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1975 Albums

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The Hall Of Floaters In The Sky > Omega

June, 1975
Germany
Bacillius
4
The progressive era wasn't exclusive to Western Europe, though being a rock band under communism was no easy feat. Hailing from Budapest, Hungary, Omega was one such band that managed to not only break through the iron curtain, but also the language barrier of their native Uralic tongue. Formed as early as 1962, they made their way through the 60s performing covers, and even managed to secure a UK release on Decca under the name Omega Red Star. Released in 1968, From Hungary offers an album that is mostly sung in English. Slightly psychedelic, slightly jazzy and at the same time highly original, there's little equivalent to their lively 60s sound. Omega released a few more albums that only saw Hungarian release; and by 1971, they stabilized their lineup: vocalist János Kóbor, guitarist György Molnár, keyboardist László Benko, bassist Tamás Mihály and drummer Ferenc Debreceni. In 1972, the band signed with German label Bacillus and, not surprisingly, made the jump to progressive rock. A series of albums were quickly released, all with Peter Hauke producing. Their 1974 release, 200 Years After The Last War, features a brilliant side-long suite, revealing a very polished and symphonic sound that is nonetheless rooted in the blues. Their 1975 release, The Hall Of Floaters In The Sky, was recorded in England's Chipping Norton Studios. Featuring a magnificent cover, the music inside was equally compelling. "One Man Land" rides a heavy rock groove, while "Magician" offers a livelier chorus. Throughout, Benko's keyboards stand out, as does Mihály's rock-solid bass tone. "20th Century Town Dweller" closes the album, again showcasing the band's driving rock sound and deft arrangements. Passport Records even released a compilation in the US the same year, Omega. Through to the end of the 70s, the band issued several more albums with Bacillus, including 1979's best-selling Gammapolis; however, it would be one of their last international releases, as the 80s would see Omega focus on their native Hungary before breaking up in 1987.

Nuclear Nightclub > Wigwam

June, 1975
United Kingdom
Virgin
5
In 1974, Jim Pembroke released a solo album, Pigworm, featuring members of both Wigwam (past and present) and Tasavallan Presidentti. Wigwam then added guitarist Pekka Rechardt for a farewell tour and live album, Live Music From The Twilight Zone, the final release from the band's (more or less) original lineup. However, a contract from Virgin Records may have enticed some of the band to reconsider. Now consisting of Pembroke, Rechardt and drummer Ronnie Österberg, Wigwam added keyboardist Esa Kotilainen and Tasavallan Presidentti's bassist Måns Groundstroem to their lineup. Under Pembroke and Rechardt's guidance, Wigwam released 1975's Nuclear Nightclub. Although moving to (more or less) mainstream rock, the album still has much to offer to the progressive listener. "Nuclear Nightclub" features Pembroke's soothing voice and an easy-feeling from the band; Rechardt's clean-tone guitar is a great addition. The Rechardt-penned "Freddie Are You Ready" is chock-full of luscious melodies and Pembroke's quirky prose and vocals. "Bless Your Lucky Stars" offers an edge, while "Do Or Die" kicks the electricity up a notch, as does the closing "Pig Storm." Pembroke's "Save My Money & Name" is a perfect example of his way with melody; few songwriters could write hooks with such conviction. Produced by Stone The Crows' Ronnie Leahy, 1976's Lucky Golden Stripes And Starpose continued down the same path, offering another installment of Pembroke and Rechardt's tunes. Pembroke next released a solo album, Corporal Cauliflowers Mental Function for Love Records. However, after one final release in 1977, the again excellent Dark Album, the band would dissolve. Both Gustavson and Pohjola embarked on solo careers, the latter releasing a couple of albums on Virgin Records before joining Mike Oldfield's touring band late in the decade. Sadly, Österberg committed suicide in 1980.

