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1976 Albums

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Tales Of Mystery And Imagination >

May, 1976
US
20th Century Records
0
The Alan Parsons Project was initially just that: a project built for a one-off album recorded for Charisma Records. Parsons had gained a considerable education at EMI Studios in the late 60s and early 70s; and by now, had already lent his appreciable productions skills to many artists, including Cockney Rebel, Pilot and Al Stewart. Based on the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Tales Of Mystery And Imagination emerged from Parsons's partnership with composer and singer Eric Woolfson. The album features a bevy of guests and orchestration from Andrew Powell. "The Raven," driven by its signature bass line and vocoder vocal, was a minor hit single in the US, reaching No. 80; while "The Tell-Tale Heart" features Arthur Brown's distinctive vocal—always a treat on any album. The second side contains the "The Fall of the House of Usher" suite: a large scale symphonic instrumental that presents the question, "Is this rock?" The album resides in a space between pop and the progressive that, like Supertramp or Electric Light Orchestra before it, offers a commercial blueprint many progressive artists would follow for the balance of the decade. The album was commercial success, rising to the lower reaches of the Top 40 on both sides of the Atlantic. From here, the Project signed to Arista Records and set off to MOR land (predicted here by the closer "To One in Paradise"). They racked up a string of Top 20 releases along the way, beginning with the following year's I Robot.

Roller > Goblin

June, 1976
Canada
Attic Records Limited
3.5
In 1971, keyboardist Claudio Simonetti and drummer Walter Martino first teamed up in Il Ritratto di Dorian Gray: a band from Rome that played British-style prog rock. In 1973, Simonetti, now with guitarist Massimo Morante and bassist Fabio Pignatelli, traveled to London and recruited an English singer, Clive Haynes. Adopting the name Oliver, the band reputedly sparked the interest of producer Eddie Offord; it's an unsurprising connection, as music from this era sounds a lot like Yes! However, nothing panned out. Returning to Italy in 1974, the band signed to Cinevox, a company that specialized in soundtracks. With Tony Tartarini now on vocals, their first recordings for the label were released in 1976 as Cherry Five. The story may have ended here, if it were not for a fortuitous relationship that the band struck up with director Dario Argento. Hired for his debut film, the band, now called Goblin (and with Walter Martino back on drums), struck gold. The ensuing soundtrack to the cult horror classic Profondo Rosso ("Deep Red") was an instant success, selling over a million copies after topping the Italian hit-parade. It's easy to see why; The title track's theme (not dissimilar from Mike Oldfield's excerpt for The Exorcist) is outfitted with a classic prog rock arrangement: trebly bass, big organ sound and spacious production. The next album, Roller, was in fact a studio record, though the context was similar; the symphonic refrain of "Roller" features more of the same sonic textures. "Aquaman" brings Morante's guitar to the fore, while the short "Snip-Snap" is a quick-take at fusion, Italian-style. "Goblin" is the compositional highlight, while the closing "Dr. Frankenstein" is indeed cinematic. Goblin's music is by no means lightweight, but there's a certain formula that renders it familiar and never difficult to digest. In 1977, the band would score Argento's Suspiria to comparable success; and in 1978, render the same services for George A. Romero's Zombi (US title: Dawn of the Dead). That same year, Goblin would record a final studio album, Il Fatastico Viaggio Del "Bagarozzo" Mark, which featured vocals from Morante. However, steady film work kept the band busy; and despite personnel changes, they continued until the mid-80s, churning out album after album of movie soundtracks.

