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Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band > Beatles, The

June, 1967
United States
Capitol Records
4.625
The Beatles changed the course of popular music in three major ways: 1) they wrote their own songs; 2) they took control of the recording process; and 3) they gave us Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Released worldwide on June 1st, 1967, The Beatles had been off the road for almost a year and immersed at EMI Studios. That it is a conceptual album and not just a collection of songs makes Sgt. Pepper's the landmark that it is. From the jacket photo to the music on the vinyl to even the cutout inserts inside, exercising their creativity was The Beatles end game; and here, it would fully manifest. While others had attempted it, The Beatles delivered the objet d'art-a record album-that everyone wanted and would want to create. After the previous year's psych masterpiece Revolver, the first hint of The Beatles next move appeared on the "Penny Lane" b/w "Strawberry Fields Forever" single released in February. When Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band arrived in June, it was their most mature statement yet, effectively raising the bar for all popular music. From the adult theme of "Getting Better" to the blatant psychedelia of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," The Beatles offer their most intellectual and cohesive effort, best encapsulated in the epic track "A Day in the Life." Equally important was the reaction that their audience, and indeed the world, had to the album. In addition to burgeoning awareness of psychedelia, the album coincided with the advent of stereo headphones and was the first album to feature printed lyrics. All points connected: With Sgt. Pepper's, The Beatles and producer George Martin captured the minds and imaginations of an audience waiting to be captured. Enough has been written about this album and for good reason: British art rock starts here. This was the paradigm under which most progressive rock was made.

The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn > Pink Floyd

August, 1967
United States
Tower
4.5625
In late 1966, London-ordained "swinging" by Time magazine-was undergoing a massive cultural change. At the very heart of London's underground lay Barry Miles and Indica Books, the subject of The Beatles' "Paperback Writer." Along with John Hopkins, American Jim Haynes and others, Miles also launched the International Times, London's first newspaper dedicated to this new counter-culture. And it was roughly here that managers Peter Jenner and Andrew King introduced the Pink Floyd Sound to that scene. The happenings of 1967 were novel, and the music more than just the soundtrack. Built in large part upon their residencies at the Marquee and UFO clubs, Pink Floyd became the archetype of this new British psychedelic rock. Their live set, complete with a light show, progressed from deconstructed R&B to extended instrumental freak outs. The group composition "Interstellar Overdrive" illustrates the innovation of live Floyd. Compared to anything else from the era, it's completely uncanny; just check out their performance in Peter Whitehead's film Tonite Let's All Make Love in London (its title taken from an Allen Ginsberg text). However, the album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, is pure Syd Barrett, as first previewed in singles "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play." His "Matilda Mother," the lyrics inspired in part from Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales, best highlight the middle-class aesthetic of he and his bandmates. Highly literate and intelligent, the musical transcription is wonderfully inspired and, like "Bike," especially English. The album was recorded at EMI Studios simultaneous to The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, with their ex-engineer Norman Smith in the producer's chair. There's no cliché in calling the album a classic; creatively, it simply had no peer. It was also unique in that it offered no singles-they were separate from the album-in a tradition most progressive bands would follow. Produced by Joe Boyd, "Arnold Layne" b/w "Candy and the Currant Bun" rose to No. 20 in March despite being banned by "Wonderful" Radio London, while both "See Emily Play" b/w "Scarecrow" and the album reached the UK No. 6 in the summer. While Barrett appeared on two tracks on their next album, this would remain his recorded legacy with Pink Floyd. His psychological decline (precipitating an aborted US tour) led to his eventual eviction from the band and prompted his status as the preeminent poster child of the acid casualty.

