Evidently Jon Anderson spent little time mourning his ejection from Yes, as he quickly started up both a solo career and a very successful collaboration with Vangelis. The pair first recorded together for the Greek musician's 1975 album, Heaven & Hell, and their relationship grew, with Anderson adding harp and vocals to several of Vangelis' prolific catalog of albums. Billed as Jon & Vangelis, Short Stories is the first full album by the duo. The album's success is quite simple: mix Vangelis' easy on the ears music with the ethereal voice of Anderson, and you have new age goodness all around (and new age goodness abounds). That's not to say everything here is total fluff; Vangelis is a master of electronic texture and the album is a veritable palette for his brand and style of composition: just check out the opening bars of “Curious Electric” or “Far Away In Baagad”. When the synthesizers are peculating and the energy is high, it's top shelf music. Of course when Anderson's featured, as on “Each And Everyday” and “Love Is/One More Time”, his syrupy earnestness remains quite the acquired taste. The album however was massively successful, reaching No. 4 in the UK charts. A single, the curiously lilting “I Hear You Now” b/w “Thunder”, also reached the UK Top 10, while later entering the US Top 100. Meanwhile, 1981 would see Vangelis reach his commercial zenith with the soundtrack to Chariots of Fire. A second collaboration with Anderson, The Friends of Mr Cairo, was released in July 1981 and found similar success, but their third album “Private Collection” stalled both musically and in the charts.
Armed with two Revox tape recorders, Robert Fripp embarked on a “small, mobile and intelligent” promotional tour of record stores, canteens, etc. in April through August of 1979, providing fodder for his next few solo releases. The double-titled Under Heavy Manners / God Save The Queen was up first. The first side presents three tracks of pure Frippertronics, a method of performing with tape-loops he first investigated with Brian Eno on their No Pussyfooting album for Island Records in 1972. The term was coined by lyricist Joanna Walton, Fripp's girlfriend in the late 70s. There's a certain beauty in the otherworldliness, of the slow-building, somewhat hypnotic loops of delayed guitar. Whether they are “heard one heard them all” isn't really the point; like Eno's Music For Airports, it's meant for ambiance more than listening. The second side presented “Discotronics”: applied Frippertronics augmented with a disco beat! Here, drummer Paul Duskin and bassist Buster Jones provide the bottom while David Byrne of the Talking Heads (credited as Absalm el Habib) adds voice, including the memorable pronouncement “I am resplendent in divergence”. The album also first outlines Fripp's “Drive to 1981”; Fripp would become a vocal opponent of the musical industry using his releases as a sounding board for his pronouncements related to nearly every aspect of his musical career. Fripp would then release a second album of Frippertronics in 1981, entitled 1984. During 1980, Fripp assembled a band with Barry Andrews on organ, drummer Jonny Toobad (replaced by Kevin Wilkinson), and Sara Lee on bass. The team played a total of 77 gigs and recorded an album, The League of Gentlemen, a reference to Fripp's first band in the 1960s. The self-pronounced “new wave instrumental dance band” furthers his foray into dance music, and provides a crucial link into what would come next. However, lessons having been learned, this burst of solo work would all grind to a halt. In 1981 Fripp returned to the UK and reformed King Crimson, capping a brief but interesting series of releases.
