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The Cheerful Insanity Of Giles, Giles And Fripp > Giles, Giles & Fripp

September, 1968
United States
Deram
3
This was by no means a major release; these are, however, the first recordings from guitarist Robert Fripp, and as such, of interest to the timeline. The band came to London from provincial Bournemouth, on England's south coast. Brothers Peter Giles and Michael Giles, bass and drums respectively, had spent the last seven years as a rhythm section together, performing mainly R&B covers. In London, they managed to secure a deal with Deram Records, who released two singles and the album, The Cheerful Insanity Of Giles, Giles & Fripp. Unfortunately, the album's highlight is on the opening track: "North Meadow" reveals a concise arrangement and the tight interplay of the Giles brothers. Otherwise, the tracks are predictably of the era. Each album side presents a musical story as terminally dated as the other: Fripp's "The Saga of Rodney Toady" on the first side, and on the second, Michael Giles's "Just George." The closing track "Erudite Eyes" finally gets electric and eclectic, but good luck getting that far through the record. Lyricist and jack-of-all Pete Sinfield would later remark "if one wondered what my contribution to King Crimson was, they should simply listen to this album!" But the album's failure was portentous: GG&F met up with Fairport Convention's Judy Dyble and her boyfriend Ian McDonald in response to an ad Dyble had placed for a backing band. Dyble remained for a short while (a version of "I Talk to the Wind" appeared on The Young Persons' Guide To King Crimson in 1975) before the men took over. And a few months and one wealthy uncle later, King Crimson was born.

Shine On Brightly > Procol Harum

September, 1968
United States
A&M Records
4.333335
Procol Harum's second effort starts off predictably: Gary Brooker's monochromatic wail over Matthew Fisher's swirling Hammond chords on the title track offer elegance, while the pitter-patter of the following "Skip Softly (My Moonbeams)" gives way to something deeper. "Wish Me Well" even attempts some blues, obviously at guitarist Robin Trower's suggestion. Although the first side of the record could have easily come from their debut, the second side, containing the epic "In Held ‘Twas in I," is the real accomplishment here. Originally titled "Magnum Harum," it's a suite of intertwining songs, but serves as the template for the most progressive of all accessories: the album-side-long track. This idiomatic trait would remain the ultimate expression for the progressive artist: creating a composition with only the physical limitation of the vinyl record as the boundary. Opening with Keith Reid's ramblings about the Dalai Lama, the band breaks into some uncharacteristically complex runs, in a theme they would return to throughout the piece's various transitions. The success is the landscape; the track shifts between seriousness and folly, each movement well-integrated into the next, and culminating with Trower's soaring guitar over the final refrain. The track combines the writing and arrangement talents of both Brooker and Fisher, and the execution of the entire band-no small achievement. Like their debut, the album charted in America, reaching No. 24, but would again falter in their native Britain. Procol Harum would weather some personnel changes over the years, as they followed a similar musical path until their breakup in 1977. Their 1972 live album In Concert With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra was a career zenith on both sides of the Atlantic; but Shine On Brightly would remain their shining achievement, and a milestone for progressive rock.

This Was > Jethro Tull

October, 1968
United States
Reprise Records
3.666665
The story of Jethro Tull begins with the John Evan Band in Blackpool during the mid-60s. Like most other bands from the era, they played soul covers before moving on to the blues. The summer of 1967 brought Ian Anderson and Glenn Cornick to London. Adding Mick Abrahams on guitar and Clive Bunker on drums (both from McGregor's Engine), Jethro Tull-named after an 18th century agriculturist-was complete, although they gigged for several months under different names (ostensibly to get repeat gigs); Even their first single, "Sunshine Day" b/w "Aeroplane," was released as "Jethro Toe" (typo, if you can believe it). By 1968, the band had gained a residency at the Marquee Club and national recognition, based partly on their Sunbury Jazz and Blues performance that summer. Having picked up his technique from virtuoso Roland Kirk, flautist and vocalist Anderson was the obvious frontman. On This Was, the band plays incredibly tight and raucous-just listen to "Dharma for One" or "Cat's Squirrel." Anderson's songwriting is strong and already developing into his own style, evidenced in particular on "A Song for Jeffrey." Their self-financed debut offers a classic hybrid of hard blues with a jazzy edge that was an instant hit upon release. The album reached No. 10 in the UK charts, while earning a respectable No. 62 in the US. Such was the buzz on Jethro Tull that The Rolling Stones chose them (with a pre-Black Sabbath Tony Iommi miming on guitar) for their Rock ‘n' Roll Circus TV special in December 1968 over another freshman band-Led Zeppelin.

