Named after the Terry Riley composition, Curved Air was another novel group of the progressive era; and the band had no shortage of talent, either. Violinist Darryl Way was a Royal College of Music graduate, while multi-instrumentalist Francis Monkman came from the competing Royal Academy of Music. Seeking to meld their knowledge of classical music and rock, the two joined forces as Sisyphus in 1969, adding drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa and bassist Robert Martin. They morphed into Curved Air when they added one of the most unlikely of progressive devices, the female voice. (Did I fail to mention that progressive rock was a near-exclusive men's club?) Fortunately, they found a capable singer in Sonja Kristina, recently released from the London production of Hair. As the opening track (and single) "It Happened Today" demonstrates, the band's music was ripe with West Coast influence. The second half of the album ascends into more classically-inspired territory; but overall, the album's highbrow orchestral embellishments are as unexciting as the average songwriting. That's not to say that the album isn't without some redemption. Monkman's echoed guitar work on "Propositions" is unique, as is his Mellotron on Way's "Situations." But even Way's violin tour de force "Vivaldi" ends up a screechy mess. Their debut album has the distinction of being the first picture disc, which no doubt helped propel it into the UK Top 10.
In the tradition of Cream and Humble Pie before them, Emerson, Lake & Palmer stand as the first supergroup of the progressive era, combining the talents of The Nice's keyboard player Keith Emerson, King Crimson vocalist and bassist Greg Lake and Atomic Rooster drummer Carl Palmer. Emerson and Lake first pitched the supergroup idea to each other in late 1969 at the Fillmore in San Francisco-the latter ostensibly interested because it would offer an outlet for his guitar-playing (something he'd never manage to pull off with Robert Fripp in King Crimson), and Palmer finally succumbed to his cajoling. The group's high-profile performance at the Isle of Wight Festival in August 1970 led to a signing with Atlantic Records. Thus situated, the band, with Lake producing and Eddie Offord engineering, got down to the business of being super. Much like The Nice, their brand of prog rock was based on virtuosity and appropriation. They lifted themes from composers such as Bartók and Janá?ek, in particular the opening "The Barbarian" and the second side's "Three Fates." Of course, Emerson's command of the Hammond organ is nothing short of superb; just listen to how he draws out the incredible tones on the menacing "Knife-Edge." "Tank" serves as a showcase for Palmer's considerable drum talents, with the track growing to mammoth proportions when performed live. Lake's "Take a Pebble" demonstrates his contribution to the Crimson puzzle and the gentler side of ELP. His "Lucky Man" was aptly named; the single charted in the US, reaching No. 48, despite Emerson's whooping Moog solo, one of the first (and most incredulous) in a rock context. Despite the blatant showing-off, success seemed to be in the band's cards from the start. The album rose to No. 4 in the UK, while reaching No. 18 in the US.
Sometime during King Crimson's first American tour in late 1969, multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald and drummer Michael Giles decided to part ways with their cohorts (they hated touring). Returning to England, they recorded this eponymous album, enlisting the help of Peter Giles on bass. Steve Winwood, who happened to be in the same studio recording his Mad Shadows project, also graces one track, "Turnham Green." As much as Robert Fripp would become synonymous with King Crimson, it's evident from these recordings that both McDonald and Giles were also important variables in the initial equation of the band. The opening track, "Suite in C," confirms that the Giles brothers made one powerful rhythm section; and although Michael's songwriting is limited to the wonderful "Tomorrow's People - The Children Of Today," it's the best track on the album. The "Flight of The Ibis" contains the original music to "Cadence and Cascade," an early Crim number, as the album also represents the differences between the duo and King Crimson proper. Lyrically, McDonald is more narrative than poetic, and his arrangements remain light, if not lighthearted. In particular, check out the lush arrangement of the second side's "Birdman," co-written with Pete Sinfield; it's a wild and varied affair, with the writing (for the most part) dating to 1968. The album offers a slightly psychedelic posture, but one replete with musical invention, and remains a minor classic from the era; however, it would be the only record from the duo. McDonald, who served five years in the 60s as a bandsman in the British Army, went into production, yet ended up in the hugely successful band Foreigner. Giles would switch exclusively to sessions, working with Jackson Heights, John G. Perry, Anthony Phillips and many others.