For Permanent Waves, Rush were back in Canada with producer Terry Brown, at Le Studio in Quebec, where they would record for the next 15 years. Written and recorded over the summer of 1979, the band were back on the road even before the album was released. Permanent Waves contains six tracks, marking a return to shorter, less epic pieces. “Spirit Of The Radio” opens with a killer guitar riff, and somewhat controversially, drops into a reggae beat for a few bars before Alex Lifeson's guitar solo. Released as a single, it reached No. 13 in the UK, their highest placement to date. Featuring another of Lifeson's blistering solos, “Free Will” was yet another song to chart as a single. Neil Peart's lyrics are perhaps the key to their new success: gone are didacts, constellations, etc. and in are his rather deep expositions on life. It's a significant change, as important to Rush’s radio-friendliness as is the shortened length of their songs: fans relate to Peart's words. As “Jacob's Ladder” ticks away, there's a little nod to Rush of the previous two albums; a multi-part suite, with Geddy Lee's keyboards featured prominently. The second side opens with the rocking “Entre Nous” (“Between Us”). Lifeson's rhythm guitar during the verses portents a slight change in his style that would be explored on albums later in the 80s. “Different Strings” is an acoustic number, with a piano part played by artist Hugh Syme, who was also responsible for much of Rush's cover art. It's an evocative number, and one that pretty much ends too quickly. The three-part “Natural Science” closes the album. It's another nod to the epic, with your typical Rush-isms, including some fantastic drum rolls from Peart. Again, Rush defy all odds by combining absolute perfect musicianship, decidedly complex and progressive writing, and egg-headed lyrics into positively accessible and commercial music. Of course, their everyman approach to work through constant touring earned them an absolutely loyal fan base, who in turn rewarded them with success. Released on January 1st, 1980, the album reached No. 3 in the UK and No. 4 in the US.
Genesis took a break in 1979 while Phil Collins sorted out his personal life. Tony Banks was first out of the gate, but guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford was next, with an incredibly strong album in 1980's Smallcreep's Day. The album was produced by David Hentschel and featured former Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips on keyboards, ostensibly returning the favor for Rutherford's appearance on his first solo album. The band was rounded out with Simon Phillips on drums and Morris Pert on percussion. And as the lead off track suggests, the music is about as close to Genesis as it can get. The big difference is Noel McCalla's high tenor, which provides a very different feel for the music; the listener can decide whether that's a good thing or not. “Time And Time Again” is the typical lush, sentimental ballad you'd expect from Rutherford, while “Romani” and “Overnight Job” contain both the notes and sounds that make Genesis's music of the era so darn good. Undoubtedly Hentschel's production has a lot to do with it, but then again Rutherford was responsible for much of Genesis' repertoire, and leaves don't fall far from the tree. The second side is encompassed by “Smallcreep's Day”, the title of which comes from a novel by Peter Currell Brown. It's a dark, epic suite, evoking the book's post-industrial surrealism, yet full of hooks, bridges, and instrumental passages that lend it so familiar to his previous work. Genesis fans took note; the album was successful, reaching No. 13 in the UK album charts. Between Genesis albums in 1982, Rutherford would record a second solo album, the much more conventional Acting Very Strange, which features one of the worst album covers, ever. Nevermind, Rutherford would then find hit songs and massive commercial success with Mike + The Mechanics in the mid 80s, alongside vocalists Paul Young (Sad Cafe) and Paul Carrack (Ace, Squeeze).
With solo albums out of their system, Genesis regrouped in late 1979 to record what would be their next album, Duke. The album marks a stark difference from their 70s output, and it's not only the cover art from illustrator Lionel Koechlin. For one, drummer Phil Collin's pop and r&b leanings provide temperament to Mike Rutherford and Tony Bank's progressive roots. The album also represents the first compositional collaboration between Collins, Rutherford and Banks. “Behind The Lines” successfully conveys the transition, providing an ample rocker with good pop hooks. A drum machine leads off the ensuing “Duchess”, providing a tone that Collins would become well known for, and a treat to see him manipulate live in concert. “Man Of Our Times” benefits from a choppy drum beat and heavy production (again from David Hentschel), despite the obvious hook in the chorus. “Heatherhaze” and “Cu-De-Sac” sound as though they could have been an outtake from the previous album, while “Alone Tonight” and “Please Don't Ask” contain the throwaway sentimentality that would propel Collins to mass popularity in the 80s. The second side ends with a blistering pair of instrumentals that were to be part of a larger suite of songs from the album, entitled “The Story Of Albert”. (It was performed live however on the band's subsequent tour). But following in the footsteps of “Follow You, Follow Me”, two tracks on the album provide all the controversy for fans of the band's progressive era: Anyway you look at it, the tracks ”Misunderstanding” and “Turn It On Again” are a pair of pop hits, and there's not much else to say about them. The former reached the top 10 in the UK, while the later would creep into the US Top 20. The album was Genesis' first No. 1 in the UK, and reached No. 11 in the US, while earning the band their first platinum awards. For the next few years, Genesis would reign supreme, with further platinum No. 1 albums, numerous hit singles, and the runaway success of Collin's solo career, at least until the 90s, when the reappraisal began.
