtuoso soloing. But it's also replete with pristine production-and few outside the cognoscenti were going to get excited about this music. So despite the hype, the album failed to make any significant dent on the charts. The quartet did take to the road in the US, though; and judging by their set lists, had a larger repertoire ready to record. However, Bruford and Holdsworth were soon to make other plans.
Formed in 1977, Weidorje included the talents of keyboardist Patrick Gauthier from Heldon and bassist Bernard Paganotti from Magma. They were joined by several other luminaries from the French music scene: keyboardist Jean-Philippe Goude, guitarist Michel Ettori, drummer Kirt Rust and brothers Alain and Yvon Guillard on sax and trumpet, respectively. While Magma was recording Üdü Wüdü, Gauthier and Paganotti split off to form the band Weidorje as an outlet for their own compositions. Kobaïan for "celestial wheel," the song "Weidorje" had appeared on Üdü Wüdü; and coming full circle to this album, Klaus Blasquiz even provided the album's art. Released on the Cobra label in 1978, Weidorje contains three tracks. Side one is encompassed by Paganotti's "Elohims Voyage," its title the Hebrew word for "gods." From the opening crashes, there's little doubt of the band's connection to Magma; however, propelled by Paganotti's thundering bass and an electrifying guitar riff from Ettori, the track winds across the vinyl with both beauty and beast. With scat vocals and pounding drums from Rust, the track is one heavy and hypnotizing monster. The second side contains Gauthier's compositions. "Vilna," named after the Lithuanian city, is a highlight. A percolating electric piano sets up the static Magma-esque groove, yet the band fires on all cylinders, with the Guillard brothers' horns providing depth to the arrangement. The ensuing "Booldemug" sports a frenetic yet enthralling pace. Merit aside, the album also serves as an opportunity to see a Christian Vander-less take on the music of greater Magma, or "zeuhl." Weidorje played sporadically over the next year, weathering the departure of Ettori; but without a record label, morale was low. And after a particularly disastrous gig in Spain, Paganotti threw in the towel, and the band subsequently folded. Yet solo albums from Goude (Drones 1980) and Gauthier (Bébé Godzilla 1981) employed most of the Weidorje cast, while Paganotti's 1985 release Paga also would contain Weidorje material.
When Anthony Phillips set out to record his next effort, he proffered an album of (more or less) commercial rock music—perhaps in an attempt to build on the success of his debut effort or, at least, create something more contemporary. As such, Wise After The Event presents a different side of Phillips: one that showcases his songwriting. Phillips is not joined by any Genesis cohorts this time, but instead by the world-class rhythm section of Michael Giles and John G. Perry and the production talents of Rupert Hine. Also, Phillips takes on all vocal, guitar and keyboard duties, with reliably excellent results. Although he's not the most powerful singer, Phillips is more than capable on the record, with his voice sympathetic to the overall feel of the album. "We're All as We Lie" is relaxed and playful, with layers of acoustic guitars gently picking away. Similarly, "Birdsong" starts off placid, but ends under the fury of the Giles/Perry rhythm and an electrifying lead guitar. On the second side, both "Pulling Faces" and "Greenhouse" are considerably up-tempo, and Hine's production makes the best of everyone involved. There's no denying the similarity of this music to that of Genesis, but the connection is more one of lineage than anything suspect. There's also a certain gentleness that sets it apart from any contemporary musical trend, Genesis-esque or otherwise. Lyrically, Phillips's songs are quite romantic, as evidenced by the overwrought "Regrets" and the excellent "Now What (Are They Doing to My Little Friends?)." But given the subject matter, they wouldn't work any other way. The album, again graced with a Peter Cross cover, saw release on both sides of the Atlantic, with Phillips now signed to Passport Records in the US. Several of the vignettes that would appear on the Private Parts & Pieces Vol. II album were intended as instrumental bridges between the songs here.
