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1970 Albums

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Time And A Word > Yes

July, 1970
United States
Atlantic
2.8
Yes' second album didn't break much new ground for the band, but it did confirm what most already knew: that they were a force to be reckoned with. In the studio, Eddie Offord sat, fortuitously, at the engineer's desk for the first time with the band. Yet Time And A Word wouldn't be the quantum leap Yes needed to propel them into the big league. In fact, the only leap here was Tony Cox's orchestral arrangements, a rather de rigueur post-psychedelic ornamentation of the day. To their credit, the strings (including quotes of Gustav Holst's "Jupiter") work better here than on other albums from the era, thanks in part to Tony Colton's up-front production. The album has a huge sound, relentlessly propelled by the Squire and Bruford rhythm team. But the star of the album is the grinding organ of Tony Kaye; classic in tone and always in the right place, whether anchored to the rhythm, counterpoint to Peter Banks's guitar or at its best, to the fore. The band still aren't 100 percent on original tunes, as capable covers of Richie Havens and Stephen Stills songs comprise half of the first side. The Jon Anderson-penned "Then" is particularly satisfying, while his "Clear Days" benefits from Cox's "Eleanor Rigby"-style arrangement. Anderson's lyrics tackle some cosmic themes for the first time on "Astral Traveller," something he'd return to on subsequent albums. With his old mate in The Warriors, David Foster, they co-wrote both "Time and a Word" and "Sweet Dreams," two great pop songs that would crop up in Yes' live set over the next decade. The album managed to crack the UK charts, rising to No. 45. Banks left the band just after the album was released; so soon that it's his replacement, Steve Howe, who appears on the album's US cover.

Gracious! > Gracious

August, 1970
US
Capitol Records
4
Hailing from Esher, Surrey, singer/drummer Paul "Sandy" Davis and guitarist Alan Cowderoy were in a blues-inspired combo called The Disciples. They eventually teamed up with drummer Robert Lipson and keyboardist Martin Kitcat, and were chosen to support The Who's national UK tour in 1968. Sessions with Norrie Paramor and Tim Rice yielded only a single for Polydor, but a gig supporting King Crimson in 1969 turned them full-on progressive as Gracious!. During a 1969 German tour, Tim Wheatley replaced Mike Laird on bass, and the band then landed a deal with Vertigo Records. Their debut album Gracious! was recorded in 1970 and featured a stark white cover with just an exclamation point. "Introduction" opens: under a chomping harpsichord, the band offer a curious mix of blues, pop and progressive rock. Davis's voice is first rate, reminiscent of Paul McCartney, and his lyrics have a religious bent. "Heaven" brings on the Mellotron, but unfortunately some terrible lyrics: "Do you have a clean mind?" The following "Hell" provides juxtaposition. It's darker and heavier, with phased cymbals crashing away; Kitcat's keyboard skills feature prominently. "Fugue in D Minor" is just that-a classical fugue-but the ensuing "The Dream" is an epic suite. After a slow introduction, Cowderoy lights up his electric guitar for a bluesy little vamp, before trading off with Kitcat's electric piano. It's improvised, but not without structure. Davis then goes all psychedelic, offering an Arthur Brown-type rant, before the Mellotron kicks in; the band's all fireworks, their blues influence never far away. Although the album saw release in the US on Capitol Records, success just wasn't in the cards for the band. A second album, This Is, was recorded in 1971, but the band was dropped by Vertigo; and by the time it saw release on Phillips budget label, Gracious! had already broken up. The album features another of their epic compositions, "Supernova."

Hawkwind > Hawkwind

August, 1970
United States
Liberty
4.5
In 1969, guitarist Dave Brock, guitarist Mick Slattery and drummer Terry Ollis gathered saxophonist Nik Turner and synthesist Michael "Dik Mik" Davies; and after a few name and personnel changes, they launched the ultimate underground band, Hawkwind. The band came to the attention of Doug Smith of Clearwater Productions (via DJ John Peel) after opening (as "Group X") for High Tide at a gig Smith organized at All Saints Hall in Notting Hill. Demos were then recorded at EMI Studios (as Hawkwind Zoo), and Huw Lloyd-Langton then replaced Slattery. Signed to United Artists, their debut album was produced in April of 1970 by the recent ex-Pretty Thing Dick Taylor. The bulk of the album, a big live jam known as "Sunshine Special," was separated into tracks for the record. It's total psychedelic improvisation, akin to Pink Floyd's early sonic excursions. But the key to its uniqueness is Hawkwind's relative lack of musical proficiency; they managed to use this handicap as a gateway to originality, though maybe the drugs also helped. Though perhaps initially at odds with other progressive groups, Hawkwind would experience a musical "progression" over the next several albums. The record is bookended by two tracks, the perennial favorite "Hurry on Sundown," an upbeat folksy number, and its cousin "Mirror of Illusion," both forged from Brock's days as a busker. Like all their albums for United Artists, it saw release in both the UK and US. Bassist John Harrison left the band shortly before the album's release, the first of a myriad of personnel changes for the band.

