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1972 Albums

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Ege Bamyasi > Can

November, 1972
Germany
United Artists Records
4.6
In late 1971, Can released a single “Spoon” b/w “Shikako Maru Ten.” By the new year, it had risen to No. 6 in the West German charts. Completely infectious, Jaki Liebezeit’s drumming is enhanced by a drum machine; but it’s the relative “tune” that makes the song a hit. Of course, being the theme song for the TV show Das Messer (“The Knife”) helped too! The success afforded the band the opportunity to purchase a cinema between Cologne and Bonn, which they turned into their Inner Space Studios. Can’s third studio album Ege Bamyasi saw release at the end of 1972. Turkish for “Aegean okra,” it’s instantly recognizable from the “can” on the cover. “Pinch” kicks off side one and immediately Liebezeit’s drumming grips the listener’s ears with a funky groove, perfectly filled with sharp accents. Holger Czukay’s bass is even more minimal, but effectively delivers the right amount of punch. “Sing Swan Song” swings and sways with an ethnic hint, courtesy of Michael Karoli’s guitar. Can ride the same groove for “One More Night,” but it’s Damo Suzuki’s vocal delivery that makes it sexy. “Vitamin C” gives Irmin Schmidt a chance to shine, while the lengthy “Soup” harks back to the psychedelic messiness of Tago Mago as it goes completely sideways. The brief “I’m So Green” pales compared to “Spoon,” but the song was tacked onto the record at the last minute. Never mind, Can delivers one of the most original, powerful, minimal but above all accessible albums that would make up their catalog. It also saw release in France and the UK, and, for the first time, the US. Suzuki would record another album with Can, the excellent Future Days in 1973, but then leave to become a Jehovah’s Witness.

Lady Lake > Gnidrolog

November, 1972
United Kingdom
RCA Victor
3
An anagram for the Goldring twins' surname, Londoners' Colin and Stewart formed Gnidrolog in 1969. Joining them was bassist Peter "Mars" Cowling and drummer Nigel Pegrum, the latter having been in the pre-Uriah Heep band Spice. Gnidrolog toured extensively, supporting numerous progressive acts, as evidenced on dozens of concert bills from the era; Colin, most famously, added recorder to Yes' "Your Move" from The Yes Album. Signing to RCA records, the band released the dreadfully titled In Spite Of Harry's Toenail in early 1972. A keyboard-less affair, it's almost charitable to call it a challenge to listen to; however, it's not without some reward. It charts the same territory as Van der Graaf Generator or King Crimson, exploring odd-meter composition and dissonance mainly through Stewart's angular guitar and Colin's uncomfortably high tenor. "Long Live Man Dead" and "Snails" are highlights. John Earle then joined on sax and flute, upping the ante for the band's second effort, Lady Lake, also released in 1972. "I Could Never Be a Soldier" leads off; it's a strong tune with forthright lyrics, though the instrumental passages are filled with the band's tight musicality. Cowling and Pegrum, in lock groove, offer a solid foundation over which Stewart and Earle easily solo. "Ship" follows, with Colin and Earle's horns leading the way. The muscular "Lady Lake" offers a progressive tour-de-force from the band, its closing march dark and foreboding. "Social Embarrassment" closes, and it's another strong track highlighting the band's penchant for robust melody and arrangement. Despite an excellent album-one certainly on par with other progressive groups from the era-success eluded the band, and they broke up. Under pseudonyms, the Goldrings, Pegrum and Rick Kemp would form the raunchy The Pork Dukes in the late 70s. Pegrum would later spend nearly two decades with Steeleye Span, while Cowling would join the Pat Travers Band. Earle, meanwhile, became a well-regarded and seasoned session player.

