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Yes > Yes

July, 1969
United States
Atlantic
3.125
The Yes story begins in 1966 with a band called The Syn. Bassist Chris Squire and guitarist Peter Banks spent two years with that band, progressing along the way from R&B covers to psychedelia, establishing a residency at the Marquee Club and cutting two singles for Deram. Ultimately, success wasn't in the cards for The Syn, but Squire and Banks reunited later in Mabel Greer's Toyshop. Vocalist Jon Anderson was persuaded to join; but upon recruiting drummer Bill Bruford and organist Tony Kaye (born Anthony John Selvidge), they changed their name to Yes. Now talk about being in the right place at the right time: Yes secured one of their first engagements as the opening act for Cream's farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Thus, expectations were high when the band signed to Atlantic Records. Their debut record is brimming with what would define their trademark sound: Anderson's distinctive voice, along with the band's tight harmonies, and Squire's trebly bass lines that soar right along with the melody. Not to be overlooked are some of the subtleties of Yes, in particular Kaye's organ: never overpowering, but always in the right place. Banks's fluid guitar work and Bruford's drumming have a strong jazz element: just experience the cover of "I See You." For a non-musician, the exceptionally strong melodies of "Looking Around" and "Survival" prove Anderson was already an accomplished songwriter. But overall, Yes' greatest strength was in arrangement. Whether a Beatles cover or an original tune such as "Harold Land," clever appropriation turns anything into lively, highly melodic Yes music. Yet despite the hyped-up liner notes, the album did not chart.

Ahead Rings Out > Blodwyn Pig

August, 1969
US
A&M Records
4
Upon his departure from Jethro Tull after their debut album This Was, guitarist Mick Abrahams formed Blodwyn Pig with saxophonist Jack Lancaster, drummer Rob Berg and bassist Andy Pyle. Their debut album Ahead Rings Out saw release on Island Records. It's very much in the vein of the then-current Jethro Tull, leaving one to wonder about the circumstances surrounding Abrahams's split from the band. "It's Only Love" opens with a big brass sound, courtesy of Lancaster's multiple saxes. A performer of note, he was known to play more than one sax at a time. "Dear Jill," also the single from the album, pulls back a bit, offering a laidback slice of British blues. Abrahams's vocals are reminiscent of Ian Anderson's. "Walk on the Water" continues in fine style with Abrahams's guitar front and center, while Lancaster's "The Modern Alchemist" offers him a chance to exhibit the jazzier side of the band. "See My Way" and "Summer Day" feature more rocking blues, while "Change Song" opts for acoustic guitar and violin. It's a capable album of the era, offering another progressive take on blues rock. Given Jethro Tull's popularity, it's no surprise that Blodwyn Pig also found similar success; Ahead Rings Out flew into the UK charts, cresting at No 9. The following April saw another release from the band, Getting To This. It reached No. 8 in the UK and breached the Top 100 in the US. However, Abrahams subsequently left the band and cut a solo album for Chrysalis before forming yet another band, the Mick Abrahams Band. Blodwyn Pig would soldier on, first with ex-Yes Peter Banks on guitar and later with ex-Pink Fairy Larry Wallis.

Monster Movie > Can

August, 1969
United Kingdom
United Artists Records
4.5
One look at the backgrounds of the members of Can (jazz pedigrees, students of Karlheinz Stockhausen, WDR Studio etc.) and the last thing you'd think is that they were a rock band. Similarly, listening to their music, you'd also probably have to stretch the concept of rock ‘n' roll to fit them in. Krautrock was Germany's answer to the psychedelic and progressive music of the late 1960s, and certainly a unique idiom in and of itself. But Can's post-psychedelic groove had much more to do with the avant-garde, even by krautrock's standards. The core musicians of bassist Holger Czukay, guitarist Michael Karoli, drummer Jaki Liebezeit and keyboardist Irmin Schmidt founded The Can in 1968 in Cologne. Their debut album, Monster Movie, featured American Malcolm Mooney on vocals (if you can call them that). Can doesn't necessarily prescribe to the "freak out" or "space rock" traditions of their pioneering krautrock brethren. Instead, the band treated each song as groove, but in the most non-ethnic sense. The incessant metronomic beat of "Yoo Doo Right" is epic, while "Father Cannot Yell" is classic; the band lock onto the groove and ride it straight through some freaky inner space, with Karoli's guitar acting the screeching electric counterpoint to Mooney's breathy vocal "rap." The proto-punk of "Outside My Door" demonstrates the influence of the Velvet Underground; but with its symphonic refrain, "Mary, Mary, So Contrary" reveals a slightly psychedelic edge. Following Mooney's abrupt departure (for health reasons), the band enlisted the similarly unique talent of Damo Suzuki for their next four albums.

