Love Affair were a soul band from London that scored a UK No. 1 hit with "Everlasting Love" b/w "Gone Are the Songs of Yesterday" in 1968. Following vocalist Steve Ellis's departure in 1969, keyboardist Morgan Fisher and drummer Maurice Bacon re-branded the group as L.A. to distance themselves from their pop audience and past. Adding bassist Bob Sapsed along the way, they recorded an excellent if uneven album, New Day, in 1970. Part soul and part underground rock, the album spotlighted Gus Eadon's strong voice and flute. But by the following year, the split from Love Affair was complete: Fisher, Bacon and Sapsed recruited vocalist Tim Staffell from the pre-Queen band Smile and as Morgan went full-on progressive. The band signed a lucrative deal with RCA Italy in early 1972 and then went off to Rome to record their debut album, Nova Solis. "Samarkhand the Golden" blasts off; Fisher's various keyboard tones are exquisite. The album follows the theme-based compositions of Morgan's keyboard-trio peers, but with Staffell's high tenor and Spased's rubbery, fretless bass, the band offers their own original and exciting take on prog rock. "Alone" is an acoustic-based number from Staffell, while the following "War Games" begins with a blast of VCS3 synthesizer. The second side is encompassed with the side-long "Nova Solis," Staffell's tale of space travel, with music from Fisher and his galaxy of keyboards. Morgan recorded a second album in 1973, but it was rejected by RCA; and after residency commitments to the Marquee Club, the band folded. The album did eventually find release in the US in 1976 on Import Records with its original title, Brown Out, and with its alternate title, The Sleeper Awakes, on UK's Cherry Red label in 1978. Fisher then went on to join Mott The Hoople and British Lions, but also curated the eclectic Miniatures album in 1980. Staffell, on the other hand, turned to a career of crafting models, including the trains on the original Thomas the Tank Engine television series. Meanwhile, Bacon followed his father's footsteps into artist management.
Not all progressive rock dealt with sci-fi fantasy, silver capes and airbrushed art; Family was proof positive of that. Their music lacked the overt virtuosity and accompanying pretentiousness of most prog rock music, but still contained more sophistication than most rock of the day. The previous year had been one of transition for the band. Released in March 1971, the compilation Old Songs New Songs contained remixes of songs from their prior albums, as the band had been unhappy with the originals. A new single "In My Own Time" b/w "Seasons" peaked on the UK charts at No. 4 in June 1971, and was followed by the excellent Fearless album in October. Bassist John Wetton from Mogul Thrash was the new blood, replacing John Weider who went off to play guitar in Stud. Bandstand—which, like the previous album, featured a unique die-cut jacket—is perhaps Family's finest recording. The symphonic textures of "Bolero Babe" and "Top of the Hill" are pure art school rock, while the simple meandering of "Dark Eyes" speaks volumes over its short two minutes. The single from the album, "Burlesque" b/w "The Rocking R's" reached No. 13 in the UK; however, the acoustic "My Friend the Sun" b/w "Glove" failed to chart (but certainly not to charm). And as the excellent "Broken Nose" demonstrates, Family could rock as hard as any peer. The album is another testament to Roger Chapman and Charlie Whitney's songwriting genius; however, even with a supporting slot for Elton John, the band couldn't change their fortunes in the US. Despite reaching No. 15 in the UK, the album did not chart in America. Both Wetton and Poli Palmer would depart shortly after the album's release; Family then added Jim Cregan and Tony Ashton as replacements and set up their own Raft label. They recorded one final album, It's Only A Movie, before breaking up in late 1973, never again to reform. However, Chapman and Whitney would later emerge as the hard-rocking Streetwalkers, recording a string of albums for A&M in the mid-to-late 70s.
