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Circus > Circus

September, 1969
UK
Transatlantic Records
3
The Surrey-based Stormsville Shakers had their start in 1961. Like The Yardbirds, also from Surrey, they gigged relentlessly, playing R&B and often backing American musicians visiting the UK. Prior to recording a couple of singles in the late 60s, the Shakers changed their name to the more contemporary sounding Circus. Released in 1967, their first single "Gone Are the Songs of Yesterday" b/w "Sink or Swim" was written by the Shakers' founder, Phillip Goodhand-Tait. Yet following one more single, Goodhand-Tait left the band to concentrate on a career as a songwriter, following his success with Love Affair's cover of "Gone are the Songs of Yesterday" and a contract from Dick James Music. Now, Circus consisted of original bassist Kirk Riddle, guitarist and vocalist Ian Jelfs, and most famously to progressive fans, sax player and flautist Mel Collins. Prior to recording their debut album for Transatlantic Records, Chris Burrows joined on drums. A cover of The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" opens the album. Clocking in at over seven minutes, the dirty rhythm of Riddle and Burrows propels the spirited interpretation, aided by Jelfs's thick-toned guitar. Collins's "Pleasures of a Lifetime" features a gentler tone and chords from Jelfs's guitar, and transitions to a swinging break with Collins's sax solo; it's a mature number, with sympathetic lyrics. Sonny Rollins's "St. Thomas" and the brief "Goodnight John Morgan" come across as jazz-by-numbers. "Father of My Daughter," also a Collins composition, is another gentle affair, benefited by tabla; while the Charles Mingus cover "II B.S." again shows the band's fiery blues side. But further covers, of John Phillips's "Monday Monday" and Tim Hardin's "Don't Make Promises," are mediocre at best. The band scored a residency at the Marquee Club in the spring of 1969, and a second album was reportedly in the can; but Collins received an offer to join King Crimson, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Nice > Nice, The

September, 1969
United States
Immediate
3.75
Upon review, The Nice's self-titled third record is certainly not their strongest effort, as it fails to offer any progress on the band's prior two releases. The album opens with "Azrael Revisited," though Keith Emerson's piano is an inferior substitute to David O'List's guitar on the original single. Evidently short on material, The Nice then add two covers: A particularly languid reading of Tim Hardin's "Hang On to a Dream" did little but break into an extended solo from Emerson, while Bob Dylan's "She Belongs to Me" is laborious at best. With its jazzy horn arrangements, "For Example" fares better, offering a solid bite of the band's formula. The second side of the record was recorded during the band's first tour of the US, at the Fillmore East in New York. The Nice were in their element on stage, and the live rendition of "Rondo (69)" gives a good estimation of what the fuss was all about. Oddly, the album was the first for The Nice to chart, rising to No. 3 in the UK. And yet, disappointed by their stagnant success (and perhaps also their lack of material), Emerson would barely make it through the year with the band. Still, two posthumous albums were released, again mainly taken from live recordings. The first, Five Bridges Suite, released in June 1970, would be the most successful Nice album, reaching No. 2 in the UK. Its attraction was the suite of the same name, recorded live with an orchestra at Fairfield Halls. Released in April 1971, Elegy also would make the UK Top 5. Lee Jackson subsequently formed Jackson Heights, releasing four nondescript albums over the next three years, before teaming up again with Brian Davison in 1973 in The Nice-clone Refugee. Emerson was immediately off to Emerson, Lake & Palmer, where formula first proposed with The Nice would reach its natural conclusion.