Free Hand > Gentle Giant

July, 1975
United States
Capitol Records
4
In 1975, Gentle Giant signed to Chrysalis Records in the UK—an agreement that purportedly stemmed from the relationship the band had made with the label after touring with mainstays Jethro Tull. On their first album for the label, Free Hand, the band replaces the uniformity of their previous efforts with a much more playful and varied atmosphere. The first side revolves around the themes of broken relationships, both personal and business. "Just the Same" kicks things off with a choppy rhythm, but its highlight is the break: one minute soaring, the next quirky. "On Reflection" is a throwback to "Knots;" its a cappella rounds are arranged with medieval flavor, and with a gentle vocal break from Kerry Minnear. "Free Hand" is the potent rocker, but unfortunately suffers from rather stiff execution and an abrupt ending. In fact, the more concise live versions of these songs would bump the electricity up a notch and become concert favorites. After all, Gentle Giant were at their best live. The second side is less straightforward. Opening with a classic Atari Pong sample, "Time to Kill" (get it?) has a sharper tempo that lends a certain swing to the arrangement. Multifaceted, and ornate, "His Last Voyage" is Giant doing what they do best. The atypical break features a haunting piano riff, followed by another great guitar solo from Gary Green. The instrumental "Talybont" is pure medieval music. "Mobile" skips along at a jig's pace, though it has an air of earlier works—particularly in the interplay between violin and acoustic guitar, and the wah-wah break. The album barely scraped the lower reaches of the UK charts, but it did become the band's first and only album to break the Top 50 in the US.

Polyandri > Group 1850

July, 1975
Netherlands
Rubber Records (6)
4
Formed in The Hague, Netherlands in the early 60s, Groep 1850—or rather, Group 1850—was one of the Netherlands' early rock groups. Early singles earned the band the attention of Philips Records; and in late 1968, that gave way to a full-blown acid classic, Agemo's Trip to Mother Earth. Written by keyboardist Peter Sjardin and guitarist Daniel van Bergen, the album is very much of the era, and one that embraces both the good and bad of psychedelia; the sound lies somewhere between the West Coast acid rock and London's psychedelia. A second album followed in 1969, with drummer Martin van Duynhoven, guitarist Dave Duba and bassist Dave Geldof in the fold. However, this would be the band's last recording for some time. By the early 70s, the group (minus van Bergen) had an altogether different vibe, and live recordings reveal long-form jamming based around Sjardin's keyboards. Seemingly out of nowhere, a new album appeared on the small Rubber Records in 1975. Titled Polyandri, it's a very different animal than its 60s brethren. Closer in vibe to Gong, the album embraces psychedelia's natural progression towards space rock. Written and produced (or as the liner notes put it, "organised") by Sjardin, there's still plenty of acid fun here, but the groove of "Thousand Years Before" is positively electric, fueled by Duba's guitar. "Silver Earring" adds a flute from Golden Earring's Barry Hay, but it's Geldof's bass line that steals the show. "Patience" has a near-krautrock vibe that flows through to "Cages." "Avant Le Pericles" even ventures toward the ambient, with a pulsing organ floating throughout the soundscape, accented by Hans Dulfer's sax. All in all, the band offers an excellent album of space rock; but unfortunately, also one that got lost in the annals of time. Aside from a couple of live albums in the mid-70s, little else was heard again from Group 1850 or its members.

Cunning Stunts > Caravan

August, 1975
United States
BTM Records
3.4
In 1974, a heavy tour schedule consumed Caravan. John G. Perry left in July and was being replaced, at producer David Hitchcock's suggestion, by ex-Curved Air bassist Mike Wedgwood. After a switch to Miles Copeland's BTM agency, the band embarked on their first US tour in September. They entered the studio in the spring of 1975 to record their sixth album, Cunning Stunts. The record kicks off with the proud "The Show of Our Lives" (with Wedgwood on lead vocals), before sliding into "Stuck in a Hole." The latter track and "No Backstage Pass," would be the only compositions from Pye Hastings. Dave Sinclair's "The Dabsong Conshirtoe" dominates the album's second side; it's another great Caravan epic, and the first contribution from Sinclair in nearly four years. Immediately, his sense of melody takes hold, as the Wedgwood-sung "Ben Karrett Rides Again" also attests; the track paces easily through its six sections. "Sneaking out the Bare Quare" swings a bit, while the finale "All Sorts of Unmentionable Things" ends in grand Caravan tradition, though augmented here by some heavy backing tapes. Known for their ever-too-clever song titles, this album's title arguably ranks as one of their worst literary inventions. Reportedly, an American band, Aerosmith, had appropriated the original title: Toys In The Attic. After a BBC In Concert special in June, Dave Sinclair left the band (again), with Liverpudlian keyboardist Jan Schelhaas replacing him just before the album's release. It would become the first in the Caravan catalog to enter the charts. In the UK, the album rose to No. 50; while in the US, it would stall out at No. 124. Although this album ended their relationship with Decca, Caravan went on to record a few more albums for BTM and Arista before the decade ended—though, with each release, they went in an increasingly less interesting direction. Lineup changes would cause further upheaval, including the return and departure (again) of both Sinclairs!