Procol Harum > Procol Harum

September, 1967
United States
Deram
4
The members of Procol Harum suffered most of the 60s as The Paramounts, whose minor claim to fame was a cover of "Poison Ivy" that hit the UK Top 40 in 1963. They finally broke up in 1966, but by the following year had resurrected themselves as Procol Harum. Released in May, their first single "A Whiter Shade of Pale" b/w "Lime Street Blues" shot immediately to No. 1 in the UK, selling over 4 million copies. Musically adapted from J.S.'s "Air on the G String" (itself an arrangement by German August Wilhelmj), Keith Reid's surreal lyrics were delivered by Gary Brooker's somber yet soulful voice over the swirl of Matthew Fisher's Hammond organ; in short, it brought a new sophistication to pop music and deservedly earned its fortune. Next, with guitarist Robin Trower and drummer B.J. Wilson, the band regrouped (more or less) to their Paramounts' lineup to record their self-titled debut album (retitled A Whiter Shade Of Pale upon reissue in 1973). Reid, the band's full-time lyricist, and Brooker wrote most of the record, though Fisher did contribute the excellent instrumental "Repent Walpurgis." While the album itself could not match the impact of the single, it did contain some great songs: "Ceredes (Outside the Gates of)" is quite ballsy, punctuated by Trower's lead guitar, while the splendid (and splendidly titled) "She Wandered through the Garden Fence" featured more of Fisher's great Hammond organ runs. Procol Harum delivered mature R&B, not far from Traffic on the map, yet always 100 percent original. The album failed to chart in the UK, but did break into the US Top 50 where it saw an earlier release in September.

We Are Ever So Clean > Blossom Toes

November, 1967
UK
Marmalade
4.4
Inspired by The Yardbirds, guitarist Brian Godding and bassist Brian Belshaw left their day jobs to start the Ingoes in 1964. After signing with manager Giorgio Gomelsky in 1965, he promptly sent them to Paris to hone their trade. They recorded a few singles and an EP, adding guitarist Jim Cregan along the way, before returning to the UK in 1967 to record their first album. By that time, Kevin Westlake had joined on drums, and psychedelia was in full swing. Gomelsky fashioned the band as a "cross between The Beatles and the Bee Gees" and rechristened them as the Blossom Toes. However, Polydor usurped control of the sessions, bringing in orchestrator David Whittaker and a host of session musicians to reshape the Toes' music. That said, We Are Ever So Clean is still a classic flower power record. When the album is on, it stands as some of the best music of the era. "Look at Me I'm You" kicks off, the psychedelia in full regalia, while the melodic popsike of "I'll Be Late for Tea" is infectious. As the hooks of "Telegram Tuesday" attest, Godding shines as a songwriter. His "What on Earth" is the album's gemstone, and the production couldn't be a better fit. A few tracks are a little too clever or contrived, and easily identified by their titles (and mostly written by Westlake): "The Remarkable Saga of the Frozen Dog," "People of the Royal Parks," etc. But great album or not, the band were unhappy with the sessions and Westlake promptly left the band. John "Poli" Palmer, previously in Deep Feeling, joined on percussion and vibes, but his term was short-lived. Unable to play the album live, the band's disastrous gigs ordered a rethink and a new direction was soon put to order. The album sunk with little trace, but has become a cult classic in the ensuing decades since its release.

Days Of Future Passed > Moody Blues, The

November, 1967
United States
Deram
4.615385
The Moody Blues were originally an R&B-inspired group who scored a UK No. 1 hit in 1964 with "Go Now" b/w "It's Easy Child." A few years later they recruited John Lodge and Justin Hayward, but it took a change to the Deram label and the purchase of a Mellotron before they'd find success again. To quote the liner notes from the album Days Of Future Passed, "The Moody Blues have at last done what many others have dreamed of and talked about: they have extended the range of pop music ...where it becomes one with the world of the classics." Rich cinematic productions were already a studio treatment du jour, yet the Moody Blues were attempting something more—let's call it symphonic rock. A dubious distinction, it reflects another tenant that would weigh heavy on prog rock: the attempt at musical respectability. Dropping the needle, the record plays out: lush orchestral accompaniments provide segue between songs, while a god-like voice recites poetry. Pretentious, of course, but one thing is certain: this isn't really rock ‘n' roll. Ultimately, the Moody Blues wrote pop tunes, thoroughly rooted in a 60s aesthetic. The second side cranks up the Mellotron and fares better, culminating in the classic "Nights in White Satin." It's a great song, and along with "Tuesday Afternoon (Forever Afternoon)," both rightly became classic tracks and FM radio staples. Moreover, the album's immaculate production is impressive for any era. So whatever the content, the right accoutrements could mean everything when speaking progressive. The album sold well, reaching No. 23 in the UK and No. 3 in the US. The Moody Blues would repeat this formula to continual success over the ensuing years. They took a rest in 1973, only to return at the end of the decade for more chart-climbing success.