Genesis > Gods, The

November, 1968
UK
Columbia
4
Hailing from Hatfield, Hertfordshire, guitarist Mick Taylor and brothers John Glascock and Brian Glascock, bass and drums respectively, were originally in groups as schoolmates. Adding Ken Hensley on keyboards and vocals, they changed their name to The Gods in 1965. Taylor soon left to join John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (replacing Peter Green), while the Glascocks also strayed from the band. In Autumn 1967, Hensley, with Joe Konas on guitar, Lee Kerslake on drums and a returning John Glascock (replacing interims Paul Newton and Greg Lake), kept it together long enough for a residency at the Marquee Club and an album with Columbia Records. Produced by David Paramour (Simon Dupree, Koobas, Cliff Bennett) and engineered by EMI Studio's Peter Vince, Genesis is a fantastic slice of late 60s psychedelic rock, complete with inter-song transitions. The 60s vibe is evident on "Candles Getting Shorter," but added Mellotron is a nice touch. "Looking Glass" is the veritable classic: riding a sturdy Hammond organ, it features Hensley's distinctive falsetto and those trademark harmonies that would make Uriah Heep what it became. "Plastic Horizon" drags a bit, but the psychedelic romp of "Farthing Man" quickly picks up the pace. The album is spirited throughout and features superb songwriting from Hensley and Konas, forming a blueprint for Hensley's later success. But a single of The Beatles' "Hey Bulldog" b/w "Real Love Guaranteed" didn't chart, and by the time their second (also excellent) album To Samuel A Son was released in late 1969 the band had all but split. They released a one-off album as Head Machine in 1970, but that too failed to generate interest. Konas immigrated to Canada, while the other members joined rocker Cliff Bennett and regrouped as Toe Fat, releasing two albums of pedestrian rock.

Ars Longa Vita Brevis > Nice, The

November, 1968
United States
Immediate
4.125
With David O'List gone, Keith Emerson firmly took charge of The Nice. It should be no surprise then that their second effort finds the trio diving deeper into the classical music realm to further flaunt Emerson's keyboard histrionics. Their six-minute rendition of Leonard Bernstein's "America," from the musical West Side Story (recorded while O'List was still with the band), was released as a single and nearly reached the UK Top 20 in July. Whether this was based on musical merit or controversy is another story: The Nice drew sharp criticism from Bernstein after they burned an American flag during their Royal Albert Hall performance of the number. Bad taste was one of the band's unfortunate legacies; in fact, the interminable "Daddy Where Did I Come From" actually attempts to explain the obvious! But the big switch in direction on the album is witnessed in Jean Sibelius's "Intermezzo from ‘Karelia Suite'." It's this deconstruction of classical music that would become the band's enduring legacy, and heavily influence legions of progressives, English, Italian and otherwise. The second side found Emerson and company (more or less) extending J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 into mammoth proportions. The first movement is interpreted with a drum solo from Brian Davison, while the second benefits from a contribution from a lingering O'List. The third section adds orchestration from Robert Stewart, while the fourth is dominated by Emerson's organ soloing. Ultimately the issue is interpretation versus appropriation. The album's title Ars Longa Vita Brevis translates to "Art is boundless, life is short." Whatever your verdict, here The Nice laid the foundation for much of prog rock.