Songs For A Tailor > Bruce, Jack

August, 1969
US
Atco Records
0
Prior to the breakup of Cream, bassist and vocalist Jack Bruce recorded an album with guitarist John McLaughlin and Colosseum members Jon Hiseman and Dick Heckstall-Smith. Not surprisingly, it was primarily instrumental jazz and wouldn’t see release for a couple of years. Bruce had started out in 1963 with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, before joining the Graham Bond Organisation, with brief stints in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and Manfred Mann. By the time Songs For A Tailor was recorded, both Cream and all of that was behind him. Teaming up once again with lyricist Pete Brown and producer Felix Pappalardi, the album offers some of his best songwriting, including the somber yet soulful “Theme From an Imaginary Western” and the well-covered “Rope Ladder to the Moon.” Hiseman and Heckstall-Smith again guest, along with guitarist Chris Spedding, Henry Lowther and Art Themen. Two tracks, “Weird of Hermiston” and “The Clearout” were earmarked for Cream but didn’t make the cut. Here, they’re perfectly set, rounding out an album that’s well suited for the time, a storming rock album with the jazz and classical influences Bruce is so well known for. Unsurprisingly, the album was a giant success, reaching No. 6 in the UK, while almost breaking the Top 50 in the US. Bruce belatedly put together a band with guitarist Larry Coryell and drummer Mitch Mitchell to tour the US in 1970, but later joined McLaughlin in The Tony Williams Lifetime for a spell. However, after a third solo album, the again excellent Harmony Row in 1971, he put his solo career on hold to join Mountain guitarist Leslie West and drummer Corky Laing in the eponymously named power trio. Bruce would enjoy a long yet (unfortunately) only moderately successful career.

Circus > Circus

September, 1969
UK
Transatlantic Records
5
The Surrey-based Stormsville Shakers had their start in 1961. Like The Yardbirds, also from Surrey, they gigged relentlessly, playing R&B and often backing American musicians visiting the UK. Prior to recording a couple of singles in the late 60s, the Shakers changed their name to the more contemporary sounding Circus. Released in 1967, their first single "Gone Are the Songs of Yesterday" b/w "Sink or Swim" was written by the Shakers' founder, Phillip Goodhand-Tait. Yet following one more single, Goodhand-Tait left the band to concentrate on a career as a songwriter, following his success with Love Affair's cover of "Gone are the Songs of Yesterday" and a contract from Dick James Music. Now, Circus consisted of original bassist Kirk Riddle, guitarist and vocalist Ian Jelfs, and most famously to progressive fans, sax player and flautist Mel Collins. Prior to recording their debut album for Transatlantic Records, Chris Burrows joined on drums. A cover of The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" opens the album. Clocking in at over seven minutes, the dirty rhythm of Riddle and Burrows propels the spirited interpretation, aided by Jelfs's thick-toned guitar. Collins's "Pleasures of a Lifetime" features a gentler tone and chords from Jelfs's guitar, and transitions to a swinging break with Collins's sax solo; it's a mature number, with sympathetic lyrics. Sonny Rollins's "St. Thomas" and the brief "Goodnight John Morgan" come across as jazz-by-numbers. "Father of My Daughter," also a Collins composition, is another gentle affair, benefited by tabla; while the Charles Mingus cover "II B.S." again shows the band's fiery blues side. But further covers, of John Phillips's "Monday Monday" and Tim Hardin's "Don't Make Promises," are mediocre at best. The band scored a residency at the Marquee Club in the spring of 1969, and a second album was reportedly in the can; but Collins received an offer to join King Crimson, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Nice > Nice, The