The Aerosol Grey Machine > Van Der Graaf Generator

September, 1969
United States
Fontana
3.22222
Here begins the musical quest of Van der Graaf Generator. Led by the indefatigable Peter Hammill, he would divide his time between leading VdGG and a prolific solo career over the next decade; though where those lines separate could at times prove difficult to identify. The band had already been through a couple of iterations by the time it got around to recording The Aerosol Grey Machine. Hammill and Chris Judge Smith first formed the band with organist Nick Pearne in 1968 while still at Manchester University. Moving to London, the duo spent the next year attempting to record, having already secured a recording contract with Mercury Records. More fruitful was the assembly of a full band, with Hugh Banton on organ, Guy Evans on drums and Keith Ellis on bass, as well as a relationship with Charisma impresario Tony Stratton-Smith. However, Judge left the band after they recorded their first single "People You Were Going To" b/w "Firebrand;" and after a few gigs, their equipment was stolen and the band split up. Though he'd originally planned to record a solo album, Hammill rounded up the others in July 1969 to record what was eventually released as the first VdGG album. "Afterwards" opens and immediately reveals the album's promise: a gentle, indeed, beautiful song that introduces Hammill's highly emotional voice, which is as distinct as his songwriting. The following the two parts of "Orthenthian St." and "Into a Game" provide further insight into what the band could offer. Evans's delicate drumming and Banton's monstrous organ would remain hallmarks of VdGG, while Ellis's thick, rhythmic bass would only propel this album. Both "Necromancer" and "Octopus" continue to demonstrate the band's virtuosity; and in true VdGG fashion, the album closes in a chaotic finale. Oddly, the album was only released in the US.

The Deviants 3 > Deviants

October, 1969
US
Sire
0
While The Beatles and others may have represented the acceptable face of psychedelia, the Summer of Love also spawned the murkier underground of the Ladbroke Grove area; The Social Deviants, Pink Fairies and, most famously, Hawkwind were at the top of the class. With his art school background, Mick Farren was a fixture of London's underground. He was a staffer at International Times and a UK wannabe White Panther. In 1967, he formed The Social Deviants with Sid Bishop, Cord Rees and Russell Hunter. Funded by a rich kid (Nigel Samuel), Ptooff! was released independently, via the newspaper's network of counter-culture shops in London (and later reissued on Decca Records). Disposable appeared a year later, with Duncan Sanderson now on bass; but the addition of Canadian guitarist Paul Rudolph in 1969 inspired the band's masterwork, The Deviants 3. Produced by Roy Thomas Baker and released (somehow) on the folky Transatlantic label, the album was all Deviants: a large dose of 50s rock ‘n' roll, fuzzed-out psychedelia and Zappa-inspired weirdness. "Broken Biscuits" is highly proto-punk, while "First Line (Seven the Row)," represents the typical blues-inspired rock of the era, and reveals Rudolph's expertise as a guitarist. "Metamorphosis Explosion," however, is the one track to remember. Farren's vocals are decent, and his words here unexceptional; but when the singing part fades away and the band kicks into gear, the song transforms into underground rock at its finest. However, a US tour in 1969 proved near-fatal when Rudolph, Sanderson and Hunter split from Farren; all would eventually be rectified when they reunited as the Pink Fairies.

Hot Rats > Zappa, Frank

October, 1969
United States
4.2
Raised in the high desert outside of Los Angeles, legend has it that a young Frank Zappa (b. 1940) was granted a long-distance phone call for his fifteenth birthday: the recipient was 20th century composer and musical pioneer Edgard Varèse (actually his wife). Zappa's first release was in late 1966. Credited to The Mothers of Invention, Freak Out! was a sprawling double-album with little precedent; it shunned the burgeoning hippie vibe of the West Coast for something far stranger: a mélange of music styles, ranging from highbrow classicism to down-in-the-gutter rock ‘n' roll. Retaining only Ian Underwood from the original Mothers, Hot Rats was Zappa's first "solo" record, and remains one of his most monumental achievements. The opening track "Peaches en Regalia" is a brief but engaging sample of what's in store: sprightly melodic arrangements, wonderful execution, a sound that's jazzy but nowhere near traditional jazz. The album is reputedly one of the first recorded to sixteen-track tape; and that's Underwood playing all the brass, flute and keyboard parts—no simple feat! "Willie the Pimp" features a cursory vocal appearance from cohort Captain Beefheart, but what Zappa is really pimping here is himself; the track is one of his most overt displays of his lead guitar playing. "Son of Mr. Green Genes" again features Zappa's great musical arrangements, but the following "Little Umbrellas" does more with less. "The Gumbo Variations" is a down-and-dirty rocker with room for soloing, including Don Sugarcane Harris's violin. However, the closing track, "It Must Be a Camel" is the album's highlight: Zappa's composition is as engaging as it is unique; it simply defies categorization. The album was a commercial success, rising to No. 9 on the UK charts. Zappa would reactivate The Mothers and release countless records over the ensuing decades, though fanboys are directed to the period surrounding Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo for complimentary offerings to this record. Prolific, exacting and unprecedented, there's little argument about Frank Zappa's genius or his influence: countless artists would name check the man over the ensuing years.