Hailing from Southport, Merseyside, Timebox was an excellent northern soul band that released a few singles during the mid-to-late 60s to no particular acclaim, other than being one of the few bands of the era to feature a vibraphone. The band did feature two gifted members, vocalist Mike "Patto" McGrath and guitarist Ollie Halsall, and was rounded out with Chris Holmes on keyboards, John Halsey on drums and Clive Griffiths on bass. In 1968, they scored a minor hit with the Four Season's "Beggin'" b/w "A Woman That's Waiting" for Decca Records, rising to No. 38 on the UK charts. However, an album provisionally titled Moose On The Loose remained uncompleted; and by the end of the decade, Holmes had split. Rechristened as Patto, the remaining quartet signed with Vertigo Records, enlisted the talents of producer Muff Winwood and made the switch from psychedelic to progressive. "The Man" kicks off and reveals the band's unique mix of blues and jazz, punctuated by Halsall's sexy vibraphone midway through. "Time to Die" slows the pace, with Mike Patto's coarse but earthy voice pushed to the fore. "San Antone" paces through some chord and time changes before dropping back into a fine swing, propelled by Halsey's hard-hitting drums. "Government Man" contains more of the fine hooks of the Patto/Halsall writing team, but the monster track is "Money Bag." Free jazz without keyboards, the song features Halsall's blistering guitar, contrasted with Griffiths's bass, while Halsey's drumming thrills. Mike Patto eventually chimes in, his fine prose accentuated by the music's dramatic rests. Though the album did not chart, the band's live reputation kept them in play for another record.
Bo Hansson spent the early 60s as a member of The Merrymen in his native Sweden. The band, which also included harmonica player Bill Öhrström, opened for one of The Rolling Stones' Scandinavian tours and recorded one album with US singer Boz Scaggs. Switching to the organ, Hansson formed a relatively well-known duo with drummer Rune Karlsson, eventually releasing three albums in Sweden as Hansson-Karlsson. They were even friendly with Jimi Hendrix, having jammed with him when they opened for the Experience in 1966. But by 1969, Hansson, locked away in his recording studio with Karlsson and engineer Anders Lind, began recording his musical interpretation of the Tolkien fantasy trilogy; or rather, Music Inspired by at the Tolkien estate's request. Lind's Silence Records released the album, Sagan Om Ringen ("Lord Of The Rings"), in November 1970 to relative commercial success in Sweden—so much so that Charisma picked up the album some two years later in the UK, where it would enter the Top 40. It's relevant to note that the album is one of the first in the multi-instrumentalist tradition. Hansson's work, though, is often misinterpreted; his quiet yet sinister organ tones are more like Pink Floyd than anything fairy tale-esque or electronic, and his guitar tone is just as exceptional. At any rate, interpreting Tolkien's trilogy, which was undergoing a huge renaissance in the early 70s (as were most things sci-fi/fantasy), turned out to be a shrewd decision. Aided with session musicians and approaching a band format, Hansson would record several other similar albums over the next few years, but would never again achieve this level of success—at least commercially. [UK release date]
Along with John Mayall, Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies, Graham Bond established his place in musical history as one of the founding fathers of British R&B. Bond also was a pioneer of the Hammond organ, one of the hallmark instruments of the progressive era. His Graham Bond Organisation was the precursor to both Colosseum and Cream; John McLaughlin, Jon Hiseman, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce all played in the group. But by the late 60s, Bond had split to America with The Fool; and upon returning, spent his time with both Initiation and Ginger Baker's Airforce, playing sax. The former outfit, a fluid amalgamation of musicians that included Bond's Jamaican wife Diane Stewart, drummer Keith Bailey and pianist Victor Brox, was reincarnated here as Magick, reflecting Bond's fascination with the occult. Their debut album Holy Magick was released in late 1970 on Vertigo Records. While Bond's music never really strayed from his R&B roots, the album's first side, encompassed by the sprawling, 14-part improvisatory vamp title suite is progressive enough. Riding a fierce 23-minute groove, it's similar in concept to what Daevid Allen would conjure up for Gong; though comparatively speaking, Bond and Stewart's voices are often at odds with the music. A second album for Vertigo, We Put Our Magick on You, was released in mid-1971. Terry Poole and John Weathers anchored the album, but the band broke up upon its release. Bond teamed with lyricist Pete Brown for one final record in 1972, Two Heads Are Better Than One. But his demons-financial, chemical and otherwise-continued to plague him; and in 1974, he died under the wheels of a Piccadilly line train in Finsbury Park. Poole and Stewart would briefly join Gong in the mid-70s.