September, 1969
United States
Immediate
4
Upon review, The Nice's self-titled third record is certainly not their strongest effort, as it fails to offer any progress on the band's prior two releases. The album opens with "Azrael Revisited," though Keith Emerson's piano is an inferior substitute to David O'List's guitar on the original single. Evidently short on material, The Nice then add two covers: A particularly languid reading of Tim Hardin's "Hang On to a Dream" did little but break into an extended solo from Emerson, while Bob Dylan's "She Belongs to Me" is laborious at best. With its jazzy horn arrangements, "For Example" fares better, offering a solid bite of the band's formula. The second side of the record was recorded during the band's first tour of the US, at the Fillmore East in New York. The Nice were in their element on stage, and the live rendition of "Rondo (69)" gives a good estimation of what the fuss was all about. Oddly, the album was the first for The Nice to chart, rising to No. 3 in the UK. And yet, disappointed by their stagnant success (and perhaps also their lack of material), Emerson would barely make it through the year with the band. Still, two posthumous albums were released, again mainly taken from live recordings. The first, Five Bridges Suite, released in June 1970, would be the most successful Nice album, reaching No. 2 in the UK. Its attraction was the suite of the same name, recorded live with an orchestra at Fairfield Halls. Released in April 1971, Elegy also would make the UK Top 5. Lee Jackson subsequently formed Jackson Heights, releasing four nondescript albums over the next three years, before teaming up again with Brian Davison in 1973 in The Nice-clone Refugee. Emerson was immediately off to Emerson, Lake & Palmer, where formula first proposed with The Nice would reach its natural conclusion.

The Aerosol Grey Machine > Van Der Graaf Generator

September, 1969
United States
Fontana
3.4
Here begins the musical quest of Van der Graaf Generator. Led by the indefatigable Peter Hammill, he would divide his time between leading VdGG and a prolific solo career over the next decade; though where those lines separate could at times prove difficult to identify. The band had already been through a couple of iterations by the time it got around to recording The Aerosol Grey Machine. Hammill and Chris Judge Smith first formed the band with organist Nick Pearne in 1968 while still at Manchester University. Moving to London, the duo spent the next year attempting to record, having already secured a recording contract with Mercury Records. More fruitful was the assembly of a full band, with Hugh Banton on organ, Guy Evans on drums and Keith Ellis on bass, as well as a relationship with Charisma impresario Tony Stratton-Smith. However, Judge left the band after they recorded their first single "People You Were Going To" b/w "Firebrand;" and after a few gigs, their equipment was stolen and the band split up. Though he'd originally planned to record a solo album, Hammill rounded up the others in July 1969 to record what was eventually released as the first VdGG album. "Afterwards" opens and immediately reveals the album's promise: a gentle, indeed, beautiful song that introduces Hammill's highly emotional voice, which is as distinct as his songwriting. The following the two parts of "Orthenthian St." and "Into a Game" provide further insight into what the band could offer. Evans's delicate drumming and Banton's monstrous organ would remain hallmarks of VdGG, while Ellis's thick, rhythmic bass would only propel this album. Both "Necromancer" and "Octopus" continue to demonstrate the band's virtuosity; and in true VdGG fashion, the album closes in a chaotic finale. Oddly, the album was only released in the US.

