Magma's music didn't always revolve around its drummer and founder, Christian Vander. Formed in Paris in 1969, the band released two albums for Philips, the first in 1970 and the second in 1971. Some great musicians passed through their ranks, including bassists Laurent Thibault and Francis Moze, pianist François Cahen, guitarist Claude Engel and sax players Teddy Lasry and Yochk'o "Jeff" Seffer. Featuring compositions from Vander and the others, both albums were vaguely jazzy affairs. Of course, Vander's tracks, fueled with considerable dark matter, had the most unique trait: Their musical expression was sung in its own language, Kobaïan, a kind of scat-Germanic phonetic invention. Not only did Vander offer the language, but the entire Magma shtick: inverted tantric symbol, dark black dress and a post-apocalyptic sci-fi storyline. The sprawling double-album Magma offers a solid look toward their future, but musically offers something more grounded. "Kobaia" opens the album with a swing, propelled by Engel's guitar and a great chorus, before breaking down into something improvisational. "Malaria" approaches Gong weirdness, while "Auraë" is a not-quite-realized glimpse of Vander's future direction. The tracks written by Lasry, Cahen, Engel and Thibault on sides two and three present more conventional fusion, yet one distinctively Magma-fied. Their 1971 release Magma 2 (later renamed 1001° Centigrades) saw Engel temporarily depart, but marked another point in the band's development. Thibault was behind the 1972 side project Univeria Zekt and its commercially-minded album, The Unnamables; but then Magma splintered, with Cahen and Seffer departing to form the similar-minded Zao.
King Crimson imploded after their US tour in late 1969. Ian McDonald and Michael Giles had too much, too soon and would depart to record an eponymous record. Similarly, Greg Lake had met up with Keith Emerson while on tour, and agreed to form a band upon their return to the UK. Thus, Robert Fripp and Pete Sinfield were left with the reins of the band, and faced the task of recording the follow-up-though both Lake and Giles did make contributions to the album, with the latter's brother Peter Giles adding bass. With all the upheaval, little new material was written. The crazy "Cat Food" b/w "Groon" single came out in March, previewing where their next album would go; much of the material for this album then was culled from their current live set. The rocking "Pictures of a City" was first heard as "A Man, A City." The song covers the same territory as "21st Century Schizoid Man;" Mel Collins's horns and Giles's fabulous drumming are both sublime on the record. Another Crim archetype, the title track sees those stately melodies refined even further. It's those two tracks and the fierce Mellotron orgy "The Devil's Triangle," based on Gustav Holst's "Mars" (from the composer's orchestral suite, The Planets), that make up the bulk of the album. "Cadence and Cascade" also is reprised, here with Bournemouth native Gordon Haskell singing. Perhaps overlooked in Crim history, In The Wake Of Poseidon closely followed the model of its predecessor; however, it's a carefully constructed album, with excellent production being one of its many strengths. The cover featured The 12 Archetypes or The 12 Faces of Humankind by Tammo De Jongh. Like the band's previous work, the album was well-received, reaching No. 4 in the UK and No. 31 in the US. Collins, Haskell and pianist Keith Tippett would remain in Crim service for another album, barely.
Bassist John Gustafson was a member of the Merseybeat band The Big Three in the early 60s. With organist Peter Robinson, he first joined up with drummer Mick Underwood in Episode Six. That lineup, however, proved to be short-lived, as the trio went off to form Quatermass in July 1969. The band derived their name from Professor Bernard Quatermass, a character from the first science fiction program on the BBC in 1953. They signed to EMI's Harvest label and their debut was recorded at EMI Studios. Similar to Atomic Rooster and Deep Purple, their music is hard-driving organ rock that never forgets its R&B roots-just check out "Good Lord Knows." Robinson is a fine organist; his solo in "Gemini" is over-the-top, while "Make Up Your Mind" dances in more progressive steps. "Laughin' Tackle" features Robinson's string arrangements, but is interrupted, unfortunately, by a drum solo. All told, the album is a unique take on the bass-drum-organ combination and features a brilliant cover from Hipgnosis. Known as a formidable live act, the band managed to tour the US in 1971. However, with little success to show for their efforts, they broke up. Around the time of the album's release, both Gustafson and Robinson made significant contributions to the soon-to-be-released Jesus Christ Superstar album. Robinson would next team up with percussionist Morris Pert in Come To The Edge and then Suntreader; and much later in the timeline, Brand X. Gustafson formed Bullet/Hard Stuff with John Du Cann and Paul Hammond of Atomic Rooster, before turning to session work, most notably with Roxy Music and Ian Gillan.