A Dream Without Reason > Heldon

June, 1976
United States
Inner City Records
3.5
Heldon's fourth album (also carrying the subtitle of Richard Pinhas's then-girlfriend, Agneta Nilsson) was released in early 1976, and offered a more polished production than previous efforts. The big change though was the middle section of the album's side-long piece, "Perspective IV." Aided by Coco Roussel on drums, Alain Bellaïche on bass guitar and Patrick Gauthier on Mini-Moog synthesizer, Heldon delivers very aggressive rock ‘n' roll. The approach was continued on the next album, Un Rêve Sans Conséquence Spéciale (US title: A Dream Without Reason), where Heldon was now the trio of Pinhas, Gauthier and drummer François Auger-(more or less) a band. While there is a certain resemblance to the power-trio era King Crimson, Heldon is far darker, far more experimental and indeed, violent: The album is a savage mix of lead guitar, lead synthesizer, manic drumming and incessant sequencer. "Marie Virginie C." finds a potent combination of sequencer and drums, while "Elephanta" is pure percussive mayhem. "MVC II" again is altogether different: Lumbering over a slower sequence, it's a lot closer to what would be known as "industrial" music later in the decade. "Toward the Red Line" features bassist Jannick Top, but his contribution is difficult to discern: The track harks back to the extreme electronic improvisation of Heldon's earlier works. The album saw distribution on the French Cobra label, and even garnered a US release on the Aural Explorer/Inner City label. Two final Heldon albums followed, with both offering further refinement (and progressively slicker production) to the approach first presented here. Interface saw release on Cobra in 1977, while the 1978 release Stand By saw a switch to the Egg label and Didier Batard on bass. In late 1976, beginning with the album Rhizosphere, Pinhas launched a parallel solo career (mostly synthesizer works), and continued recording well into the 1980s.

La Düsseldorf > La Düsseldorf

June, 1976
Germany
Nova
4
After leaving Neu!, drummer Klaus Dinger, along with his brother Thomas and Hans Lampe, formed the like-minded La Düsseldorf, in tribute to their native city. Conny Plank was enlisted for production duties, while Klaus switched to guitar and vocals, purportedly to aim the band toward a "pop" styling. Simply titled La Düsseldorf, their debut recording was released by Teledec/Nova in mid-1976. With soaring synths and melodies complementing Klaus's breathy vocals, the opening track, "Düsseldorf," is an effervescent, light-hearted offshoot of the typical Neu! formula. Over the same infectious beat, the following "La Düsseldorf" shows a punkier edge. Yet punk the white overall-clad Klaus certainly wasn't; take a listen to his hippie anti-establishment lyrics here. "So many gangsters" indeed! A single from the album, "Silver Cloud" b/w "La Düsseldorf," was a surprise hit earlier in the year, reaching No. 2 in the German hit parade. On the album, it's a pleasant instrumental, repeating its infectious groove in long-form. "Time" closes the album, another strong number that ambles forward under a majestic organ riff. Both tracks feature ex-Thirsty Moon Harald Konietzko on bass. The album was as influential as it was successful, with David Bowie claiming that it was a significant influence on his upcoming Low album. La Düsseldorf's follow-up, Viva, was released in 1978 and continued where their debut left off. It also was a success, driven by another hit single, "Rheinita" b/w "Viva," which reached No. 3 on the German charts. A third album, Individuellos, would see release in 1981; but the death of bandmate Andreas Schell and a failed third single hailed the band's end. A final album with Plank producing, Néondian, was recorded but quickly withdrawn (and would finally be reissued as Mon Amour in 2017). Little would be heard from Dinger until he teamed up, even quite contentiously, with Japanese label Captain Trip in the 90s.

Üdü Wüdü > Magma

June, 1976
France
RCA
4
After the live album and further touring in 1975, Magma retracted to its core lineup of Christian Vander, Klaus Blasquiz and Jannick Top. The band recorded two further studio albums before folding. Üdü Wüdü saw release in 1976, again on the Utopia imprint of RCA, and by Tomato Records in the USA and Canada (part of Gramavision). The first side opens with the uncharacteristic "Üdü Wüdü," a lighter, jazzy tune with a calypso-like beat. Vander supplies the vocal, with a call-response from the female chorus. Bernard Paganotti and Patrick Gauthier were around long enough to contribute to "Weidorje," before exiting to form the band of the same name. The remainder of the first side is a mixed bag, some of it part of the larger Ëmëhntëht-Rê song cycle. But indubitably, Top's militaristic "De Futura" is the album's high point. A masterwork of his Utopia Sporadic Orchestra, it's a primordial soup of grunts, bass rips and a host of sounds from Top. The side-long composition doesn't really go anywhere, but it most certainly has a scary presence! Attahk followed almost two years later; but lacking any unifying composition, the album was again a mish-mash of styles. Yet with a larger horn section and Laurent Thibault's production, it was a good record nonetheless. Though flush with archival live material, Inedits was a bootleg-quality release for Tapioca Records in 1977. Vander would often revisit Magma over the ensuing years, in live concerts and for a final album, Merci in 1984; but the 80s would see his career turn solidly to jazz.