King Crimson's third album found Robert Fripp and Pete Sinfield back in the studio just months after the release of their previous album, In The Wake Of Poseidon. Andrew McCulloch, post-Manfred Mann, came in on drums, joining the returning Mel Collins and Gordon Haskell (who also provided bass guitar). "Cirkus" opens the album and quickly descends into a typically foreboding Mellotron line; but there is a difference this time around: on Lizard, the Crim sound is exclusively constructed in the studio as this would be the only King Crimson lineup that did not play live. Just as Sinfield embellished his lyrics with evocative imagery, Fripp painted the album's music with skillful, jazz-influenced arrangements; along with piano, trombone, acoustic guitar and Haskell's idiosyncratic voice. "Indoor Games" and "Happy Family" follow the same jazzy tempos as "Cat Food" and "Groon" to great effect. As King Crimson's entry into the album-side-long composition category, "Lizard" comprises the record's second side. Guest Jon Anderson of Yes lends his voice for the opening movement, and it's almost as if the part was written for him. From there, the composition covers a lot of ground, ascending into some fairly jazzy terrain before descending into a more familiar Mellotron soundscape. Fripp and Sinfield make good use of their soloists, in particular Keith Tippett on acoustic piano. Mark Charig and Nick Evans, on loan from Soft Machine, are also effective. The side winds up with some of Fripp's trademark sustained guitar before a tape-loop reprise. This was King Crimson's most elaborate and refined album, and absolutely none the worse for it. Interestingly, the recently separated Beatles are portrayed on the album jacket's tarot-like paintings. The album slipped on the UK charts, peaking at No. 30. Fripp, with Collins assisting, then sought to form another Crim lineup to take on the road.
The title of Van der Graaf Generator's third album refers to "the fusion of hydrogen nuclei to form helium… the prime energy source in the universe." Heavy stuff. Of course, Peter Hammill's lyrics could best be described as intellectual prose; he's usually philosophizing his take on the human condition-ah, the Jesuit education?! Peerless, Hammill's vocal delivery was just as dramatic as the band's music, and one that would polarize: Either you got it or you didn't. Foremost, H to He, Who Am The Only One presents the fully developed VdGG sound: one moment still and introspective, the next complex and firing. The music contains a passion few of their contemporaries could convey, and a presentation even fewer would dare to attempt. But for all of its apocalyptic vision, the album is ultimately cathartic. In "Killer," Hammill likens himself to a shark in the ocean, only to remind himself, "We need love!" (The track also was credited to David Jackson and Chris Judge Smith, as it shares a part of Heebalob's "A Cloud as Big as a Man's Hand.") And so the others follow: "House with No Door" shines with simple beauty, while "The Emperor in His War Room" is dynamic, punctuated by guest Robert Fripp's sustained lead guitar. The seesaw of "Pioneers over C" remains the classic VdGG archetype. The band is invincible throughout: Jackson alternates between flute and saxophone, Guy Evans provides nimble but accurate time and the Hugh Banton organ tone is unparalleled. Both "Killer" and "Lost" remained live staples for the band. Nic Potter left during the recording of the album and was replaced permanently by the addition of bass pedals onto Banton's organ rig. The band would remain a quartet and spend the next year on tour, which included a spot on the now legendary Charisma Package Tour (aka "Six Bob" tour) with labelmates Genesis and Lindisfarne in early 1971.