John Charles Edward Alder, aka Twink (after a popular home perm kit), hailed from Colchester, Essex, where he had formed an R&B band called The Fairies. After moving to London in 1966, the band released three singles that went nowhere, so Twink joined The In Crowd, which later morphed into Tomorrow. After a spell with The Pretty Things, Twink and a soon to be ex-Tyrannosaurus Rex Steve Peregrine Took started an embryonic version of the Pink Fairies, the fruits of which became Twink's debut solo album, Think Pink. Released in 1970 on Sire Records in the US, the album was produced by Deviant Mick Farren and featured Took, guitarist Paul Rudolph, bassist Junior Wood (from Tomorrow and The Aquarian Age) and some of The Pretty Things. The album opens with the eastern-tinged "The Coming of the Other One," complete with sitar from Jon Povey. "Ten Thousand Words in a Cardboard Box" follows, and presents a heady dose of psychedelia with solid guitar from Rudolph. Following the Om mantra of "Dawn of Magic," another of the album's full-on electric numbers, "Tiptoe on the Highest Hill," offers sterling psychedelia. The sexy "Fluid" slows the pace, while "Mexican Grass War" is a drum-led freak out. "Rock An' Roll the Joint" dips back for some good old-time rock ‘n' roll, while "Suicide" is reminiscent of The Pretty Things. Took penned the last two tracks: "Three Little Piggies" is plain silly, and the closer, "The Sparrow Is a Sign," quite Bowie-esque. The album presents a Ladbroke Grove all-stars product-or as they were known-Pink Fairies Motorcycle Club & All-Star Rock & Roll Band. The album would see release in the UK in January 1971. Following the album's release, Twink teamed up with former Deviants Rudolph, Duncan Sanderson and Russell Hunter to start the Pink Fairies proper.
Originally from Oldham, Lancashire, guitarist John Lees, keyboardist Stuart "Wooly" Wolstenholme, bassist Les Holroyd and drummer Melvin Pritchard first turned professional together in 1967, drawing the names Barclay, James and Harvest out of a hat. Often described as "the poor man's Moody Blues," BJH did draw some similarities to their namesake, particularly that 60s vibe to their music. They released a pair of singles (including the folksy "Brother Thrush" b/w "Poor Wages") to some acclaim (notably DJ John Peel), before being signed to EMI's new Harvest label. Their debut album was produced by Norman Smith, but the record's rich orchestration from "resident musical director" Robert John Godfrey would be more characteristic of the band. "Taking Some Time On" is a wonderfully psychedelic song filled with awesome guitar from Lees, while "Good Love Child" contains a punchy if uncharacteristically rocking melody. "Mother Dear" and "The Iron Maiden" turn to folk influences; despite being immaculately executed, they wallow in earnestness. Clocking in at 12 minutes, the epic "Dark Now My Sky" is the album's magnum opus. The orchestra kicks off, topped with Lees's soaring lead guitar, and coalesces into a gentle melody before the waves of orchestra follow in to close. More than classically-inspired, the band and orchestra are a perfect fit for each other; though what it has do with rock music is anyone's guess. A second album, Once Again, saw release in February 1971, and the band then embarked on a UK tour accompanied by Godfrey and an orchestra. The next two albums for Harvest followed in similar fashion; however, it would take a label change and a live album for the band to finally hit the charts in the UK. BJH would endure fashion and fate for over two decades with their unique brand of staid, forthright music, eventually finding a substantial audience in Germany. Godfrey would form The Enid in 1973.