Nightingales & Bombers > Manfred Mann's Earth Band

August, 1975
United States
Warner Bros/Bronze
5
Manfred Mann's Earth Band completed their first tour of the US in 1974, where they probably discovered the track that would open their next album, 1975's Nightingales & Bombers. A cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Spirits in the Night" also was released as a single, but hold this space: They'd return to the writer's well a year later for much greater fortunes. Two other covers grace the album: Joan Armatrading's "Visionary Mountains" and Bob Dylan's "Quit Your Low Down Ways." The band's talent lies in successfully turning tracks from such diverse sources into Earth Band tunes; try picking them apart from the band's own slightly funky, always hip songs, like "Time Is Right" or "Fat Nelly." The remainder of the album intersperses several instrumental numbers between the vocal tracks, highlighting the band's technical expertise: On "Countdown" and "Crossfade," Mann's synthesizer trades licks with Mick Rogers's fiery lead guitar, all over the brisk rhythm section of bassist Colin Pattenden and drummer Chris Slade. The title track, written by Rogers, is the album's touchstone, offering a kind of fusion that's as good as any other fusion-laced track of the era. The album, however, failed to chart, and the single barely scraped the Top 100 in the US. But the band's fortune was about to change: Rogers would leave the band in 1976, to be replaced by vocalist Chris Thompson and guitarist Dave Flett. The ensuing release, The Roaring Silence—spearheaded by another Springsteen cover, "Blinded by the Light"—would carry the album to No. 10 on both sides of the Atlantic, with the song topping the charts in the US and rising to No. 6 in the UK. From here, the Earth Band's music would move toward more commercial terrain; this shift provided moderate chart success over the next several years.

Mainstream > Quiet Sun

August, 1975
United States
Antilles
4.5
Quiet Sun's sole album was recorded while Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera was recording his debut solo record, Diamond Head. That album included an incredible roster of musicians (and the classic track "Miss Shapiro"), but it also sought to cover the same pop territory as Roxy Music, and most certainly succeeded. Mainstream, then, was the progressive "studio twin." Manzanera returned to keyboardist Dave Jarrett, as well as Bill MacCormick and Charles Hayward: the former an ex-Matching Mole bassist, and the latter the future This Heat drummer. Quiet Sun had, in fact, first been together in 1970, while the members were at school in Dulwich; failing to ever secure a recording contract, they broke up in 1972. Thus resituated, Quiet Sun set out to right their unfinished business and record their original set of music. They share writing credits, contributed individually though; yet each track blends seamlessly into the next. "Sol Caliente" leads off; and once it kicks into full gear, the heat, as the title suggests, indeed turns up. Yet it's Manzanera's electric guitar that gives the album its unique twist on the Canterbury formula, lending it much more of a "rock" feel. To wit, it's a highly electric experience, bordering on manic at times—especially on the wonderfully titled "Mummy Was an Asteroid, Daddy Was a Small Non-Stick Kitchen Utensil." Jarrett primarily keeps his hands on both electric and acoustic pianos, while the Hayward/MacCormick rhythm section is dynamic throughout. The album's one vocal track, Hayward's "Rongwrong," takes a cue from Robert Wyatt, both musically and lyrically. But unfortunately, this would be the only album from Quiet Sun. Manzanera then formed the relatively disappointing but critically successful 801, releasing a couple of albums on Island Records before returning to Roxy Music later in the decade.