For Atomic Rooster’s next lineup, Vincent Crane teamed up with the talented guitarist John Du Cann, previously in the psychedelic band Andromeda, and Crane’s own foot and left hand (on the lower manual of the organ) instead of a bassist. Ric Parnell briefly played drums, but not before Du Cann instead brought in Paul Hammond. Thus constituted, the trio of Crane, Du Cann and Hammond would burn bright during their short existence. Early in 1971, the band released their second album, Death Walks Behind You. Crane’s obsession with the darker side of the psyche was not common at the time; and as the title suggests, the album had no shortage of gloom and doom. A consistently heavy rock affair, it’s distinguished by Du Cann’s guitar playing, but not necessarily his vocals (as the title track attests). The instrumental “Vug” ups the ante, and the interplay between Crane’s organ and Du Cann’s guitar is incendiary. Bluesy and ballsy, the track epitomizes the band’s heavy, chomping sound. “Gershatzer” is another instrumental barnstormer; this time, Hammond lets loose. Several Du Cann compositions grace the record; the best, “Seven (Lonely) Streets,” stands out with a shimmering organ arrangement. Crane switches to piano for the more accomplished melody of “Nobody Else,” a precursor to what their next album would bring. The single “Tomorrow Night” b/w “Play the Game” peaked just shy of the UK Top 10. The album reached No. 12, and would even break into the Top 100 in the US, where the band had signed to Elektra Records.
Following Malcom Mooney’s departure, Can enlisted Kenji “Damo” Suzuki, reportedly on the spot, while he was busking outside a cafe in Munich; that night, he played his first gig with the band. Intact, the band issued Soundtracks, a compilation of-you guessed it-music used in films. The band’s next studio album, Tago Mago, (named after Isla de Tagomago, an island off the east coast of Ibiza, Spain) was recorded by Holger Czukay at Schloss Nörvenich, where the band were living at the time. A sprawling double-album, the first record contains (more or less) songs, including “Paperhouse” and the trippy “Mushroom.” Suzuki’s vocals are mostly improvisatory, a flowing stream of words that fits perfectly with the band’s music. “Oh Yeah” bounces over Jaki Liebezeit’s deft drumming; but the meat of the album consists of long improvisations that illustrate what Can does best: using less to create more. “Halleluwah” begins with a funky riff and rides the groove across the album’s second side. Michael Karoli adds some violin, but it’s all about the sexy and infectious rhythm of Liebezeit and Czukay. “Aumgn” takes free rock to a whole new level; it sounds like a nightmare, but in a good way. Eventually Czukay’s engineering would eclipse his bass playing with the band, and it starts here. The fourth side closes with the quirky “Peking O.” and the more eastern-tinged “Bring Me Coffee or Tea.” In late 1971, the band would play their first concerts in the UK and release a single, “Spoon” b/w “Shikako Maru Ten” which topped the West German charts. Suzuki would record a few more albums with Can, including the magnificent Ege Bamyasi in 1972 and Future Days in 1973, and then leave the band to become a Jehovah’s Witness.