The Pretty Things donned their alter-ego Electric Banana to fill their coffers; they recorded three half-albums of very good psychedelia for library music producers DeWolfe Publishing between 1967 and 1969, while also appearing in the low-budget film with Norman Wisdom, What's Good for the Goose. The band even teamed up with a wealthy Frenchman, Philippe DeBarge, who commissioned them to record an album that featured himself on vocals! In Fall 1969, The Pretty Things headed back into EMI studios with producer Norman Smith. Skip Alan was back behind the drum kit; however, founding member Dick Taylor had departed and was replaced by guitarist Victor Unitt from the Edgar Broughton Band. The result is the dark psychedelia of Parachute. The album is split: one side reflecting city life and the other illustrating escape to the country, however, it flows together seamlessly, via Smith's masterful Abbey Road production and the band's infectious melodicism and vocal harmonies. "Miss Fay Regrets" and "Cries from the Midnight Circus" present a harder and heavier edge, while the second side's "Grass" is haunting, even without the Mellotron. It's another masterpiece from the band, in particular the epic suite of songs on the second side; and a testament to the Phil May and Wally Waller songwriting team. Although critically acclaimed upon release (there was talk of it being Rolling Stone's "Album of the Year"), the album spent only a few weeks on the UK charts, reaching No. 43, and saw belated release in the US on the Rare Earth label. Pete Tolson replaced Unitt shortly thereafter, yet touring and a phenomenal single ("October 26th" b/w "Cold Stone") didn't change the band's fortunes, and they briefly fell apart. The Pretty Things regrouped to record several albums in the 70s, with Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant and the Swan Song label. Yet commercial success continued to elude them, and by the early 80s the Pretties were no more.
Soft Machine's Third album represents a significant shift from previous efforts. Their stream of consciousness songwriting had now given way to straight-out instrumental fusion. The album presents four compositions, each spanning one album side-adding to the confusion as to whether the Softs were still a rock band. The change was so intense within the group that the only vocal track, Robert Wyatt's superb "Moon in June," was recorded (the first section anyway) without participation from any other member. The change was precipitated by the arrival of a four-piece brass section, led by saxophonist Elton Dean, in late 1969. This short-lived septet was a monster, just witness live recordings of Hugh Hopper's opener "Facelift." But by the time the Softs got around to recording the album, only Dean and saxophonist Lyn Dobson remained. The version here was recorded live in January by the quintet. Mike Ratledge's "Slightly all the Time" suffers from languor and foreshadows the direction he would take the band; but his redemption comes just two sides later, in the quasi-electronic "Out-Bloody-Rageous." The album remains a landmark recording of British jazz-rock and even managed to bring the Softs onto the UK charts, resting at No. 18. Without Dobson, the quartet would soldier through one final album, Fourth, before Wyatt quit. Then, under Ratledge's exclusive direction, Soft Machine would continue in the direction of instrumental jazz-rock. In this iteration, they recorded several albums-some distinguished, some not-but all worthy of a listen. By mid-decade, however, the band would be hijacked by ex-Nucleus bandmates and contain no original members.
Hailing from Hammersmith, London, Brian Auger was a jazz pianist and session man, most notable for playing the harpsichord on The Yardbirds' single "For Your Love" b/w "Got to Hurry" in March 1965. Later, Auger became a member of Steampacket with singers Julie Driscoll, Long John Baldry and Rod Stewart, where he shined on the Hammond organ. The band, however, produced no real recordings (apart from some demos); so along with Driscoll and Victor Briggs, they next formed The Trinity, scoring a No. 5 hit in 1968 with Bob Dylan's "This Wheel's on Fire" b/w "A Kind of Love-In." Departing with Driscoll in 1969, Auger then teamed with Dave Ambrose, Clive Thacker and Gary Boyle for another album, Befour, released in July 1970. The album opens with a stiff cover of Sylvester "Sly" Stewart's "I Wanna to Take You Higher;" though, of course, Auger's command of the Hammond organ is second to none. Cover versions fill the remainder of the first side, ranging from French composer Gabriel Fauré to Traffic and Herbie Hancock. In particular, the latter's "Maiden Voyage" is best suited for the quartet, offering a sublime slice of fusion, with Boyle's clean lines are the perfect complement to Auger's Hammond tone. The second side adds further covers, including another stab at classical music, before closing with Auger's supreme groove on "Just You Just Me." Auger then split with both Trinity and manager Giorgio Gomelsky, and formed his Oblivion Express in 1970, most notably with Robbie McIntosh and Jim Mullen. Singer Alex Ligertwood joined for the album Second Wind, but by 1972, Trinity had collapsed and Auger moved to Paris. He eventually regrouped the band and found success touring the US with his soulful music. After a series of live albums, a final studio album appeared in 1977.