The Story Of i > Moraz, Patrick

June, 1976
US
Atlantic
4.25
Following the Relayer tour, Yes' keyboardist Patrick Moraz teamed up with two old friends and Mainhorse compatriots—Jean Ristori as engineer and Jean de Antoni on guitar—and further assembled an impressive cast of musicians for his solo album. John McBurnie of Jackson Heights wrote the album's lyrics and sang vocals, while drum duties were split between Alphonse Mouzon (side one) and Andy Newmark (side two). Jeff Berlin provided bass, while Ray Gomez was the second guitarist. The album tells the story of a tower where people can enact their own fantasies inside; though ultimately, it's a trap: The liner notes offer the play-by-play. All that aside, it's an amazing record of ethno-fusion-rock, or whatever you want to call it. Obviously, there's no shortage of Moraz's virtuoso keyboards, but two days in Brazil also provided percussion overdubs that give The Story of I its unique character. McBurnie's vocals on "Warmer Hands" and "Indoors" highlight the pop sensibility within the record, though not to be lost to the thick manic fusion underneath; note the frenetic soloing of the latter! The groove of "Incantation (Procession)" is hypnotic and the palette of sounds nonpareil. The album was meant to be played as a single piece of music, and I must agree: It works best as a whole. Moraz finished touring commitments with Yes in 1976; but by the end of the year, when the group convened in Switzerland to record their next album, Moraz got the boot. He was quick to recover, however, releasing his next album Out In The Sun in 1977, and after moving to Brazil, the Latin-flavored Patrick Moraz appeared in 1978. It was his last for Charisma. But as luck would have it, he then landed work as touring keyboardist for the Moody Blues. Splitting releases with Carrere Records-including the excellent Future Memories-in France and the American PVC label, Moraz would enjoy a prolific solo career well into the 80s, which also included two albums on the EG label with Bill Bruford.

Live At Carnegie Hall > Renaissance

June, 1976
United States
Sire
4.75
Renaissance's live double-album—recorded on their Scheherazade tour at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic, with Tony Cox conducting—is by most accounts their best (and most consistent) document on record. The band integrates well with the orchestra; that's not much of a surprise though, considering that Michael Dunford's compositions were classical in nature. In fact, the band's music often comes closer to the sound of a Broadway stage show than that of a rock concert, which perhaps explains their significant audience in New England. The album highlights Renaissance's lengthier compositions, including "Can You Understand," "Mother Russia" and the Cox-arranged "Scheherazade." But "Ashes Are Burning" steals the show, largely due to Jon Camp's adept bass work and classic Rickenbacker tone. Here, with John Tout's keyboards providing ample color, the band ditches the symphonic embellishment to prove that they can play rock music after all. The album reached No. 55 in the US, while the following year's Novella also reached the US Top 50. Again, it was a solid effort, including the fan-favorite tracks "Midas Man" and "Can You Hear Me." With fiancé Roy Wood, Annie Haslam would record a solo album around this time, titled Annie In Wonderland.

Olias Of Sunhillow > Anderson, Jon

July, 1976
United States
Atlantic
4.833335
Seems not everyone had their fill with Tales From Topographic Oceans; built around a story inspired by Roger Dean's wooden space ship on Yes' Fragile album cover, Jon Anderson's Olias Of Sunhillow is once again chock full of sci-fantasy and mysticism. The story, influenced by Vera Stanley Alder and J.R.R. Tolkien, concerned the migration of four tribes to a new planet. Dean however wasn't present for the art (he was always closest to Steve Howe), so the record jacket sports lavish illustrations from David Fairbrother-Roe (whose art also adorned albums by Popol Ace and Nazareth). Anderson wrote and recorded the entire record himself, which was something of a "coming of age" for the self-proclaimed non-musician. Dipping mostly across the strings of harp and acoustic guitars, there's also a fair amount of electronics heard throughout the album, obviously the influence of his budding collaboration with Greek synthesist Vangelis (or perhaps his unconfirmed playing)-just check out the opening moments of "Ocean Song." Of course, Anderson's distinct voice is always front and center. He pens a good melody and the album's dozen songs are no exception: "Sound Out The Galleons," "Flight of the Moorglade Mover" and "To The Runner" rank up there with the best of Yes' tunes, and the album flows continuously, from start to finish. Maybe it's Mike Dunne in the engineer's chair of Anderson's Mobile Mobile studio we have to thank, but the cohesion is genuine and effective. The album was the most successful of Yes' solo efforts, reaching No. 8 in the UK charts and breaking into the US Top 50. Yes reunited for the US "solo albums tour" in the summer of 1976, and then the band regrouped in Montreux in October.