Step back a few years to the oddly named Uriel, from which Egg was (sorry) hatched; founded in 1968 by bassist Mont Campbell, guitarist Steve Hillage and Dave Stewart, who reportedly only took up the organ because he was intimidated by Hillage’s superior guitar playing. They eventually recruited Clive Brooks on drums through a Melody Maker advert. Uriel played bluesy psychedelia, self-described as part Cream and part The Nice. The band gigged sporadically around London and recorded one album posthumously, released under the more pleasant moniker, Arzachel. After Hillage’s departure for the University of Kent in Canterbury, the band dropped all blues numbers from their set and moved forward with compositions built around classical motifs and odd time signatures. The management of Middle Earth club then approached them, and convinced them to change their name to Egg. They eventually signed to Deram Records, releasing their first album in Spring 1970. It was a solid debut, but not without some traces of influence. The instrumental “Symphony No. 2,” encompassing the record’s second side, was notable. (Of course, it also begged the question, where is “No. 1?”) But Egg’s second album, The Polite Force, remains their classic. It begins with Campbell’s narrative on the autobiographical “A Visit to Newport Hospital.” Again, the album’s second side is dominated by an instrumental, the great “Long Piece No. 3.” Stewart provides the definitive Hammond organ and Leslie cabinet tone, while drummer Brooks keeps meticulous time. Moreover, the motifs are transcendent. Prone to digress into wonderful moments of psychedelic weirdness, the piece is complicated and original; it avoids the typical pomposity of organ rock, which is perhaps its greatest triumph. In all, the record reveals the promise of Stewart’s later Canterbury efforts. Despite BBC appearances and further touring, Deram did not commit to a third record and Egg (really sorry) broke up in 1972. Stewart next joined Hillage’s new band, Khan, while Brooks would join The Groundhogs for the excellent Hogwash album. Egg would record a final “reunion” album, The Civil Surface, for Virgin in 1974, simply because they were offered.
Ikarus’ roots formed in the Beatique In Corporation, formed in 1966 in Hamburg. Their members were mostly educated in classical music, including keyboardist Wulf-Dieter Struntz and bassist Wolfgang Kracht, but as was typical of the era, they played covers and gigged wherever they could. Singer Lorenz Köhler, drummer Bernd Shröeder, guitarist Manfred Schultz and multi-instrumentalist Jochen Petersen-also a record producer with his own label-rounded out the lineup. BIC won a competition that earned them a spot at the Hamburg’s Pop And Blues Festival ‘70 (released on the Pop & Blues Festival ‘70 compilation on MCA Records), after which they changed their name to Ikarus. Their self-titled debut is a classic slice of progressive rock-although one certainly inspired by their British counterparts, especially Van der Graaf Generator. The epic “Eclipse” opens the album, guitars blazing. A sturdy bass and jazzy drumming anchor the composition, with the Hammond front and center. But when the acoustic guitars begin the piece’s second movement, look out for Struntz’s organ solo; it’s a monster. “Mesentery” features some nice string arrangements, while the Edgar Allan Poe-inspired “The Raven” swings under Petersen’s horn work before drifting into something appropriately darker. “Early Bell’s Voice” again invokes the British progressive bent, but it’s on par with any group from England; Ikarus had peers at every level of prog rock. The record was released in 1972 on Miller International’s +plus+ label. Ikarus toured throughout West Germany with labelmates Wind and Tomorrow’s Gift-the former a heavy Frumpy-type band, while the latter was a progressive blues band at this juncture. Despite a proposed contract with Metronome Records, Ikarus broke up. Petersen went on to work with Achim Reichel, Thirsty Moon and others, and was later a member of Randy Pie.
The Yes Album was that herculean leap that not only helped Yes save their recording contract with Atlantic, but also elevated them towards rock’s elite. With new blood Steve Howe (previously in Bodast) on guitar, Yes spent a few months isolated in the country writing new material, including fantastic arrangements of Paul Simon’s “America” and The Young Rascals’ “It’s Love.” In retrospect, the elements for success had been in place on their previous two albums; but here, Yes elongate their compositions, which gives them room to blossom without ever getting bloated. Nine minutes may be a long time for most songs, but not for the four epic tracks contained within. Both “Starship Trooper” and “Yours Is No Disgrace” constitute typical Yes material-hard riffing, melodic and cinematic-while the chomping “Perpetual Change” remains underrated in their canon. “I’ve Seen All Good People” would become the perennial crowd-pleaser and radio favorite; it starts as a simple sing-along acoustic number (“Your Move”) before moving into the foot-stomping second section. Jon Anderson’s words move like a game of chess, interweaving both meaning and cadence to great effect. Certainly, Howe’s versatile guitar playing is a valuable new asset; but his ragtime solo “Clap,” first presented here, would eventually be performed with circus-act regularity. Reaching No. 7, the album gave Yes its first UK Top 10 slot and even managed to rise into the US Top 40. After the album’s release, Yes made an appearance on the BBC’s Top Of The Pops, toured Europe with Iron Butterfly and then were off on their first tour of America, in support of a very popular Jethro Tull.