Sea Shanties > High Tide

October, 1969
UK
Liberty
5
South Shields-born Tony Hill was a member of the US band The Misunderstood during their chaotic sojourn to London in the late 60s. A few years after the implosion of that band, Hill set his sights on a new group, teaming up with violinist Simon House, bassist Peter Pavli and drummer Roger "Rog" Hadden as High Tide. After landing a publishing deal with Apple Corps and finding management under Wayne Bardell and Clearwater Productions, the band signed with Liberty Records and set to record their debut album-yet in an odd arrangement: Denver "Denny" Gerrard was a recording artist for Deram who needed a backing band; so, in exchange for High Tide's services, the band was afforded studio time to complete Sea Shanties, released in October 1969. "Futilist's Lament" opens the album with a raw, aggressive blast of electric guitar and violin. There's no sugarcoating this psychedelic rock; rough at the edges, thundering and relentless, it's some of the heaviest rock of its time. "Death Warmed Up" continues the unabating thunder. House's violin, often played through a wah-wah, surges to uncomfortable heights. "Pushed, but Not Forgotten" offers some respite, highlighting Hill's deep 60s baritone voice. "Missing Out" offers some interesting interplay between Hill's overdriven guitar and House's violin, while the closing "Nowhere" hints at the blues, but with a progressive edge. It's a stunning debut, one simply without peer. The band's self-titled second album was released in 1970, and picked up where the debut left off. But despite constant gigging, it failed to sell, and their contract with Liberty was canceled. House then left for The Third Ear Band. Unable to get a third album going, High Tide fell apart; Hadden suffered a breakdown; and later, Hill and Pavli relocated to Puddletown, Dorset, to work with Drachen Theaker in Rustic Hinge. Eventually, Pavli would work with Michael Moorcock & The Deep Fix, while House would work with Hawkwind and later David Bowie's band.

In The Court Of The Crimson King (An Observation By King Crimson) > King Crimson

October, 1969
United States
Atlantic
4.842105
The painstakingly documented history of King Crimson begins with their birth on January 13th, 1969 in the basement of the Fulham Palace Café, London. The trio of Giles, Giles & Fripp had expanded a year earlier with the arrival of Ian McDonald. Lyricist Peter Sinfield, McDonald's songwriting partner, became the band's fifth member; this included the duties of road manager, light artist, resident hippie, etc. Yet at Robert Fripp's persistence, fellow Bournemouth guitarist Greg Lake joined on bass and vocals, replacing Peter Giles; Lake had previously been in The Gods. The recording of their debut album was twice abandoned (once with The Moody Blues' producer Tony Clark), but a third self-produced effort, with E.G. Management's David Enthoven and John Gaydon footing the bill, proved successful. The power of the band is immediately apparent as "21st Century Schizoid Man" blasts away: King Crimson resounds like nothing before it. Propelled by Michael Giles's inventive drumming, the band's interplay is precise, and their sound is simultaneously immense yet detailed; Fripp's screeching guitar solo is positively terrifying. The Mellotron figures prominently, dominating both "Epitaph" and the title track. This was no mere accessory; rather, the band were writing specifically for the instrument. It's an important point as the technology of the era was instrumental in defining the genre of progressive rock. The album's gentler moments, "I Talk to the Wind" and "Moonchild," showcase McDonald's ability as a composer and Fripp's grace (and considerable jazz influence) as a guitarist, especially in the latter's improvised half. Here the band is both mature and meticulous. Throughout the album, King Crimson display their talents. Listening to the flute solo in the title track, it's obvious that McDonald is an accomplished soloist; yet that he's showing us he can play is central to the progressive aesthetic as well: There is no hiding his virtuosity or creativity; in fact, he's flaunting it. Even Sinfield's words, sympathetic to Lake's voice, soar, though it's a matter of taste as to whether they "crack at the seam." In The Court Of The Crimson King sets a new standard for rock music, on what Pete Townshend called an "uncanny masterpiece." The cover art, a harrowing face painted by Barry Godber, also would set the album apart. King Crimson's timely supporting slot at The Rolling Stones' free concert in London's Hyde Park in July was most fortunate. Consequently, the album-arguably the first prog rock record-awaited a flurry of interest; it peaked at No. 5 in the UK, while in the US it broke into the Top 30. King Crimson ended their first year with a two-month tour of the US.