Following the departure of Graham Field, Rare Bird, now signed to Polydor, shifted musical focus to a very guitar-centric sound. Steve Gould switched to guitar and Andy "Ced" Curtis was recruited as a second guitarist, while Fred Kelly joined on drums and Paul Karas added bass and additional lead vocals. The lead-off track, "Baby Listen," immediately reveals the difference: its funky groove, driving bass and dual-lead guitars are quite a change from their previous work. But change can be good, especially with songwriting of this caliber. "Hey Man" and "Turning the Lights Out" reveal more of Rare Bird's exemplary vocal harmonies; while the title track "Epic Forest" is indeed epic—and features some tasty electric piano from Dave Kaffinetti. "Her Darkest Hour" and "Turn It All Around" are hauntingly beautiful acoustic numbers, though the latter includes an explosively heavy middle section to great effect. The dueling lead guitars (à la Wishbone Ash) and vocal harmonies are back in full force for the driving "Title No. 1 Again (Birdman)," another potent rocker. The UK pressing included a bonus three-song 7" with initial copies, again filled with more-than-album-worthy tracks. All in all, the new musical direction was welcome, though it didn't reflect on the charts. With various new members (including Nic Potter), Kaffinetti and Gould continued, releasing a few more albums until 1976. Unfortunately, these are of lesser interest to the progressive listener, as the promise of Epic Forest was lost. Kaffinetti would famously appear in This Is Spinal Tap, playing the part of drummer Viv Savage, while Gould would play bass in Alvin Lee's band. Ced Curtis would participate in The Long Hello, featuring ex-VdGG members.
If both prior Yes albums had any shortcomings (and they had very few), it was due to growing pains. The Yes Album brought out the extended, epic composition, but suffered, perhaps, in execution. Fragile was well-executed, but only contained a half-hour of music—solo tracks notwithstanding. However, by the time their next album was recorded, the band had remained stable for almost a year. In the interim, Yes issued a massive arrangement of Paul Simon's "America" (similar to that of the pre-Clouds band, 1-2-3). Close To The Edge contains three tracks; the album's title composition fills side one: Steve Howe's blistering lead starts the opening section "The Solid Time of Change" with fury; and straight through to the second section, "Total Mass Retain," the intensity never lets up. Next are the gentle pulses and large chords of "I Get Up, I Get Down;" lyrically a bit twee, but it avoids any musical miscue. Fortunately, Yes knows how to end a piece and the final section of "Seasons of Man" is no exception. Rick Wakeman delivers an epic if speedy organ solo before the track resolves into its final symphonic refrain. From the moment the needle hits the first groove of the record, the four sections of the track flow seamlessly together, offering nothing short of definitive prog rock. Side two holds the other two tracks: The delicate organ beneath Howe's 12-string that opens "And You and I" is a typical example of the album's detail. The song was one of Jon Anderson's lyrical triumphs; his choice of words is as musical as the rest of the band's instrumentation. From here, however, their translation would garner biblical-like fascination. The final track, "Siberian Khatru," is another classic; dense and foreboding, Chris Squire's bass drives the particularly heavy song over Wakeman's chiming Mellotron. The album was another great success for the band, reaching No. 4 and No. 3 on the UK and US charts, respectively. Bill Bruford took his leave shortly after the album was recorded to join the revival of King Crimson. Later he claimed that he'd gone as far as he could go with Yes, and he may have been right, as this album was the culmination of Yes' musical progression to date.
Rather than rest his fate on Vincent Crane's whim, vocalist Pete French took an offer to join Cactus after a US tour in early 1972. Undeterred, Crane called a recently ex-Colosseum Chris Farlowe to join Atomic Rooster. The new band previewed material from the album on a particularly excellent set for the BBC in June, recorded at the Paris Theatre. The resulting Made In England album is again another strong effort, and one quite novel in the timeline. Here Crane ups the mixture of soul, something almost unheard of in progressive circles. The opening "Time Take My Life" is certainly funky, yet Crane's arrangements are progressive as well. "Stand by Me" and "People You Can't Trust" are great songs served straight up—the former as the album's single, and the latter with some cool wah-wah guitar from Steve Bolton. Farlowe has just the voice for the job, offering one of his best vocals efforts on record. The Rooster doesn't forget to rock out either; "Little Bit of Inner Air" and "All in Satan's Name" display the heavier side of the band's previous work. Yet somehow, the album failed to chart, which must have been a major disappointment for them. Guitarist Johnny Mandala (actually John Goodsall of future Brand X fame) replaced Bolton for the follow-up Nice ‘n' Greasy (released in the US as IV). Another solid effort, it too failed to chart despite a decent single in "Save Me" b/w "Close Your Eyes." After one final single, "Tell Your Story (Sing Your Song)" b/w "O.D.," Crane would shelve the band until 1980.