On Aqualung, the lines began to blur between myth and man: Is Jethro Tull Ian Anderson? Is Anderson Aqualung? Is Aqualung Jethro Tull? Like the disheveled character on the album’s cover, or the band’s portrait on the gatefold, Anderson and the rest of Jethro Tull become larger than life with Aqualung-and in fact, became all three. Anderson (along with wife Jenny, who wrote the title track’s lyrics) tackles his views on religion, giving the album the loose distinction of “concept.” Here Tull takes their music to a new commercial level, mixing their own progressive brew with the hard riffing of the then-current heavy rock (think Led Zeppelin) to deliver very classic rock songs. “My God,” “Hymn 43” and “Locomotive Breath” teem with classic riffs and hooks, and Barre’s double-tracked guitar is the ace in the hole. The title track and “Locomotive Breath” are also FM radio-friendly; the album would become standard issue to nearly every guitar-wielding teenager of the era. Yet it’s also interspersed with gentler moments that hearken back to the Tull of the previous album, in particular on “Mother Goose.” In a role he would hold for a decade, David Palmer gracefully employs his orchestration skills on “Wond’ring Aloud.” The band toured the US extensively in support of the album, which finally cracked the US Top 10 at No. 7. In the UK, it would rise to No. 4. It was one of the first albums of the progressive era to earn a gold record and has since achieved multi-platinum status.
Amid further lineup changes, Martin Ace and Terry Williams arrived (both also previously in Dream), adding to the core of Micky Jones, Clive John and Deke Leonard. Man signed what would become a longstanding contract with United Artists in 1970, beginning with the issue of their third album, Man. The bluesy “Romain,” a tale about a Belgian policeman, opens quietly, but the ending section adds a lot more to the picture. When Man were on, they proved themselves to be hugely talented and creative. When Man didn’t work, such as on the following track “Country Girl,” they sounded like pedestrian West Coast rockers. But the next number, the instrumental “Would the Christians Wait Five Minutes? The Lions Are Having a Draw,” though perhaps similar to Pink Floyd at the time, accentuates the band’s live psychedelic rock potential. “Alchemist,” a triptych trip of the highest order, furthers this design. The rocking “Daughter of the Fireplace” b/w “Country Girl” was released as a single, but without success. The middle instrumental section of the former highlights the potential firepower of the band. Another album appeared in late 1971, Do You Like It Here Now, Are You Settling In?; but an appearance at London’s Roundhouse in 1972, immortalized on the Greasy Truckers Party album alongside Hawkwind and others, switched focus to the UK market. Leaving their psychedelic edge behind and adopting a more mainstream rock sound, the Manband nestled into the charts in 1973 with the half-live, half-studio album Back Into The Future, where they would remain for a further few albums, before calling it quits in 1976.