Scheherazade And Other Stories > Renaissance

August, 1975
United States
Sire Records Company
4.75
Signed to Manager Miles Copeland's BTM label, Renaissance released Turn Of The Cards in May 1974; the album would break the band into the US Top 100. It also contained a few songs that would become concert favorites, including "Running Hard" and "Mother Russia." However, Scheherazade And Other Stories, released in August 1975, was the more accomplished of the two releases. It features the standard Renaissance fare: Annie Haslam's crystal clear and five-octave voice high in the mix, supported by the virtuoso talents of John Tout on piano, Jon Camp on his distinctive Rickenbacker bass and Tony Cox providing orchestral arrangements. Acoustic guitarist Michael Dunford is still the band's main songwriter (and link to the "other" lineup), with lyrics written by Cornish poetess Betty Thatcher; but this album also is the first to include written contributions from Camp and Tout. In particular, "Trip to the Fair," is a delight, benefiting from rich production. The album's second side features their version of Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade. Perhaps more than any other band of the era, Renaissance did more than borrow classic motifs for the basis of their compositions: They wrote classical music for rock instruments, with "Song Of Scheherazade" being the perfect ringer. The band toured both the US and the UK with an orchestra, including high-profile concerts with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall. However, the band's popularity would shine in the US, where their albums now saw release on Sire Records. The album was their highest charting album yet, entering the Top US 50 at No. 48.

Four Moments > Sebastian Hardie

August, 1975
United States
Mercury
4.666665
Originally the Sebastian Hardie Blues Band, these Australians paid their dues as Johnny O'Keef's backing band during the 60s. In 1973, the Plavsic brothers Peter (bass) and Alex (drums) joined up with guitarist and vocalist Mario Millo, while keyboardist Toivo Pilt jumped aboard a year later. It should be evident by now that a lot of bands were "switching" to progressive styles around this time. Though this wasn't disingenuous per se, the more organic evolutions of the original British groups still remained the barometer, and comparisons could not be avoided. Nonetheless, Sebastian Hardie signed to Polygram and released their debut album, Four Moments. The four movements of the title track span the first side of the record. "Glories Shall Be Released" opens with a big symphonic refrain; it's one helluva hook that's reprised throughout the remainder of the piece. The band's palette is simple enough: Pilt reaches across mainly organ and Mellotron, while Millo's guitar hits all the right notes. Meanwhile, the Plavsic brothers keep a low but steady presence. The second section, "Dawn of Our Sun," mellows the pace, while the following "Journey Through Our Dreams" approaches Yes territory. All of the melodies are memorable; but ultimately, the suite's relative effortlessness is its greatest strength. The second side is completely instrumental. "Rosanna," also issued as a single, is reminiscent of Focus. Millo and Pilt trade leads over the six sections of "Openings" in an undemanding yet formidable display of their talent. Four Moments was well received in Australia, and even earned a US release on Mercury Records. In 1976, Sebastian Hardie released their second album, Windchase, and added further complexity to their music. But afterward, the band split. Millo and Pilt adopted the last album's title as their new band name, and released one final record, Symphinity, in 1977. it offered little more than what Sebastian Hardie had already delivered.

Another Green World > Eno, Brian

September, 1975
US
Island Records
5
Having recused himself from Roxy Music, Brian Peter George Eno set upon a solo career. His first two albums, 1974's Here Come the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), were planted firmly in the glam and art rock of his former band; however, Eno's forte was experimentation, with a revisionist outlook towards rock ‘n' roll. Eno's third vocal record, Another Green World, is generally regarded as his finest. The album hosts a veritable cast of musicians from the timeline, including Robert Fripp, Percy Jones, Phil Collins and Paul Rudolph. Alternating between so-called pop songs and instrumental vignettes, the album is pure Eno. Using he and Peter Schmidt's Oblique Strategies cards, he uses chance to guide compositions and literal descriptions to find sounds: "Wimshurst guitar," "anchor bass," "choppy organs," and so forth. The deadpan "I'll Come Running to tie Your Shoe" is classic, as well as the plaintive "St. Elmo's Fire." The treatments Eno applies to the songs are more interesting as the songs themselves—sound for sound's sake—which speaks to Eno's compositional modus operandi: it's really not about the destination the song brings, but rather the journey while it's playing. To wit, witness "In Dark Trees," "Becalmed" or the title track. From here, Eno's career would follow two paths, one continuing his pop muse into production (and a final vocal album), and the other exploring process or "non-music," beginning with Discreet Music for his Obscure Records in late 1975. In 1976, Eno would then venture off to Germany to work with Cluster's like-minded Roedelius and Moebius and collaborate on the first of a legendary trio of albums with David Bowie, as well as participate in the 801 supergroup with Phil Manzanera, Bill MacCormick, Francis Monkman and others.