United Artists released Last Exit following Steve Winwood's departure to Blind Faith. A collection of live tracks and singles, it rose to No. 19 in the US. However Blind Faith barely got started before it ended; and Winwood's next move, tentatively titled Mad Shadows, was originally conceived as a solo record. With the addition of Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood, the album quickly became a Traffic release, and stands as one of the band's finest recordings. Having abandoned any trace of psychedelia from their previous work, Traffic stretch out into instrumental improvisation without ever noodling around. The band tears down the first side of the record with "Glad/Freedom Rider;" the former is a driving instrumental that cops its central groove from Soft Machine's "We Did It Again." Winwood's ability to merge his influences (and handle both keyboard and guitar duties) is impeccable, and certainly cemented his ever-growing reputation as an artist. Both "Empty Pages" and "Stranger to Himself" present a mature Winwood and foreshadow his massive solo success a decade later. "Every Mother's Son" sounds like a Blind Faith leftover, yet it breaks down into some of Winwood's finest organ playing. But the highlight of John Barleycorn Must Die is the sublime acoustic arrangement of its title track, based on a traditional folk song. The album was a bona fide success, reaching No. 5 in the UK and No. 11 in the US.
Yes' second album didn't break much new ground for the band, but it did confirm what most already knew: that they were a force to be reckoned with. In the studio, Eddie Offord sat, fortuitously, at the engineer's desk for the first time with the band. Yet Time And A Word wouldn't be the quantum leap Yes needed to propel them into the big league. In fact, the only leap here was Tony Cox's orchestral arrangements, a rather de rigueur post-psychedelic ornamentation of the day. To their credit, the strings (including quotes of Gustav Holst's "Jupiter") work better here than on other albums from the era, thanks in part to Tony Colton's up-front production. The album has a huge sound, relentlessly propelled by the Squire and Bruford rhythm team. But the star of the album is the grinding organ of Tony Kaye; classic in tone and always in the right place, whether anchored to the rhythm, counterpoint to Peter Banks's guitar or at its best, to the fore. The band still aren't 100 percent on original tunes, as capable covers of Richie Havens and Stephen Stills songs comprise half of the first side. The Jon Anderson-penned "Then" is particularly satisfying, while his "Clear Days" benefits from Cox's "Eleanor Rigby"-style arrangement. Anderson's lyrics tackle some cosmic themes for the first time on "Astral Traveller," something he'd return to on subsequent albums. With his old mate in The Warriors, David Foster, they co-wrote both "Time and a Word" and "Sweet Dreams," two great pop songs that would crop up in Yes' live set over the next decade. The album managed to crack the UK charts, rising to No. 45. Banks left the band just after the album was released; so soon that it's his replacement, Steve Howe, who appears on the album's US cover.
Hailing from Esher, Surrey, singer/drummer Paul "Sandy" Davis and guitarist Alan Cowderoy were in a blues-inspired combo called The Disciples. They eventually teamed up with drummer Robert Lipson and keyboardist Martin Kitcat, and were chosen to support The Who's national UK tour in 1968. Sessions with Norrie Paramor and Tim Rice yielded only a single for Polydor, but a gig supporting King Crimson in 1969 turned them full-on progressive as Gracious!. During a 1969 German tour, Tim Wheatley replaced Mike Laird on bass, and the band then landed a deal with Vertigo Records. Their debut album Gracious! was recorded in 1970 and featured a stark white cover with just an exclamation point. "Introduction" opens: under a chomping harpsichord, the band offer a curious mix of blues, pop and progressive rock. Davis's voice is first rate, reminiscent of Paul McCartney, and his lyrics have a religious bent. "Heaven" brings on the Mellotron, but unfortunately some terrible lyrics: "Do you have a clean mind?" The following "Hell" provides juxtaposition. It's darker and heavier, with phased cymbals crashing away; Kitcat's keyboard skills feature prominently. "Fugue in D Minor" is just that-a classical fugue-but the ensuing "The Dream" is an epic suite. After a slow introduction, Cowderoy lights up his electric guitar for a bluesy little vamp, before trading off with Kitcat's electric piano. It's improvised, but not without structure. Davis then goes all psychedelic, offering an Arthur Brown-type rant, before the Mellotron kicks in; the band's all fireworks, their blues influence never far away. Although the album saw release in the US on Capitol Records, success just wasn't in the cards for the band. A second album, This Is, was recorded in 1971, but the band was dropped by Vertigo; and by the time it saw release on Phillips budget label, Gracious! had already broken up. The album features another of their epic compositions, "Supernova."