Backdoor Possibilities > Birth Control

August, 1976
Germany
Brain
4.75
Now signed to the Brain label, Birth Control headed to Conny Plank's studio with English producer David Hitchcock, best known for his work with Camel and Caravan. Yes, it was for another foray into progressive rock, here with a concept to boot. Penned by Zeus B. Held, the story revolves around the life of everyman Adam Striver, who at his death confronts "backdoor possibilities." Sporting more complicated arrangements than the previous record, the suites "One First of April" and "Beedeepees" fill the first side. Gentle Giant's influence is more pronounced, especially in the rich instrumentation. "Subterranean Escape" is lively and full of color, with a fantastic instrumental fade. Birth Control even gets symphonic on "Futile Prayer." The second side contains another suite, "La Cigüena de Zaragoza." The first section, "The Farrockaway Ropedancer," features some great interplay between the band members, while the closing "Behind Grey Walls" and "No Time to Die" reprise their themes between continually shifting meters. Although an excellent album of prog rock, the band's new direction confounded fans. Next, Birth Control added two ex-Message musicians to their lineup: Horst Stachelhaus on bass replaced Peter Föller, while Manfred von Bohr came in on drums, leaving Nossi Noske to concentrate exclusively on vocals. The ensuing album Increase was produced by Hitchcock as well. He reworked their progressive styling to approach a (more or less) contemporary feel, and to generally excellent results; in particular, check out "Until the Night." Held recorded one final album with Birth Control, the disappointing Titanic, before leaving the band for a successful career as a record producer. Though in decline, Birth Control continued for another few years, even after Bruno Frenzel's untimely death in 1983.

Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music > Hawkwind

August, 1976
United States
Charisma
5
Robert Calvert returned full-time to Hawkwind, following a guest spot with the band at the Reading Festival the previous August. Now consisting of guitarist Dave Brock, saxophonist Nik Turner, drummers Simon King and Alan Powell (the so-called "drum empire"), bassist Paul Rudolph and Simon House on keyboards and violin, Calvert now fronted Hawkwind. With new management in place, they signed to Charisma Records and released their eighth studio album, Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music, in August 1976. True to its title, the album features a more refined and contemporary sound. With a nod to the 1936 film of the same name, "Reefer Madness" reintroduces Calvert like a man reborn! Both his vocal delivery and lyrical wit reveal a talent previously unheard. Equally telling is the redundancy of Turner's sax solo, especially when contrasted with House's sleek synthesizer lines. "Steppenwolf" follows, a nod to Hermann Hesse's epic novel. Another of Brock's big-chord rockers, it features his deliciously phased guitar, and House on organ. The Rudolph/Powell/King rhythm section also renders a musicality never before revealed in Hawkwind history. Though veritable enough, the instrumentals "City of Lagoons," "The Aubergine That Ate Rangoon" and "Chronoglide Skyway" from Powell, Rudolph and House, respectively, are for the most part, surprisingly un-Hawkwind like, and ultimately led to Calvert and Brock's displeasure with the album. Featuring a remix from David Gilmour, "Kerb Crawler" b/w "Honk Dorky" failed as a single, though the album reached No. 33 on the UK charts (it did not see release in the US), as did the live compilation Roadhawks, issued to shore up the band's commitments to United Artists. Following their Atomhenge tour of the UK in the fall, the band would again undergo further changes.