From Baden-Baden in southern Germany, the members of Brainstrom first got together as the beat group Fashion Pink in 1968. By the time the band signed to the Spiegelei label in 1971, bassist Harold Wagner had left following a road accident, but not before recording some tracks for SWF Radio. Now comprised of Roland Schaeffer on saxophones and guitars, Rainer Bodensohn on flute and bass, Eddy von Overheidt on keyboards and Joachim Koinzer on drums, the band recorded their debut album, Smile A While, at Intercord's Studio 70 in Munich. The record is a monster combination of jazz and rock, certainly influenced by their British contemporaries. "Zwick Zwick" features fuzz organ reminiscent of Mike Ratledge's powerful tone, while the three-part "Bosco Biati Weiss Alles" also has a Soft Machine vibe, as von Overheidt offers some scat vocal on top of his organ lines. The short "Snakeskin Tango" is full of humor, while the title track returns to serious jazz-rock over its 15 minutes. Koinzer proves an inventive drummer, laying down a solid groove with Bodensohn. The band recorded a second album in 1973, Second Smile, which picked up from where the first left off. The highlight is the opening track "Hirnwind" (roughly "brainstorm"), unfolding to a rising chorus of organ, guitar and gentle vocals before the band unleashes its full fury with Mellotron, angular guitar and flute in a sonic assault. Fantastic. Brainstorm never got around to recording what would have been their final album; and by 1975, the band called it quits, with Roland Schaeffer joining Guru Guru. Koinzer subsequently worked with Herbert Joos and was a member of the jazzy Open Music.
Peter Gabriel's appearance began to (literally) blossom during the summer prior to this album's release. After he debuted his partially shaven head at the Lincoln Festival in May, the costumes weren't far behind. His between song chatter—ostensibly done to allow time for the band to tune up—was as cryptic and incredible as his lyrics; and indeed, Foxtrot gave him the material to back it up. Led by Tony Banks's powerful Mellotron introduction, the incessant pulse of "Watcher of the Skies" immediately captivates; its massive arrangement and heavy rock posturing would remain a concert favorite for years. Both "Get ‘Em Out By Friday" and "Can-Utility and the Coastliners," written during the year's touring, are again typical of the band's quirky signature. The former would also shine in live presentation, while the latter's oddball construction would relegate it to vinyl only. The album's second side, the brief "Horizons" notwithstanding, comprises the band's epic-length masterpiece "Supper's Ready." Like all good album-side-long pieces of the era, Genesis merges each section together with ease, and the piece flows continuously. The 12-string guitars are in force, with delicate yet infectious melodies. After Gabriel's rollicking "Willow Farm," the band kicks it into high gear for "Apocalypse In 9/8 (Co-Starring The Delicious Talents Of Gabble Ratchet)," again highlighting both the instrumental dexterity and heavy rock nature of the album. The emotional finale of "As Sure as Eggs is Eggs" winds things up, its lyrics lifted (near verbatim) from the Book of Revelation, 19:17. The album is a milestone for the band; and in particular, Gabriel delivers one of his strongest vocal performances ever. But more than anything, the album presents the band's most unique and idiosyncratic songwriting in full bloom. Following the album's release, Genesis played their first concerts in the US before returning to a headlining tour in the UK, where the album had risen to No. 12 on the charts.