Jumbo > Grobschnitt

September, 1975
Germany
Brain
4.5
Prior to recording their next album, Wolfgang "Popo" Jäger would replace Bassist Bernhard "Bär" Uhlemann. Concentrating more on arrangement and production, Jumbo, released in 1975, presented a more polished Grobschnitt, offering an album of a seemingly symphonic style of progressive rock. As a whole, the album is different than its predecessor; the long, ambling space rock of "Solar Music" is replaced with a more precise progressive; little is left to improvisation or chance. With its punchy bass line, "The Excursion of Father Smith" opens the record with a lively, circus-like character. Grobschnitt jump between verses, shifting musical passages with ease. There's a symphonic air to their music, as well as pristine execution. Again recorded by Conny Plank, it's a sonic masterpiece. Lupo's lead guitar drives "The Clown," revealing a very Yes-inspired progressive sound, propelled by Eroc's hard-hitting drumming. The second side's "Dream and Reality" opens softly with Wildschwein's impassioned and exquisite voice, before shifting gears and offering Mist a chance to blast his keyboards. Opening with trance-like guitars, "Sunny Sunday's Sunset" is a progressive triumph for the band. Playful and melodic, the band offer an epic mix of composition and arrangement, both soft and driving, all to further the story. The album was a success, so much so that the band even released a version "mit deutsche Texten" for their home market in 1976, as a well as a single, "Sonnenflug" b/w "Der Clown." Before the next Grobschnitt record, main man Eroc would find time to record and release two solo albums, 1975's Eroc and 1976's Zwei, that demonstrate the drummer's skill as both a musician and engineer. The former is a heady mix of synthesizers, including the Dada cut-up "Horrorgoll," while the second descends into further wackiness of spoken-word, Schlager and beyond!

Minstrel In The Gallery > Jethro Tull

September, 1975
United States
Chrysalis
4.5
To record the band's eighth album, Ian Anderson assembled the crew in Monte Carlo with their new mobile studio: no grand compositional aspirations this time, but perhaps a little holiday fun. What came out was an album of contrasts and one of Jethro Tull's most dynamic records—polarized between the acoustic of the minstrel and the electric of the band. The title track kicks off quietly with Anderson literally in character; but soon the band lets loose, propelled by Barriemore Barlow's kick drum and one helluva riff from Martin Barre's guitar. One moment soft and introspective, the next erupting into hard rock, this contradiction of Anderson's acoustic musing and the band's near-ferocious nature is the album's strength. In particular, Minstrel In The Gallery finds Barre with his amp turned up to the proverbial "11." "Cold Wind to Valhalla" and "Black Satin Dancer" follow the same formula to similar effect, but the dichotomy is still apparent; the band's fiery instrumental passages rarely overlap Anderson's song craft (David Palmer's orchestration does, yet it's complementary as always). Anderson adds a couple of solo acoustic numbers accompanied by string quintet, including the fine "One White Duck/010 = Nothing at All." "Baker St. Muse" comprises most of the second side and is a slight return to former prog glory; though refreshingly, Anderson keeps things in check, as the mini-epic retains all the old Tull's flavor and intensity in a right-sized portion. The album made the Top 20 in the UK and reached No. 7 in the US, where an edited version of the title track also became a minor hit single. Hammond would exit the band after the album's release, to be replaced by ex-Carmen bassist John Glascock.

Wish You Were Here > Pink Floyd

September, 1975
United States
Columbia
4.81818
In the time between their previous album and this release, Pink Floyd had risen to the very top of rock ‘n' roll's elite. And while most would consider this a high-class problem, the band seemed none-the-happier for it. The first attempt at a follow-up, the Household Objects project, was abandoned in the fall of 1973. The band reconvened in early 1975, only to have the sessions interrupted by two US tours. Once back in the studio, artistic torpor prevailed until Roger Waters ultimately took over. The bulk of Wish You Were Here is the nine-part suite "Shine on You Crazy Diamond:" a tribute to their erstwhile member, Syd Barrett, who—bald, pale and fat—appeared at Abbey Road Studios while the band prepared the album's final mix. It would be the last "band" composition for the Floyd. Pressure from their record label (and a healthy dose of Waters's cynicism) provided inspiration for both "Welcome to the Machine" and "Have a Cigar." The former is a Floyd classic, lurking underneath a percolating VCS3, while the latter features Roy Harper on vocals. The title track, the lone David Gilmour composition, became almost every budding guitarist's first cover. The album proved to be one of the band's finest; the stark arrangements belie a cool and concise precision, in both the band's compositions and performance; Rick Wright in particular makes a strong showing. Enormously successful, the album topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic and provided a stylistic blueprint for many to follow. The album was originally packaged in blue shrink wrap (in the US, that is; it was black in the UK), with only a sticker to identify the contents.