In the 1960s, trumpeter Ian Carr played in a series of jazz bands with Don Rendell and Neil Ardley. As the decade turned, he caught the international fusion bug, as did many jazz musicians in the late 60s. Carr assembled a group of British jazz A-listers, including keyboardist Karl Jenkins, guitarist Chris Spedding, drummer John Marshall and bassist Jeff Clyne. In addition to Carr’s trumpet, Brian Smith contributed saxophone. The band then signed with Vertigo in 1969 and quickly recorded two albums in 1970. Released in June, Elastic Rock is a groundbreaking album of fusion, the amalgamation of electric jazz with rock. Recorded in September in just two days, the group’s second album We’ll Talk About It Later saw release in March 1971. Once again, the album is packed with Jenkins’s compositions. But this time around, Nucleus emphasized rock over jazz. The opening horn riffs of “Song for the Bearded Lady” herald the band’s big jazzy sound, but it’s the guitar’s infectious riff that grabs one’s attention. The song breaks down into some subdued soloing from Carr and Spedding before reprising its main theme. “Sun Child” finds its groove in Clyne’s tight bass and Marshall’s deft drumming. The title track offers Spedding another chance to shine, while the ensuing “Oasis” finds Jenkins plotting a different course, driven by Marshall’s cymbal work and Carr’s trumpet. “Ballad of Joe Pimp” is a rare vocal effort from Spedding, while the closer “Easter 1916” again offers Smith plenty of room to solo. Carr’s next release was a solo record; but by 1973, he would recruit an entirely new lineup for Nucleus, recording a dozen or so albums throughout the 70s. Most were on the jazz side of jazz-rock, but typical of Carr’s work are of the highest quality. Beginning with Marshall in 1972, many Nucleus members would jump ship and find employment with Soft Machine.
Caravan’s third album sports a fine cover illustration from Anne Marie Anderson; on the turntable, the album steps up a notch from the group’s previous efforts. Richard Sinclair’s affable (and perennial favorite) “Golf Girl” kicks off; its concise pop, Caravan-style, while “Love To Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly)” offers more of the same. David Hitchcock’s production and the band’s instrumentation are immaculate, while the melodies and lighthearted subject matter are, again, typically Canterbury. Next, “Winter Wine” presents a mini-version of what the second side has to offer: the sprawling “Nine Feet Underground.” Caravan’s entrant into the album-side-long compositions is nonpareil. Conceived by Dave Sinclair as an entity, the eight sections flow together seamlessly, hypnotically propelled through the 20-minute piece by the laid-back Richards Coughlan/Sinclair rhythm section. From the opening riff until the last note, there is little debate that Sinclair’s Hammond organ steals the show. Continually shifting and changing tone, Sinclair carries the melody on each section with pure simplicity, always resting on the tonic. Hastings’s guitar may be down in the mix, but his melancholic voice is the icing on the track. It remains one of the finest moments of not only Caravan’s history, but of progressive rock in general. The album failed to chart but remained in Decca’s catalog for years, eventually earning a gold record. Caravan continued a hectic touring schedule; however, change was just around the corner. Dave Sinclair left the band in August to join Robert Wyatt’s Matching Mole.
Hailing from Morges, Switzerland, Patrick Moraz was a classically-trained keyboardist who spent the 60s as a student and jazz musician, touring throughout Europe and England. With friend and bassist Jean Ristori, the pair travelled to England in 1969 in search of musicians with whom to start a group. They enlisted drummer Bryson Graham and vocalist David Kubinec, the latter previously in The World of Oz. Back in Switzerland-and aided by the same Dutch millionaire that funded Supertramp, Stanley “Sam” August Miesegaes-the band, now called Mainhorse Airline, expanded to a six piece. Kubinec, however, suffered a heart attack in 1970 and returned to England. Shortening both their name and their lineup, Moraz, Ristori and Graham added guitarist and vocalist Peter Lockett to the fold, signed to Polydor Records and recorded their eponymous album in 1971 at De Lane Lea Studios in London. “Introduction” does just that: Big chords from Moraz and some great breaks set the stage for a blistering lead from Lockett; it’s classic keyboard rock. “Passing Years” and “Pale Sky” are holdovers from the Kubinec era, the latter offering an extended jam that illustrates the group’s dexterity. “Such a Beautiful Day” and “Basia” keep the energy high, with “More Tea Vicar” opting for a more pastoral feeling. The closing “God” is majestic, as any track with that name should be, reprising its theme through the long fade. Lockett’s guitar adds diversity to the band’s sound, and mostly avoids comparisons to other contemporary keyboard trios of the day. Still, with success not forthcoming, the band broke up in early 1972. Moraz switched to composing film scores to bide his time before surfacing with his next project, Refugee; while Bryson went to work with Gary Wright and Spooky Tooth. The album also saw release in the US on the Import Records label in 1976.