Gialorgues > Shylock

August, 1976
France
Gialorgues
5
Hailing from Nice, France, Shylock formed in 1974, combining the talents of keyboardist Didier Lustig, drummer André Fisichella and guitarist Frédéric L'Épée. The band then retreated to a church in the Maralpin town of St-Dalmas-le-Selvage to write and rehearse. Early compositions were named sequentially, and later evidenced by the titles on their debut album, Gialorgues (named after a valley in St. Dalmas). The band self-released the instrumental album in 1976, printing a reputed 1000 copies; however, CBS subsequently signed the band and re-released the album in early 1977. "Le Quatrième" is the opening track; after a brief introduction from Lustig's claviers, the band breaks into a big symphonic theme with L'Épée's guitar soaring. Throughout, the band add a healthy dose of rock to their progressive compositions, recalling Genesis toward the lead-up to the track's end. The brief "Le Sixième" is more angular, propelled by Fisichella's brisk and effervescent drumming. The first section of "Le Cinquième" offers a literal quote of King Crimson's "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two," and there's little doubt that the band's intent is homage; just as their forbearer, Shylock excels at improvisation and rebound, shifting effortlessly between well-developed themes and offering a grand rock progressif throughout the album's second side. After a break for mandatory military service, Shylock reformed to record their second and final album, Île De Fièvre, with bassist Serge Summa completing the record after the original bassist, Christian Villena, suddenly departed. The album was released in 1978, but neither the band nor their record company were happy with it; and despite subsequent attempts to rekindle the atmosphere that generated the band's excellent debut, Shylock called it a day.

L > Hillage, Steve

September, 1976
United States
Atlantic
5
Steve Hillage's second album, recorded at Bearsville Studios in New York, featured a different group of guest musicians—this time, all were Americans. Todd Rundgren took over the production duties and his Utopia compatriots subbed as the backing band: Roger Powell manned the keyboards, while Kasim Sulton and John Wilcox filled the rhythm section. Evidently Hillage and flat mate Chris Cutler were big fans, so he jumped at the chance to work with the American. The album, L, opens with a cover of Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man," though Hillage's signature is all over it. Far more interesting is the original "Hurdy Gurdy Glissando" that follows. Guided by a tabla rhythm, it slowly rises before erupting into a quick-tempo jam—one that even borders on the fusion end of things. The Utopians are a strong ensemble; Wilcox's manic drumming is often overbearing. The second side's major track is the 12-minute "Lunar Musick Suite" (sic). Thrust open with Hillage's Arabic-tinged guitar soaring above a sequencer loop, any subtlety is lost once Wilcox's pounding beat kicks in. The track then takes a far more celestial pace and things get infinitely more interesting. Don Cherry adds some trumpet—a unique combination—before the track turns all Hillage at the end. His guitar playing is exceptional throughout the album, relying on speed and fluidity more than his usual echo delay. Despite another plodding backbeat, the closing track is a rousing cover of George Harrison's "It's All Too Much." Though this song failed to chart as a single, the album would be Hillage's most successful, reaching the Top 10 in the UK. With his ever-present partner Miquette Giraudy on vocals and synthesizer, Hillage then assembled a touring band: The first incarnation featured Colin Bass on (what else) bass, ex-Jethro Tull drummer Clive Bunker on drums, Basil Brooks (Zorch) on synthesizers, Phil Hodge on keyboards and Frenchman Christian Boulé, previously with Clearlight, as a second guitarist. Eventually, the band made it to the US to tour, supporting Electric Light Orchestra.

Leftoverture > Kansas

October, 1976
United States
Kirshner
4.666665
Kansas' third album, Masque, pointedly displayed the two sides to the band. They still contained "Two Cents Worth" of boogie-rock; however, with Kerry Livgren's songwriting, the band also delivered two classics from their "symphonic" side: "Icarus-Borne on Wings of Steel" and "The Pinnacle." Sales for the album, however, were as stagnant as their previous releases, and the band reached a supposedly do-or-die scenario with their label. Fortunately for Kansas, all musical points connected on Leftoverture, and the band delivered an instant classic. With big harmony vocals and manic riffing, "Carry on Wayward Son" kicks the album off in high gear. Livgren and Rich Williams's dueling guitars complement each other in the finest Southern rock tradition; it's no wonder that the song was a US Top 10 single for the band. Mainly written by keyboardist/guitarist Livgren—in fact, he's the band's primary songwriter—Kansas delivers an album of remarkable consistency; virtuosity and accessibility combine on each track. Livgren's lyrics hint at Christian undertones (e.g. "The Wall," "Questions of my Childhood") and their overt sincerity also sets them apart from most other progressive bands. Tracks like "Miracles out of Nowhere" and "Opus Insert" feature rich arrangements that always remain melodic and never fail to rock hard—their secret being Phil Ehart's quick, constant tempo. The acoustic "Cheyenne Anthem," a tribute to the tribe of the same name, even manages to sneak in a tricky instrumental section. Producer Jeff Glixman deserves some credit too, as the album is sonically exceptional; while there's a lot going on, the mix is neither muddy nor overbearing. The album's closer, "Magnum Opus," was arranged from bits and pieces of music that the band had accumulated over the years (hence, the album's portmanteau title) and illustrates Kansas at their best: bold, electric and, above all, American. The album was an unqualified success, reaching No. 5 on the US charts and earning double-platinum sales.