Forever Blowing Bubbles > Clearlight

October, 1975
United Kingdom
Virgin
4.333335
Cyrille Verdeaux's second album for Virgin Records was again recorded at The Manor Studio in the UK, with Mick Glossop producing. Clearlight (the band) now featured six members, including ex-Zao bassist Joël Dugrenot, who contributed two songs, and a host of guest friends. The opening track "Chanson" is a lush affair, its under-mixed vocals provoking an exceptional effect. And if you thought David Cross (from King Crimson) couldn't play violin, listen up to the end of the track. Christian Boulé's cosmic guitar on "Without Words" is classic, and should please any Gong fan. However, it's Verdeaux's rich polyphony of sounds that give the arrangements their unique feel, somewhere between the density of Magma and the anarchy of Gong; just check out the excellent "Way." The slightly more conventional "Ergotrip" segues into the keyboard-driven "Et Pendant Ce Temps-Là" and dominates the second side—the band is in exceptional form here, weaving a dense arrangement around the bold compositions. Forever Blowing Bubbles would be the last on Virgin Records; after the label put Clearlight on tour with Gong, Verdeaux refused to move to the UK, thus ending the deal. He would record two additional albums under the Clearlight banner, each again featuring a bevy of musicians. Les Contes du Singe Fou ("Tales of the Crazy Monkey") was released in 1977 on the Isadora label and featured Ian Bellamy on vocals (in English). The last Clearlight album, Visions, was released on Polydor in 1978, and featured two Didiers, Malherbe and Lockwood. In the early 80s, after the tragic death of his son, Verdeaux would relocate to the US and embark on a solo career.

Magma Live > Magma

October, 1975
United States
Utopia (2)
0
Recorded in June at the La Taverne de l'Olympia in Paris, the magnificent double-album Live (later known as Hhaï/Live) is perhaps Magma's most exemplary statement. The lineup had toured the UK earlier in the year: joining Christian and Stella Vander and Klaus Blasquiz were violinist Didier Lockwood and keyboardist Benoît Widemann, with bassist Bernard Paganotti replacing Jannick Top; guitarist Gabriel Fédérow and pianist Jean-Pol Asseline rounded out the stage. Obviously, the lineup induces a new sonority with far less vocal hysteria; and the renditions of "Köhntark" (actually "Köhntarkösz") and "Mëkanïk Zaïn" (from "MDK") definitely benefit from it. Lockwood is an excellent instrumentalist, while Paganotti's bass work is as tremendous as Top's. But even more interesting are the tracks on side three: "Kobah" rides one of the grooviest of grooves the band would offer, and even affords guitarist Fédérow a chance to make his mark. Presenting a gentle melody, the dreamy "Lïhns" is a soft yet overt display of beauty. "Hhaï" slowly unfolds, with Vander offering a mellifluous vocal before erupting into excellent, melodic jazz fusion, with Widemann and Asseline's keyboards to the fore. This album-side is Magma at its most accessible; unless, of course, you happen to favor the Wagnerian approach. The album saw release on the Utopia imprint but was distributed by RCA Records. Patrick Gauthier replaced Asseline in the fall; but true to form, the band split up in 1976. As Vander set about to create a new lineup for Magma, he also found time to tour with bassist Top, as the cleverly-named VanderTop.

