1975 Albums

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Heaven And Hell > Vangelis

November, 1975
United States
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.

Let It Out > Kraan

December, 1975
United States
Passport Records
Kraan was riding a critical and commercial peak coming into the sessions that yielded their fifth album, Let it Out. Joining Kraan was ex-Karthago keyboardist Ingo Bischof, a frequent guest at the Wintrup commune. Conny Plank also paid a visit, and suggested that the recording take place at the commune's farmhouse. The album stands as a creative high point for the band. Bischof's electric piano and clavinet fit perfectly into Kraan's music, whether he's playing rhythmically or providing a lead. The album features only two vocal tracks; the opener "Bandits in the Woods" is a classic tale of paranoia, while the title track rocks along in Kraan's typical feel-good style. The mellow "Degado" substitutes vocalizing for lyrics, another of Peter Wolbrandt's tricks; while the experimental "Die Maschine" is a rare treat, perhaps owing much to Plank's studio alchemy. But "Luftpost" and "Prima Klima" clearly illustrate the jazzy direction of the band, with the arrangements here even tighter and the interplay more intense. Both "Overseas Bound" and "Picnic International" follow suit, the latter revolving around a beautifully melodic run and punctuated by a bright, funky rhythm. Johannes Pappert would barely complete the album before leaving the band to start his own group, Alto. The album was particularly well received in Germany, where the band cleaned up in the annual Sounds polls. Collectors note: The US issue of the album, released a year later (in 1976) on Passport Records, differs from the German Spiegelei pressing, as it contains five subtly remixed tracks.

Blink > Nova

December, 1975
United Kingdom
Following the demise of Osanna prior to their 1974 release, Landscape Of Life, Elio D'Anna and Danilo Rustici formed Uno. Originally slated with Napoletano Toni Esposito on drums, the pair ventured to London to record an eponymous album, Uno, with drummer Enzo Vallicelli. Yet the group did not last, even with Rustici's brother Corrado, previously a member of Cervello, augmenting on guitar. So D'Anna and the Rustici brothers returned to London and under the auspices of Pete Townshend, producer Rupert Hine and Arista Records, formed Nova. Two Italian musicians, Luciano Milanese (a member of I Trolls, the precursor to New Trolls) and Franco "Dede" Lo Previte (from Circus 2000), comprised the rhythm section. Produced by D'Anna and Danilo, it's easy to hear where the keyboard-less Blink got its start: The Osanna/Uno connection is indeed true. "Taylor Made" immediately reveals some high-energy fusion and vocals-in fact, that's the most amazing thing about the album-Nova is one of the few groups to combine instrumental fusion with vocals successfully, perhaps because Corrado's voice is so well-suited for the music. Once the 12-string electric guitar kicks in on "Something Inside Keeps You Down," the track locks onto a tight groove under a fidgety rhythm section, with D'Anna providing the lead instrument. "Nova," an instrumental track of more typical fusion, features a dual guitar assault from the brothers Rustici, with D'Anna's sax often soaring in unison. Nova then offers a little soul groove on "Used to Be Easy," while another instrumental, "Toy," gets funky. However, the band saves the best for last: "Stroll On" stands as a prime example of the group's hyperkinetic fusion. Corrado supplies the angst-ridden vocal, a fine fit for the track's aggression, while both Rusticis deliver incendiary guitar solos. The album owes more than a nod to the type of music Mahavishnu Orchestra pioneered; but it remains one of the most electric and frenetic fusion albums ever produced.