Hints are Peter Gabriel's novel new musical direction were unveiled in February of 1980, with the release of the single, "Games Without Frontiers" b/w “Start/ I Don't Remember”. Recorded along with the album the previous summer, the title is a reference to a game show during the 1960s. It was very well received, reaching No. 4 in the UK and No. 48 in the US. The album, again titled Peter Gabriel (but later known as III or “Melt”), was even more so a success, topping the charts at No. 1 in the UK, and rising to No. 22 in the US, where it was released by Mercury after Gabriel was dropped by Atco. As the opening track “Intruder” attests, the new direction is nothing short of revolutionary. Built on a pattern played by Phil Collins, it's the first example of the now-legendary gated reverb drum sound that would define 80s rock production. Obviously Gabriel made some crucial choices in enlisting the services of producer Steve Lillywhite and engineer Hugh Padgham to get this “new” sound. To say that Gabriel breaks ground is an understatement; he offers an entirely new take at progressive, one rooted in a new aesthetic that has nothing to do with his or prog's past. Cymbal-less, angular, and decidedly modern, the tracks are built as much with the technology used to construct them rather than traditional composition. His subject matter is also decidedly darker too, whether self-evident on tracks like “Family Snapshot”, or the more oblique “No Self-Control” and “Games”. “I Don't Remember” features the massive Chapman stick of Tony Levin, his only contribution to the album, while “Not One Of Us” bounces over John Giblin's nimble bass. The album ends with “Biko”, a moving tribute to the South African anti-apartheid martyr. It also points to another significant chunk of Gabriel's new direction: world music. He would dedicate a good part of his career to his Real World Studios. Gabriel again had a successful tour (dubbed “China 1984”) to support the album, with guitarist David Rhodes now part of his band. In a somewhat novel marketing move, Gabriel released the entire album with his lyrics sung in German, titled Ein deutsches Album.
Harald Grosskopf first appeared early in the timeline as drummer for Wallenstein, appearing on their first four albums. He then played with Klaus Schulze off and on in the mid 70s, before joining forces with Manuel Göttsching and Lutz Ulbrich in Ashra in 1978. Grosskopf got the opportunity from Sky Records to record his first solo album in 1980, the appropriately title Synthesist. Armed with only a mini-Moog, sequencer and a somewhat legendary 8 track tape machine, he retreated to the Krefeld home of Udo Hanten, one half of the soon-to-be electronic group, You. The shimmering “So Weit, So Gut” (So Far, So Good) opens the album with a punch. Aided by Hanten, it's as exemplary an example of electronic rock as any. Grosskopf's metronomic beat is locks perfectly with the sequenced synths, providing a most trance-inducing groove. “B. Aldrain”, dedicated to the astronaut, instead undulates in washes of electronic keyboards, while “Emphapsis” and “Synthesist” slow the beat to approach song-form. “Transcendental Overdrive” contains one wicked (and early) break-beat, the live drums frantically in step with the machines. But whether creating the darker vibes of “1847-Earth” or the more ethereal bliss of “Trauma”, Grosskopf is equally proficient at his craft, evoking the appropriate mood and texture for his music. Even though he must have taken good notes from his mentors, Grosskopf comes out of the gate with a completely original album electronic music, one oozing with originality and substance. Adorned with an iconic cover, the album is an absolute must-have of the genre and has since rightly attained cult-classic legend. By the albums release though, Grosskopf had moved on to other pastures, now providing drums for German New-Waver Lilli Berlin, though another solo album for Sky would eventually appeared in 1986.