In 1969, guitarist Dave Brock, guitarist Mick Slattery and drummer Terry Ollis gathered saxophonist Nik Turner and synthesist Michael "Dik Mik" Davies; and after a few name and personnel changes, they launched the ultimate underground band, Hawkwind. The band came to the attention of Doug Smith of Clearwater Productions (via DJ John Peel) after opening (as "Group X") for High Tide at a gig Smith organized at All Saints Hall in Notting Hill. Demos were then recorded at EMI Studios (as Hawkwind Zoo), and Huw Lloyd-Langton then replaced Slattery. Signed to United Artists, their debut album was produced in April of 1970 by the recent ex-Pretty Thing Dick Taylor. The bulk of the album, a big live jam known as "Sunshine Special," was separated into tracks for the record. It's total psychedelic improvisation, akin to Pink Floyd's early sonic excursions. But the key to its uniqueness is Hawkwind's relative lack of musical proficiency; they managed to use this handicap as a gateway to originality, though maybe the drugs also helped. Though perhaps initially at odds with other progressive groups, Hawkwind would experience a musical "progression" over the next several albums. The record is bookended by two tracks, the perennial favorite "Hurry on Sundown," an upbeat folksy number, and its cousin "Mirror of Illusion," both forged from Brock's days as a busker. Like all their albums for United Artists, it saw release in both the UK and US. Bassist John Harrison left the band shortly before the album's release, the first of a myriad of personnel changes for the band.
By mid-1969, Caravan enlisted the services of manager Terry King, who in turn secured the band a long-term recording contract with Decca Records. First out was the Soft Machine-esque single "If I Could Do It All over Again, I'd Do It All over You" b/w "Hello Hello." It had some success, which resulted in a Top of the Pops appearance for the band, perhaps also raising the bar for their second effort, to which the band responded with the incredulously titled If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You. The humor was ever-present, of course, with song titles (e.g. "And I Wish I Were Stoned") emblematic of what would become typical Canterbury humor. Each side of the record opens with a side of the 45 single; however, the album plays straight through, in another of the so-called Canterbury tradition: continuous play. "As I Feel I Die" starts off meekly, but picks up at a brisk pace as it unfolds. "With an Ear to the Ground / You Can Make It / Martinian / Only Cox / Reprise," the first in a Caravan tradition of multi-section suites, contains some particularly delicate moments, thanks in part to Jimmy Hastings's flute work. But their greatest strength here is excellent songwriting, both highly original and with a slightly psychedelic bent. Caravan's groove was neither funky nor bluesy, yet it had an undeniable swing. Sweeping melodies dominate, flowing in between with riff and groove-most notably on the epic (and appreciably hard-rocking) segment of "For Richard."
Rare Bird were part of Tony Stratton-Smith's Charisma Records stable of artists. Formed in 1969, the original lineup was built around two keyboardists, Graham Field (born Stansfield) and Dave Kaffinetti, who added Steve Gould on bass and vocals and Mark Ashton on drums. Their self-titled first album was released in late 1969 and featured classically-inspired organ rock, best demonstrated with the track "God of War." Yet it was the "Sympathy" b/w "Devils High Concern" that rose to No. 27 on the UK charts and sold a million copies worldwide. Rare Bird's next album, the wonderfully titled As Your Mind Flies By, is generally regarded as a prog rock classic. Continuing the direction of their previous album, "What You Want to Know" opens and one thing is instantly clear: Gould's soul-tinged voice is powerful and untamed; to wit, the short "Down on the Floor" aches with overwrought emotion. "Hammerhead" offers a model similar to labelmates Van der Graaf Generator or Genesis-the band performs perfunctory prog rock; driven by Field's organ and the excellent rhythm section of Gould and Ashton, Kaffinetti's piano adds a distinct color. "I'm Thinking" furthers it, offering an even more detailed arrangement. The second side is encompassed by the album's side-long track "Flight." It's quintessential music that stands up to the band's contemporaries: driving rhythm, plenty of organ, slightly chaotic digression and a gloriously ostentatious finale-though why the vocals on "Central Park" sound like a tortured Greg Lake is anyone's guess. Prior to their third (and largely underrated) 1972 album Epic Forest, Field and Ashton would depart, the former releasing one eponymous album of heavy organ rock-Fields-with ex-King Crimson Andrew McCulloch, and guitarist/bassist Alan Barry.
