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1971 Albums

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Banana Moon > Allen, Daevid

July, 1971
France
BYG Records
0
For his second album for BYG, Daevid Allen returned to London, as Jean Karakos wanted some Soft Machine star power on board. His visa issues resolved, Allen could legally enter the UK; and after a gig supporting Soft Machine at the Roundhouse, BYG booked Marquee Studios and the ensuing Banana Moon album was recorded over a period of “bacchanalia-filled” days. Gongster Christian Tritsch’s guitar and bass ignite the opening “It’s the Time of Your Life,” which also features Delivery’s Pip Pyle on drums. The wistful “Memories,” penned by Hugh Hopper and a staple from early The Wilde Flowers days, features Robert Wyatt on vocals, thus fulfilling Karakos’s wish. Wyatt and bassist Archie Legget provide the rhythm section for most of the album. “Fred The Fish and the Chip On His Shoulder” has a sing-along feel, obviously reflecting the pub-like mood of the recording session. “White Neck Blooze” features Allen performing an uncanny and dead-on Kevin Ayers impersonation, complete with backing vocals from Barry St. John and Legget’s cohorts, Maggie Bell and Gary Wright. The second side features Allen’s “Stoned Innocent Frankenstein”-a lovely and melodic number that descends into the darker space of “And His Adventures in the Land of Flip.” The latter track is a full-on monster of spontaneous jamming, featuring Wyatt, Legget and violinist Gerry Field. The side closes with “I Am a Bowl,” another instant composition graced with Soft Machine guest Nick Evans’s trombone. The album saw release in July on the French BYG label and was reissued by Caroline Records in 1975.

Fool's Mate > Hammill, Peter

July, 1971
United States
Charisma
4.333335
Having already spent most of the year on tour with VdGG, Peter Hammill’s first solo album was recorded in what must have been an exceptionally busy year for him. As a solo artist, Hammill was a slightly different creature. It wouldn’t be incorrect (at this stage) to call the singer-songwriter acoustic; but in true progressive tradition, his song-form certainly was original. The album, as Hammill states on the liner notes, is “an album of songs rather than a musical extravaganza” (that of course, he was saving for the next VdGG album). Most of the songs were years old by the time the album was recorded, many first being cataloged in the early days of VdGG. Adding to the overall color of the album, Fool’s Mate features a host of colleagues, including all of VdGG and Robert Fripp, plus Ray Jackson and Rod Clements from Lindisfarne. Both sides of the album open with uncharacteristically rollicking numbers. “Imperial Zeppelin” is one of two songs co-written with former VdGG member Chris Judge Smith (the other being the excellent “Viking”). Some of the album shows the zest of The Aerosol Grey Machine-in particular, the lumbering “Candle” and the brisk “Re-awakening.” But the portraits of “Solitude” and “Child,” both simultaneously bleak and beautiful, point in the direction that Hammill’s solo career would follow (for now, anyway). Two other tracks, “Vision” and “The Birds,” would both crop up a decade later in re-recordings, again reaffirming their timelessness. Hammill would become one of the most prolific solo artists of the genre, but all of that would have to wait; there was still much unfinished business in VdGG to attend to.

In Hearing Of > Atomic Rooster

August, 1971
United States
Elektra
4.25
Judging by the success of their last album and single, this was indeed the year of the Rooster (though technically, it was the Year of the Boar). Another single, this time penned by John Du Cann, was released in July. “Devil’s Answer” b/w “The Rock” was a hit, reaching No. 4 on the UK charts. However, the creative differences between Du Cann and Vincent Crane had come to a head. Crane recruited vocalist Pete French, formerly in Leafhound, to re-record Du Cann’s vocals on the nearly completed album. In retrospect, it was a good addition; French is a more accomplished vocalist and the album, In Hearing Of, rates as Atomic Rooster’s finest. “Breakthrough” and the instrumental “A Spoonful of Bromide Helps the Pulse Rate Go Down” are fierce rockers. But again, the quieter tracks best demonstrate Crane’s significant talent. He switches to piano for the bittersweet “Decision/Indecision” while the sublime “Black Snake” proves Crane’s expert command of the Hammond organ (and offers a rare vocal from him as well). Drummers also take note: Paul Hammond is superb throughout. The album’s strength, though, is its songwriting, giving it a continuity that the band’s previous efforts lacked. Of some minor note to prog rock punters, the album cover and gatefold sport one of Roger Dean’s most un-cosmic creations. The album reached No. 18 in the UK charts. Yet both Hammond and Du Cann would depart the band-forming the hard-rocking Hard Stuff with John Gustafson. Crane, with French, recruited guitarist Steve Bolton and drummer Ric Parnell for the subsequent tour, which included a supporting slot for The Who at George Harrison’s UK Concert for Bangladesh.