The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack > Nice, The

December, 1967
United States
Immediate
4.333335
Taking their name from Steve Marriott's (of the Small Faces) euphemism for being high, The Nice originally formed as a back-up band for Immediate label soul singer P.P. Arnold. But the group's infatuation with Jimi Hendrix-like stage antics, manifested in Keith Emerson's keyboard histrionics, led them quickly away from the singer and into London's limelight. Guitar heroes had been around for years already, but Emerson lashed out as England's first keyboard showman. Their first single "The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack" b/w "Azrial (Angel of Death)" flopped, though the flip side proved most inviting. Their debut album, The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack, is atypical psychedelia. "Dawn" stretches out beyond pop, while "Cry of Eugene" contains that prototypical melody that Emerson would come back to again and again. The lengthy "Rondo" took its theme from "Blue Rondo à la Turk" by jazz composer Dave Brubeck (without credit) and gives a better taste for what The Nice could offer. Bassist Lee Jackson and drummer Brian Davison are a competent, if often overlooked, rhythm section, much like Hendrix's Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding. In November 1967, The Nice joined The Move, Pink Floyd and The Jimi Hendrix Experience on a tour of the UK, further cementing their reputation as a premier live act. Guitarist David O'List departed later in the summer, as sessions for their next album were just underway. The band remained a trio thereafter, giving Emerson ample room to flaunt his considerable talent. Though the album didn't chart, its impact was not diminished: The keyboard would become one of the distinguishing trademarks of prog rock, and Emerson its first superstar.

Their Satanic Majesties Request >

December, 1967
US
London Records
0
Even "traditionalists" like The Rolling Stones werenot impervious to the wave of psychedelia that swept London in 1967. Unfortunately for the Stones, this also included numerous drug busts, beginning with Keith Richards's home in Redlands, Sussex in February, and later, Brian Jones in May. The group managed to tour Europe in late March and April, returning to London to deal with legal issues, and the recording of their next album. Sessions were protracted over the next six months, to the point that original manager and producer Andrew Loog Oldham took his leave from the band. Released in December 1967, Their Satanic Majesties Request is an album flush with experimentation: every device-from a song's composition and arrangement, to the instrumentation the band utilizes on each track, to the recording techniques employed-was pushed to the limits of their ability, all to further the Stones' progression of sound. Of course, whether it worked or not is the album's ultimate judgement; however, poor-man's Sgt. Pepper it certainly is not! Session man Nicky Hopkins guests on the album, judiciously adding his keyboard talents throughout the record. The melody of "Sing This All Together" begins the record, and is simply infectious, though its arrangement is scattershot; "Citadel" goes for heavy rock (successfully), while the harpsichord and verse of "In Another Land" are reminiscent of Pink Floyd. The near eight-minute "Sing This All Together (See What Happens)" is either the epic psychedelic jam, or a drug-addled attempt at one. The jagged string arrangement of "She's A Rainbow," courtesy of John Paul Jones, offers an uncomfortable edge to an otherwise excellent tune. "Gomper" rides over a tabla rhythm and more of Hopkins's keyboards as it drifts off into a psychedelic trance, followed by the fierce Mellotron of "2000 Light Years From Home." The album rose to No. 3 in the UK and No. 2 in the US, but was mostly dismissed in the press. Whatever the verdict, the Stones would never travel this path again. Returning to their purist rock ‘n' roll roots, they would soldier on for decades, earning the honor of "the world's greatest rock ‘n' roll band" along the way.