Having graduated from Charterhouse, Genesis-vocalist Peter Gabriel, guitarists Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips and keyboardist Tony Banks-decided to become professional musicians; and in the summer of 1969, set off to do so. Replacing John Silver, drummer John Mayhew was found via a Melody Maker advert. They settled into old classmate (and road manager) Richard MacPhail's parents' cottage and began writing and rehearsing. It was in these idyllic surroundings and under the influence of King Crimson's debut album that the band's early compositions and live set congealed. Meanwhile, they began gigging, anywhere anyone would book them. It was during a brief residency at Ronnie Scott's (Upstairs) that Tony Stratton-Smith first went to hear them (on producer John Anthony's recommendation), and in a leap of faith, signed them to his Charisma label. They entered Trident Studios to record their second album in June. Trespass is gentle, immature and one hundred percent Genesis. Most everything the band would be known for can be found within, albeit in nascent form: the 12-string guitars, the lyricism and drama, and above all, the originality. You had to hand it to Stratton-Smith: Leaving bands to their own devices, he allowed each group to evolve into their own particular and sometimes peculiar style. Genesis was no exception. "Looking for Someone" is delicate, but full of dynamics. Other standouts include the elegant "Stagnation," with one of Banks's most sensitive organ solos, and their raucous and electric set-closer, "The Knife." Shortly after the recording, Anthony Phillips decided to leave the band. With the departure of one of their primary songwriters, Genesis' future was left uncertain.
Gentle Giant rose from the remains of the Shulman brothers' pop group, Simon Dupree & the Big Sound. That band had some minor chart success when the single "Kites" b/w "Like the Sun, Like the Fire" broke into the UK Top 10 in late 1967. More surprisingly were the legions of teenage girls that the band attracted, as documented in the British television show Man Alive. But at the turn of the decade, the three Shulman brothers-Derek, Ray and Phil-were ready to make the switch over to a more serious, progressive sound and show the world their considerable musical talents. They teamed up with Royal Academy of Music graduate Kerry Minnear on keyboards and drafted Gary Green to play guitar, while Martin Smith would be the band's first drummer. Their first album was released on the Vertigo label, one of the new labels catering to the burgeoning progressive sound. An auspicious debut, Gentle Giant would become one of the more celebrated and cerebral bands of the progressive era, with their complex arrangements, shifting time signatures and expansive artillery of instruments all trademarks of the band. Some of that is here in their debut; particularly on "Giant," with its excellent keyboard break, and "Alucard" ("Dracula" backwards), with its huge Minimoog bass line. Composition would also remain Gentle Giant's strong suit. Take "Nothing at All"-gentle folk number? Not really. It breaks down into a cacophony of phased drums and piano. The bluesy digression of "Why Not" offers some of the same, but also reveals another Giant tradition-the ability to rock out-something the band (but not the genre) would never forget. Charting, however, would always be a problem, especially in their native England.
For his second release, Shooting At The Moon, Ayers left his Soft Machine cohorts behind and assembled his first band, the Whole World. Composer/keyboardist David Bedford carried over, but new on deck were busker-extraordinaire/saxophonist Lol Coxhill and a young Mike Oldfield on bass. Various drummers would round out the lineup, including Robert Wyatt and Dave Dufort; but Mick Fincher filled in for this album. And what a weird album it is! "May I?" opens, an archetypical Ayers ballad. Bluesy, sexy and oh-so decadent, it showcases his keen songwriting talent. From there the album bounces from Softs-esque psychedelia to pure Dada nonsense and back, before recovering with the playful "Clarence In Wonderland" and its wonderful chorus. It's a tune he would perform during his brief 1971 stint with Gong. The album closes with "Shooting at the Moon," a song that Soft Machine performed as "Jet-Propelled Photograph" during Ayers tenure with the band. He would record another two albums for Harvest, Whatevershebringswesing and Bananamour. Released in 1972 and 1973 respectively, the former featured the Whole World and Didier Malherbe, while the latter saw bassist Archie Legget and drummer Eddie Sparrow on deck. Both are full of onomatopoeia, Dada, would-be hits, off-kilter arrangements and brilliant songwriting, always attracting critical acclaim but never earning commercial success. Even the should-have-been-a-hit single "Caribbean Moon" b/w "Take Me to Tahiti," released in 1973, somehow failed (be sure to watch the promotional film). Harvest would later release a compilation album from this period of singles and sundry tracks, appropriately titled Odd Ditties, in 1976.