S. F. Sorrow > Pretty Things, The

December, 1968
United States
EMI Columbia
4.555555
An original member of the proto-Rolling Stones, bassist Dick Taylor hooked up with singer guitarist Phil May at London Central School of Art in 1963 to form The Pretty Things. Moving to London, their R&B-influenced rock was an instant success. In June 1964, "Rosalyn" b/w "Big Boss Man" scored the group the first of many hits in the UK, while their self-titled debut album, released in early 1965, would rise to No. 6. A few years of crazy antics and drummer Viv Prince behind them, Jon Povey and Alan "Wally" Waller (both previously in The Fenmen) joined the band in 1967 for the lavishly produced (but disappointing) Emotions. A couple of singles, including the excellent "Talkin' About The Good Times" b/w "Walking Through My Dreams" signaled the band's newfound affection for psychedelia beginning in early 1968. Drummer Skip Alan (born Alan Skipper) then went on extended holiday, with Twink from Tomorrow lending a hand on the ensuing album. The Pretties recorded S.F. Sorrow at EMI Studios with Norman Smith at the controls, around the same time that The Beatles were recording The White Album and Pink Floyd were filling A Saucerful Of Secrets. Originally a short story penned by May, the album's place in history stands as the first rock opera or, more precisely, an album that told a (rather oblique) story. Musically, it's a veritable psychedelic soundtrack, with The Beatles influence ("Private Sorrow" and "Trust") ever-present. The Pretties manage to create one of the most consistent and cohesive albums of the era by avoiding the clichés: no songs about bikes, no children's rhymes or silly effects; just a poignant, even dark exposé on the human condition. The well-written songs are sewn together with one of EMI Studios' finest productions. "Baron Saturday" approaches the epic, while the riff from "Balloon Burning" is timeless rock. Yet, like Tomorrow's debut record, the album suffered a belated release under the hand of EMI. Thus, though the album was a critical success, it was a commercial flop, failing to even secure a US release until the following year. However, Pete Townshend did take notice; The Who's Tommy would eclipse S.F. Sorrow as "the" rock opera that most would remember. Sadly, Sorrow remains a largely overlooked gem of the era.

The Soft Machine > Soft Machine, The

December, 1968
United States
Probe
4
Originally from the provincial town of Canterbury, the Soft Machine split off from The Wilde Flowers in 1966. And by the time the Softs got around to recording this album, they had already undergone substantial changes: Daevid Allen, St. Tropez and the London underground were well behind them. That version of the Soft Machine released one single "Love Makes Sweet Music" b/w "Feelin' Reelin' Squealin'", recorded some demos with Giorgio Gomelsky, and alongside Pink Floyd, had become one of the pillars of the London underground. Now a trio of Mike Ratledge on organ, Kevin Ayers on bass and guitar, and Robert Wyatt on drums, their debut album was recorded with Chas Chandler and Tom Wilson in New York, on the heels of a US tour backing the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Let's make no mistake: the Softs always had much more to do with jazz than rock. The continuity of the record - it plays like a performance - is certainly derived from jazz, yet the Softs never fail to rock out. Ratledge's fuzzed-out organ is over the top, and heavier than any guitar - just witness "Plus Belle Qu'une Poubelle". Unique among organists of the era (as was the Softs among bands), he never appropriated the classics; rather he relied on the intuition of a jazz musician to complement the rest of the band. Wyatt's drumming, whether the soloing on "So Boot If At All" or the precise groove of "We Did It Again", is also as original as is his voice. His distinct English accent and cadence lend a genuine innocence to the progressive proceedings. Tracks like "Why Am I So Short" and "Save Your Yourself " are throwbacks to the Allen era band, though none the worse for it. Ayers' sublime baritone voice matched his bass, and graced the album's closer "Why Are We Sleeping". All in all, The Soft Machine is one of the more unique and idiosyncratic albums of the era. It saw release in the US only.