By the time Kingdom Come had gotten around to recording their second album, the band had slimmed down to guitarist Andy Dalby, organist Michael "Goodge" Harris and drummer Martin "Slim" Steer—all retained from their first album, Galactic Zoo Dossier. Bassist Phil Shutt, however, was new. Frontman Arthur Brown hadn't changed; and while the tracks approach a more linear presentation, the resulting self-titled album contains the same bizarre cut-up weirdness as their debut. The album kicks off with the slow-building atmosphere of "Water" before arriving at one of Brown's most enduring compositions, the slow and soulful "Love is a Spirit." From there, "City Melody" offers a classic prog rock workout from the band that ends in a wild frenzy of synthesizer and weirdness—something the short "Traffic Light Song" bypasses. The second side begins with the Vincent Crane-penned "The Teacher," with Dalby on vocals. The earthy "The Experiment" (complete with farting) is a mini-epic in and of itself, racing through several themes over the course of its eight-minute length. The band is again exceptional throughout, with Harris providing the classic organ tone. "The Whirlpool" is self-explanatory, though it does feature some plaintive guitar lines from Dalby. The album ends with another crooner from Brown, the heartfelt and stirring "The Hymn." Kingdom Come was unique among British progressives; though in all likelihood, the understated musicianship within the band was lost in the implausible weirdness! By all accounts, the live Kingdom Come experience was indescribable; thus, the band kept a constant touring schedule, as chart success eluded the band yet again.
Renaissance first appeared in the timeline back in the late 60s, as a group formed by ex-Yardbirds members Keith Relf and Jim McCarty. Quite incredibly, the same band reappeared years later with no original members. Their auspicious "re-debut" Prologue, the first of two albums for Capitol Records, builds on the premise of their predecessors, but with some changes: The title track bangs open with John Tout's grand piano, copping a quote straight from one of the Russian Kuchka ("mighty handful"). But Annie Haslam's voice, soaring high along with the melody, is the big news. Far more West End than Carnaby Street, her vocals would come to define the band. Propelled by the brisk rhythm of drummer Terry Sullivan and bassist Jon Camp, the McCarty-penned "Kiev" offers the band's typical romanticism in a rock ‘n' roll setting, while Haslam's voice breaks out on "Sounds of the Sea." The second side opens with the 60s throw-back "Spare Some Love," but does provide some electric guitar, something Renaissance music would rarely feature. "Rajah Khan" is the album's gem, a raga-flavored instrumental that features some cool VCS3 synthesizer from Curved Air's Francis Monkman. Fairly psychedelic, it crosses over into some interesting (and uncharacteristic) progressive territory for the group. Their next album, 1973's Ashes Are Burning, would see main songwriter Michael Dunford replace Rob Hendry on guitar. The songwriting also would undergo further refinement into what would become the classic Renaissance sound, particularly on "Can You Understand" and the excellent title track. The winsome "Carpet of the Sun" was the first to present string arrangements.
Formed by Guitarist Jukka Tolonen and drummer Vesa Aaltonen, Tasavallan Presidentti ("President of the Republic") also featured bassist Måns Groundstroem and a British singer, Frank Robson, both previously in Finland's Blues Section. After the band's debut album, Pekka Pöyry joined on flute and sax for the Swedish-only release (and somewhat overlapping) Tasavallan Presidentti II. Like their first record, there's a heavy debt to Traffic and even Procol Harum, though both contain world-class performances. Vocalist Eero Raittinen replaced Robson prior to the recording of their next album, Lambert Land. "Lounge" kicks the album off with a healthy cocktail of guitar, sax, flute and piano. Jazzy and tightly interwoven, the band offer a spry and progressive record full of originality and atmosphere—undoubtedly due in part to the production of American expatriate Sam Charters, best known for his work with Country Joe and the Fish. Raittinen's voice is a welcome addition, as it's one that avoids the clichés of his British counterparts. The title track traces a haunting organ line, offering something dark and deep, before breaking out into the jazz-backed "Celebration of the Saved Nine," the lone composition from Pöyry. The second side's "The Bargain" delivers a groove and interior monologue similar to Can (!) before relenting to Tolonen's epic "Dance." As the track's explosive solo attests, the Finnish guitarist is an exceptional talent, who indubitably helped propel the band to the West. "Last Quarters" closes; it's a splendid song, carried by a solitary flute, Leslie-fed guitar and Raittinen's double-tracked vocal. All in all, it stands as the classic Scandinavian album of the progressive era. Tasavallan Presidentti decamped to the UK in late 1972 and again in Spring 1973, where they ultimately recorded their final album at De Lane Lea Studios with Peter Eden. Milky Way Moses saw international release in 1974, along with a reissue of the 1971 solo album Tolonen! But with Tolonen now solo, the band splintered and Groundstroem went off to Wigwam. Tolonen would record a few albums in the early 80s with Samla Mammas Manna guitarist Coste Apetrea.