Voyage Of The Acolyte > Hackett, Steve

October, 1975
United States
Chrysalis
4.8
Prior to Genesis, guitarist Steve Hackett recorded with Quiet World. Featuring the Heather brothers three, 1969's The Road was a proto-progressive opus, replete with orchestral arrangements, yet Hackett's distinctive guitar, later honed with Genesis, was within. Years later, while Genesis was on hiatus following Peter Gabriel's departure, Hackett, along with his brother John and the rhythm section of Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins, recorded his debut solo record. With each track named after the Major and Minor Arcana of a tarot playing card deck, Voyage Of The Acolyte not only provides a closer listen to Hackett as a guitarist, who, more often than not, sat low in the mix with Genesis, but also to Hackett as the composer. The energetic opener "Ace of Wands" has the flair of Genesis, but is uniquely Hackett. He layers on the guitars—acoustic, electric, backwards, fuzzed—all up front and center in the mix, something he'd never have gotten away with in Genesis. "A Tower Struck Down" is another quirky instrumental tour de force, aided by John Acock's keyboards and Percy Jones's bass. The album contains several acoustic numbers, demonstrating Hackett's mastery of nylon-string guitar, and he even takes a crack at singing on the pastoral "The Hermit." But the gem is "Star of Sirius." Despite offering another chance to preview Collins as lead vocalist, the well-constructed track lays down an archetype that Hackett would follow on later solo records. "Shadow of the Hierophant" features Sally Oldfield on vocals, but benefits even more from its slow-building symphonic refrain. Surprisingly, perhaps, the album hit the Top 30 on the UK charts. But whatever the future would have in store for Hackett, he was back to recording with Genesis by September.

Godbluff > Van Der Graaf Generator

October, 1975
United States
Mercury
5
In late 1974, after the recording of Peter Hammill's Nadir's Big Chance album, the four former members of Van der Graaf Generator agreed to reform the band again. Hammill spent the next six months writing most of the material that would end up on their next two albums. Thus reconstituted, Hammill, along with keyboardist Hugh Banton, saxophone and flautist David Jackson and drummer Guy Evans set out to France in May to "road test" their new material. They entered Rockfield Studios in June and recorded Godbluff, plus two tracks that would appear on their next album. From the opening bars of "The Undercover Man," the new aspects of VdGG are immediate; the music is more open and uniform, and the band sound re-energized and (more or less) modern. Whether VdGG Mark II could have made it into the "big league" was always debatable; their idiosyncrasies are perhaps too profound. But here, VdGG's purpose is clear: performance. The chaos has found control, and the band's execution is impeccable. "The Undercover Man" gently fades into the epic "Scorched Earth." Driving and foreboding as its title suggests, it's as heavy a song as one could ask for. Hammill's lyrical intensity is matched only by his vocal delivery, and he sounds as assured as ever. Evans's tempo is quick and controlled throughout, while Jackson's brass arrangements are a perfect foil to Banton's organ. "Arrow" finds Banton playing bass opposite Hammill on electric piano. After a loose start, Hammill pulls things forward, revealing one of the band's most enduring songs. "The Sleepwalkers" digresses into a circus-like cha-cha with nary a blink, and then erupts with a quick double-kick from Evans's bass drum. The album remains the band's most consistent record. VdGG recorded a John Peel Session shortly following the album's release, and then went on tour for the balance of the year.

Fish Out Of Water > Squire, Chris

November, 1975
United States
Atlantic
4.25
Yes bassist Chris Squire's solo album Fish Out Of Water was the first to appear after Yes took a sabbatical following Relayer. That each member recorded an album worthy of release on Atlantic Records is debatable; but judged by this record alone, it was a great idea! Squire put together a fantastic band, including ex-Yes member Bill Bruford and almost ex-Yes member Patrick Moraz, with noted session players Mel Collins and Jimmy Hastings contributing. In addition to piano, Andrew Pryce Jackman provided the luscious orchestral arrangements. Jackman was previously in Squire's late 60s outfit The Syn. Squire took on all the vocal and guitar duties, with his distinctive Rickenbacker bass obviously to the fore. The album contains the same majesty of Yes, with the added distinction of not sounding like Yes at all. The energetic melody and pipe organ of "Hold Out Your Hand" presage "Parallels" from the next Yes album, while "You by My Side" is similarly melodic. Both feature a huge bass line straight down the middle; Jackman's arrangements meld each piece together, giving the side a fluidity not found in even the best of Yes' efforts. Moraz lends a hand (or two) to the instrumental section of the next track, "Silently Falling," before Squire's electric guitar sends the ending section into a spiraling refrain. "Lucky Seven" (written in 7/8 time) has the simplicity of Fragile's best moments; Squire's bass soars over Bruford's deft rhythm and Jackman's chiming electric piano. "Safe (Canon Song)" reaches out to symphonic proportions, repeating an even longer fade than on the first side. The album was moderately successful, charting in the Top 50 on both sides of the Atlantic, as did most of the other Yes members' solo albums; and Yes' record-breaking tour in the summer of 1976 would feature live renditions from these individual works. But Squire would stick true to Yes, and this would remain his only solo record for many decades.