Caravan > Caravan

January, 1969
United States
Verve Forecast
3.833335
Caravan's history begins as half of The Wilde Flowers, the original hotbed of musical proclivity that originated in Canterbury, Kent in 1965. Soft Machine, of course, was the other half. With its members drifting both in and out of the band, The Wilde Flowers ranks were constantly revolving. At some point, the reins were left to guitarist/singer Pye Hastings, drummer Richard Coughlan and organist Dave Sinclair. Adding Dave's cousin Richard Sinclair on bass, they became Caravan in early 1968. Caravan's music contained an uncompromisingly British character—and a penchant for whimsy—that is best exemplified by their lightheartedness and exquisite song-form. In comparison to the Soft Machine, Caravan was far more psychedelic than jazzy; though they did have some similarities: Much like Robert Wyatt, Hastings's vocals are undeniably accented and English, and like Mike Ratledge, Dave Sinclair was a first-rate organist. A particularly strong appearance at Middle Earth Club led to a recording contract with the Verve Forecast label. Together with producer Tony Cox, they headed to Advision Studios to record their debut album. The opener "Place of My Own" is classic Caravan; highly indicative of the band's songwriting, it intertwines deft instrumentality with a keen melodic sense into their unique brand of psychedelia. Tracks like "Ride" and "Love Song with Flute" (featuring Pye's brother Jimmy Hastings) are of the era, while "Cecil Rons" is surely Pink Floyd-inspired. Dave Sinclair's organ solo is a standout on Brian Hopper's trippy "Where but for Caravan Would I." Unfortunately, the album's echoey production is unfitting for the material. The album saw release in both the UK and US, and in both stereo and mono formats. But in what would become another unfortunate Canterbury tradition, it failed to chart in either country.

Revelation > Man

January, 1969
United States
Philips
0
The rock group Man were Wales' finest sons. Originally formed in 1962 in Swansea, Wales, The Bystanders were a singles band with a heavy touring schedule for the time. A minor hit broke the UK Top 50 in 1966; but with the exit of Vic Oakley, guitarist Micky Jones, keyboardist Clive John and the rhythm section of Ray "Taff" Williams and Jeffrey Jones reemerged as Man in 1968, with a musical switch to psychedelia and the addition of guitarist Roger "Deke" Leonard. Their debut album Revelation was issued on the Pye label in early 1969, and saw release on the Philips label in the US under the group name Manpower. Ostensibly a concept record about the course of human life, Man's debut is chock-full of late-60s psychedelia. "And in the Beginning" offers a heavy intro and spoken word interlude between some great guitar from Jones. "Sudden Life" adds a little blues to the mix, while the acoustic "Love" scales back a bit. The faux-orgasm vocals of "Erotica" was shocking for its time-banned in the UK, yet a hit in France! The second side's "Blind Man" is another good-time rocking number, but "And Castles Rise in Children's Eyes," with John's organ at the fore, highlights Man at their most psychedelic and progressive. "Don't Just Stand There (Come in Out of the Rain)" follows up with more keyboard acrobatics from John, while "The Future Hides Its Face" closes, reprising the opening theme. An excellent second album, 2 Ozs Of Plastic With A Hole In The Middle (including the rockin' "Spunk Rock"), saw release in September and built on their debut; and further touring earned them success in Germany, which they subsequently made their home base.

Family Entertainment > Family

March, 1969
United States
Reprise Records
3.666665
After ending 1968 with the rockin' single "Second Generation Woman" b/w "Home Town" (again without chart success), Family enlisted IBC producer Glyn Johns for their next album, Family Entertainment. Best known for his work with The Rolling Stones, Johns stripped back the psychedelia, bringing both the rhythm section and Charlie Whitney's guitar to the forefront. The record is still a primarily acoustic affair, but with a more potent rock ‘n' roll feel. Ric Grech provided the classic "How-Hi-the-Li" and "Face in the Cloud," with the Chapman/Whitney team adding the strong "The Weaver's Answer" and "Observations from a Hill." "Summer ‘67" reprises a raga-esque arrangement, while "Dim" is strictly hillbilly. Although the album contained no singles, it still reached the UK's No. 6 position. With Peter Grant (of Led Zeppelin fame) as tour manager, Family set off to tour the US in April. Grech, however, abruptly quit to join Blind Faith. Adding ex-New Animal John Weider on bass, Family resumed the tour in Detroit, but a reputed fist fight between Roger Chapman and promoter Bill Graham (of Fillmore legend) didn't further the band's prospects. Family would never enjoy chart success in the US. Back in the UK, the band performed at The Rolling Stone's Hyde Park gig in July and the Isle of Wight festival in August. In October, they released their next single, "No Mule's Fool" b/w "Good Friend of Mine," which reached the UK No. 29. Jim King was next to leave, due to personal issues. Following brief spells in Blossom Toes and Eclection, John "Poli" Palmer would next augment Family on keyboards and vibes, prompting a quick rearrangement of King's parts on their 1970 self-produced album.