If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'D Do It All Over You > Caravan

September, 1970
United States
London Records
4.714285
By mid-1969, Caravan enlisted the services of manager Terry King, who in turn secured the band a long-term recording contract with Decca Records. First out was the Soft Machine-esque single "If I Could Do It All over Again, I'd Do It All over You" b/w "Hello Hello." It had some success, which resulted in a Top of the Pops appearance for the band, perhaps also raising the bar for their second effort, to which the band responded with the incredulously titled If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You. The humor was ever-present, of course, with song titles (e.g. "And I Wish I Were Stoned") emblematic of what would become typical Canterbury humor. Each side of the record opens with a side of the 45 single; however, the album plays straight through, in another of the so-called Canterbury tradition: continuous play. "As I Feel I Die" starts off meekly, but picks up at a brisk pace as it unfolds. "With an Ear to the Ground / You Can Make It / Martinian / Only Cox / Reprise," the first in a Caravan tradition of multi-section suites, contains some particularly delicate moments, thanks in part to Jimmy Hastings's flute work. But their greatest strength here is excellent songwriting, both highly original and with a slightly psychedelic bent. Caravan's groove was neither funky nor bluesy, yet it had an undeniable swing. Sweeping melodies dominate, flowing in between with riff and groove-most notably on the epic (and appreciably hard-rocking) segment of "For Richard."

As Your Mind Flies By > Rare Bird

September, 1970
United States
ABC Records
4.6
Rare Bird were part of Tony Stratton-Smith's Charisma Records stable of artists. Formed in 1969, the original lineup was built around two keyboardists, Graham Field (born Stansfield) and Dave Kaffinetti, who added Steve Gould on bass and vocals and Mark Ashton on drums. Their self-titled first album was released in late 1969 and featured classically-inspired organ rock, best demonstrated with the track "God of War." Yet it was the "Sympathy" b/w "Devils High Concern" that rose to No. 27 on the UK charts and sold a million copies worldwide. Rare Bird's next album, the wonderfully titled As Your Mind Flies By, is generally regarded as a prog rock classic. Continuing the direction of their previous album, "What You Want to Know" opens and one thing is instantly clear: Gould's soul-tinged voice is powerful and untamed; to wit, the short "Down on the Floor" aches with overwrought emotion. "Hammerhead" offers a model similar to labelmates Van der Graaf Generator or Genesis-the band performs perfunctory prog rock; driven by Field's organ and the excellent rhythm section of Gould and Ashton, Kaffinetti's piano adds a distinct color. "I'm Thinking" furthers it, offering an even more detailed arrangement. The second side is encompassed by the album's side-long track "Flight." It's quintessential music that stands up to the band's contemporaries: driving rhythm, plenty of organ, slightly chaotic digression and a gloriously ostentatious finale-though why the vocals on "Central Park" sound like a tortured Greg Lake is anyone's guess. Prior to their third (and largely underrated) 1972 album Epic Forest, Field and Ashton would depart, the former releasing one eponymous album of heavy organ rock-Fields-with ex-King Crimson Andrew McCulloch, and guitarist/bassist Alan Barry.

Trespass > Genesis

October, 1970
United States
ABC Records
3.875
Having graduated from Charterhouse, Genesis-vocalist Peter Gabriel, guitarists Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips and keyboardist Tony Banks-decided to become professional musicians; and in the summer of 1969, set off to do so. Replacing John Silver, drummer John Mayhew was found via a Melody Maker advert. They settled into old classmate (and road manager) Richard MacPhail's parents' cottage and began writing and rehearsing. It was in these idyllic surroundings and under the influence of King Crimson's debut album that the band's early compositions and live set congealed. Meanwhile, they began gigging, anywhere anyone would book them. It was during a brief residency at Ronnie Scott's (Upstairs) that Tony Stratton-Smith first went to hear them (on producer John Anthony's recommendation), and in a leap of faith, signed them to his Charisma label. They entered Trident Studios to record their second album in June. Trespass is gentle, immature and one hundred percent Genesis. Most everything the band would be known for can be found within, albeit in nascent form: the 12-string guitars, the lyricism and drama, and above all, the originality. You had to hand it to Stratton-Smith: Leaving bands to their own devices, he allowed each group to evolve into their own particular and sometimes peculiar style. Genesis was no exception. "Looking for Someone" is delicate, but full of dynamics. Other standouts include the elegant "Stagnation," with one of Banks's most sensitive organ solos, and their raucous and electric set-closer, "The Knife." Shortly after the recording, Anthony Phillips decided to leave the band. With the departure of one of their primary songwriters, Genesis' future was left uncertain.