Frumpy 2 > Frumpy

August, 1971
Germany
Philips
5
Founded by Irishman John O’Brien-Docker, Hamburg’s The City Preachers was folk-rock band that featured (among others) vocalists Inga Rumpf and Dagmar Krause, as well as drummer Udo Lindenberg. They split in 1968, with Rumpf, Krause and Lindenberg teaming up with French keyboardist Jean-Jacques Kravetz and bassist Karl-Heinz Schott. By 1970, however, Krause left to eventually join Slapp Happy (but not before recording the split-album I.D. Company with Rumpf), while Lindenberg went off to Klaus Doldinger’s Passport. Carsten Bohn was brought in on drums; and reconstituted as Frumpy (a play on Inga’s name), the band switched their musical direction to the newly awakening progressive. Signed to Philips, their debut album All Will Be Changed was recorded in August 1970, and they promptly hit the road with a 50-date German tour supporting Spooky Tooth. The blueprint was there: They had bluesy rock with classical digressions, even separated out as individual tracks; and though songs like “Floating” and “Indian Rope Man” showcase the band’s talents, nothing, absolutely nothing, could prepare the world for the sonic onslaught that was Frumpy 2. “Good Winds” opens like a punch in the face; Kravetz’s roaring organ tone just perfect, Inga’s voice belting out a growl unparalleled by any woman in rock. “How the Gipsy Was Born” (sic) and “Take Care of Illusion” continue the pace, with the rhythm section of Bohn and Schott pounding furiously and with aplomb. The addition of guitarist Rainer Baumann enriches the overall sound, but his role is mainly playing leads. It’s a magical record: one of the heaviest and most relentless of the era. But the intensity wouldn’t last; after a third album, By The Way, released in early 1972, Frumpy split. Rumpf, Kravetz and Schott recruited new members-drummer Curt Cress (ex-Orange Peel) and guitarist Frank Diez (ex-Emergency)-and formed the more commercially-orientated Atlantis.

Acquiring The Taste > Gentle Giant

August, 1971
United States
Vertigo
3.75
The title of Gentle Giant’s second album, Acquiring The Taste, was of course a reference to their musical oeuvre. The liner notes insist, “It has taken every shred of our combined musical and technical knowledge… to expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music.” And there you have it: the progressive ethos! The band plays what seems to be an orchestra of instruments over the course of the album. From the baroque recorders on “Wreck” to the alto and tenor saxophones of “The Moon Is Down,” Giant extend the range of their music in a genuinely eclectic way. Remember, this was 1971: If you wanted new sounds, you had to come up with them on your own; there were no magic buttons to press. The string quartet on “Black Cat” is highly effective, lending warmth to the feline interpretation. And dig the Walter Carlos-esque Moog synthesizer of the title track. Throughout the album, the Giant’s performance is, of course, consummate, as is Tony Visconti’s impeccable production. Both “Plain Truth” and “The House, the Street, the Room” carry a familiar heaviness the band would often revisit. Lyrically, the album also stretches out, referencing the literary works of 16th century humanist François Rabelais in “Pantagruel’s Nativity.” The liner notes further describe and predict the album’s conclusion: “to give you something far more substantial… at the risk of being very unpopular.” For the most part, Gentle Giant succeed on both counts: Their technical ability was enormous, and their albums did not sell very well. The album was their first to see release in the US, yet it failed again to chart. Gentle Giant would, however, record another two albums for Vertigo.