Ummagumma > Pink Floyd

October, 1969
United States
Harvest
3.714285
Released after the varied (but commercially successful) soundtrack More, Ummagumma was intended to be a tour de force for Pink Floyd. The two-record set is half-live and half-studio-recorded and constitutes the first release on EMI's new Harvest sub-label. Offering the first live document of the band, the first disc was culled from a series of concerts recorded in April and May. Here, "Careful with That Axe, Eugene," the archetype of their slow-building space rock, makes its first appearance on album. "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" and "A Saucerful of Secrets," along with the Syd Barrett-written "Astronomy Domine," also feature. Only "Interstellar Overdrive" from their live set is absent (though it does appear on a test pressing of the album). Whether the excitement of the live Floyd experience comes across on the record is open to debate. Nonetheless, it's a good trip, with the live record enduring as the definitive document of this era in Pink Floyd's career. When it came to new material, however, the band were in a conundrum; rather than committing The Man and The Journey, two song suites first debuted live in April 1969, the band chose to showcase themselves individually by featuring a solo composition from each member on the studio record. Unfortunately, they all come across as unsensational experimentation. Even Roger Waters's cleverly titled "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with A Pict" is merely cleverly titled. And yet, the album was the Floyd's most successful to date, reaching No. 5 in the UK; and at No. 74 in the US, also gave the band their first US chart appearance.

Bakerloo > Bakerloo

November, 1969
UK
Harvest, EMI
0
Guitarist David "Clem" Clempson and bassist Terry Poole founded The Bakerloo Blues Line in early 1968, in their native Tamworth, Staffordshire. The band went through a series of notorious drummers, including John Hinch, Pete York, Bill Ward and Poli Palmer, before Keith Baker joined the fold. Managed by Jim "Big Bear" Simpson, the band were an early signing of the EMI Records imprint Harvest, and have the distinction of opening for Led Zeppelin's debut gig in October 1968 at the Marquee Club. Their first release, "Drivin' Bachwards" b/w "Once upon a Time," saw release in May 1969—the former an interpretation of the fifth movement of J.S. Bach's "Lute Suite in E minor," more famously covered by Jethro Tull in August. Their debut album, produced by Gus Dudgeon, kicks off with a tribute to their manager. "Big Bear Folly," a raucous blues number steeped in the prevailing hard blues of 1969, features a fiery Clempson on lead guitar. "Bring It on Home," a Willie Dixon number, is more traditional, and the following "Drivin' Bachwards" even more so. "Last Blues" slows down and stretches out, creating an evocative mood accentuated by Poole's vocals. "Son of Moonshine," however, presents Bakerloo at their heaviest, with a little "Cat's Squirrel" thrown in for good measure. After a hectic year with nonstop touring, the band fell apart towards the end of 1969. Clempson then accepted an invitation to join Colosseum following James Litherland's departure. Poole and Baker went on to May Blitz, but left before any recordings were made. Poole would later perform with Graham Bond and Colin Blunstone, while Baker would play drums on Uriah Heep's Salisbury album.