Nipponjin - Join Our Mental Phase Sound > Far East Family Band

November, 1975
Germany
Vertigo
4.75
The Far East Family Band was a splinter group from the original Japanese psychedelic band Far Out. Led by Fumio Miyashita and Kei Ishikawa, they released one album, Far Out, of lo-fi psychedelic rock in 1973. Renaming the band, Miyashta then recruited a new lineup, including two keyboardists: Akira Itoh and Masanori Takahashi, the latter more famously known as Kitaro. Nipponjin, which carried the subtitle, "Join Our Mental Phase Sound," was mostly a re-recording of their first album, "The Cave Down To The Earth, with Klaus Schulze hired for the remix. "Nipponjin" opens the first side with bubbly synthesizers and sitar. Miyashita's guitar and singing are upfront, and his tentative hold of the English language lends some charm; the track was first heard on the Far Out album, but in guitar form. "The Cave" reveals a strong Pink Floyd influence. The tracks on the second side run together, drifting in and out of the mix; but when they're in, it's mostly heavy psychedelic rock, while the quieter moments are either awash with Mellotron or silence. The closing "Mystery of Northern Space" rises to a symphonic finale. Though dated, this is still venerable space rock, with a strong hippie vibe—the precursor to Acid Mothers Temple, anyone? The album saw release on the Vertigo label in Germany and on Mu Land in Japan the following year. The band's next album, Parallel World, was recorded directly under the hands of Schulze and guitarist Günter Schickert at Virgin's The Manor Studio; as such, it's the more successful of the two albums, but unfortunately at the cost of some of their originality—especially on the long title track. Oddly, both Vertigo and Virgin turned down the album, and it only saw release in Japan. Both Kitaro and Itoh then split for successful solo careers with new age music. Miyashta, bassist Akira Fukakusa and guitarist Hirohito Fukushima recruited a new drummer and recorded the band's final album, Tenkujin, for the US label All Ears Records. Far Out's Ishikawa would form Chronicles in the mid-70s in Los Angeles, also releasing one album, ...Like A Message From The Stars, for All Ears Records in 1977.

Heaven And Hell > Vangelis

November, 1975
United States
RCA
4.57143
Vangelis embarked on his solo career while still a member of Aphrodite's Child, the earliest fruits of which were several soundtracks, mostly recorded at Studio Europa Sonor in Paris. Both Hypothesis and The Dragon, recorded in London for Giorgio Gomelsky in 1971 (and released without Vangelis's permission in 1978), were little more than jam sessions-albeit pretty good ones-fusing psychedelic rock with jazz and ethnic influences. His first solo album proper, 1974's Earth, was recorded for Vertigo. Slightly uncharacteristic of his later work, it featured Robert Fitoussi on vocals and former bandmate Silver Koulouris on acoustic guitars. Mellow and spacious, the collection of songs was unique in his catalog. In 1975, Vangelis signed to RCA Records and moved shop to London where he set up his Nemo Studios, with the advance paying for the electronic gear. Vangelis had been asked to replace Rick Wakeman in Yes, but it wasn't meant to be; instead he forged what would become a fruitful partnership with Jon Anderson. The first taste of this collaboration is contained here, on the ethereal (and sappy) "So Long Ago, So Clear." Yet Heaven And Hell is pure Vangelis; it's huge and powerful, rooted in choral and symphonic tradition; but at the same time, not without some electronic exploration. His themes run from the simple ("Needles & Bones") to the bombastic ("Symphony to the Powers B"), but their textures are what set him apart. Although he'd get classified in the new age bin, Vangelis remains a pioneer of electronic keyboard music. In addition to a steady stream of soundtrack work, he would create a sizable catalog over the years, but those released on RCA, alternating between the symphonic (Albedo 0.39, Spiral) and the experimental (Beauborg), should all be considered essential.