The Deviants 3 > Deviants

October, 1969
US
Sire
5
While The Beatles and others may have represented the acceptable face of psychedelia, the Summer of Love also spawned the murkier underground of the Ladbroke Grove area; The Social Deviants, Pink Fairies and, most famously, Hawkwind were at the top of the class. With his art school background, Mick Farren was a fixture of London's underground. He was a staffer at International Times and a UK wannabe White Panther. In 1967, he formed The Social Deviants with Sid Bishop, Cord Rees and Russell Hunter. Funded by a rich kid (Nigel Samuel), Ptooff! was released independently, via the newspaper's network of counter-culture shops in London (and later reissued on Decca Records). Disposable appeared a year later, with Duncan Sanderson now on bass; but the addition of Canadian guitarist Paul Rudolph in 1969 inspired the band's masterwork, The Deviants 3. Produced by Roy Thomas Baker and released (somehow) on the folky Transatlantic label, the album was all Deviants: a large dose of 50s rock ‘n' roll, fuzzed-out psychedelia and Zappa-inspired weirdness. "Broken Biscuits" is highly proto-punk, while "First Line (Seven the Row)," represents the typical blues-inspired rock of the era, and reveals Rudolph's expertise as a guitarist. "Metamorphosis Explosion," however, is the one track to remember. Farren's vocals are decent, and his words here unexceptional; but when the singing part fades away and the band kicks into gear, the song transforms into underground rock at its finest. However, a US tour in 1969 proved near-fatal when Rudolph, Sanderson and Hunter split from Farren; all would eventually be rectified when they reunited as the Pink Fairies.

Sea Shanties > High Tide

October, 1969
UK
Liberty
5
South Shields-born Tony Hill was a member of the US band The Misunderstood during their chaotic sojourn to London in the late 60s. A few years after the implosion of that band, Hill set his sights on a new group, teaming up with violinist Simon House, bassist Peter Pavli and drummer Roger "Rog" Hadden as High Tide. After landing a publishing deal with Apple Corps and finding management under Wayne Bardell and Clearwater Productions, the band signed with Liberty Records and set to record their debut album-yet in an odd arrangement: Denver "Denny" Gerrard was a recording artist for Deram who needed a backing band; so, in exchange for High Tide's services, the band was afforded studio time to complete Sea Shanties, released in October 1969. "Futilist's Lament" opens the album with a raw, aggressive blast of electric guitar and violin. There's no sugarcoating this psychedelic rock; rough at the edges, thundering and relentless, it's some of the heaviest rock of its time. "Death Warmed Up" continues the unabating thunder. House's violin, often played through a wah-wah, surges to uncomfortable heights. "Pushed, but Not Forgotten" offers some respite, highlighting Hill's deep 60s baritone voice. "Missing Out" offers some interesting interplay between Hill's overdriven guitar and House's violin, while the closing "Nowhere" hints at the blues, but with a progressive edge. It's a stunning debut, one simply without peer. The band's self-titled second album was released in 1970, and picked up where the debut left off. But despite constant gigging, it failed to sell, and their contract with Liberty was canceled. House then left for The Third Ear Band. Unable to get a third album going, High Tide fell apart; Hadden suffered a breakdown; and later, Hill and Pavli relocated to Puddletown, Dorset, to work with Drachen Theaker in Rustic Hinge. Eventually, Pavli would work with Michael Moorcock & The Deep Fix, while House would work with Hawkwind and later David Bowie's band.

In The Court Of The Crimson King (An Observation By King Crimson) > King Crimson

October, 1969
United States
Atlantic
4.857145
The painstakingly documented history of King Crimson begins with their birth on January 13th, 1969 in the basement of the Fulham Palace Café, London. The trio of Giles, Giles & Fripp had expanded a year earlier with the arrival of Ian McDonald. Lyricist Peter Sinfield, McDonald's songwriting partner, became the band's fifth member; this included the duties of road manager, light artist, resident hippie, etc. Yet at Robert Fripp's persistence, fellow Bournemouth guitarist Greg Lake joined on bass and vocals, replacing Peter Giles; Lake had previously been in The Gods. The recording of their debut album was twice abandoned (once with The Moody Blues' producer Tony Clark), but a third self-produced effort, with E.G. Management's David Enthoven and John Gaydon footing the bill, proved successful. The power of the band is immediately apparent as "21st Century Schizoid Man" blasts away: King Crimson resounds like nothing before it. Propelled by Michael Giles's inventive drumming, the band's interplay is precise, and their sound is simultaneously immense yet detailed; Fripp's screeching guitar solo is positively terrifying. The Mellotron figures prominently, dominating both "Epitaph" and the title track. This was no mere accessory; rather, the band were writing specifically for the instrument. It's an important point as the technology of the era was instrumental in defining the genre of progressive rock. The album's gentler moments, "I Talk to the Wind" and "Moonchild," showcase McDonald's ability as a composer and Fripp's grace (and considerable jazz influence) as a guitarist, especially in the latter's improvised half. Here the band is both mature and meticulous. Throughout the album, King Crimson display their talents. Listening to the flute solo in the title track, it's obvious that McDonald is an accomplished soloist; yet that he's showing us he can play is central to the progressive aesthetic as well: There is no hiding his virtuosity or creativity; in fact, he's flaunting it. Even Sinfield's words, sympathetic to Lake's voice, soar, though it's a matter of taste as to whether they "crack at the seam." In The Court Of The Crimson King sets a new standard for rock music, on what Pete Townshend called an "uncanny masterpiece." The cover art, a harrowing face painted by Barry Godber, also would set the album apart. King Crimson's timely supporting slot at The Rolling Stones' free concert in London's Hyde Park in July was most fortunate. Consequently, the album-arguably the first prog rock record-awaited a flurry of interest; it peaked at No. 5 in the UK, while in the US it broke into the Top 30. King Crimson ended their first year with a two-month tour of the US.