Continuing a creative peak for the band, Wolf City became Amon Düül II's second studio release for 1972. The lineup was mostly stable, with Peter Leopold as the odd man out here. Chris Karrer and John Weinzierl were the primary writers, and the first side shows off their craft. Karrer's "Surrounded by Stars" is chock-full of inventive AD2 sound and great vocals from Renate Knaup; while Weinzierl offers two of his best songs: "Green Bubble Raincoated Man," a classic in title and in execution, and the harder rocking "Jail-House Frog," complete with a mad-scientist middle section; the former also was released as a single. Starting the second side (flipped with the first for the US release), Karrer and Weinzierl's guitar work rides the dark and fantastic groove of the title track until the fade, where the next track, "Wie Der Wind Am Ende Einer Strasse" ("Like The Wind At The End Of A Street"), picks up and gently floats through sitar and tabla. The big-riffing "Deutsch Nepal" blows the proceedings back on course, offering a rare German-language vocal for AD2. Daniel Fichelscher's guitar-driven "Sleepwalker's Timeless Bridge" closes the album with authority and Mellotron. Unmatched by any group—German, British, progressive, psychedelic or otherwise—AD2 marked their finest hour when they released Carnival In Babylon and Wolf City in 1972. The following year saw the excellent Live In London album, which documented their late 1972 tour of the UK; the album was recorded at the Greyhound in London, where they were guests of Roxy Music. 1973 also saw the release of the Utopia album, which was essentially a side project of Lothar Meid that featured Jimmy Jackson, Olaf Kübler and members of AD2.
An anagram for the Goldring twins' surname, Londoners' Colin and Stewart formed Gnidrolog in 1969. Joining them was bassist Peter "Mars" Cowling and drummer Nigel Pegrum, the latter having been in the pre-Uriah Heep band Spice. Gnidrolog toured extensively, supporting numerous progressive acts, as evidenced on dozens of concert bills from the era; Colin, most famously, added recorder to Yes' "Your Move" from The Yes Album. Signing to RCA records, the band released the dreadfully titled In Spite Of Harry's Toenail in early 1972. A keyboard-less affair, it's almost charitable to call it a challenge to listen to; however, it's not without some reward. It charts the same territory as Van der Graaf Generator or King Crimson, exploring odd-meter composition and dissonance mainly through Stewart's angular guitar and Colin's uncomfortably high tenor. "Long Live Man Dead" and "Snails" are highlights. John Earle then joined on sax and flute, upping the ante for the band's second effort, Lady Lake, also released in 1972. "I Could Never Be a Soldier" leads off; it's a strong tune with forthright lyrics, though the instrumental passages are filled with the band's tight musicality. Cowling and Pegrum, in lock groove, offer a solid foundation over which Stewart and Earle easily solo. "Ship" follows, with Colin and Earle's horns leading the way. The muscular "Lady Lake" offers a progressive tour-de-force from the band, its closing march dark and foreboding. "Social Embarrassment" closes, and it's another strong track highlighting the band's penchant for robust melody and arrangement. Despite an excellent album-one certainly on par with other progressive groups from the era-success eluded the band, and they broke up. Under pseudonyms, the Goldrings, Pegrum and Rick Kemp would form the raunchy The Pork Dukes in the late 70s. Pegrum would later spend nearly two decades with Steeleye Span, while Cowling would join the Pat Travers Band. Earle, meanwhile, became a well-regarded and seasoned session player.