The Inner Mounting Flame > Mahavishnu Orchestra

August, 1971
United States
Columbia
5
Though fusion could be described as the combination of jazz and rock, it may be more accurate to acknowledge its rise as “when jazz got electric.” Mahavishnu Orchestra was definitely electric, perhaps even manic at times. Guitarist John McLaughlin had just left The Tony Williams Lifetime, where things had continued, according to the guitarist, “getting louder and louder.” Of course, the Yorkshire-born McLaughlin had been at it for more than a decade; he played with everyone from Graham Bond to Brian Auger to Jack Bruce, and culminated the trip on Miles Davis’s legendary fusion works, In A Silent Way and Bitches’ Brew. But while Davis was out to explore improvisation and groove, McLaughlin wanted a team to perform his compositions. He handpicked the international cast and, as the title suggests, lit a fire under them. Drummer Billy Cobham and bassist Rick Laird supply the fierce rhythm section, and soaring—almost always in unison—are the soloists: Violinist Jerry Goodman had spent time in The Flock, while Czech-born Jan Hammer had recently immigrated to the US. Yet McLaughlin’s guitar steals the show; his fluid arpeggios generate fury and speed; just check out “Dawn” or “The Noonward Race.” It’s no wonder this massively influential album became a legend in both jazz and progressive circles—virtuosity never sounded this good. Marketed to a rock audience, it sold well too, reaching No. 89 in the US; the image of McLaughlin and his double-neck guitar certainly helped, as did their concerts, which were primarily offered to rock audiences. Their follow-up, Birds of Fire, managed to reach the Top 20 on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet by 1974, the constant touring took its toll and the band broke up. McLaughlin would recruit a new lineup (featuring Jean-Luc Ponty, Gayle Moran and Narada Michael Walden) for two albums in the mid-70s, which focused more on construction than execution. Still, The Inner Mounting Flame remains a significant and bold musical step in the history of rock and jazz music alike.

Concerto Grosso Per I New Trolls > New Trolls

August, 1971
United States
Fonit Cetra
3.5
Hailing from Genoa, the New Trolls were one of the first Italian rock bands. Story has it the band was “created” by a music critic choosing an ideal lineup: guitarist Vittorio De Scalzi, vocalist (and guitarist) Nico Di Palo, drummer Gianni Belleno, keyboardist Mauro Chiarugi and bassist Giorgio D’Adamo were all fortunate enough to land a supporting spot on The Rolling Stones’ 1967 tour of Italy. After several successful singles (and two albums compiling them), the band collaborated with Argentinean composer Luis Enríquez Bacalov for Concerto Grosso per i New Trolls. Based on Baroque music, the piece opens with “Allegro,” with the hard blues of the era alternating between brisk waves of strings. The syrupy “Adagio (Shadows)” follows, a rather unspectacular vocal number; while “Cadenza - Andante Con Moto” features solo violin. Only the closing “Shadows (Per Jimi Hendrix)” goes electric, courtesy of Di Palo’s Jimi Hendrix-influenced guitar. Encompassing the second side is an in-studio improvisation from the band. After a protracted organ intro, the band rocks out, ranging from flute-driven rock to jazzy Santana-esque grooves and ends in one long drum solo. But according to Paolo Barotto in his The Return of Italian Pop, the record sold a phenomenal 800,000 copies in Italy and is generally regarded as the foundation of Italian progressive rock. Bacalov, who spent the 60s composing soundtracks for spaghetti westerns, would render the same services for Osanna the following year and Il Rovescio della Medaglia in 1973, though the former was undoubtedly his crowning musical achievement. In 1972, the New Trolls issued two albums: The half-live, half-studio Searching For A Land included a switch to English-language vocals, while UT was generally better received-in fact, one of the band’s finest records. The band then split; De Scalzi formed the New Trolls Atomic System (to avoid legal hassles) and issued a self-titled album of progressive rock in 1973, while Di Palo formed Ibis with most of the other members of the New Trolls. In 1976 the factions made up and reformed the New Trolls, uniting De Scalzi, Di Palo and Belleno with new members. Their first recording was Concerto Grosso No. 2; but unfortunately, it did little to further their legacy.

Die Grüne Reise - The Green Journey > A.R. & Machines

September, 1971
Germany
Polydor
4
One of Germany’s rock pioneers, Achim Reichel founded beat-era The Rattles, the country’s equivalent to The Beatles, with Herbert Hildebrandt in 1960. Military service drew Reichel from the band; but upon discharge, he continued his musical career with the pop group Wonderland. At the start of the 70s, however, his interests in Eastern philosophies coincided with the burgeoning progressive trend. Teaming with lyricist Frank Dostal, he launched the just plain weird Wonderland Band. In 1971, Die Grüne Reise (“The Green Journey”) was the first album under Reichel’s new moniker, A.R. & Machines. Billed as a “soundtrack to the intended motion picture,” the album is certainly a trip. Reichel recorded the album by himself, adding vocals, percussion and electronic effects; Dostal wrote the lyrics. “Machines” refers to the tape recorders that made up Reichel’s signature “echo-guitar.” In layering multiple guitar lines to hypnotic effect, he predates just about everyone that would follow (Robert Fripp, Manuel Göttsching, Günter Schickert, etc.). “Beautiful Babylon,” for example, is resplendent, and offers a completely different take on the kosmische. There’s also a hippie vibe throughout the record that could be seen as strength (“I’ll Be Your Singer”), or not (“Come On, People”). Yet the album-twangy, metric and definitely psychedelic-is Reichel’s own progressive twist on rock ‘n’ roll, culminating in the whacked-out “Truth and Probability” with Reichel now layering his voice through the tape machines! The album saw release on Polydor, as did the following year’s double-album opus, Echo. Produced again by Reichel, the album enlisted the services of Conny Plank as engineer, and featured a host of guest musicians. With the “Machines” hypnotic echo-guitar in full force, it’s largely augmented by acoustic guitar, tabla rhythms and Reichel’s deep baritone croon-though Peter Hecht’s orchestration also shines. It’s an unprecedented set, and one of the most stunning albums of the era. Later Reichel set up his own Zebra imprint with Polydor and released albums by a variety of artists, including Kin Ping Meh, Ougenweide and Randy Pie. He also would release a few more A.R. & Machines albums, including the excellent IV in 1973. By mid-decade, however, Reichel’s involvement with progressive rock would be limited to that of producer and label head, as his (successful) solo career settled into more commercial territory, beginning with Dat Shanty Alb’m in 1976.