Mr. Fantasy > Traffic

December, 1967
United States
United Artists Records
3.583335
Steve Winwood was known for his blue-eyed soul with the Spencer Davis Group, and songs such as "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I'm a Man" were the last in a string of hits from the group. By 1967, Winwood was out on his own, engaging some friends from his native Birmingham to form Traffic. They retired to the proverbial "cottage in the country" and created the first of two records that, along with Pink Floyd and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, would best characterize Britain's answer to America's acid rock: psychedelic rock. Their debut album, Mr. Fantasy, takes The Beatles' approach to great pop songs and adorns it with a palette straight from the era: Mellotron, sitar, lots of acoustic guitar, children's voices, etc. But into all of that, the band infuses a wide spectrum of influences; whether the raucous honky-tonk of "Berkshire Poppies" or the bluesy jazz of "Giving to You," Traffic is highly original and above all, rock ‘n' roll. Yet Winwood never loses sight of his R&B roots; just witness "Coloured Rain" and "Smiling Phases." The title track is perhaps the highlight, a preview of what the band could (and eventually would) deliver. Drummer Jim Capaldi and flautist/saxophonist Chris Wood provide ample support throughout; however, Dave Mason would prove to be a foil to the progressive experiments, leaving (but returning) soon after the recordings. The album made the UK Top 10, as did the singles "Paper Sun" b/w "Giving to You" and "Hole in My Shoe" b/w "Smiling Phases" earlier during London's Summer of Love. 1968 saw the whole trip repeated with the band's self-titled second album, Traffic. Although the album included two of Mason's finest compositions, "You Can All Join In" and "Feelin' Alright," only the latter would be issued as a single. Still, the album would again reach the UK Top 10 and even breach the US Top 20. But by 1969, Winwood disbanded Traffic to join the supergroup Blind Faith with Ric Grech, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton.

Tomorrow > Tomorrow

February, 1968
United States
Parlophone
4
As the In Crowd, a London-based mid-60s soul band, bassist John "Junior" Wood and singer Keith West (born Keith Alan Hopkins) found middling success, but after teaming with ex-Syndicats guitarist Steve Howe and drummer John "Twink" Alder, the quartet rebranded themselves as Tomorrow and launched straight into the popular psychedelia of 1967. Highly regarded as a live act, they had the honors of performing the first-ever radio session for BBC's DJ John Peel, although they missed out as the house band in Michelangelo Antonioni's cult film Blow Up (to The Yardbirds). Released in May 1967, their classic single "My White Bicycle" b/w "Claramount Lake" stalled on the charts, and a second single, "Revolution" b/w "Three Jolly Little Dwarfs," released in September, fared no better. This left a tenuous relationship with EMI and their debut album, recorded in the spring, missed out of the psychedelic boom of 1967. West and friend Ken Burgess composed most of the album, although it also contained a spirited cover of The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever." "Now Your Time Has Come" gives an early clue to Howe's talent, unique more for referencing the influence of Chet Atkins than the then-typical blues roots of most British guitarists. West had scored a No. 2 single with EMI producer Mark Wirtz's "Excerpts from a Teenage Opera" the previous July. His solo success put unreasonable pressure on the band, and shortly after their appearance at the Christmas on Earth Continued concert in December 1967 at London's Roundhouse, Tomorrow broke up. Twink would join The Pretty Things, while Howe would meander in Bodast for the next year, before eventually defining prog rock guitar with Yes.

The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter > Incredible String Band, The

March, 1968
US
Elektra
5
Over its near ten-year existence, The Incredible String Band revolved around the psychedelic folk of mainstays Robin Williamson and Mike Heron. In 1965, Williamson first teamed with Clive Palmer in Edinburgh, Scotland as a folk duo. The following year, they auditioned Heron and headed to London, where Joe Boyd signed them to Elektra Records. Their debut album was a traditional folk record, but earned accolades from Melody Maker. The trio then split. However, under Boyd's continued watch, Williamson and Heron reunited and released the more promising The 5000 Spirits Or The Layers of the Onion in July 1967. The record reached No. 26 in the UK charts and quickly The Incredible String Band became fixtures in the London underground. Their next album, The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, saw release in March 1968. Heron's "A Very Cellular Song" is the album's crown achievement. The 13-minute song shifts between its different sections, whether the Bahamian spiritual "I Bid You Goodnight" or the closing "May the Long Time Sun Shine;" the interim section, "Amoebas Are Very Small," offers an account of mitosis! Another of the album's highlights, "Waltz of the New Moon," is all Williamson until Heron comes in on harpsichord. Both Williamson and Heron offer a uniquely emotive vocal delivery throughout, one that would offer a blueprint for artists such as Peter Hammill and Syd Barrett to follow. The album's seemingly Spartan arrangement is mostly a ruse; armed with a chestful of acoustic instruments, ranging from gimbri and sitar, whistle and Jew's harp, harpsichord and various percussion instruments, there's a trance-like quality to the album's many layers that captivates the listener. The album soared to No. 5 on the UK charts, and while only reaching No. 161 in the US; yet it earned a Grammy Award nomination. Later in the year, the duo released the double-album Wee Tam And The Big Huge, now with girlfriends Christina "Licorice" McKechnie and Rose Simpson in full-time roles. The Incredible String Band continued releasing albums throughout the early 70s until Williamson and Heron split in 1974. Both continued successful solo careers for many years.