By the end of 1971, Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister (previously in Sam Gopal), drummer Simon King (previously in Opal Butterfly) and poet Robert Calvert had been thoroughly integrated into the Hawkwind fold. The summer of 1972 saw a surprise hit single for the band: "Silver Machine" b/w "Seven by Seven" rode the UK charts all the way to No. 3, providing the band with bona fide success. The song, sung by Lemmy, was culled from the Greasy Truckers' benefit concert at London's Roundhouse. The end of the year saw their next album, the wonderfully titled Doremi Fasol Latido (after the solfège syllables). Alternating between heavy rockers and more acoustic "busker" numbers, it's Hawkwind's most refined production to date. The perennial "Brainstorm" blasts off, pummeling forward over a simple yet effective riff. Over its 11-plus minutes, the band never falters, exploring texture and sonics in warp drive before gently landing on Dave Brock's acoustic "Space Is Deep" and its classic lyric. "Lord of Light" opens the second side, powered by Brock's rhythm guitar and a strong bass line from Lemmy. Another acoustic number, "Down Through the Night" provides the interlude, before the band delivers one of their more interesting numbers, "Time We Left This World Today." Here the ride breaks down, skidding sideways before recovering back to its monster bass riff; Lemmy's "The Watcher" brings things to a quiet close. Musically, Hawkwind were never that adventurous: Rooted in simple folksy structures, most compositions were fueled by a straight-ahead driving rhythm that rarely faltered. But mad saxophone soloing and electronic effects coupled with sci-fi imagery (courtesy of author Michael Moorcock and artist Barney Bubbles) earned them the space rock tag. No one did it better than Hawkwind; in fact, no one even came close. The album was another success for the band, rising to No. 14 on the UK charts.
Nektar was a group of British expatriates that, like many bands during the mid-60s, made a living by working and touring in Europe. Initially, bassist Derek "Mo" Moore, drummer Ron Howden and keyboardist Allan "Taff" Freeman formed a band called Prophesy. By 1969, with guitarist and vocalist Roye Albrighton on board, the band changed their name to Nektar. They made Hamburg their base, and signed to Peter Hauke's Bacillus label. Released in 1971, their debut album, Journey To The Centre Of The Eye, took an anti-nuclear stance; and not surprisingly, as it was rooted in 60s psychedelia. The band then moved into more progressive territory for their second record, A Tab In The Ocean. The album's side-long title track pounds right through its continually-evolving themes over a brisk 16 minutes. Throughout, the rhythm section of Moore and Howden provides a steady foundation for the music; their shifts in tempo are quite deceptive. Albrighton's guitar is always out front: "Desolation Valley/Waves" kicks off the second side, which again plays continuously. Both feature some of the jazzy subtleties of the Nektar sound. "Cryin' in The Dark" gets a lot heavier though, incorporating some excellent interplay between the bandmates, while the churning riff and vocal harmonies of "King of Twilight" represent more straightforward rock. The album's original mix, courtesy of Dieter Dierks, is a classic example of heavy rock from the era. In February of 1973, the band recorded a "live in the studio" album, Sounds Like This. Less polished than the previous effort, it had more of a hard rock jam-band feel to it. Shortly thereafter, Nektar launched their first tour of the UK in June, with Welsh rockers Man.
As with most bands signed to Doug Smith's Clearwater Productions, Skin Alley were associated with the underground and the free festival scene. Founded by bassist Thomas Crimble and drummer Alvin Pope, the band included Bob James on sax and guitar and Krzysztof Henryk Juszkiewicz on keyboards. They released two albums on CBS before Crimble left for Hawkwind. His replacement was Nick Graham, fresh from Atomic Rooster; while Tony Knight replaced Pope on drums. Now signed to Transatlantic, Skin Alley recorded their finest album, Two Quid Deal?, in 1972. Oddly, the album (and their next) saw release in the US on Stax Records, famously known for Memphis soul and, up until that point, not anything remotely like progressive rock! Nevertheless, the album is a driving mix of funky organ-rock, with Graham's Roger Daltrey-esque vocals providing the icing on the cake; just check out the excellent "So Many People" or "So Glad." The band recorded a final album, Skintight; but even a proper Memphis production and commercial focus couldn't change their fortunes, and they folded shortly after its release. Graham went on to a successful career as a songwriter and musician, working with Cheap Trick and David Jackson of VdGG; while Crimble continued running the Glastonbury Festival that he co-founded.