Second Album > Curved Air

September, 1971
United States
Warner Bros. Records
4.125
Infinitely more rewarding than their debut was Curved Air’s aptly titled Second Album. Bassist Ian Eyre replaced Robert Martin, the first in what would become an all-too-frequent occurrence for the band. The considerable musical talents of the classically-trained violinist Darryl Way and keyboardist Francis Monkman finally gel here, even though their compositions split the album’s sides. Way’s “Young Mother” opens and features some excellent synthesizer work from Monkman. The funky “Back Street Luv” b/w “Everdance” was a hit for the band the previous summer, reaching No. 5 in the UK. Sonja Kristina’s voice is unique for rock, let alone progressive rock: It’s rather formal and always up in the mix, something Renaissance would replicate a few years later. Monkman’s “Everdance” is a refreshing change, with Way’s violin well-integrated into the song; while “Piece of Mind” finally delivers the fusion of rock and classics the band initially promised. The album was well-received in the UK, perhaps this time (without picture disc) more genuinely so, reaching No. 11 on the charts. Bassist Mike Wedgwood was on board for their next album, 1972’s Phantasmagoria, which continued to refine Curved Air’s classical sound-especially on compositions like “Marie Antoinette” and “Over and Above.” The album again charted in the UK, albeit only reaching No. 20. It would be the last album with both Way and Monkman (for now, anyway), as the band would soon undergo massive personnel changes.

2 (Eulenspygel) > Eulenspygel

September, 1971
Germany
Spiegelei
4
Founded in 1965, the Royal Servants was a beat-era band from Reichenbach, Swabia, in the southwest of Germany. Like most groups of the era, their music matured from beat to psychedelic to something a little more progressive. We, the group's first album, was recorded in 1970 for the Swiss Elite Special label. A curious mix of organ, driving rhythm and English-language lyrics, it was a competent work of the era. But after sharing a bill with the German-language rock pioneers Ihre Kinder, a band from Nuremberg that shared similar beat-era roots (as Jonah & The Whales), the Royal Servants rebranded themselves as Eulenspygel-after Till Eulenspiegel, a figure in medieval folklore (literally "owl glass")-and began singing in their native tongue. Featuring original Servant and guitarist Matthias James "Till" Thurow with later Servants Ronald "Ronnie" Libal on bass, Günter Klinger on drums and Detlev Nottrodt on guitar, the band included Rainier "Mulo" Maulbetsch on vocals, Karlheinz Großhans on organ and Cornelius Hauptmann on flute. Signing to the Intercord imprint Spiegelei (literally "mirror egg," but German for "sunny-side up" which may explain the album's cover), their "second" album was released in Autumn 1971. The bluesy riff of "Till" rips open the album, revealing the baritone voice of Maulbetsch. "Son My" breaks down to a driving kosmische groove, with the dual guitars of Thurow and Nottrodt trading licks over Hauptmann's flute and Großhans's organ. "Konsumgewäsche" ("Consumption") cops a mean break, but the lyric's political message-as with many German bands of the era-is lost to the non-native speaker. "Staub Auf Deinem Haar" ("Dust on Your Hair") again features a jazzy groove, but the opening of "Das Lied Vom Ende" ("Song of the End") begins with classical ambitions, before descending into the band's shifting and rhythmic meters, here with Thurow adding violin. The band had significant support from their record label, and toured extensively in support of the album. Highlighted by the epic track "Abfall," Eulenspygel recorded a second album, Ausschuß ("Committee"), at The Beatles' Apple Studios in 1972, but further recordings failed to materialize, and by 1973 the band had called it a day.

