1970 Albums

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Sagan Om Ringen (Lord Of The Rings) > Hansson, Bo

December, 1970
Silence Records
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]

Holy Magick > Bond, Graham

December, 1970
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.

Lizard > King Crimson

December, 1970
United States
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.

H To He Who Am The Only One > Van Der Graaf Generator

December, 1970
United States
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.