Joy Of A Toy > Ayers, Kevin

November, 1969
United States
Harvest
3
After Kevin Ayers's split from Soft Machine, manager Peter Jenner and a contract from Harvest coaxed him away from Majorca. Back in England, he quickly assembled his old Softs cohorts at EMI Studios to record his debut solo album, Joy Of A Toy. New to the fold was David Bedford, a classical composer by trade, offering his arrangement skills and doubling on keyboards. The album jumps off with the classic (if dated) psychedelia of "Joy of a Toy Continued." Bedford's arrangement augments "Town Feeling," but it's really all Ayers. His distinctive baritone and no-nonsense approach belie his expressive talent. "Girl on a Swing" and "Eleanor's Cake (Which Ate Her)" are at once beautiful and wistful, even though "The Lady Rachel" is the favorite. Either way, Ayers's melodies are infectious. "Song for Insane Times" is Soft Machine-esque, with Mike Ratledge's truncated solo at the end being the dead giveaway. Both "The Clarietta Rag" and "Stop This Train (Again Doing It)" continue with merry psychedelia, though "Oleh Oleh Bandu Bandong" (something in Malaysian) is trippier. Ayers is a first-rate songwriter, and on this debut, a first-rate performer; but both wouldn't always hold true. Ayers released a couple of singles, but even "Singing a Song in The Morning" b/w "Eleanor's Cake Which Ate Her" recorded with Caravan and Syd Barrett, failed to raise interest. The album did see a release in the US; however, it failed to chart on either side of the Atlantic.

Renaissance > Renaissance (Yardbirds)

December, 1969
United States
Elektra
4.333335
Following the demise of The Yardbirds, guitarist Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty opted for a completely different direction than the American blues of their former band: music that combined classical, jazz and folk influences - how progressive! With Relf's sister Jane on vocals, bassist Louis Cennamo and pianist John Hawken were the keys to this new direction of "classical interpretation." The lengthy "Kings & Queens" opens the album; Relf's guitar takes a back seat to Hawken's piano, which paces through hook and quotation with surprising imagination. The band's execution throughout is impeccable: Cennamo and McCarty are a tight rhythm section, giving the arrangements a lift. Revealing a strong folk influence, Jane Relf takes her first crack at lead vocals on "Island." "Bullet," clocking in at over 11 minutes, gets gritty and ends with Cennamo's solo bass fading into an eerie chorus. All in all, it is an auspicious debut that managed to reach No. 60 in the UK. Renaissance recorded a second album, Illusion, the following year; however, it would not see release until 1971. Folksier, it contains the most vital track the band would record, the excellent "Past Orbits of Dust," featuring Don Shinn on electric piano. But the band had already begun to splinter: Hawken guided a transitional lineup in 1970 with some members of the Nashville Teens, but by the time the next Renaissance album was released in 1972, none of the original members would be present. However, adopting the name Illusion, Hawken, McCarty, Cennamo and Jane Relf would regroup in 1977 for two nondescript albums on Island Records.

The Grass Is Greener > Colosseum

January, 1970
United States
Dunhill
4.5
After James Litherland's departure to Mogul Thrash, Colosseum recorded a few new tracks and re-recorded some old ones with incoming guitarist and vocalist Clem Clempson, previously in the blues power trio Bakerloo. So instead of issuing Valentyne Suite in the US, the tracks were compiled as a new album, entitled The Grass Is Greener—but with the same cover. It saw release in January 1970, again on ABC Dunhill. The opening bells of "Jumpin off the Sun" signal another Colosseum stormer, but now with the much earthier voice of Clempson. Dave Greenslade's tuned percussion also features on the ensuing "Lost Angeles," where we first hear Clempson rip on guitar. The bluesy "Elegy," with a Litherland vocal, remains the only track held intact from the UK release. "Butty's Blues," another Litherland-penned tune, features Greenslade's fine organ work and a menacing bass line from Tony Reeves. Jack Bruce's "Rope Ladder to the Moon," with its distinct chorus, opens the second side and also offers Dick Heckstall-Smith a chance to shine. Maurice Ravel's Boléro is the source of the following track, while the short "The Machine Demands a Sacrifice" benefits from Clempson's vocal. Personnel changes again rattled the band: bassist Mark Clarke replaced Reeves and bluesman Chris Farlowe joined on vocals, allowing Clempson to concentrate solely on guitar. Colosseum would record two final albums in 1971: the studio-produced Daughter Of Time and a phenomenal two-record set, Colosseum Live. Both, again, only charted in the UK. Upon Colosseum's breakup in late 1971, Hiseman and Clarke formed Tempest, Farlowe joined Atomic Rooster, Clempson went to Humble Pie and Greenslade formed his own band with Reeves.