From Genesis To Revelation > Genesis

March, 1969
United States
London Records
2.625
Genesis' story begins at the Charterhouse public school in Godalming, Surrey. Tony Banks, Peter Gabriel and guitarists Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips were all classmates in two competing bands. Adding drummer Chris Stewart, they joined forces in 1967 with the hopes of becoming a songwriting collective. The band's earliest efforts were proffered through the old-school tie, when pop producer and fellow Carthusian Jonathan King agreed to produce some demos. The contact eventually led to a recording contract from Decca Records. The boys were obviously from the upper-crust, and that upbringing unquestioningly influenced their music; their progressive aesthetic was never lowbrow nor pedestrian. Over the course of the next year, the band would record a pair of singles, as well as their debut album, From Genesis To Revelation, at London's Regent Studios. They recorded whenever they were on holiday, with John Silver eventually replacing Stewart on drums. It is of course an early effort from the group, a pre-history full of the naiveté of both the era and their ages. Chipping through the syrupy string arrangements, the album does reveal the talent of the budding artists. "Where the Sour Turns to Sweet" contains a strong melodic sense, while "Am I Very Wrong" benefits from some heavy phasing. Gabriel's vocals are particularly expressive, yet in pop tradition, up front and center in the mix. There are also snippets of originality that would later evolve into Genesis' signature 12-string guitar sound; witness the brief appearance of "Twilight Alehouse" between "Fireside Song" and "The Serpent." Although the album and the associated singles sold poorly (perhaps due to being filed in the "Religious" music section), the inauspicious debut did not go unnoticed, as it earned a fine review in London's underground newspaper, the International Times.

Ad Gloriam > Orme, Le

March, 1969
Italy
Car Juke Box
2.5
Le Orme ("The Footprint") had typical enough roots for any band from the 60s. Formed by guitarist Aldo Tagliapietra in Venice, the four-piece band, originally named Le Ombre after the Italian word for The Shadows, was a beat era group that recorded singles for the CAR Juke Box label. Guitarist Nino Smeraldi Claudio and bass guitarist Claudio Galieti rounded out the lineup, with drummer Michi Dei Rossi joining in 1968 after their first single, "Senti L'Estate Che Torna" b/w "Mita Mita." Prior to recording their first album, the band expanded to a five-piece when keyboardist Antonio "Tony" Pagliuca hopped on board. Ad Gloriam, released in 1969, follows on the heels of the New Trolls debut as one of the first rock records to come from Italy. The album is more than a curiosity however, and illustrates the band's shift from beat era into psychedelia. After the brief "Introduzione," the gentle, playful pop of "Ad Gloriam" kicks off, revealing the harmonious vocals of the band. "Oggi Verrà" bounces with a punchy bass, while "Milano 1968" goes for psychedelic fuzz. Tagliapietra's voice is distinct; a high tenor with a soothing tone, it would define the band's sound for the ensuing decade. The mellow "Flori Di Giglio" sports a child's voice, while the lengthy "Non So Restare Solo" offers some interesting instrumental work. Following the album's release, Galieti and Rossi left for military service (the latter only temporarily) while musical differences forced Smeraldi from the band; Tagliapietra then switched to bass. Le Orme's singles from the era were compiled on the album L'Aurora Delle Orme by CAR Juke Box in 1970. However, recordings of Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo à la Turk" and J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 would remain unreleased.