Doremi Fasol Latido > Hawkwind

November, 1972
United States
United Artists Records
5
By the end of 1971, Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister (previously in Sam Gopal), drummer Simon King (previously in Opal Butterfly) and poet Robert Calvert had been thoroughly integrated into the Hawkwind fold. The summer of 1972 saw a surprise hit single for the band: "Silver Machine" b/w "Seven by Seven" rode the UK charts all the way to No. 3, providing the band with bona fide success. The song, sung by Lemmy, was culled from the Greasy Truckers' benefit concert at London's Roundhouse. The end of the year saw their next album, the wonderfully titled Doremi Fasol Latido (after the solfège syllables). Alternating between heavy rockers and more acoustic "busker" numbers, it's Hawkwind's most refined production to date. The perennial "Brainstorm" blasts off, pummeling forward over a simple yet effective riff. Over its 11-plus minutes, the band never falters, exploring texture and sonics in warp drive before gently landing on Dave Brock's acoustic "Space Is Deep" and its classic lyric. "Lord of Light" opens the second side, powered by Brock's rhythm guitar and a strong bass line from Lemmy. Another acoustic number, "Down Through the Night" provides the interlude, before the band delivers one of their more interesting numbers, "Time We Left This World Today." Here the ride breaks down, skidding sideways before recovering back to its monster bass riff; Lemmy's "The Watcher" brings things to a quiet close. Musically, Hawkwind were never that adventurous: Rooted in simple folksy structures, most compositions were fueled by a straight-ahead driving rhythm that rarely faltered. But mad saxophone soloing and electronic effects coupled with sci-fi imagery (courtesy of author Michael Moorcock and artist Barney Bubbles) earned them the space rock tag. No one did it better than Hawkwind; in fact, no one even came close. The album was another success for the band, rising to No. 14 on the UK charts.

Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day > Man

November, 1972
United States
United Artists
5
Following the success of Greasy Truckers Party, United Artists issued another live album, Live at the Padget Rooms Penarth, but at a reduced price and in limited quantities. A hit, it soared straight to the top of the budget charts in September. But recording their next studio album was proving to be unfruitful, leading, of course, to more lineup changes: Martin Ace left, while Deke Leonard was sacked; Clive John returned, but on guitar, bringing with bassist Will Youatt and keyboardist Phil Ryan from The Neutrons. Released in November Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day proves to be one of Man’s finest recordings. “C’mon” leads off the album and straight into “Keep on Crinting,” the Manband rocks steady throughout, laying out their impeccable improvisational skills. The second side’s “Bananas” begins the immortal lyric: “I like to eat bananas / because they have no bones / I like marijuana / because it gets me stoned,” but it’s the next nine minutes after the break that render the track classic. Throughout the album, Ryan’s keyboards are impeccable: classic tones, an economy of all the right notes-and empty spaces. John and Micky Jones prove to be a perfect pairing on guitars, continuously complementing each other. “Life on the Road” closes, another jaunty number, again highlighting the jam-band nature of the group. I would be remiss not to mention the album’s pop-up fold-out map of Wales, perhaps one of the most extravagant and perfectly executed packages to ever hold a vinyl record. The Manband finally nestled into the charts in 1973 with the half-live, half-studio album Back Into The Future, with ex-Wild Turkey Alan “Tweke” Lewis replacing Ryan on the studio side. Further changes were afoot: Jones and drummer Terry Williams rehired Leonard, alongside two members from Help Yourself, keyboardist Malcolm Morley and bassist Kevin Whaley. Leaving their psychedelic edge behind and adopting a more mainstream rock sound, Man would remain together for a further few more excellent albums, before calling it quits in 1976.

A Tab In The Ocean > Nektar

November, 1972
Germany
Bacillius
4.5
Nektar was a group of British expatriates that, like many bands during the mid-60s, made a living by working and touring in Europe. Initially, bassist Derek "Mo" Moore, drummer Ron Howden and keyboardist Allan "Taff" Freeman formed a band called Prophesy. By 1969, with guitarist and vocalist Roye Albrighton on board, the band changed their name to Nektar. They made Hamburg their base, and signed to Peter Hauke's Bacillus label. Released in 1971, their debut album, Journey To The Centre Of The Eye, took an anti-nuclear stance; and not surprisingly, as it was rooted in 60s psychedelia. The band then moved into more progressive territory for their second record, A Tab In The Ocean. The album's side-long title track pounds right through its continually-evolving themes over a brisk 16 minutes. Throughout, the rhythm section of Moore and Howden provides a steady foundation for the music; their shifts in tempo are quite deceptive. Albrighton's guitar is always out front: "Desolation Valley/Waves" kicks off the second side, which again plays continuously. Both feature some of the jazzy subtleties of the Nektar sound. "Cryin' in The Dark" gets a lot heavier though, incorporating some excellent interplay between the bandmates, while the churning riff and vocal harmonies of "King of Twilight" represent more straightforward rock. The album's original mix, courtesy of Dieter Dierks, is a classic example of heavy rock from the era. In February of 1973, the band recorded a "live in the studio" album, Sounds Like This. Less polished than the previous effort, it had more of a hard rock jam-band feel to it. Shortly thereafter, Nektar launched their first tour of the UK in June, with Welsh rockers Man.