Concerto For Group And Orchestra > Deep Purple

January, 1970
United States
Warner Bros. Records
4.2
In 1968, Deep Purple scored great success in America with a cover of Joe South's "Hush," but their three albums for the Tetragrammaton label were patchy at best. Although the musicianship was high, with Jon Lord's classically-inspired organ breaks and Ritchie Blackmore's arpeggio runs and big riffs, they had a 60s-sounding vocalist in Rod Evans. Rocking-out Colosseum style, the instrumental "Hard Road (Wring That Neck)" from Book Of Taliesyn was arguably the best nugget from that period. When the label folded, the band regrouped and brought on Roger Glover and Ian Gillan from Episode Six. The first release from the Mark II lineup was Lord's five-part Concerto For Group And Orchestra. Recorded and broadcast from the Royal Albert Hall, the band warmed up with three songs ("Wring That Neck," "Child in Time" and "Hush") before launching into the "classical" piece. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra play, the band rocks out, the Philharmonic play some more, the band rocks out… and so it goes. Lord's classical writing is of soundtrack-quality at best, while the band's parts are typical heavy rock with a lot—and I mean a lot—of soloing. Not a great integration; but it was, as Lord said, "a beginning." Sounds more like an excuse. Still, it was Deep Purple's first charting album in the UK, hitting No. 26. Six months later, the band released the single "Black Night" b/w "Speed King" from the album In Rock. Lord's classical ambitions were shelved (though the band's version of his Gemini Suite would follow), and Blackmore now guided their heavy riffing formula off the timeline and on to mammoth international success as one of the premier heavy rock bands of the 1970s. Just look to Italy for more successful attempts at fusing rock music with an orchestra.

A Song For Me > Family

January, 1970
United States
Reprise Records
3.75
Family entered 1970 with perhaps their strongest lineup—vocalist Roger Chapman, guitarist Charlie Whitney and drummer Rob Townsend were now accompanied by bassist and violinist John Weider and Poli Palmer on keyboards and vibes. Their next album, A Song For Me, produced by the band, would be their most successful. "Drowned in Wine" blasts the record open, proving that the band's on-stage power could easily translate to vinyl. The album is littered with Chapman/Whitney classics, including the beautiful "Some Poor Soul" and the raucous "Love Is a Sleeper;" but the pair also collaborated with Weider, on the instrumental "93's O.K. J" and the long, rambunctious title track; and on the strong "Wheels" with the departed Ric Grech. The album presents a more eclectic and indeed electric selection of songs, with the arrangements also benefiting from Palmer's diverse instrumentation. Released in January, the album reached No. 4 in the UK. Further touring in the US failed to change their fortunes stateside, but there was no shortage of work in the UK; Family recorded for another three BBC programs. A single in August, "Strange Band" b/w "The Weaver's Answer"/"Hung Up Down," nearly broke the UK top 10. Released in November, the half-studio, half-live Anyway reached the UK No. 7. The album was comprised of new material, including the powerful studio track "Part of the Load." Originally intended as a double-album, the live side was recorded at Fairfield Halls in July; the concert was also filmed, but the video footage remains unreleased.

Atomic Rooster > Atomic Rooster

February, 1970
United States
B & C Records
4
Organist Vincent Crane and drummer Carl Palmer were first paired in The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. They split off during a US tour in 1969, and returned to England and formed Atomic Rooster (1969 was the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese Zodiac). According to legend, it was during a psychedelic experience that Crane first envisioned the "rooster," and after which his subsequent psychiatric problems began to surface. Crane was a huge fan of James Brown, while Palmer was into Buddy Rich; bringing both influences to Atomic Rooster imbued the band with its unique character. Multi-instrumentalist Nick Graham was recruited after a short list of names failed to pan out. Graham was a versatile musician-playing bass, guitar and flute, as well as providing vocals often reminiscent of The Who's Roger Daltrey. Propelled by Palmer's driving foundation, Crane's hard-rocking songs swell with progressive arrangements (check out the horn section of "Broken Wings") and his virtuoso keyboard skills. But it's on "Banstead," an epithet to the mental hospital where he had been admitted in 1969, where Crane turns the frenzy down a notch that his talent shines through. The elegiac "Winter" is similar, its sparse arrangement enhanced by a beautiful solo cello and flute from Graham. Unfortunately, lineup changes would plague the Rooster; shortly before the album's release, Graham quit the band. The album reached No. 49 in the UK, but by the end of the year, Palmer too had left, off to join Messrs. Emerson and Lake in ELP. Crane, undeterred, forged on.