Pink Floyd's fifth album, Atom Heart Mother, appeared a full year after the disappointing studio half of Ummagumma. Originally titled "The Amazing Pudding," the album's side-long title suite was an amalgam of work the Floyd had been kicking around at the time. Of course, 1970 turned out to be the year for adding orchestras to rock music, something to which even the Floyd would succumb. Composer Ron Geesin was called in to score the already-recorded backing track. He and Roger Waters had first collaborated almost two years prior (though the soundtrack, The Body, would see release in November). Yet the piece's wavering tempo and the so-called "professional" musicians' attitudes nearly proved his undoing. "Father's Shout" rises to David Gilmour's cinematic main theme, while "Breast Milky" continues the (more or less) symphonic nature of the track. The choir takes over on "Mother Fore" until Gilmour's bluesy licks open "Funky Dung." From there, the main theme reprises itself between blasts of Mellotron and shouts of choir, before the final section, "Remergence," offers one last big finale. For the most part, the effort fails, as the concept is more interesting than the execution. But what an experiment it was! A clutch of songs from the individual band members fill the second side. "If" proves to be a Waters archetype, while Rick Wright's Beach Boy-esque "Summer ‘68" remains one of his finest offerings. The last track, the group composition "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast," is somewhat of a sleeper; though full of gauzy melodies, psychedelic it certainly is not. In fact, it's probably the most un-Floyd-like song the band would write. The album cover offered no name or title: only the picture of a cow, the magnificent Lullubelle III. Despite the lack of critical zeal for the record, it turned out to be Pink Floyd's first No. 1 album in the UK. Although EMI would release an essential compilation of singles, Relics, the following May, little would be heard from the Floyd over the next year.
Formed in 1968 in the The Hague, Supersister was comprised of Robert Jan Stips (vocals and keyboard), Sacha van Geest (flute), Marco Vrolijk (drums) and the non-bespectacled Ron van Eck (bass). Extensive play from pirate ship Radio Veronica brought the band's first single, "She Was Naked" b/w "Spiral Staircase" to No. 11 on the Dutch charts in May 1970, and helped land a contract with Polydor Records. Their debut album Present From Nancy appeared in the fall. Between the Mike Ratledge-inspired tones of Stips's keyboards, the musical quirkiness-quick shifting meters and jazz-inspired rhythms-Supersister draws a parallel to the music of Soft Machine. After the introductory "Introductions," a quick blast of fuzz bass opens "Present from Nancy;" Stips's piano teems with life, bouncing effortlessly across the tune. He switches to organ on "Memories Are New" before the track descends into chaos, while the following "11/8" turns again to fuzz. "Dreaming Wheelwhile" slows the pace, a welcome respite to the album's first side. After the brief "Corporation Combo Boys," side two's "Mexico" builds slowly before erupting into "Metamorphosis." The closing "Dona Nobis Pacem" ("Grant us Peace") does just that; but, true to Supersister's form, gets silly at the end. Again, much like Soft Machine's early work, the album pinch's that stream-of-consciousness that would help define the so-called Canterbury style. To the Highest Bidder arrived in the summer of 1971, offering four tracks that display the band's jazzier side. Nominated for a prestigious Edison music award in the Netherlands, the album also saw release in England on John Peel's Dandelion label.
Web released two albums of late-60s pop for Deram, both produced by Mike Vernon. When their American singer John Watson left to go solo, Dave Lawson, previously in a lineup of Episode Six, joined as keyboard player, singer and main composer. He brought a huge stylistic shift for the band, leaving behind northern soul for something far more jazzy and progressive. Lawson had finished a five-year stint with the Royal Air Force; but prior to that, had studied under British jazz pioneer Stan Tracey. Web was rounded out by two percussionists, Lennie Wright and Kenny Beveridge, as well as Tony Edwards on guitar, John Eaton on bass and Tom Harris on horns. I Spider blasts opens with "Concerto for Bedsprings." Powerful one moment, light and jazzy the next, it's an original mix of progressive music-recalling the fury of VdGG or Colosseum-and foreshadows Lawson's future work. The title track creeps up over a swirling organ, building slowly to great effect. Guitarist Edwards has his moments on "Love You," while the percussion and keyboards are upfront on the instrumental "Ymphasomniac." "Always I Wait" highlights Lawson's vocal meter as his musical signature; he wields it like an instrument. At the same time, the combination of vibes and horns are unique and rare for the era. After Polydor Records released the album, Web were off touring the breadth of England, and even performed dates in Scandinavia. But success was elusive, and the band folded abruptly, only to reappear as Samurai a few months later.