Gentle Giant > Gentle Giant

October, 1970
United Kingdom
Vertigo
3.90909
Gentle Giant rose from the remains of the Shulman brothers' pop group, Simon Dupree & the Big Sound. That band had some minor chart success when the single "Kites" b/w "Like the Sun, Like the Fire" broke into the UK Top 10 in late 1967. More surprisingly were the legions of teenage girls that the band attracted, as documented in the British television show Man Alive. But at the turn of the decade, the three Shulman brothers-Derek, Ray and Phil-were ready to make the switch over to a more serious, progressive sound and show the world their considerable musical talents. They teamed up with Royal Academy of Music graduate Kerry Minnear on keyboards and drafted Gary Green to play guitar, while Martin Smith would be the band's first drummer. Their first album was released on the Vertigo label, one of the new labels catering to the burgeoning progressive sound. An auspicious debut, Gentle Giant would become one of the more celebrated and cerebral bands of the progressive era, with their complex arrangements, shifting time signatures and expansive artillery of instruments all trademarks of the band. Some of that is here in their debut; particularly on "Giant," with its excellent keyboard break, and "Alucard" ("Dracula" backwards), with its huge Minimoog bass line. Composition would also remain Gentle Giant's strong suit. Take "Nothing at All"-gentle folk number? Not really. It breaks down into a cacophony of phased drums and piano. The bluesy digression of "Why Not" offers some of the same, but also reveals another Giant tradition-the ability to rock out-something the band (but not the genre) would never forget. Charting, however, would always be a problem, especially in their native England.

Shooting At The Moon > Ayers, Kevin

October, 1970
United Kingdom
Harvest
0
For his second release, Shooting At The Moon, Ayers left his Soft Machine cohorts behind and assembled his first band, the Whole World. Composer/keyboardist David Bedford carried over, but new on deck were busker-extraordinaire/saxophonist Lol Coxhill and a young Mike Oldfield on bass. Various drummers would round out the lineup, including Robert Wyatt and Dave Dufort; but Mick Fincher filled in for this album. And what a weird album it is! "May I?" opens, an archetypical Ayers ballad. Bluesy, sexy and oh-so decadent, it showcases his keen songwriting talent. From there the album bounces from Softs-esque psychedelia to pure Dada nonsense and back, before recovering with the playful "Clarence In Wonderland" and its wonderful chorus. It's a tune he would perform during his brief 1971 stint with Gong. The album closes with "Shooting at the Moon," a song that Soft Machine performed as "Jet-Propelled Photograph" during Ayers tenure with the band. He would record another two albums for Harvest, Whatevershebringswesing and Bananamour. Released in 1972 and 1973 respectively, the former featured the Whole World and Didier Malherbe, while the latter saw bassist Archie Legget and drummer Eddie Sparrow on deck. Both are full of onomatopoeia, Dada, would-be hits, off-kilter arrangements and brilliant songwriting, always attracting critical acclaim but never earning commercial success. Even the should-have-been-a-hit single "Caribbean Moon" b/w "Take Me to Tahiti," released in 1973, somehow failed (be sure to watch the promotional film). Harvest would later release a compilation album from this period of singles and sundry tracks, appropriately titled Odd Ditties, in 1976.