Born in 1944 in Tilsit, East Prussia, Edgar Froese came to Berlin in the mid-60s as a student. A guitarist, he formed The Ones, a predictably beat-era combo that recorded one single. The band were fortunate to spend two summers in Catalonia, Spain, at the invitation of surrealist Salvador Dali. Then, catching the rising underground spirit of the late 60s, Froese formed Tangerine Dream in 1967, its name inspired from a lyric of The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” They gigged at the Zodiak Free Arts Club, and by their first album, 1970’s Electronic Meditation, the lineup consisted of Froese, drummer Klaus Schulze and cellist Conrad Schnitzler; both would also become pioneers of electronic music. Yet the lineup only lasted for one album; joined first by organist Steve Schroyder and then drummer Chris Franke, previously with Agitation Free, the band recorded their “kosmische” classic Alpha Centauri for the Ohr label in 1971. The massive chords of Shroyder’s organ announce “Sunrise in the Third System.” “Fly and Collision of Comas Sola” quakes under the incessant pounding of Franke’s drumming, with only guest Udo Dennebourg’s flute providing a way through. Side two is encompassed by the title track; Tangerine Dream offer what’s been called “space rock, without the rock.” Here, the band utilize the sonic armory of the studio-including Roland Paulyck on synthesizer-intermixed with silence to create pure atmosphere: Like the star system in space, there are no fixed points-only brief flashes of light as elements passing through the soundscape. The album was a success, selling a reputed 20,000 copies in West Germany alone. Guitar and Mellotron dominated a rare single, “Ultima Thule, Teil 1” b/w “Ultima Thule, Teil 2,” released around the same time. The massive Zeit followed, with Froese and Franke now joined by a young Peter Baumann on VCS3, and accompanied by Schroyder, Florian Fricke and Joachim von Grumbkow of Hoelderlin. A “largo in four movements,” it was again recorded with Dieter Dierks’s Stommeln studio, and furthered their deep sound exploration.
Pink Fairies were a rebranded The Deviants, although that wasn’t the original intention. Following the recording of his solo album, Twink teamed with Mick Farren and Steve Peregrine Took; they played a one-off gig in Manchester in October 1969. Farren left soon after recording his solo album, and Took went on to found Shagrat, leaving Twink to contact the remainder of The Deviants-guitarist Paul Rudolph, bassist Duncan Sanderson and drummer Russell Hunter-to reboot the Pink Fairies. Much like mates Hawkwind (they sometimes played together as Pinkwind), the Fairies were all about the festival scene, most famously appearing naked at Phun City in July 1970. After a single “Black Snake” b/w “Do It” in January 1971, the band got the go-ahead from Polydor Records to record their debut album Never Never Land with producer Neil Slaven. The album blasts open with the classic riff of “Do It.” Raw and raucous, it offers the Fairies’ raison d’état. The dreamy “Heavenly Man” slows the pace, but “Say You Love Me” again blows the doors wide open. “Wargirl” offers an unlikely rhythmic vibe, but the boogie rock of “Teenage Rebel” gets things back on track. The wild jam of “Uncle Harry’s Last Freak-Out,” however, is the album’s juggernaut. Truncated to half its time on record, it’s the type of number that put the Fairies’ live shows on the map. Following the album’s release, the band played the Glastonbury Fayre in June 1971. Twink left shortly thereafter, with Trevor Burton from The Move joining for the band’s 1972 album, What A Bunch Of Sweeties. It made the charts in the UK, reaching No. 48. But shortly thereafter, Rudolph departed; and after Mick Wayne’s brief spell on guitar, Larry Wallis (ex-Shagrat) was recruited for the Fairies’ third album, Kings Of Oblivion. But the plot seemed lost, at least musically, and the band broke up. Wallis went on to form Motörhead with Lemmy. The Pink Fairies had a brief reunion in 1975, from which live recordings eventually were released.