Steve Hackett began his solo career in earnest with his second record. So, it should come as no surprise that none of his Genesis bandmates contribute here. Instead, Hackett opted for a diverse guest list: Steve Walsh and Phil Ehart of Kansas, labelmate Graham Smith, Chester Thompson (well, not technically a member of Genesis), the returning John Acock and John Hackett, and a few unlikely candidates—namely, vocalists Richie Havens and Randy Crawford. Please Don't Touch begins with a few numbers that wouldn't sound out of place on a Kansas record. In fact, it's worth noting that the single release of "Narnia" b/w "Please Don't Touch" featured John Perry on vocals, as Walsh's record label feared that fans would confuse it for a new Kansas single! Fast and furious, the tracks reflect the harder edge of Hackett's songwriting. Dedicated to his wife (who would also provide the paintings for most of his album covers), "Kim" showcases Hackett's favor for nylon-string guitar. His brother John provides a lone flute line, which is simultaneously haunting and beautiful. "How Can I?" features Havens's raspy voice, and who would have guessed it would be such a perfect match? The second side runs continuous, and again parades the album's diversity. Featuring Crawford, "Hoping Love Will Last" is an interesting mix, soulful and progressive in the same pass. The title track covers the same instrumental terrain as Genesis, but Hackett also lances out with some furious guitar work—again, something he'd never have managed to do with that band. "The Voice of Necam" flows effortlessly into "Icarus Ascending;" again with Havens on vocals, it's another achingly beautiful song, giving the record a powerful and soulful ending. The album reached the UK Top 40, though it failed to chart in the US. Hackett would then assemble a touring band, with greater success just around the corner.
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, keyboardist and bassist Cameron Hawkins and Nash the Slash (Jeff Plewman) formed FM in 1976 as an electronic duo. The band eschewed electric guitar, instead opting for—quite uniquely—Nash's electric violin and mandolin. Martin Deller joined on drums, and the band then recorded their debut album Black Noise in 1977. The opening fury of "Phasors on Stun," "One O'clock Tomorrow" steadily swings and rides a melodic verse, while the following "Hours" features Nash on violin. It's a blistering instrumental that glides effortlessly into "Journey." "Dialing for Dharma" mounts a nice sequence, with Nash and Hawkins trading solos; though "Slaughter in Robot Village" queues up a big bass line for a much heavier approach. "Aldebaran" showcases Nash's mandolin work, with Hawkins offering a complementary vocal. Clocking in at nearly ten minutes, the title track, "Black Noise," closes the album, and again features Nash on violin. It's a striking record for the time, unleashing a fresh take on progressive rock through inventive instrumentation and synthesizers. However, the band's Canadian label CBC released it by mail order only; and it wasn't until Spring 1978, when US-based Passport Records picked up the release, that the album took off (it eventually earned a gold record award in Canada). But by that time, Nash had left the band and been replaced by Ben Mink; and a limited edition "real time" album, Direct To Disk, had already been released by Canadian label Labyrinth Records. FM went on their first US tour in that same year and recorded their second studio album, Surveillance, for Passport. Released in 1979, it was eventually picked up by Capitol Records. A third album, City Of Fear—produced by Larry Fast of Synergy—followed in 1980, but the combination of record label woes and personnel changes put the band's future in limbo. [US release date]
Following his departure from Hawkwind in 1976, Nik Turner decamped to Egypt, only to find his host was being deported. But through some twist of fate, he secured recording time in the Great Pyramid (Chepos) of Giza. There, he recorded hours of flute improvisations, all of which would form the basis of his first solo album, Xitintoday. Upon returning to England, he enlisted Steve ("Stiv") Hillage to produce an album from the tapes. Most of the Gong crew (including Mike Howlett, Miquette Giraudy, Tim Blake and Harry Williamson) appeared, along with Alan Powell from Hawkwind. Fittingly, Turner adapted text from the Egyptian Book of the Dead to the music; and in doing so, assembled one incredibly unique album. With very little rhythm to give it traction, the music simply floats over the first side—from track to track and over endless flute passages, heavily-processed spoken word vocals and bubbly synths—to provide the ultimate Egyptian-inspired trip. The second side's "Isis and Nephthys" finally gets a little forward propulsion, culminating in the excellent "God Rock (The Awakening)." Released by Charisma Records, it's a testament to the times that the record even saw commercial release. Turner then assembled a band, Sphynx, to play a few festivals over the next few years, including Deeply Vale and Glastonbury; he also guested on Gilli Smyth's Fairy Tales album. But Turner then turned his back on the hippiedom of the 1970s for the much more immediate "punkadelic" rock of Inner City Unit—with Dino Ferari and Trev Thoms from Steve Took's Horns, as well as Philip "Dead Fred" Reeves and Mo Vicarage. He would spend most of the early 80s in this band, before returning to Hawkwind briefly in 1982.