World Record > Van Der Graaf Generator

October, 1976
United States
Mercury
3.8
After rehearsals in the famed Headley Grange venue and a few UK concerts, Van der Graaf Generator were back at Rockfield Studios to record their third album in less than a year. Peter Hammill even found time to record a solo album, the subject of which was the breakup of his relationship. His cathartic Over was quite a wrenching matter; but, thankfully, World Record is another story. The album attempts to be the most straightforward that VdGG would deliver, though ultimately it may be their most perplexing. Hammill picks up the electric guitar for most of the record; that said, his performance is tenuous at best: VdGG were never a guitar band, and this album wasn't going to change that. Just listen to "Masks:" Hammill's cack-handedness is a bizarre juxtaposition to the rest of the band's precision. The sultry "When She Comes" features some of VdGG's sexiest arrangements, a big contrast to the following "A Place to Survive." Here, Hugh Banton's organ roar is deafening, with Hammill's anguished delivery perfectly following suit. "Meurglys III (The Songwriter's Guild)" is Hammill's ode to his guitar; and, incredibly, VdGG even get down to jamming-Banton's reggae chops, alongside Hammill's half-baked lead, are perfectly insane, though David Jackson's saxophone sounds effete. Yet the epiphany of "Wondering" is the ideal ending, and most fitting to the band's blistering run over the past two years. VdGG were on the road for the album's release, completing another short UK tour before undertaking their first concerts in North America. They played a half-dozen shows in Canada and made their only US appearance ever, on October 18th, 1976, at the Beacon Theatre in New York. The remainder of the year was spent touring Europe. Banton's self-built organ, the "HB1," finally debuted at their November John Peel Session; but his notice had already been served: Banton's last gig with VdGG was in Saarbrücken on December 9th, 1976.

As In A Last Supper > Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso

November, 1976
Germany
Manticore Records
4.4
Banco concluded the year by recording a soundtrack, Garofano Rosso ("Red Carnation"), based on Elio Vittorini's novel of the same name. Released on the Manticore label in early 1976, the instrumental album is a showcase for both Vittorio and Gianni Nocenzi's compositions, and the band's performance. They next took to the studio to record an even headier concept, based roughly on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Issued in Italy as Come In Un' Ultima Cena, the English version carried the title As In A Last Supper and was again released on Manticore Records. The opening track "At Supper, For Example" immediately reveals the strength of the work. Francesco Di Giacomo's voice soars along with the melody, with the band providing perfect accompaniment. The blatant hook of "The Spider," under a more typical progressive arrangement, follows. The obvious classicism of "John Has a Good Heart, But..." leads into the altogether heavier "Slogan," with the Nocenzi brothers' keyboards at the fore. After its protracted introduction, "They Say Dolphins Speak," slides into an enchanting modern groove, with Di Giacomo's voice following suit. The balance of the record continues in similar fashion, alternating between the gentle calm of "The Night Is Full" and the symphonic splendor of "Towards My Door." The album is perhaps the most fully conceived and executed from Banco—thanks, in part, to its excellent production, again engineered by Peter Kaukonen. The band toured Europe with Gentle Giant following the record's release, but it would be another two years before the band's next album appeared, partly due to Manticore's financial collapse. Di Terra, released in 1978, was an outlier; mostly orchestral, it's a large-scale work that generally eschews the rock of the band's earlier career for something far more, well, orchestral, and with excellent results. For the next few years, Banco experimented with different musical directions. Canto Di Primavera followed in 1979, but swung too far to the "pop" end of the spectrum, while the live Capolinea offered funky versions of songs from their catalog. Banco del Mutuo Soccorso then ditched both their progressive leanings (and most of their name) for an altogether more populist sound, which carried the band well into the 1980s.