Galactic Zoo Dossier > Kingdom Come

October, 1971
United Kingdom
Polydor
3.666665
Success may have proved too much for Arthur Brown, as his attempts to keep the Crazy World together failed. Along with Drachen Theaker, Brown assembled a new band, provisionally called Puddletown Express, in late 1969. The lineup included saxophonist George Khan, organist Jonah Mitchell, bassist Dennis Taylor and guitarist Andy Rickell, aka “Android Funnel.” A follow-up to the Crazy World was recorded, but ultimately abandoned. (It did see release decades later as Strange Lands, as did the Brown-less Rustic Hinge recordings). Brown then formed Kingdom Come in 1970 with yet another revolving cast, this time involving Dave Ambrose, Rob Tait, Andrew McCulloch, Andy Dalby and Michael “Goodge” Harris. Initial rehearsals from this nascent group were also released decades later. The band-now with Dalby, Harris, Martin “Slim” Steer on drums and Desmond Fisher on bass-held together long enough to record their debut at London’s Olympic and Monmouth’s Rockfield studios. Galactic Zoo Dossier is a highly crafted prog rock classic; and without a doubt, one of the most bizarre albums of the era. The record plays continuously, which should be no surprise; a self-proclaimed “multi-media experience,” the concert stage-with face painting, costumes, props and all-was Kingdom Come’s forte. And the album plays out: “Space Plucks,” co-written with Vincent Crane, contains one of his classic organ hooks, while “Gypsy Escape” illustrates the exceptional musicality of the band. The unmistakable voice of Brown and his R&B influences lend a soulful slant to the proceedings, something rare for English music from this period. Just check out his passionate delivery on “Sunrise.” The album saw release on Polydor in the UK, but despite extensive touring, failed to chart.

Song Of The Marching Children > Earth and Fire

October, 1971
United States
Polydor
4.666665
In the 1970s, the Netherlands spawned groups ranging from the better-known Golden Earring, Focus and Kayak to the lesser-known Supersister and Alquin. On the latter end of the spectrum, Earth and Fire combined the talents of the brothers Koerts-Chris on guitar and Gerard on keyboards-with Hans Ziech on bass and female vocalist Jerney Kaagman. Their initial success was as a singles band; from the early-to-mid 70s, they consistently littered the Dutch record charts with their English-language hits. Their self-titled debut was typical of the era: psychedelic rock with some good arrangements, but not without the West Coast influence of Jefferson Airplane. Ton van der Kleij then replaced original drummer Cees Kalis; and after purchasing a Mellotron, the band moved in a musically progressive direction, releasing Song Of The Marching Children in 1971. “Carnaval of the Animals” (sic) is circus music, while “Ebbtide” has pop overtones. Gerard’s classically-inspired organ leads “Storm and Thunder,” yet “In the Mountains” tracks the same ground as Focus. It’s all good music, but nowhere near essential. The highlight, though, is the album’s side-long title track. The protracted introduction sweeps into the large symphonic refrain of “Opening the Seal;” the themes of “Childhood” and “Affliction” are sweetly melancholic, while the story-one of those biblical life-to-death tales-is dark. An acoustic guitar works the transition from “Damnation” to the long, dirge-like fade of “The March.” Kaagman’s voice doesn’t have the range of her progressive contemporaries, but she’s got a powerful delivery that’s well-suited for the music. Throughout the piece, each section is integrated into the next, and the track features a trove of Mellotron, synthesizers and other keyboards. It’s a unique twist on prog rock, but one that’s also symphonic and superbly executed by the band. Jaap Eggermont, of Golden Earring fame, produced the album, as well as the rest of Earth and Fire’s discography. The band’s next album-Atlantis, released in 1973-continued in the same progressive direction; though their later releases would take less risks as the band moved on to more commercial terrain.