Two Quid Deal ? > Skin Alley

November, 1972
UK
Stax
4
As with most bands signed to Doug Smith's Clearwater Productions, Skin Alley were associated with the underground and the free festival scene. Founded by bassist Thomas Crimble and drummer Alvin Pope, the band included Bob James on sax and guitar and Krzysztof Henryk Juszkiewicz on keyboards. They released two albums on CBS before Crimble left for Hawkwind. His replacement was Nick Graham, fresh from Atomic Rooster; while Tony Knight replaced Pope on drums. Now signed to Transatlantic, Skin Alley recorded their finest album, Two Quid Deal?, in 1972. Oddly, the album (and their next) saw release in the US on Stax Records, famously known for Memphis soul and, up until that point, not anything remotely like progressive rock! Nevertheless, the album is a driving mix of funky organ-rock, with Graham's Roger Daltrey-esque vocals providing the icing on the cake; just check out the excellent "So Many People" or "So Glad." The band recorded a final album, Skintight; but even a proper Memphis production and commercial focus couldn't change their fortunes, and they folded shortly after its release. Graham went on to a successful career as a songwriter and musician, working with Cheap Trick and David Jackson of VdGG; while Crimble continued running the Glastonbury Festival that he co-founded.

The Magician's Birthday > Uriah Heep

November, 1972
United States
Mercury, Bronze Records (2)
4.166665
On The Magician's Birthday, Uriah Heep quickly tried to replicate the success of their previous album, including another fantasy title and Roger Dean cover. "Sunrise" and "Sweet Lorraine" kick off the A and B sides, respectively, with confidence; but "Spider Woman" concedes to average rock ‘n' roll. The ballads generally work best; "Blind Eye" and the vastly underrated "Tales" rank among the album's finest songs. However, the more (according to the band) "experimental" tracks aren't fully realized, as the sprawling title track and "Echoes in the Dark" attest. Without a viable single, the album faltered slightly on the charts, reaching No. 23 in the UK but stalling out at No. 31 in the US. The following year saw a successful live album in May and another studio album in September. Recorded in France, Sweet Freedom contained a classic track in "Stealin'," and again hoisted Uriah Heep onto the charts. However, the pace of cranking out two albums a year with a full load of international touring started to take its toll. Recorded in Munich, 1974's Wonderland wasn't (wonderful), and bassist Gary Thain was subsequently ousted from the band. Bringing a recently ex-King Crimson John Wetton on board, Uriah Heep's next effort, Return To Fantasy, saw a return to chart success, reaching No. 7 in the UK. David Byron and Wetton, however, wouldn't last, and were replaced in 1976 by Lucifer's Friend vocalist John Lawton and Spiders from Mars bassist Trevor Bolder. Later records strayed further from their early progressive sound, but continued well into the 80s. In spite of prevailing trend and fashion, Uriah Heep continues to this day.