Dawn > Eloy

November, 1976
Germany
Electrola
4
Since we last left Eloy, the band had added a second guitarist, Detlev Schwaar, for 1975's Power And The Passion. The sprawling concept album displayed a marked progression from the band's previous efforts; their writing was more demonstrative, and Manfred Wieczorke's use of synthesizers added considerable texture. But despite the success of the album in their native Germany, problems with management led to the band's breakup, with founding member Wieczorke joining German hard rockers Jane. Undeterred, Frank Bornemann formed a new band with bassist Klaus-Peter Matziol, drummer (and lyricist) Jürgen Rosenthal and keyboardist Detlev Schmidtchen. The British influences so prevalent in their earlier work had by now dissolved into the signature Eloy sound; Dawn represents a considerable step forward in their more prosaic adaptation of symphonic rock. Tracks like "The Sun-Song" or "The Midnight-Fight" also indicate the band's reliably spirited performance. Matziol produces a powerful bass sound, while Rosenthal is an accomplished drummer. Originally hired as a guitarist, Schmidtchen is less successful at keyboards; they mostly sound monochromatic, even when augmented by strings. Nevertheless, the album was a huge success in Germany, selling over 150,000 copies. Eloy would refine the same formula on their next album, Ocean, and again the following year on Silent Cries And Mighty Echoes—and the more symphonic (and musically akin to mid-70s Pink Floyd) their sound became, the more success they garnered. After a live album in 1979, Bornemann would again repopulate the band with new blood, as they continued well into the 80s, yet musically drifted dangerously close to heavy metal. However, Colours, released in 1980, is regarded as their last epic progressive work.

Le Petit Violon De Mr Grégoire > Mona Lisa

November, 1976
France
Crypto
4
Mona Lisa came from Orléans, France, and followed in the footsteps of countrymate Ange with their so-called "rock theatre:" a uniquely French style of progressive rock inspired by Genesis. A debut album L'Escapade, produced by Ange guitarist Jean-Michel Brézovar, was released by the Arcane label in 1974; but the following year's Grimaces showed progress. By their third album, the band had coalesced into a lineup of guitarist Pascal Jardon, keyboardist Jean-Paul Pierson, bassist Jean-Luc Martin, drummer Francis Poulet and vocalist Dominique Le Guennec. Le Petit Violon De Mr Grégoire saw release on Jean-Claude Pognant's Crypto label in 1976, and is generally regarded as not only the band's masterpiece, but also one of the premier examples of rock progressif. "Le Chant des Glaces" is propelled by a sturdy bass and blistering lead guitar, while the following "Allons Z'enfants" offers a more typically French symphonic vocal number, with Le Guennec's powerful voice to the fore. Jardon's guitar has a heavy tone similar to Steve Hackett's, but the arrangements here are fresh as well as accomplished. The second side presents the dark, dramatic title suite in three parts. "La folie" ("Madness") opens with organ and spoken word, then quickly unfolds to a brisk tempo, punctuated by Pierson's synth. "De toute ma haine" ("Of all my hatred") follows, expertly and spiritedly spinning together disparate musical chunks. "Plus loin vers la Ciel" ("Further near Heaven") continues, highlighting the bracing, marching tempo of the band's compositions. Though perhaps appearing late in the game, the album is one of the finest in the French canon. A final (and again, excellent) album with Le Guennec, Avant Qu'il Ne Soit Trop Tard, appeared in 1977. However, disillusioned with the band's lack of commercial success, Le Guennec departed. A final album with Poulet (successfully) performing vocals appeared in 1979.