Odessey And Oracle > Zombies, The

April, 1968
UK
CBS
4.444445
Formed in 1962 in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, The Zombies comprised the talents of keyboardist Rod Argent, vocalist Colin Blunstone, bassist Chris White, guitarist Paul Atkinson and drummer Hugh Grundy. Like most bands of the British Invasion, they combined equal parts soul and beat, yet The Zombies had that something extra: incredible musicality. Released in July 1964, "She's Not There" b/w "You Make Me Feel So Good" was their first and only chart hit in the UK, reaching No. 12. But it eventually rose to No. 2 in the US in December, quickly followed by "Tell Her No" b/w "What More Can I Do," which rose to No. 6. However, further singles faltered and their 1965 album Begin Here (released as The Zombies in the US) only managed to reach No. 39 in the US. In 1967, the band signed with Columbia and entered EMI Studios on Abbey Road to record what would be Odessey And Oracle. Awashed in Mellotron, "Care of Cell 44" opens, telling the tale of an incarcerated girlfriend. "A Rose for Emily" follows, based on the story of the same name by James Faulkner. "Beechwood Park" is both delicate and beautiful, with a haunting vocal from Blunstone, while "Butchers Tale (Western Front 1914)" ambles under Argent's harmonium. Throughout the album, the songwriting of Argent and White is unparalleled, building upon the influence of The Beach Boys and the sophistication of The Beatles, and the execution from the band is perfectly captured on record. But the pressure of self-financing a required stereo mix broke The Zombies' will, and well before the album's release in 1968, the group had split up. Only after being re-released as a single in February 1969 did their "Time of the Season" b/w "Friends of Mine" reach No. 3 in the US, and the album eventually entered the US Top 100. However, there would be no afterlife for The Zombies.

Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake >

May, 1968
UK
Immediate
0
Hailing from East London, guitarists Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane and drummer Kenney Jones formed Small Faces in 1965, adding keyboardist Ian McLagan a year later. Originally signed to Decca, the band was a mod group to the core, offering hip appearances and hit pop singles. Switching to Immediate Records in 1967, Small Faces' soulful rock began to embrace psychedelia, as the drug-referenced "Here Comes the Nice" b/w "Talk to You" attests. Two further singles, "Itchycoo Park" b/w "I'm Only Dreaming" and "Tin Soldier" b/w "I Feel Much Better" broke them again into the UK Top 10 and, for the first time, the US charts. Their crowning achievement however was the excellent Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake. The title track opens the album, an instrumental beauty with phasing and fuzzy guitars galore that basks in the record's lo-fi sound. The deft string arrangement adds to the main theme, yet never overpower the powerful rhythm of Lane and Jones. After a tentative start, Marriott offers the prototypical power ballad with "Afterglow." McLagan's "Long Agos And Worlds Apart" offers him a rare vocal, while "Rene" gives Marriott a chance to crank his guitar to the proverbial eleven. "Song of a Baker" has a psychedelic edge, while the goofy "Lazy Sunday" harks to the band's past. As a single, it rose to No. 2 on the UK charts. Interspersed with Stanley Unwin's unique "looney links," the second side follows a song cycle about a young "Happiness Stan" that's looking for the moon's missing half. "Rollin' Over" hints at the Small Faces' brand of soul, while "The Hungry Intruder" opts for popsike. McLagan's keyboard's shine on "The Journey," propelled by Jones's neat fills. The side comes to a somewhat predictable conclusion with "Mad John" and "Happy Days Toy Town." The album, while topping the British charts at No. 1 for some six weeks, also proved to be the band's undoing: there was no way the group could perform the album live. Marriott was off to Humble Pie with Peter Frampton, while the others formed the Faces with ex-Jeff Beck Group Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood.