Volume Two > Soft Machine, The

April, 1969
United States
Probe
4.5
Following their second 1968 US tour supporting the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Soft Machine effectively broke up. Robert Wyatt stayed in the US, while Mike Ratledge returned to London and Kevin Ayers sold his bass and departed for Ibiza, where he would eventually launch a moderately successful solo career. But a recording commitment to Probe Records prompted new sessions for the band, this time at London's Olympic Studios. Wyatt and Ratledge invited roadie Hugh Hopper to join up. Not only was Hopper an accomplished bassist, but along with his brother Brian Hopper (who added saxophone to the album), he also came from the same Canterbury breeding ground of The Wilde Flowers. Several of Hopper's compositions had already found their way into the Softs repertoire, including the classic "Memories." Hopper's songs also comprised the bulk of the album's first side, the somewhat lighter "Rivmic Melodies" set, including Wyatt's classic reading of "A Concise British Alphabet." The quasi-instrumental "Hibou, Anemone and Bear" is particularly strong, and the different sections flow together seamlessly, underscoring an impressive continuity of sound. Apart from Hopper's uncharacteristic (but welcome) acoustic guitar on "Dedicated to You but You Weren't Listening," side two, subtitled "Esther's Nose Job," contains more of Ratledge's discrete compositions. Again, the Softs rely on their arranging skills to tie it all together. Hopper's accomplished bass playing is more fitting than Ayers psychedelic plodding; and combined with Ratledge's overdriven organ and Wyatt's busy but persistent drumming, this "music for your mind" is a sonic tour de force, and a classic album of any musical era. Volume Two was their first album to see release in the UK.

Emergency! > Tony Williams Lifetime, The

May, 1969
United States
Polydor
5
Just 17 years old when he joined Miles Davis's quintet in 1962, drummer Anthony "Tony" Williams had spent his earliest years playing in the clubs of Boston. His debut as a band leader was the 1964 release Life Time for the Blue Note label. By the end of the decade though, Williams was headed in a completely different direction. New York City was fertile ground at the time and seeds of jazz fusion were being sown. Williams (among many others) jammed with Jimi Hendrix, and there's little doubt of the guitarist's influence on what would follow. With guitarist John McLaughlin and organist Larry Young, The Tony Williams Lifetime set out in May 1969 to record what would become one of the landmark jazz-rock albums, Emergency!. Although the record suffers from a sub-standard recording, it's one of the heaviest records ever-Williams's post-bop beat doesn't swing, it rocks. And of course, jazz purists hated it. Like a soloist, what's most striking about Williams's playing is that he's all over the drum kit, playing lead with it. His take at "singing" however is a love-hate affair. For my taste, it's as experimental as the rest of the album, and full of black soul; just listen to his ramblings on McLaughlin's spacey "Where." The pace slows for "Via the Spectrum Road" before McLaughlin previews the direction of his next group on the ensuing "Spectrum." Both McLaughlin's and Young's performances are exemplary; the guitarist's rock-toned guitar and the swirling chords of the organist's Hammond B3 on "Sangria for Three" are full of overdrive. McLaughlin's mate (and ex-Cream bassist) Jack Bruce joined for the group's next album Turn It Over in 1970. However, creative tensions tore the band apart, and Williams and Young went on to record two comparably disappointing albums with others. In the mid-70s, Williams would form The New Tony Williams Lifetime and release another two albums of more predictable jazz fusion. Others may have received more attention for their work contemporaneous to the original Lifetime, but make no doubt: fusion all starts here.

Tommy > Who, The

May, 1969
United States
Decca
4.4
By the time of their 1969 release, The Who had established themselves as one of England's premier live attractions. But on vinyl, they remained largely a singles band, save the ten-minute "A Quick One While He's Away" from A Quick One (Happy Jack in the US). At the prodding of manager Kit Lambert (and under the influence of both Arthur Brown and The Pretty Things), Pete Townshend penned his mammoth "rock opera." Over its four sides of vinyl, Tommy traces a war child's tortured adolescence to messiah-like rise and fall via the spiritual vehicle of pinball-a far cry from moonbeams or crimson kings-but equally audacious! Regardless, the album is ripe with Townshend's genius; from ready-made singles, to major chord anthems, the album retains a genuine charm that carries the work from start to finish. The Who's spirited performance is within, but never foremost. The songs come first, which sets The Who apart from most progressive bands of the era; though musically, the instrumental "Sparks" is a technical highlight. Of course, the album was a huge commercial success, landing in the Top 5 on both sides of the Atlantic, along with a massive hit single in "Pinball Wizard" b/w "Dogs Part Two." Live presentations by The Who were mainly truncated versions, although Townshend did re-record the work with the London Symphony Orchestra and some of London's rock elite (Sandy Denny, Steve Winwood, Maggie Bell and Ringo Starr) in 1972. All would be eclipsed by the release of Ken Russell's star-studded film and soundtrack in 1975. Unfortunately, this would become what most people would remember of Tommy: an arrant extravaganza. Townshend would attempt two follow-ups to the rock opera, the abandoned "Lighthouse" session that resulted in the Who's Next album and, in 1973, and a true successor in the mod epic, Quadrophenia.