On The Magician's Birthday, Uriah Heep quickly tried to replicate the success of their previous album, including another fantasy title and Roger Dean cover. "Sunrise" and "Sweet Lorraine" kick off the A and B sides, respectively, with confidence; but "Spider Woman" concedes to average rock ‘n' roll. The ballads generally work best; "Blind Eye" and the vastly underrated "Tales" rank among the album's finest songs. However, the more (according to the band) "experimental" tracks aren't fully realized, as the sprawling title track and "Echoes in the Dark" attest. Without a viable single, the album faltered slightly on the charts, reaching No. 23 in the UK but stalling out at No. 31 in the US. The following year saw a successful live album in May and another studio album in September. Recorded in France, Sweet Freedom contained a classic track in "Stealin'," and again hoisted Uriah Heep onto the charts. However, the pace of cranking out two albums a year with a full load of international touring started to take its toll. Recorded in Munich, 1974's Wonderland wasn't (wonderful), and bassist Gary Thain was subsequently ousted from the band. Bringing a recently ex-King Crimson John Wetton on board, Uriah Heep's next effort, Return To Fantasy, saw a return to chart success, reaching No. 7 in the UK. David Byron and Wetton, however, wouldn't last, and were replaced in 1976 by Lucifer's Friend vocalist John Lawton and Spiders from Mars bassist Trevor Bolder. Later records strayed further from their early progressive sound, but continued well into the 80s. In spite of prevailing trend and fashion, Uriah Heep continues to this day.
1972 saw Focus, now with Bert Ruiter on bass, back in the studio recording the formidable and lengthy double-album Focus 3. The record begins with the lively "Round Goes the Gossip..." then slides into the pastoral "Love Remembered." The bulk of the album, however, is two sprawling improvisations: "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" and "Anonymus II" (sic). Both showcase the band's talents, namely, Jan Akkerman's guitar heroics and one tight rhythm section; be sure to check out Ruiter's funky bass solo on side three. Thijs van Leer takes a few solos throughout, mainly on flute. But his organ work is an often-overlooked asset, always shining behind Akkerman's guitar. And if you dig those jams, check out Akkerman's first solo album Profile, which also was released in 1972, though recorded much earlier. The excellent album-side-long track "Fresh Air" is another great example of their hyperkinetic jamming, again with Ruiter and Pierre van der Linden as the rhythm section. The US version of the album closes with a re-recording of their first single, "House of the King." Overall, 1973 would be another banner year for the band, with both the album and the single "Sylvia" b/w "House of the King" nearing the UK Top 5. (The album reached No. 35 in the US.) Akkerman was even voted "best guitarist" in the annual Melody Maker reader's poll, knocking out Eric Clapton. In October, At The Rainbow was recorded at London's famed Rainbow Theatre, but studio recordings from that same year would be shelved. Focus then toured the US for the first time, and a re-release of the single "Hocus Pocus" b/w "Hocus Pocus II" made the US Top 10, while the live album hit No. 23.
One of the few solo artists from Italy during the progressive era, Sicilian Franco Battiato was first heard as a beat singer in the 60s, as were many others of his generation. Battiato then signed to Bla Bla Records with Osage Tribe—defecting, however, for a solo career after just one single. His debut solo record, Fetus (with matching cover), was released in 1972. Primarily an acoustic affair, Battiato's songs were for the most part simple and almost folk in structure, albeit with a keen sense of melody. It's the production, however, that was truly innovative; Battiato used the studio to great effect, layering vocals, guitars, synthesizers and just about anything else he could find to create something quite sui generis. He continues in this direction on Pollution. The album saw release in late 1972, concurrent with the deployment of a giant magnetic stroboscope in Imola used to study the effects of the internal combustion engine. Again, it's a unique pastiche; but now much closer to rock progressivo Italiano, due to the instrumentation employed on the record. "Il Silenzio Del Rumore" begins with Battiato reciting something in Italian over a classical music tape, before diving into a hard-driving prog rock workout. The production once again sets it apart; Battiato synthesizer is uncommonly raw and unsubtle, riding up high in the mix. The fat synthesizer lines of "Areknames" carry the tune's infectious melody, sugarcoated with harmony and propelled by an offbeat rhythm; while "Beta" rides a stoner vibe. Battiato returns to more typical song structure on "Plancton," while the contagious melody and vocal harmonies of the title track close out. The album reached the Italian Top 20 in 1973.