The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown > Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, The

June, 1968
United States
Track Record
4.5
Another stanchion of the London underground scene, Arthur Brown had huge success with the single "Fire" b/w "Rest Cure." Released in June, it rose to the top of the UK charts, while reaching No. 2 in the US that September. The single was a tough act to follow, perhaps even overshadowing the rest of his career. But let's not sell the man short. Brown's real contribution to rock music was theatre: his on-stage antics-from fire helmet to crucifixion-set the standard for most every act to follow. Plus, Brown's musical partner, Vincent Crane, was nothing short of genius. The Who's Pete Townshend and Kit Lambert produced their debut album, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. As covers of Screamin' Jay Hawkins and James Brown songs attest, the R&B influence is obvious, but the album's highlight is the five-song "opera" that comprises the first side of the record. Alternating from swinging pop to psychedelia, Crane's swirling organ playing and songwriting act as perfect counterpoint to Brown's distinct voice. Crane was no flash either. Having a formal musical education from Trinity College, his arrangements are first-rate. There's sophistication on "Child of My Kingdom" that transcends his age at the time, and his virtuoso performance certainly rivals any contemporary; perhaps even setting the standard for the organ. The album was extremely successful, reaching the UK No. 2 and the US No. 7. A young Carl Palmer replaced original drummer Drachen Theaker shortly after the album's release, yet after a second US tour, the band broke up, with Palmer and Crane forming Atomic Rooster. Brown's attempt to resurrect the band failed, but he would soon catch the progressive bandwagon with Kingdom Come.

Bare Wires > Mayall, John & The Bluesbreakers

June, 1968
US
London Records, London Records
0
Hailing from Macclesfield, Cheshire, John Mayall came to London in the early 60s to join in on the blues explosion, which he solidified with the formation of his Bluesbreakers and their debut album (aka "The Beano Album") with ex-Yardbird Eric Clapton. Mayall was a bandleader-in the 40s or 50s sense of the word-and the sheer number (and caliber) of musicians he would enlist is a virtual who's who of Britain's blues players, including future members of Cream, Free, Fleetwood Mac, Colosseum, The Rolling Stones and others. In 1967 he brought young guitarist Mick Taylor into the fold, along with saxophonists Chris Mercer and later, Blues Incorporated veteran Dick Heckstall-Smith. Following his first US tour in early 1968, Mayall introduced drummer Jon Hiseman and bassist Tony Reeves-both previously in the New Jazz Orchestra, the former via the Graham Bond Organisation. Henry Lowther rounded out the lineup, playing cornet and violin. Thus constituted, Mayall set out to record his epic Bare Wires album, released in June 1968. The album's centerpiece is the "Bare Wires Suite" medley which encompasses the record's first side. With the jazz chops of his band, Mayall lays down an amazing hybrid of blues: one compelling not only musically, but lyrically as well, with his own personal storytelling offering the form something uniquely British. The opening "Bare Wires" ambles over a humble harmonium, moving slowly to the acoustic blues of "Where Did I Belong," featuring violin from Lowther. "I Started Walking" lets Taylor fire his guitar, while the horns on "Open up a New Door" swing jazzily before yielding to Mayall's haunting vocal on "Fire." For "I Know Now," Mayall switches to organ, offering something more soulful and somber before wrapping it up with the straight-up "Look in the Mirror." It's an epic suite of music and mood, completely overshadowing the record's second side. The album was a great success in the UK, reaching No. 3; while in the US it became Mayall's first to chart at No. 59. Yet Mayall broke up the Bluesbreakers shortly thereafter and headed to L.A.'s Laurel Canyon to begin another chapter in his lengthy career. Hiseman, Reeves and Heckstall-Smith went on to form Colosseum.