Phallus Dei > Amon Düül II

July, 1969
Germany
Liberty
4.5
The original Amon Düül saw its beginning in 1967 as an art commune in Munich, albeit one of a more socio-political nature than that of a musical group. Most of their recordings stem from two jam sessions recorded in 1968-69 and were mainly released posthumously, after 1969's Psychedelic Underground. Led by Chris Karrer, Amon Düül II formed in 1968 as a live band, featuring the more "musically proficient members" of the commune: Karrer, John Weinzierl, Falk-Ulrich Rogner, Renate Knaup, Peter Leopold and Dieter Serfas comprised the original lineup. However, stability would not be one of the band's strong suits, as personnel changes as well as numerous guest musicians, would plague the band's existence. Here, both Christian "Shrat" Thierfeld on bongos and Brit Dave Anderson on bass drifted in. Jazz saxophonist Olaf Kübler was another key player; as the band's manager, he signed them to the United Artists/Liberty label and produced the band's first several albums. They released their debut album, Phallus Dei, in 1969. Though sharing a chronology with the acid rock of the Grateful Dead or psychedelia of Pink Floyd, what's inside is much more bizarre. Knaup's voice is immediately recognizable. It's the antithesis of her British counterparts; in fact, so is Amon Düül II. Their compositions are based on improvisations, with an emphasis on the raw freak out of psychedelia, yet with a hint of (perhaps deliberate?) amateurism. The opener "Kanaan," however, remains the archetype, brooding under a near-tribal beat. As much of a groundbreaking example of German "krautrock" as the album would become, it's also known for its rather controversial title, which translates from Latin to "God's Penis."

If Only For A Moment > Blossom Toes

July, 1969
UK
Marmalade, Marmalade
3.666665
Compared to their first record, the Blossom Toes sound like a completely different band on If Only For A Moment, offering a much heavier sound. While firmly planted in the underground sound of London's late 60s, there's obviously some influence from California's acid rock, especially with their lyrical themes. The opening track, "Peace Loving zMan," is a bit of a lark, sounding more like what Gong (another Giorgio Gomelsky-managed band) would later record than anything previously known as Blossom Toes. On "Kiss Of Confusion," guitarists Jim Cregan and Brian Godding offer the "dual lead" approach later popularized by Wishbone Ash. Featuring precise guitar interplay, the duo is all about dynamics. One moment light and airy, the next bursting with emotion, Blossom Toes know how to work a riff inside and out. "Listen to the Silence" and "Love Bomb" follow suit. Musically, "Bill Boo the Gunman" isn't far from Family's oeuvre. The deft drum work of Barry Reeves and the melodic bass of Brian Belshaw underpin Cregan's and Godding's guitars. "Indian Summer" features a lovely chorus, while Richie Havens's "Just above My Hobby Horse's Head" swings over sitar and Belshaw's deep tenor. In late 1969, the band was involved in a car crash following a gig at Bristol University, bringing the group to an abrupt end. Godding and Belshaw would reunite in 1971 with Kevin Westlake for an album under the odd name of B.B. Blunder (Brian and Brian's Blunder tape). Worker's Playground carries on the Blossom Toes tradition, and features Julie Driscoll on guest vocals. Godding would later guest with Magma, but eventually turn to a career in session work. Cregan joined Family after brief spell with John Weider in Stud, and later became Rod Stewart's musical director, co-penning many of the star's hits.