Steve Hackett's next album Defector was stylistically similar to his album before it. Again recorded with his band, it's another gem of an album. The bass pedals are in force for the opening “The Steppes”, providing the foundation for another of his big instrumentals. His guitar soars above the plodding rhythm, setting the stage for the next track, “Time To Get Out”. It's a classic up-tempo Hackett song, with Pete Hicks again providing a capable vocal (to some very strange lyrics). “Slogans” then dances frantically, with Hackett offering some of his hammer-on guitar work, before sliding into the gentle “Leaving”. It's got that classic twelve-string Genesis feel, soaked in rich harmonies and is achingly beautiful. The second side leaps off with the sprightly instrumental “Jacuzzi”, with Dik Cadbury's bass nicely to the fore. “Hammer In The Sand” features Nick Magnus on piano, while “The Toast” sounds like we've heard it before. “The Show”, a rousing foot-stomper punctuated by Cadbury's slap bass, closes the record. The album marked a creative peak and would prove his most successful, reaching No. 9 in the UK. Accordingly, it’s easy to see why his solo albums were so readily accepted: Hackett offered more of that post-Gabriel Genesis sound than his former bandmates did, even in Genesis. Hackett recorded three further rock albums in the early 80s, handling the vocals himself. Magnus was retained from his band, while Acock would continue co-producing. The focus however was more towards the commercial, and to that end they all found success in the UK, with Cured and Highly Strung entering the Top 20. In the mid 80s he would put his solo career on hold for an attempt at the big time with ex-Asia Steve Howe in GTR.
Fred Frith is best known for his unique approach to the instrument as guitarist with the equally unique Henry Cow. After a series of albums for Virgin Records, that band morphed (more or less) into the Art Bears. Frith had released a solo albums in the interim, Guitar Solos, a series of improvised - you guessed it – guitar solos and a final album with Henry Cow in 1979, Western Culture. For Gravity, Frith teamed up with two Rock-In-Opposition stalwarts for another look at song-form and dance music, and of course, the avant-garde. On the first side of the record, Swedish group Samla Mammas Manna guest, and the results are of course a potpourri of ethnic music, improvisation, and all the weirdness you'd expect from him. There's even a golden nugget of prog buried inside the brilliant “Norrgarden Nyvla”. Lars Hollmer's accordion is treat, as is Frith's violin. The second side features members of the US band The Muffins, to similar effect. In particular the deconstruction of “Dancing In The Street” is both hilarious and serious, culminating in a frenzy of tape manipulation before fading with a meandering solo guitar line. But the following “Slap Dance” is certainly more palatable on the ears. The album was released on the US Ralph Records, best known for being The Resident's record label. The following year saw the release of another similar album, Speechless. Here Frith teamed up with another pair of RIO bands, Etron Fou LeLoublan and Massacre, while a final album for the label, Cheap At Half The Price, would appear in 1983.
As the gimmick cover suggests, Gentle Giant’s next album took things a little too far. Released in 1978, Giant For A Day offered straight-forward rock that had little to offer either their former progressive fans or any new ones. A true dud, save for John Weather's simple “Friends”, it is best left in the past. After a US tour in late 1978, the Giant went dormant, eventually returning again to the US in 1980 for a new recording, and label switch to Columbia. The band’s final album Civilian was released in 1980. Picking up where Missing Piece left off, the album is a definite return to form for the band, gaining an entirely new edge thanks to former Abbey Road guru Geoff Emerick's expert production. If you ever wonder just what a producer does for a record, compare this with Giant's previous one! “Convenience (Clean and Easy)” opens, revealing a high-energy rocker, thoroughly contemporary and indicative of the energy and consistency that play throughout the album. “Number One” offers a similar approach, with a big fat riff pacing the way. The band just sound fantastic. Kerry Minear's keyboards in particular have found their place in the mix, on equal footing with the rest of the band. The transition between “All Through The Night” and “Shadows On The Street” shows the band still has its way with the notes, sliding seamlessly from raucous to sublime. “Underground” and “I Am A Camera” use samples to punctuate their message, while “Inside Out” sports an entrancingly dark, sinister riff. The final track “It's Not Imagination” is a testament to what Gentle Giant did at their best: rock out. But as strong as the album was, it did not chart in America and after one final tour, the Giant laid its head down for good, a decade and out. Tacked on to the end of the vinyl is a vocal snippet, declaring “that's all there is”.