Focus 3 > Focus

December, 1972
United States
Sire Records Company
5
1972 saw Focus, now with Bert Ruiter on bass, back in the studio recording the formidable and lengthy double-album Focus 3. The record begins with the lively "Round Goes the Gossip..." then slides into the pastoral "Love Remembered." The bulk of the album, however, is two sprawling improvisations: "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" and "Anonymus II" (sic). Both showcase the band's talents, namely, Jan Akkerman's guitar heroics and one tight rhythm section; be sure to check out Ruiter's funky bass solo on side three. Thijs van Leer takes a few solos throughout, mainly on flute. But his organ work is an often-overlooked asset, always shining behind Akkerman's guitar. And if you dig those jams, check out Akkerman's first solo album Profile, which also was released in 1972, though recorded much earlier. The excellent album-side-long track "Fresh Air" is another great example of their hyperkinetic jamming, again with Ruiter and Pierre van der Linden as the rhythm section. The US version of the album closes with a re-recording of their first single, "House of the King." Overall, 1973 would be another banner year for the band, with both the album and the single "Sylvia" b/w "House of the King" nearing the UK Top 5. (The album reached No. 35 in the US.) Akkerman was even voted "best guitarist" in the annual Melody Maker reader's poll, knocking out Eric Clapton. In October, At The Rainbow was recorded at London's famed Rainbow Theatre, but studio recordings from that same year would be shelved. Focus then toured the US for the first time, and a re-release of the single "Hocus Pocus" b/w "Hocus Pocus II" made the US Top 10, while the live album hit No. 23.

Pollution > Battiato, Franco

December, 1972
Italy
Bla Bla
4.75
One of the few solo artists from Italy during the progressive era, Sicilian Franco Battiato was first heard as a beat singer in the 60s, as were many others of his generation. Battiato then signed to Bla Bla Records with Osage Tribe—defecting, however, for a solo career after just one single. His debut solo record, Fetus (with matching cover), was released in 1972. Primarily an acoustic affair, Battiato's songs were for the most part simple and almost folk in structure, albeit with a keen sense of melody. It's the production, however, that was truly innovative; Battiato used the studio to great effect, layering vocals, guitars, synthesizers and just about anything else he could find to create something quite sui generis. He continues in this direction on Pollution. The album saw release in late 1972, concurrent with the deployment of a giant magnetic stroboscope in Imola used to study the effects of the internal combustion engine. Again, it's a unique pastiche; but now much closer to rock progressivo Italiano, due to the instrumentation employed on the record. "Il Silenzio Del Rumore" begins with Battiato reciting something in Italian over a classical music tape, before diving into a hard-driving prog rock workout. The production once again sets it apart; Battiato synthesizer is uncommonly raw and unsubtle, riding up high in the mix. The fat synthesizer lines of "Areknames" carry the tune's infectious melody, sugarcoated with harmony and propelled by an offbeat rhythm; while "Beta" rides a stoner vibe. Battiato returns to more typical song structure on "Plancton," while the contagious melody and vocal harmonies of the title track close out. The album reached the Italian Top 20 in 1973.

Octopus > Gentle Giant

December, 1972
United States
Columbia
4.7
On their second release of the year, Gentle Giant delivers a more discrete and diverse record. Previously in the Welsh band Eyes of Blue and Pete Brown & Piblokto!, John Weathers was the newcomer; his hard-hitting drumming and a huge bass line launch "The Advent of Panurge" (again a nod to François Rabelais) into a hypnotic groove, from which the song switches back and forth from its chorus. The Moog on "A Cry For Everyone" squawks proudly, here the lyrics are under the influence of Albert Camus. "Raconteur Troubadour" offers a little medieval music, as does the band's tribute to their roadies, "Dog's Life." The band is adept at layering overdubs throughout; however, "Knots," based on the work of Scottish psychologist R.D. Laing, takes it to an extreme: It's a madrigal gone sideways—in other words, classic Gentle Giant. The second side opens with a "sample" of a coin toss, the first in a tradition that would extend over their next several albums. The autobiographical "Boys in the Band" shows Gentle Giant at their best: Rocking hard and steady, it demonstrates the band's musical dexterity and complex arrangements. "Think of Me with Kindness," featuring the tender vocals of Kerry Minnear, is an uncharacteristic ballad, but beautiful nonetheless. The closing "River" is another of the big power tracks on the album. Ray Shulman's wah-wah violin and Gary Green's bluesy guitar solo harken back to the earlier Giant albums; but here, Weathers's solid beat takes it up a notch. As such, the aptly titled Octopus dispatches eight ("octo") succinct compositions ("opus") that reflect the generous talent of Gentle Giant's six members. The band would continue to perform excerpts from the album in a more concise live arrangement. The album sparked some interest in the very lower reaches of the US charts, partly due to the band's extensive touring in the fall (opening for Black Sabbath) before the album's release, and its curious die-cut cover. However, the record would fail to chart in the UK—even with a Roger Dean album cover.