Vimana > Nova

November, 1976
United States
Arista
4.333335
After their fiery debut, Nova suffered from some lineup changes. The rhythm section was the first to leave, while Danilo Rustici wasn't far behind. Corrado Rustici and Elio D'Anna then recruited a keyboardist—Renato Rosset from New Trolls Atomic System—and reached out to the fusion world for the rest of the lineup: Narada Michael Walden, ex-Mahavishnu Orchestra, provided drums, while Percy Jones, Phil Collins and Robin Lumley, all on loan from Brand X, filled in with bass, percussion and production, respectively. The title track kicks off; and yes, Nova's still delivering first-class fusion. But there are changes; Rosset's keyboards provide a new texture to the music, while the Jones/Walden rhythm section is certainly nimbler than on the previous work. The contemplative "Night Games," one of only three vocal numbers on the album, slows the pace considerably; and things almost come to a halt on the acoustic meanderings of the ensuing "Poesia (To a Brother Gone)." This track, however, is a veritable showcase for the technical talents of Rustici and Rosset. The second side kicks off with "Thru the Silence," a vocal number with some similarity to their debut album. True to its name, "Driftwood" floats gracefully before locking onto its funky riff. Jones's bass tone is true to his signature sound, while Rustici eventually explodes on electric guitar. Written by Walden, the instrumental "Princess and the Frog" closes, offering a much more conventional fusion—though injected with a funky little section in the middle. Although the fireworks of their debut have settled to embers, Vimana offers further refinement over the previous work. It was the first Nova album to see release in the US, on Arista Records.

Romance 76 > Baumann, Peter

November, 1976
United States
Virgin
4.5
Born in 1953, Peter Baumann attended the JFK American School in Berlin, gaining an education in American culture as well as language. He first joined Tangerine Dream in 1972, following his stint with The Ants. Released in 1976 on Virgin Records, his solo record, Romance 76 was recorded during one of Baumann's hiatuses from the band. "Bicentennial Present" opens the album, and revealing Baumann's musical contribution to TD; mostly it's the melodic synth lines where the band's tone is instantly recognizable. "Romance" offers a melody similar to The Token's 1961 hit "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," but instead rides a simple sequencer line to its end. The second side is dominated by "Meadows of Infinity," a three-part epic that features the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in the piece's first part. It's a unique piece of music, combining classical orchestration with electronics. Moody and dark, the track traverses a wide range of territory, meandering through "The Glass Bridge," before arriving in a more familiar TD landscape for the closing section, "Meadow of Infinity (Part 2)." Following his departure from Tangerine Dream after their 1977 US tour, Baumann set up his Paragon recording studio in Berlin. There, he produced music for several German artists, including Cluster, Asmus Tietchens and Conrad Schnitzler, as well as an album with the female singer Leda, Welcome To Joyland. His Trans-Harmonic Nights album appeared in 1979 for Virgin; it offered shorter tracks, though they still contained his trademark sequences. However, Baumann's next album, Repeat Repeat, presented a significant shift in his music, as well as in his location. Now based in New York, he turned away from the TD dreamscapes and on to more commercial synth pop that defined the early 80s. Another similar album, Strangers In The Night, appeared in 1983. Baumann then left his musician career behind in 1984 and founded the Private Music label, which specialized in new age music.

Stratosfear > Tangerine Dream

November, 1976
United States
Virgin Records America, Inc.
4.75
Following closely in the direction first offered on Phaedra, Tangerine Dream released Rubycon and the live Ricochet in 1975; the former rose to No. 12 on the UK charts, the band's highest position yet. Both were excellent releases that featured one single composition split over each of the album's sides, again with heavy accents on mood and atmosphere. Stratosfear, however, reflects a paradigm shift for the band: Augmented by acoustic instruments, including harmonica, guitar, piano and harpsichord, Tangerine Dream's constructions now move toward actual composition. The title track is exceptionally rich, sporting a memorable melody; once it gears up though, it moves steadily over the swift, sequenced rhythm. "The Big Sleep in Search of Hades" is unassuming, yet features a colorful interior. Still, it's the second side's "3 Am at the Border of the Marsh from Okefenokee" that is truly classic. After a cinematic introduction, we're treated to a hypnotically slow sequence over which the band conducts their magic. "Invisible Limits" reaches even further over its 11 minutes, recapping the new territory the band has invaded. Tangerine Dream is more musical than ever here, and set on a new sonic course that would continue to evolve. One major criticism, though, is that the album is a mere 35 minutes long. Despite being a disaster to record-tales of equipment failure plagued the sessions (and reportedly a Nick Mason mix left on the shelf)-Stratosfear was moderately successful on the charts, reaching the UK Top 40. The band toured the US for the first time in early 1977, releasing the excellent live double-album Encore as evidence. Yet even more fortuitous was the band's highly successful soundtrack to William Friedkin's film Sorcerer, which also was released that year.