Before recording what was originally intended to be an Ian Anderson album (hence the title “A”), Chrysalis Records presumably sacked the lot of Jethro Tull, retaining only Ian Anderson and guitarist Martin Barre. For this new album, bassist Dave Pegg marks his debut on record, with American Mark Craney, best known for his work with Tommy Bolin and Jean Luc Ponty, filling in on drums. But the real change is the addition of keyboard and violin wiz Eddie Jobson, fresh from a defunct U.K., who opened Tull's previous US tour in 1979. Thus constituted, 1980's A presents a new direction for Jethro Tull, even if it was only under record company pressure that it was released as a band album. As the album begins, the first sound heard is Jobson's electronic piano that opens “Crossfire”. Immediately there's a distinct difference in the tried and true Tull formula, with a palate that includes digital keyboards instead of piano and organ. But with their shifting time signatures and patented multi-tracked vocals, there's still that signature Tull sound, evidenced by the high-flying “Flyingdale Flyer” and “Black Sunday”. After all, Anderson album or not, everything on the album is still written by the man. Released as a single, “Working John, Working Joe” benefits from Jobson's keyboards, as does the quick-tempo “Batteries Not Included”. Pegg's bass tone is decidedly modern (for 1980), while “Uniform” adds some of Jobson's violin for more than good measure. Overall the album offers a harder edge and updated sound for Tull that even pulls the traditional “The Pine Marten's Jig” from disaster. The album however was met with limited success, dropping out of the Top 20 in the UK to No. 25 and reaching only No. 30 in the US. The band toured through the balance of the year and into 1981.
In 1979, Manager Brian Lane resuscitated the surviving members of Yes by injecting two musicians from a slightly different ilk to the core of Chris Squire, Steve Howe and Alan White. Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn had just scored a No. 1 single in several different countries as The Buggles with their “Video Killed The Radio Star” single, but as a studio-only effort, were ensconced in the same studio space as Yes languishing over a follow-up. Long-time fans, they offered a song to Yes, “We Can Fly From Here”. Squire was suitably impressed and offered the two employment in Yes (as well as hiring Roger Dean back for album art). “Machine Messiah” breaks open with a heavy guitar riff, immediately offering a harder edge than any of Yes' previous efforts. Horn's voice has a similar tone and range as Jon Anderson's, especially when coupled with Squire's background vocals. Downes is also more than proficient, armed with an arsenal of proggy keyboard tricks. But without Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe competing for track space, Squire's (and ostensibly Horn's) production is much clearer, with White's drumming a standout, and the songs are given room to naturally evolve. “Into The Lens” and “White Car” provide a compositional link to The Buggles, while the previously written “Does It Really Happen“ and “Tempus Fugit” fly along Squire's powerful bass line. The album was well received, reaching No. 2 in the UK and No. 18 in the US. But simply put, Yes fans weren't that impressed in concert and after the album's promotional tour, the band fell apart. Howe and Downes were off to big success with John Wetton and Carl Palmer in Asia, while Squire and White would record one single “Run With The Fox” after a collaboration (XYZ) with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin was aborted. The happy ending for all, however, was just around the corner.
For his next record, Oldfield would assemble a new cast, including producer David Hentschel, Maggie Reilly on vocals, and Tim Cross on keyboards. The opening “Taurus 1” first clicks away under a pulsing drum-machine, until Phil Collins and Mike Frye kick in, revealing a potent rocker. It's got that Oldfield vibe, slightly folky, slightly not, adorned with a battery of keyboard tones and his unique guitar tone. “Sheba”, again with Collins on drums, features Riley on vocoder. Her vocal contribution is unique to the album, as it is mostly wordless and helps define the record. “Conflict” comes across just as one would expect, Oldfield's guitar soaring above the drum patterns of Frye and Morris Pert. Two cover versions are next, with Abba's “Arrival” closing the first side, and the Shadow's “Wonderful Land” opening the second. Oldfield does a great job of appropriating the material, and with the help of longtime collaborator David Bedford, making them fit with his original material. “Mirage” sounds very familiar, copping a riff seemingly straight from his Tubular Bells, but filled out with a horn section. The title track, named after Cunard's ocean liner, is another big composition, with a rousing chorus and double speed guitar. The album closes with the delicate “Molly”, dedicated to his daughter. Ultimately it is Hentschel's production that makes the album, a curious mix of new technology and old world themes. The album charted in the UK, rising to No. 27, and the following year saw Oldfield hit the road for his European Adventure Tour, with Riley, Frye, Cross, Pert and guitarist Rick Fenn from 10cc.