Atom Heart Mother > Pink Floyd

October, 1970
United States
Harvest
4.1
Pink Floyd's fifth album, Atom Heart Mother, appeared a full year after the disappointing studio half of Ummagumma. Originally titled "The Amazing Pudding," the album's side-long title suite was an amalgam of work the Floyd had been kicking around at the time. Of course, 1970 turned out to be the year for adding orchestras to rock music, something to which even the Floyd would succumb. Composer Ron Geesin was called in to score the already-recorded backing track. He and Roger Waters had first collaborated almost two years prior (though the soundtrack, The Body, would see release in November). Yet the piece's wavering tempo and the so-called "professional" musicians' attitudes nearly proved his undoing. "Father's Shout" rises to David Gilmour's cinematic main theme, while "Breast Milky" continues the (more or less) symphonic nature of the track. The choir takes over on "Mother Fore" until Gilmour's bluesy licks open "Funky Dung." From there, the main theme reprises itself between blasts of Mellotron and shouts of choir, before the final section, "Remergence," offers one last big finale. For the most part, the effort fails, as the concept is more interesting than the execution. But what an experiment it was! A clutch of songs from the individual band members fill the second side. "If" proves to be a Waters archetype, while Rick Wright's Beach Boy-esque "Summer ‘68" remains one of his finest offerings. The last track, the group composition "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast," is somewhat of a sleeper; though full of gauzy melodies, psychedelic it certainly is not. In fact, it's probably the most un-Floyd-like song the band would write. The album cover offered no name or title: only the picture of a cow, the magnificent Lullubelle III. Despite the lack of critical zeal for the record, it turned out to be Pink Floyd's first No. 1 album in the UK. Although EMI would release an essential compilation of singles, Relics, the following May, little would be heard from the Floyd over the next year.

Present From Nancy > Supersister

October, 1970
Netherlands
Polydor
3.8
Formed in 1968 in the The Hague, Supersister was comprised of Robert Jan Stips (vocals and keyboard), Sacha van Geest (flute), Marco Vrolijk (drums) and the non-bespectacled Ron van Eck (bass). Extensive play from pirate ship Radio Veronica brought the band's first single, "She Was Naked" b/w "Spiral Staircase" to No. 11 on the Dutch charts in May 1970, and helped land a contract with Polydor Records. Their debut album Present From Nancy appeared in the fall. Between the Mike Ratledge-inspired tones of Stips's keyboards, the musical quirkiness-quick shifting meters and jazz-inspired rhythms-Supersister draws a parallel to the music of Soft Machine. After the introductory "Introductions," a quick blast of fuzz bass opens "Present from Nancy;" Stips's piano teems with life, bouncing effortlessly across the tune. He switches to organ on "Memories Are New" before the track descends into chaos, while the following "11/8" turns again to fuzz. "Dreaming Wheelwhile" slows the pace, a welcome respite to the album's first side. After the brief "Corporation Combo Boys," side two's "Mexico" builds slowly before erupting into "Metamorphosis." The closing "Dona Nobis Pacem" ("Grant us Peace") does just that; but, true to Supersister's form, gets silly at the end. Again, much like Soft Machine's early work, the album pinch's that stream-of-consciousness that would help define the so-called Canterbury style. To the Highest Bidder arrived in the summer of 1971, offering four tracks that display the band's jazzier side. Nominated for a prestigious Edison music award in the Netherlands, the album also saw release in England on John Peel's Dandelion label.

i Spider > Samurai

October, 1970
United Kingdom
Polydor
5
Web released two albums of late-60s pop for Deram, both produced by Mike Vernon. When their American singer John Watson left to go solo, Dave Lawson, previously in a lineup of Episode Six, joined as keyboard player, singer and main composer. He brought a huge stylistic shift for the band, leaving behind northern soul for something far more jazzy and progressive. Lawson had finished a five-year stint with the Royal Air Force; but prior to that, had studied under British jazz pioneer Stan Tracey. Web was rounded out by two percussionists, Lennie Wright and Kenny Beveridge, as well as Tony Edwards on guitar, John Eaton on bass and Tom Harris on horns. I Spider blasts opens with "Concerto for Bedsprings." Powerful one moment, light and jazzy the next, it's an original mix of progressive music-recalling the fury of VdGG or Colosseum-and foreshadows Lawson's future work. The title track creeps up over a swirling organ, building slowly to great effect. Guitarist Edwards has his moments on "Love You," while the percussion and keyboards are upfront on the instrumental "Ymphasomniac." "Always I Wait" highlights Lawson's vocal meter as his musical signature; he wields it like an instrument. At the same time, the combination of vibes and horns are unique and rare for the era. After Polydor Records released the album, Web were off touring the breadth of England, and even performed dates in Scandinavia. But success was elusive, and the band folded abruptly, only to reappear as Samurai a few months later.

Airconditioning > Curved Air

November, 1970
United States
Warner Bros. Records
4
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.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer > Emerson, Lake & Palmer

November, 1970
United States
Cotillion
4.76923
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.

McDonald And Giles > McDonald and Giles

November, 1970
United States
Cotillion
4.4
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.

Patto > Patto

November, 1970
US
Vertigo
4
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.

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

December, 1970
Sweden
Silence Records
5
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
US
Mercury
0
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
Atlantic
4.333335
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
Dunhill
4.6
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.