Beggar Julia's Time Trip > Ekseption

February, 1970
US
Philips
0
Ekseption's history goes back to the mid-60s in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Trumpeter Rein van den Broek's high school band The Jokers morphed into The Incrowd, gaining keyboardist Rick van der Linden in 1966; subsequently they renamed themselves Ekseption. Both classically-trained musicians, driven on by The Nice's fusion of rock and classics, made a name for themselves-playing rocked-up versions of classical themes! Released in 1969, "5th Symphony" b/w "Sabre Dance," an arrangement of Ludwig van Beethoven's famous short-short-short-long motif, was an instant hit. The bustling horns, swirling organ and a driving rhythm was met with open arms and the single soared for weeks in the Dutch charts. Ekseption's debut album, released in the US as Symphonic Revelations on the Philips label, saw a further mix of classical and jazz standards, plus a cover of Jethro Tull's "Dharma For One" for good measure. Infinitely more interesting was their second album, Beggar Julia's Time Trip, released in 1970. The lineup had now shuffled a bit, adding drummer Dennis Whitebread, vocalist Michael van Dijk and flautist Dick Remelinck, along with producer Tony Vos on saxophone and electronics. In addition to the classical arrangements (here including J.S. Bach, Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Tomaso Albinoni), van der Linden shelled out over half an album's worth of original material; though one can't imagine why he didn't offer more like the multi-faceted monster of "Pop Giant." Coupled with Linda van Dyck's groovy spoken word and some electronic interludes, the album is an expertly performed classic, if one very much of the era. Ekseption continued offering classical rock for several more albums, before mutiny hit their ranks and van der Linden was asked to leave. He did, moving on to form the more progressive Trace in 1973. With new keyboardist Hans Jansen, Ekseption continued before breaking up in 1976.

The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other > Van Der Graaf Generator

February, 1970
United States
Probe/ABC
4
Following the release of The Aerosol Grey Machine, careful manipulation from Charisma label founder Tony Stratton-Smith released Peter Hammill from his contract with Mercury Records, allowing Van der Graaf Generator the freedom to join the Charisma stable of artists. Hammill and Hugh Banton then reunited the band, with Guy Evans recruiting bassist Nic Potter from The Misunderstood. Yet the arrival of sax player David Jackson, previously with Chris Judge Smith in Heebalob, was when all the pieces fell into place for the band. Thus constituted, VdGG begins in earnest with their second album, The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other. Mind you, VdGG weren't your typical band; effectively without electric guitar, Jackson's saxophone was the band's lead instrument and, in Roland Kirk style, he would even play two or three horns at a time. Banton was also key-an organist certainly in the league of Keith Emerson or Vincent Crane. The powerful "Darkness (11/11)" opens the album, immediately revealing VdGG's original craft. Jackson's wailing sax work is the band's signature, masking any trace of influence with his own originality. The elegant "Refugees" continues in the tradition of "Afterward," as does the second side's "Out of My Book." Both are in sharp contrast to the apocalyptic refrains of "After the Flood" and "White Hammer." Brash and brazen, the band alternate between calm and storm—another of the idiosyncrasies that would define their music. The album served as their debut in the UK, and even managed to do something that no other VdGG album would accomplish there: chart, at No. 47.