A Saucerful Of Secrets > Pink Floyd

June, 1968
United States
Tower
3.1
With Syd Barrett's unpredictability on stage reaching the point of embarrassment for the band, Pink Floyd-bassist Roger Waters, drummer Nick Mason and keyboardist Rick Wright-forged ahead into 1968 with fellow Cambridge guitarist and friend David Gilmour in tow. Driven by pressure from EMI for another hit, they first released a single, "It Would Be So Nice" b/w "Julia Dream" in April, but it was mostly throwaway. However, the album, A Saucerful Of Secrets, fared much better. A few of the songs, including Wright's "Remember a Day" and Barrett's "Jugband Blues," were recorded the previous year and sound it. The remaining tracks illustrate the transition to the post-Barrett Floyd. Clearly, it's Waters who came in to deliver the goods; just check out the wicked opening bass riff of "Let There Be More Light," the first track recorded without contribution from Barrett. Gilmour steps up to the microphone on the track, revealing a voice that would become a signature for the band. Brooding and pulsing, the title track and "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" are propelled by Mason's deft but never busy drumming. Pink Floyd take a step toward progressive rock, relying on both their performance and the recording of the track to make their point. The ride is still psychedelic, but now more similar to the dark avant-garde of their live set than what they did previously with Barrett's gleeful compositions. But the album isn't without some duds: Waters's attempt at Barrett-like song-craft, "Corporal Clegg," and Wright's second tune on the album, "See-Saw," both miss the mark. Nevertheless, the record's marvel is that it existed at all. It was a definite success, breaking into the UK Top 10 at No. 9. The band released another single, "Point Me at the Sky" b/w "Careful with That Axe Eugene" in December, their last for almost a decade.

Fairport Convention > Fairport Convention

July, 1968
United States
Polydor
4
Fairport Convention got its start in the same London underground as their more psychedelic counterparts and eventually became England's first (and finest) electric folk band. Fairport too was absorbing their influences, here considerably West Coast (e.g. The Byrds) with the requisite Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell covers. Their debut is a pleasant and gentle affair that showcased the talents of guitarists Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol. "Sun Shade" and "The Lobster" both portend the King Crimson debut in some respects-except of course there's no Mellotron. Underneath the subdued recording, the compositions have more dynamics than one may expect; the guitar work is simply sublime. Judy Dyble would leave the band after the album's release. However, this seemingly innocuous event would be serendipitous to the timeline. Working with Ian McDonald, she enlisted the services of Giles, Giles & Fripp, and in doing so, sowed the seeds for King Crimson's rise. As for Fairport, her replacement, Sandy Denny, was previously in the Strawbs and would impart significant momentum into the direction Fairport Convention would follow. Similar to prog rock's relation with classical music, Fairport would take cues from traditional British music and within a few albums set a new standard for electric folk rock. Over the next few years, that scene would experience a musical renaissance in England, one that was certainly progressive in its own right. Along with Pentangle and Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention would enjoy a long career and international success.

July > July

July, 1968
United States
Epic
4.5
Hailing from Ealing, in west London, were two R&B groups, The Tomcats and Second Thought. In 1965, they combined, renamed themselves Los Tomcats and headed off to Spain for a couple of years for some moderate success. Returning to London in 1967, psychedelia was in full swing, prompting a change. Rechristened as July, the band included vocalist and guitarist Tom Newman, percussionist Jon Field, lead guitarist Tony Duhig, bassist Alan James and drummer Chris Jackson. Their debut album, July, was released in 1968 on Irish label Major Minor Records, but not before their first single, "My Clown" b/w "Dandelion Seeds" in June. The B-side is pure freakbeat, a hybrid of heavier R&B and psychedelia, and representative of the band's sound on the album. "Jolly Mary" though owes more than a passing resemblance to Barrett-era Pink Floyd, while "The Way" nods towards The Pretty Things, and the middle section of "Move on Sweet Flower" opts for some Procol Harum-inspired poetry. But that's not to say July weren't original. "You Missed It All" begins with a rudimentary conga beat, then offers a cool breakdown, while "Friendly Man" harnesses all the power of a studio available in 1968. The album's a perfect example of all that's good about the psychedelia of the era, poor sales notwithstanding. Following the band's breakup in 1969, Duhig and Field departed for Jade Warrior, where their music blossomed with originality. Newman became the house engineer for Virgin Records' The Manor Studio, producing Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells and many other recordings, while also recording two of his own solo albums later in the mid-70s.