Moving Waves > Focus

October, 1971
United States
Sire
4.666665
There’s a seeming tradition in the Netherlands, beginning with the original Dutch export Ekseption, of souping-up classical music themes into a rock format. Focus ventured onto this path, but borrowed more from the Baroque and Renaissance eras; and more importantly, used those influences to create something of their own. Keyboardist and flautist Thijs van Leer formed the group in 1969 as the pit band for the Dutch production of Hair. At the end of the year, guitarist Jan Akkerman was recruited from another Dutch rock band, Brainbox. Their debut album, In And Out Of Focus, was a substantial hit across Europe, owing much to the Jethro Tull-clone single “House of The King” b/w “Black Beauty” (oddly omitted from the US release). The remainder of the album is just as solid: Akkerman’s guitar is fierce, even when the surrounding compositions seem lightweight. But then Focus broke up. Subsequently Akkerman teamed up with countrymen Cyril Havermans and former Brainbox drummer Pierre van der Linden, before inviting Van Leer and the name Focus back. Thus reconstituted, they recorded Moving Waves in London, with Mike Vernon producing. The wild guitar playing of Jan Akkerman and the are-you-serious yodeling of van Leer open the album on the gimmick track “Hocus Pocus.” It would yield them a Top 10 single in the UK and in the US, albeit some 18 months later (pundits, check out the “fast version” on the flip side). The jazzier pace of “Focus II” and the elegance of “Janis” sound more familiar. But the second side’s “Eruption” represents the step in the progressive direction and also validates the album as classic. On the completely instrumental track which spans the album’s side, the different movements showcase the band’s musical faculty, though Akkerman’s blistering guitar on “Tommy” is the standout. While the album failed to chart upon release, it would eventually earn gold status on both sides of the Atlantic.

Camembert Electrique > Gong

October, 1971
France
BYG Records
4
Gong had now solidified from a loose amalgamation of Paris fringe musicians to a relatively stable touring unit. Daevid Allen, accompanied by partner Gilli Smyth and saxophonist Didier Malherbe, added Pip Pyle on drums and Christian Tritsch on bass; and the band completed their first return to England with a performance at the Glastonbury Festival in June 1971. Kevin Ayers also served a six-month tour duty around this time, leaving a John Peel Session as his recorded legacy with the band. Gong recorded three albums in 1971. Dashiell Hedayat’s Obsolete for the Shandar label was a very loose recording, while the soundtrack for the Jérôme Laperrousaz film Continental Circus was a gem, best evidenced in the motorik-like beat of “Blues for Findlay.” But the third album, Camembert Electrique, is the real introduction to what Allen had in store for the band. Gong’s music is truly unique, combining vocal lunacy with musical anarchy into what could be described as the first rock cabaret. Yet the band consistently supported a strong rhythm section for soloists Allen and Malherbe to accentuate. The album contains some classic Gong repertoire: The raging riff of “You Can’t Kill Me” is Allen’s testimony to the events in Paris during the May 1968 student uprisings, and the merger of Smyth’s space whisper and unique feminism are introduced on “Dynamite: I Am your Animal.” “Fohat Digs Holes in Space,” though, is key. The track first showcases the quintessential Gong groove, complete with Syd Barrett-inspired glissando guitar. But behind the bizarre aliases and musical anarchy, as Allen explained, Gong is “about things much too serious to be serious about.” It may not say much about a person if they do like Gong, but it certainly says more about them if they do not. The album was re-released on Caroline Records in 1974, selling for the price of a single-play record (49p).

X In Search Of Space > Hawkwind

October, 1971
United States
United Artists Records
4.75
Hawkwind quickly earned a reputation as “the people’s band” from playing free concerts in and around London, and from the counter-culture (Friends magazine, drugs) associated with those events. One of Hawkwind’s most notable free gigs was in late August 1970, at Canvas City, an inflatable “bubble” tent outside the gates of the Isle of Wight Festival. With Thomas Crimble on bass, the band played for hours, but the experience proved too much for Huw Lloyd-Langton, who suffered an unsuspected spike of acid. Dick Taylor briefly subbed on guitar for the band, while Del Dettmar joined the band on electronics. Their inauspicious debut album behind them, In Search Of Space got down to serious business. Bassist Dave Anderson was recruited fresh from the über-German Amon Düül II, providing another sonic clue to the Hawk’s music: It had as much to do with the psychedelia of krautrock as it did with that of London’s underground rock. The album’s first side motors through “You Shouldn’t Do That” before crash-landing on the tripped-out psychedelia of Dave Brock’s “You Know You’re Only Dreaming.” Side two begins with Hawkwind’s first classic, “Master of the Universe,” which centers on a main riff that wouldn’t be out of place in a Black Sabbath song. The balance of the side treads more tentative ground, however, with a couple of acoustic numbers and the excellent “Adjust Me.” The album jacket itself is a lavish affair, complete with a die-cut cover and elaborate comic The Hawkwind Log from Robert “Bob” Calvert and Barney Bubbles, marking their first contributions to the group. The album sold well in the UK, breaking into the Top 20 at No. 18.