In late 1979, Dave Brock, Simon King and Harvey Bainbridge, were eager to resurrect the old Hawkwind banner and hit the road, completing the lineup with two old friends; ex-Gong member Tim Blake, a friend of the band from a decade ago when they first signed to Clearwater Productions, and guitarist Huw Lloyd-Langton, who had last played with Hawkwind on their debut album almost a decade prior. Signing to Bronze Records (courtesy of Doug Smith), Live Seventy Nine was released out of the blue in June of 1980, yet to great acclaim: it reached No. 15 in the UK albums charts. A mix of re-energized old classics from the new lineup, it’s spearheaded by the two-guitar assault of Brock and Langton. Hawkwind headed to the studio in the late summer of 1980, but without drummer King, the precision of digital technology ending his long-standing reign with the band. His replacement was incredulously enough “the” Ginger Baker from Cream. Evidently Langton’s wife Marion’s connections helped recruit him into the Hawkwind fold. The ensuing album, Levitation, released in November, was yet another chapter in the Hawkwind saga, but a veritable start to their second decade. Taking a nod to the current New Wave of British Heavy Metal revival, “Motorway City” and “World Of Tiers” reveal a very powerful band, with one foot firmly rooted in heavy rock. It’s a direction that they’d pursue for years to come. Langton’s fluid lead guitar graces the anthem “Who’s Gonna Win The War” and “Dust Of Time”, while Blake’s synths feature on “Psychosis” and “Space Chase”. Brock’s vocals feature throughout. It reached No. 21 in the UK charts. The supporting tour as filled with the now-to-be-expected ups and downs of a Hawkwind tour, again resulting in the departure of band members. Blake got the sack after spending too much time on the phone with his then-girlfriend, while Baker, who never took to the live stagings of a Hawkwind show, was fired after attempting mutiny with replacement keyboardist Keith Hale. Story goes that “the world’s worst bass player” (Bainbridge) was the one to fire “the world’s best drummer”! Undaunted, the core of Brock, Lloyd-Langton, and Bainbridge would remain together, yet another version of Hawkwind just around the corner.
Parallel to his venture with Vangelis, Jon Anderson began a solo career. With Anderson at the helm producing, writing and arranging, he assembled a fantastic cast: Ronnie Leahy on keyboards, Ian Bairnson and Clem Clempson on guitar, John Giblin on bass and Morris Pert on drums. Several compositions were poised for Yes, including “Some Are Born”, “Everybody Loves You" and "Hear It", but it's quite obvious why they were never executed: don't go looking for Yes' music here. Anderson solo is a very different beast. “Don't Forget (Nostalgia)” breaks the mold, offering a subtle Caribbean tilt, while “Heart of the Matter” is straight R&B. “Take Your Time” misses the mark but “Days” exemplifies about everything Anderson's musical oeuvre is about: gentle, thoughtful, slightly spiritual, and perfectly performed by the band. Anderson saves the best for last: the epic title track provides more than a hint at Anderson's former band's greatness and grandeur. Anderson then mounted a full-on tour in late 1980, assembling “The New Life Band”, with Barry DeSouza and Morris Pert on drums, Jo Partridge on guitar, Ronnie Leahy on keyboards, saxophonist Dick Morrisay, bassist John Giblin, and Chris Rainbow (best known for his work with Alan Parsons) as an additional vocalist. In addition to the album, they performed two medleys, comprised of several Yes' classics and another from his collaboration with Vangelis. The album met with commercial indifference, breaking to the UK Top 40, while languishing in the US Top 200.