Magick Brother > Gong

March, 1970
France
BYG Records
3
The wacky world of Gong began in 1967, after Daevid Allen found himself ex-Soft Machine and stranded in France, courtesy of British Immigration. Returning to Paris, Allen secured a guitar, Binson amplifier and a "gynaecological surgical instrument" through benefactors; subsequently, he invented his trademark glissando guitar technique. Reunited with Gilli Smyth, the pair found like-minded musicians to create their improvised art. The earliest "magick brothers and mystic sisters" were Loren Standlee and Ziska Baum, as well as the proto-Gong Bananamoon band, with Patrick Fontaine and Marc Blanc (both later in Ame Son). But the student uprisings of May 1968 in France sent the couple to Majorca to avoid authorities. The couple returned to Paris in September 1969, enticed by a three-album deal with the French BYG (Fernand Boruso, Jean-Luc Young and Jean Georgakarakos) label. Didier Malherbe and Richard Houari, along with a few guests, participate in the sessions that produce the Magick Brother album. Opening with the sound of a gong, the title track unveils a loose, almost chaotic backdrop to Allen's songwriting. His penchant for a catchy melody is instantly identifiable, as are his lyrics: "Change the World" and "Chainstore Chant: Pretty Miss Titty" both contain his anti-establishment ethos. "Ego" highlights the jazzy yet wobbly nature of the group and Smyth's unique style of singing, or "space whisper." "5 & 20 Schoolgirls" dispenses with pointless soloing for a much tighter structure, and to great reward. Immediately following the album's completion, bassist Christian Tritsch, violinist Dieter Gewissler and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Laloux were recruited for live gigs, including an appearance at the Amougies Festival in October 1969.

Mona – The Carnivorous Circus > Farren, Mick

March, 1970
UK
Transatlantic Records
0
Following his ejection from The Deviants during their 1969 US tour, Mick Farren returned to the UK. With a contractual obligation to Transatlantic Records outstanding, he teamed up with guitarist Steve Hammond and both John Gustafson and Peter Robinson of Quatermass. Farren also enlisted Twink and Steve Peregrine Took, as a sort of precursor to the Pink Fairies, along with a few other mates. Both sections of "Mona,"-yes, the same Bo Diddley number covered by The Rolling Stones and The Troggs- are typical of Farren's love for rock ‘n' roll as he played it with The Deviants. The opening "Mona (A Fragment)" adds some congas to accentuate the beat, while the closing "Mona (The Whole Trip)" features some rough-sounding cello from arranger and Elton John cohort Paul Buckmaster. It's not easy listening by any stretch, but perhaps that's the point. Sandwiched in between is a rousing if unspectacular cover of "Summertime Blues." But the real meat of the album begins when the band, including bassist Gustafson and organist Robinson, join guitarist Hammond and drummer Twink for the funky, dark groove of "Carnivorous Circus." The second part is more varied, with transitions between the different sections that are sometimes quite abrupt. The final part, led by a lone, acoustic guitar, breaks down to thick, elegiac guitar lines. Farren would put his music career on the back-burner for the remainder of the decade. He would become a noted journalist, writing for New Music Express and International Times, and an author. His first novel, The Texts of Festival, was published in 1973.

Benefit > Jethro Tull

April, 1970
United States
Reprise Records
3.714285
Prior to the release of their third album, Jethro Tull scored another two Top 10 singles in the UK with "Sweet Dream" b/w "17" and "Witch's Promise" b/w "Teacher." The flip side of the latter single would become an FM radio staple in the US, where the band's success prompted their first headlining American tour. With Benefit, Jethro Tull puts the cap on their initial period, defined by their classic bluesy sound. In came Blackpool mate John Evan (yes, from the John Evan Band) on piano and organ, but more importantly, up went Ian Anderson the raconteur: With acoustic guitar in one hand and flute in the other, Anderson's original songwriting soars in such songs as "Sossity; You're a Woman" and "For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me." The album is darker and moodier than the band's previous output, yet just as exceptional. "Alive and Well and Living In" benefits from Evan's piano, while "Inside" reflects the album's toned-down nature. The record reached No. 3 in the UK and No. 11 in the US, and solidified Jethro Tull as one of the first commercially accepted and successful progressive rock acts, on par at the time with Led Zeppelin. Following the album's release, bassist Glenn Cornick left for Wild Turkey and was replaced by another John Evan Band alumnus, Jeffrey Hammond. His name might sound familiar, as he was the subject of a couple of prior Tull songs.