Music In A Doll's House > Family

August, 1968
United States
Reprise Records
4.4
Family centered on the talents of guitarist John "Charlie" Whitney and vocalist Roger Chapman, and found early acceptance in the London underground scene. The pair was originally in the Leicester-based Farinas, along with sax/flute player Jim King and bassist Ric Grech. American producer Kim Fowley gave them their name, a reference to their "mafia" appearance. Rob Townsend then arrived on drums, and after recording one single for the Liberty label, they were signed by Reprise Records. Two further singles failed to chart, but the band quickly gained a considerable reputation from their live act; legend has it that Jimi Hendrix would never follow the band on stage. Family's debut album, Music In A Doll's House, was produced by Traffic's Dave Mason and Jimmy Miller, and had a predictably psychedelic, if not Traffic-esque, feel. Immediately, Chapman's raspy vocal on "The Chase" establishes one of the band's most recognizable signatures. But digging deeper, the album reveals sophistication few bands of the era would achieve. Their influences are wide. Both "Hey Mr. Policeman" and "The Breeze" hint at the blues, while "Voyage," with its roaring feedback and Mellotron breaks, is truly experimental. Inventively too, the album reprises themes from its selections between tracks. But songwriting would remain Chapman and Whitney's strong suit, and their debut has little shortage: "Mellowing Grey" and "Me My Friend" begin their long tradition of uniquely original song craft, as does the closing track "3 X Time" which-you guessed it-goes through three rhythmic changes. Well received, the album earned a No. 35 spot in the UK. No less than eight BBC appearances that year certainly helped the cause.

The Cheerful Insanity Of Giles, Giles And Fripp > Giles, Giles & Fripp

September, 1968
United States
Deram
3
This was by no means a major release; these are, however, the first recordings from guitarist Robert Fripp, and as such, of interest to the timeline. The band came to London from provincial Bournemouth, on England's south coast. Brothers Peter Giles and Michael Giles, bass and drums respectively, had spent the last seven years as a rhythm section together, performing mainly R&B covers. In London, they managed to secure a deal with Deram Records, who released two singles and the album, The Cheerful Insanity Of Giles, Giles & Fripp. Unfortunately, the album's highlight is on the opening track: "North Meadow" reveals a concise arrangement and the tight interplay of the Giles brothers. Otherwise, the tracks are predictably of the era. Each album side presents a musical story as terminally dated as the other: Fripp's "The Saga of Rodney Toady" on the first side, and on the second, Michael Giles's "Just George." The closing track "Erudite Eyes" finally gets electric and eclectic, but good luck getting that far through the record. Lyricist and jack-of-all Pete Sinfield would later remark "if one wondered what my contribution to King Crimson was, they should simply listen to this album!" But the album's failure was portentous: GG&F met up with Fairport Convention's Judy Dyble and her boyfriend Ian McDonald in response to an ad Dyble had placed for a backing band. Dyble remained for a short while (a version of "I Talk to the Wind" appeared on The Young Persons' Guide To King Crimson in 1975) before the men took over. And a few months and one wealthy uncle later, King Crimson was born.

Shine On Brightly > Procol Harum

September, 1968
United States
A&M Records
4.4
Procol Harum's second effort starts off predictably: Gary Brooker's monochromatic wail over Matthew Fisher's swirling Hammond chords on the title track offer elegance, while the pitter-patter of the following "Skip Softly (My Moonbeams)" gives way to something deeper. "Wish Me Well" even attempts some blues, obviously at guitarist Robin Trower's suggestion. Although the first side of the record could have easily come from their debut, the second side, containing the epic "In Held ‘Twas in I," is the real accomplishment here. Originally titled "Magnum Harum," it's a suite of intertwining songs, but serves as the template for the most progressive of all accessories: the album-side-long track. This idiomatic trait would remain the ultimate expression for the progressive artist: creating a composition with only the physical limitation of the vinyl record as the boundary. Opening with Keith Reid's ramblings about the Dalai Lama, the band breaks into some uncharacteristically complex runs, in a theme they would return to throughout the piece's various transitions. The success is the landscape; the track shifts between seriousness and folly, each movement well-integrated into the next, and culminating with Trower's soaring guitar over the final refrain. The track combines the writing and arrangement talents of both Brooker and Fisher, and the execution of the entire band-no small achievement. Like their debut, the album charted in America, reaching No. 24, but would again falter in their native Britain. Procol Harum would weather some personnel changes over the years, as they followed a similar musical path until their breakup in 1977. Their 1972 live album In Concert With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra was a career zenith on both sides of the Atlantic; but Shine On Brightly would remain their shining achievement, and a milestone for progressive rock.