Pawn Hearts > Van Der Graaf Generator

October, 1971
United States
Charisma
4.9
Pawn Hearts would be the final statement of Van der Graaf Generator’s “first generation,” and they ended it with a masterpiece. The album’s first side contains “Lemmings (Including COG)” and “Man-Erg,” the latter being the only number that was previously road tested before the recording session. Both are full of VdGG mechanics: the relative calm of “Man-Erg” pierced by Hugh Banton’s hammering organ, while “Lemmings” plunges into even darker imagery, both lyrically and sonically. Initial plans for the album called for a double, with a live side and solo numbers written by Banton, David Jackson and Guy Evans (some of this was recorded and left in the vaults) to offset Peter Hammill’s “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers,” which encompasses the entire second side. Per Hammill, it was written primarily “on the back of the tour bus,” and offers the epic life-struggle saga. Dense and thematic, the composition cruises along like a ship through unknown waters: one moment peaceful, the next in a sonic maelstrom. The band is in top form throughout, with Banton adding ARP and Mellotron to his armory. VdGG never sounded better on record. It’s also a prime example of what could be achieved in a recording studio and with a razor blade, as the piece was recorded minutes at a time. The spry “Theme One,” title music written by George Martin for the BBC, was included on the US release of the album. Again, despite constant touring, the album failed to chart in the UK. But in 1972 VdGG would tour Italy three times, where the album would reach No. 1. Still, by the end of the year, frictions with Charisma came to a head; and the band, penniless, called it a day. Hammill would embark on a solo career; he quickly recorded three solo albums, most with contributions from the other VdGG members, before eventually reforming the band in late 1974.

Waters Of Change > Beggars Opera

November, 1971
United Kingdom
Vertigo
4.2
Perhaps the most easily recognizable “trademark of quality” from the era, Vertigo Records delivered a wide range of music during the late 60s and early 70s. A few of their acts, like Black Sabbath and Rod Stewart, went on to superstardom; while most others would have to be content in releasing what would become some of the most collectible records of the era. Beggars Opera was a band of the latter set. Formed in Glasgow in 1969, the band consisted of vocalist Martin Griffiths, keyboardist Alan Park, drummer Raymond Wilson and guitarist Ricky Gardiner. Their first album, Act One, was released in early 1971, and amounted to a predictably good mixture of underground sounds with classical overtones. Adding Gordon Sellar on bass and Gardiner’s wife Virginia Scott on Mellotron, the band released Waters Of Change later in the year. Scott had previously co-written some numbers for the band, and her contribution here is unique: She’s one of the few female musicians in the timeline. Underneath a grinding organ, the classic “Time Machine” unfolds with washes of Mellotron alongside its tight groove. The bouncy “I’ve No Idea” follows with similar progressive verisimilitude; it’s also a showcase of Park’s considerable talent. The second side’s “Festival” presents a typically stately melody for the band, and one that augments the formality of Griffith’s voice. “Silver Peacock” flourishes in the band’s arrangement, while “The Fox” closes with more of the band’s quasi-classical music and one electric finale. The album was best received in Germany, where the band would hence concentrate their efforts. Another album, Pathfinder, followed in 1972; but after that, the band suffered some changes, including the loss of both Griffiths and musical direction (check out the languishing cover of “MacArthur Park”). Following one final album for Vertigo, they effectively broke up. In 1974, Gardiner, with Scott and ex-Savoy Brown vocalist Pete Scott, recorded two albums as Beggars Opera for a German label. He found more success as a guitarist on David Bowie’s Low album, which eventually led him to Iggy Pop’s band. Beggars Opera would record a final album in 1981.