On their second release of the year, Gentle Giant delivers a more discrete and diverse record. Previously in the Welsh band Eyes of Blue and Pete Brown & Piblokto!, John Weathers was the newcomer; his hard-hitting drumming and a huge bass line launch "The Advent of Panurge" (again a nod to François Rabelais) into a hypnotic groove, from which the song switches back and forth from its chorus. The Moog on "A Cry For Everyone" squawks proudly, here the lyrics are under the influence of Albert Camus. "Raconteur Troubadour" offers a little medieval music, as does the band's tribute to their roadies, "Dog's Life." The band is adept at layering overdubs throughout; however, "Knots," based on the work of Scottish psychologist R.D. Laing, takes it to an extreme: It's a madrigal gone sideways—in other words, classic Gentle Giant. The second side opens with a "sample" of a coin toss, the first in a tradition that would extend over their next several albums. The autobiographical "Boys in the Band" shows Gentle Giant at their best: Rocking hard and steady, it demonstrates the band's musical dexterity and complex arrangements. "Think of Me with Kindness," featuring the tender vocals of Kerry Minnear, is an uncharacteristic ballad, but beautiful nonetheless. The closing "River" is another of the big power tracks on the album. Ray Shulman's wah-wah violin and Gary Green's bluesy guitar solo harken back to the earlier Giant albums; but here, Weathers's solid beat takes it up a notch. As such, the aptly titled Octopus dispatches eight ("octo") succinct compositions ("opus") that reflect the generous talent of Gentle Giant's six members. The band would continue to perform excerpts from the album in a more concise live arrangement. The album sparked some interest in the very lower reaches of the US charts, partly due to the band's extensive touring in the fall (opening for Black Sabbath) before the album's release, and its curious die-cut cover. However, the record would fail to chart in the UK—even with a Roger Dean album cover.
Following Colosseum's demise after their US tour in 1971, drummer Jon Hiseman retained bassist Mark Clarke for his next project: the considerably hard-rocking Tempest. With Paul Williams providing lead vocals, the ace in the hole was guitarist Allan Holdsworth. He had previously played in 'Igginbottom, a band that recorded an obscure (and unexciting) album for Deram Records in 1969, and had just played on Ian Carr's Belladonna album. Their self-titled debut, Tempest, opens with "Gorgon," revealing the band's heavy mix of blues and rock. Williams has a strong but not necessarily original voice: The track owes more than a passing reference to Jimi Hendrix (both guitar and voice). However, Holdsworth's "Up and On" is more interesting, allowing the guitarist's distinctive technique to shine. Clarke handles all of the vocals for his "Grey and Black," with Williams switching to keyboards. "Strangeher" is a straight-up swinger, with some impressive guitar from Holdsworth; but the album's closing number, "Upon Tomorrow," is the standout. Written with Clem Clempson, the angle is much more progressive. Clarke and Hiseman are a powerful rhythm section; but unfortunately, the material doesn't always live up to their promise. Not to be missed, however, is a session for BBC Radio 1's Pop Spectacular from June 1973; it's a legato slugfest between Holdsworth and second guitarist Ollie Halsall, who joined Tempest just days before! Reduced to a trio, Hiseman, Clarke and Halsall would perform at 1973's Reading festival, opening for Genesis. Holdsworth would next join drummer Tony Williams—first for the unreleased Wildlife recordings (also with Jack Bruce), and then on to the New Lifetime proper in 1975 for a pair of fusion albums.