Those Who Are About To Die Salute You > Colosseum

July, 1969
United States
Dunhill
3.8
The core members of Colosseum first appeared together (according to rock cartographer Pete Frame) as Bluesbreakers #89, on John Mayall's Bare Wires album. After Mayall broke up that short-lived lineup, drummer Jon Hiseman reunited with bassist Tony Reeves and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith, adding childhood friend and organist Dave Greenslade, while guitarist/singer James Litherland was recruited after an extensive search. Reconstituted as Colosseum, Hiseman assembled one of London's first (and finest) jazz-rock hybrids. Their loud and powerful debut is an absolute stunner. Acknowledging their R&B roots, both "Walking in the Park" and the heavy "The Kettle" swing with ballsy precision. The title track is the jazziest, with excellent soloing from everyone. The album's gem, however, is the decidedly progressive "Valentyne Suite" (not to be confused with the album of the same name) that covers most of the second side; the dialogue between the band members is electric as they blow through each section. The classics also come into play: that same J.S. Bach chord sequence in Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale" pops up here on "Beware the Ides of March." Released in March, the album was well received in the UK, reaching No. 15; The US release on ABC Dunhill in July 1969 had the above track list. Litherland then left the band for the similarly sounding Mogul Thrash, but not before recording further sessions for Colosseum's second album. The first release on the seminal Vertigo Records label, Valentyne Suite was released in November and found similar success, reaching the UK No. 15. [Refers to US pressing]

Unhalfbricking > Fairport Convention

July, 1969
United States
A&M Records
0
Prior to their second album, vocalist Sandy Denny-a regular at London’s Troubadour and Les Cousins folk clubs-joined Fairport Convention. She had already recorded two low-key albums, along with a third (unreleased) with the Strawbs, All Our Own Work. Spurred on by Denny’s arrival, Fairport now took cues from traditional British music-in a move similar to progressive rock’s relation with classical music-ready to set a new standard for electric folk rock. Released in January 1969, What We Did On Our Holidays was a significant step forward for the band, containing two compositions that would be famous in the Fairport catalog: Denny’s “Fortheringay” and Richard Thompson’s “Meet on the Ledge.” But their next album, Unhalfbricking, would further cement their path as folk rock pioneers. It was again recorded at Sound Techniques with producer Joe Boyd and engineer John Wood. A curious mix of covers (Bob Dylan’s “Million Dollar Bash,” “Percy’s Song” and a French rendition of “If You Gotta Go, Go Now”), originals include Denny’s most famous composition, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” and two from Thompson. But the album’s highlight is undoubtedly the epic eleven-minute reading of the folk standard “A Sailor’s Life.” A slow-building raga, Denny’s captivating voice eventually yields to the ever-rising rock tempo, ultimately punctuated by Thompson’s guitar and guest Dave Swarbrick’s fiddle. Truly epic and above all, British. The album was a success, rising to No. 12 in the UK Charts, while the single, “Si Tu Dois Partir” b/w “Genesis Hall” rose to No. 21.

Stand Up > Jethro Tull

July, 1969
United States
Reprise Records
4.76923
By the time Jethro Tull got around to releasing their strong second effort, Martin Barre had joined on guitar. His addition was integral to the evolution of the band as his guitar playing would prove sympathetic to their burgeoning progressive style. Written by Ian Anderson to appease management's desire for a single, "Living in the Past" b/w "Driving Song" saw release in May. It soared up the UK charts, reaching No. 3. The album followed with even greater results. Stand Up features all original compositions from Anderson, except for a spirited interpretation of J.S. Bach's "Bourrée in E minor," here titled "Bourée." Although the blues influence is still apparent on tracks like "Nothing Is Easy" and "A New Day Yesterday," Anderson's original songwriting style was becoming more prominent; "Look into The Sun" and "Reasons for Waiting" adopt an acoustic, though certainly not folk approach, that would become one of his signatures. "Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square" and "Fat Man" follow suit. The band is particularly strong throughout, with Clive Bunker's drumming an overlooked asset. "For A Thousand Mothers" succinctly closes. The album rose to No. 1 in the UK, and made a Top 20 appearance in the US on the heels of their first tour of America, where they would support Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac. The first unqualified mainstream success of progressive rock, the album remains one of the finest of any era.