Eiliff > Eiliff

November, 1971
Germany
Philips
4
Hailing from Stuttgart, Germany, Eiliff were formed in 1970 by pianist Rainer Brüninghaus, saxophonist Herbert Kalveram, guitarist Houschäng Nejadépour and a rhythm section of drummer Detlev Landmann and bassist Bill Brown. The Berlin-born Nejadépour had momentarily been a member of Kraftwerk, but his guitar style was deemed unsuitable. Eiliff’s first recording was the single “Ride on Big Brother” b/w “Day of Sun.” The two psychedelic tunes are unmemorable, save for the electrifying pyrotechnics of Brüninghaus on the A side, and Nejadépour on the flip. Their debut, however, was a completely different matter. Titled Eiliff, it was recorded in Hamburg with Conny Plank and released on the Philips label in 1971. After the short introductory number, “Byrd - Night of the Seventh Day” illustrates the band’s adept take on jazz-rock: out of the box, Eiliff is fully formed and richly conceived, with music on equal footing with the British greats from the era. “Gammeloni” stretches out to give room for Kalveram’s lengthy solo. “Uzzek of Rigel IV” is a vocal number with a brooding riff, recalling the dark prog of Van der Graaf Generator. It yields to a slow groove, on which Nejadépour’s guitar shines. The second side comprises the 20-minute “Suite.” It’s another aggressive and awesome display of the band’s fusion of rock and jazz, interspersed with a sitar break before again launching into an organ-led jam. A second album Girlrls! was recorded with Philips producer Rainer Goltermann in 1972. Another mostly instrumental affair, it leans more on the jazz side of jazz-rock, but also with a couple of vocal numbers, lest we not forget the band’s psychedelic edge. However, the band split, as Brüninghaus accepted an offer to work with Volker Kriegel. Nejadépour would join Guru Guru in 1973 for an album, while Brüninghaus joined Eberhard Weber’s Colours before a long career as a session musician. Brown was a founding member of the punk/new wave band Fred Banana Combo.

Pictures At An Exhibition > Emerson, Lake & Palmer

November, 1971
United States
Cotillion
4
Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s first major performance was at the Isle of Wight festival on August 29th, 1970, where they offered their rendition of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” It was a grand show, complete with cannon fire and Keith Emerson’s organ-flinging antics, and even filmed for posterity. (Their actual debut was six days earlier at the Plymouth Guildhall.) The album Pictures At An Exhibition, however, was recorded live in March of 1971 at the Newcastle City Hall. It follows Emerson’s “Nice” tradition of adapting classical compositions into a rock context. First written by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky for piano, it was Frenchman Maurice Ravel’s exhaustedly orchestrated version that became best known. The work’s main theme and 10 movements may render it suited for rock interpretation; but whether it needed interpretation, let alone a blues variation and lyrics, is, of course, the question that ELP (and indeed prog rock) would have to answer. As a live performance, it’s a bold statement; Emerson’s Hammond and Moog dominate the powerful, rousing themes. On record, though, it’s a qualified success. “The Sage,” Greg Lake’s acoustic digression, is tepid at best; while the encore of Kim Fowley’s “Nutrocker” is pure folly, perhaps a self-deprecating attempt to deflate the entire proceeding. At over 40 minutes in length, the album seems to go on forever, which is perhaps the album’s greatest sin; ELP would tackle classical interpretations on ensuing albums in far more economical manners. Released mere months after Tarkus, ELP capitalized on the band’s current stature: the album, again adorned by William Neal, rose to No. 3 in the UK while also reaching the US Top 10. ELP would continue to revisit the piece (thankfully, in truncated form) as part of their live repertoire for years to come.

Nursery Cryme > Genesis

November, 1971
United States
Charisma
4.636365
After the upheaval that followed their last album, the core members of Genesis-Tony Banks, Peter Gabriel and Mike Rutherford-forged ahead, adding two members who would be crucial to their future. Drummer Phil Collins, previously in Flaming Youth, was recruited at the recommendation of Charisma boss Tony Stratton-Smith. The band then spent a brief period as a four piece before the bearded and bespectacled guitarist Steve Hackett arrived, virtually without audition, from a Melody Maker advert. After six months on the road, including the Charisma “Six Bob” tour, the recording of Nursery Cryme commenced in the summer of 1971 at Tony Stratton-Smith’s Luxford House. Most of the songs had been written while Anthony Phillips was still in the band, and certainly “Seven Stones” would not have been out of place on the previous Trespass album. The contrast of light and dark on “The Musical Box” kicks off the album and is a triumph. The band exhibits a harder edge here than they had previously exploited on record, and one more indicative of their live potential. “The Return of the Giant Hogweed,” an odd tale about killer foliage, is typical of Gabriel’s storytelling from the era, while Banks’s keyboards add significant punch; just witness the Mellotron on the mammoth finale. Hackett’s guitar also favors the new edge. In particular, his solo in “The Fountain of Salmacis” highlights his emerging style. Collins is effective throughout, even taking a lead vocal on the gentle “For Absent Friends.” The album—and to a lesser extent its successor—offer a peculiar production and mix; which, along with their highly idiomatic song structure, add to their enduring charm. Paul Whitehead, Charisma’s resident artist, illustrated the album’s cover. Like labelmate Van der Graaf Generator, Genesis spent the bulk of 1972 touring throughout Europe. The album did particularly well in the Italian charts, rising to No. 4.