Peter Gabriel hit the road after his first solo album was released, crossing America in the spring of 1977 before heading over to Europe later in the fall. Touring solidified the band for the upcoming album; by the last leg, it consisted of bassist Tony Levin and electronic wiz Larry Fast, plus new guys Jerry Marotta on drums and Sid McGinnis on guitar. Keyboards were handled by Automatic Man Todd "Bayete" Cochran, though duties would be split with Roy Bittan on the album. For Gabriel's second record, again titled Peter Gabriel, he found himself in Holland with Robert Fripp in the producer's chair, evidently to "speed up [the] recording process." Fripp had guested on his last tour, performing as "Dusty Rhodes." The album is another mixed affair. Gabriel's songwriting shines on the big tracks, "On the Air," "White Shadow" and the timely anthem "D.I.Y." Usually anchored by Marotta's firm drums and Levin's soon-to-be-legendary bass work—and with a ripping solo from Fripp on "On the Air"—they offer something uniquely Gabriel, and completely removed from his work with Genesis. "Mother of Violence" was co-written with his wife Jill, and is the best of the slower tracks on the album. "Animal Magic" and "Perspective," with Bittan's tinkly piano and McGinnis's slide guitar, come across as standard rock tunes; and at worst, even Fripp's production can't save languid crooners like "Home Sweet Home" or "Flotsam and Jetsam." Slightly out of place, "Exposure" is a Fripp number and quite different from the other tracks; but it does, in some way, point to the future. Despite the lack of a single, the album was about as successful as Gabriel's first solo effort, reaching No. 13 in the UK and No. 45 in the US. His Fall 1978 tour (with Timmy Cappello replacing Bayete) included "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" in the set list; one of the last times he would regularly perform a Genesis tune in public.
Van der Graaf ended their penultimate tour with two nights in early January at London's Marquee Club. The band was now a five-piece: the same quartet that recorded the previous year's The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Zone, plus Charles Dickie on cello. Offering more of the chaos and less of the control that defined the band's prior efforts, the recordings formed the basis of this, the final installment from VdG. "Ship of Fools" sets the tone with Peter Hammill on electric guitar, and there's nothing subtle here; he's got as much grace as a steamroller. "Still Life" follows and literally explodes, with Guy Evans's drumming mixed high on the right channel and Nic Potter's overdriven bass on the left. Gone are the delicacies of Hugh Banton and David Jackson (though the latter makes a guest appearance); rather, this record goes for the full-frontal assault. If you get through Graham Smith's screeching intro, "Last Frame" is one of the more successful translations on the album. The same isn't always true for the older VdGG material, though "Pioneers Over C" holds together well. The double-album even contains some new material; well-suited for the quintet, it's about as raw as Hammill's music would ever get. "Door" spins out of control underneath Evans's ever-increasing tempo, while "Urban" reprises a bit of "Killer." Fittingly, the punk "Nadir's Big Chance" closes the show. The album was mixed the following month at Foel Studio and given to Charisma Records in the hope that it would balance the band's finances with the label. But by the time of its release, Hammill had already kicked himself into solo gear; his next record already completed, he had begun touring the UK (and later the following year in the US) with Smith. Therefore, Vital remains Van der Graaf Generator's swan song, warts and all.
Camel's lineup remained stable since the last album; and without a doubt, Breathless is all the better for it. The album again sports immaculate production, this time courtesy of Mick Glossop. The melodic and airy title track opens with a signature vocal from Richard Sinclair. "Echoes" features some tasty guitar work from Andrew Latimer and reprises his now familiar melodic song style, as does the second side's "You Make Me Smile." But "Wing and a Prayer" is an unfamiliar venture in pop, while Sinclair's "Down on the Farm" is uniquely his own (and not Camel's). "Summer Lightning" also sounds dissimilar—this time, not unlike the funk-up of Steely Dan. The instrumental "The Sleeper" is indeed the album's sleeper; fiery and exciting, it's an up-to-date reminder of Camel's instrumental dexterity. The album was well-received, rising to No. 26 on the UK charts. But shortly before its release, Pete Bardens would depart for Van Morrison's band, marking his end with the Camel. Two keyboardists from Caravan, Jan Schelhaas and Dave Sinclair, would join up for the subsequent tour, but only Schelhaas would last. American keyboardist Kit Watkins (ex-Happy the Man) and Colin Bass (the latter on bass, of course) would come on board for the next album. Released in 1979, I Can See Your House From Here showcased remarkable musicianship and a pristine production from Rupert Hine; but unfortunately, it offered little else but lightweight rock, and thus dipped to No. 45 on the UK charts. As Camel entered the 80s, further personnel changes were forthcoming.