Ummagumma > Pink Floyd

October, 1969
United States
Harvest
3.5
Released after the varied (but commercially successful) soundtrack More, Ummagumma was intended to be a tour de force for Pink Floyd. The two-record set is half-live and half-studio-recorded and constitutes the first release on EMI's new Harvest sub-label. Offering the first live document of the band, the first disc was culled from a series of concerts recorded in April and May. Here, "Careful with That Axe, Eugene," the archetype of their slow-building space rock, makes its first appearance on album. "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" and "A Saucerful of Secrets," along with the Syd Barrett-written "Astronomy Domine," also feature. Only "Interstellar Overdrive" from their live set is absent (though it does appear on a test pressing of the album). Whether the excitement of the live Floyd experience comes across on the record is open to debate. Nonetheless, it's a good trip, with the live record enduring as the definitive document of this era in Pink Floyd's career. When it came to new material, however, the band were in a conundrum; rather than committing The Man and The Journey, two song suites first debuted live in April 1969, the band chose to showcase themselves individually by featuring a solo composition from each member on the studio record. Unfortunately, they all come across as unsensational experimentation. Even Roger Waters's cleverly titled "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with A Pict" is merely cleverly titled. And yet, the album was the Floyd's most successful to date, reaching No. 5 in the UK; and at No. 74 in the US, also gave the band their first US chart appearance.

Bakerloo > Bakerloo

November, 1969
UK
Harvest, EMI
5
Guitarist David "Clem" Clempson and bassist Terry Poole founded The Bakerloo Blues Line in early 1968, in their native Tamworth, Staffordshire. The band went through a series of notorious drummers, including John Hinch, Pete York, Bill Ward and Poli Palmer, before Keith Baker joined the fold. Managed by Jim "Big Bear" Simpson, the band were an early signing of the EMI Records imprint Harvest, and have the distinction of opening for Led Zeppelin's debut gig in October 1968 at the Marquee Club. Their first release, "Drivin' Bachwards" b/w "Once upon a Time," saw release in May 1969—the former an interpretation of the fifth movement of J.S. Bach's "Lute Suite in E minor," more famously covered by Jethro Tull in August. Their debut album, produced by Gus Dudgeon, kicks off with a tribute to their manager. "Big Bear Folly," a raucous blues number steeped in the prevailing hard blues of 1969, features a fiery Clempson on lead guitar. "Bring It on Home," a Willie Dixon number, is more traditional, and the following "Drivin' Bachwards" even more so. "Last Blues" slows down and stretches out, creating an evocative mood accentuated by Poole's vocals. "Son of Moonshine," however, presents Bakerloo at their heaviest, with a little "Cat's Squirrel" thrown in for good measure. After a hectic year with nonstop touring, the band fell apart towards the end of 1969. Clempson then accepted an invitation to join Colosseum following James Litherland's departure. Poole and Baker went on to May Blitz, but left before any recordings were made. Poole would later perform with Graham Bond and Colin Blunstone, while Baker would play drums on Uriah Heep's Salisbury album.

In Fields Of Ardath > Eyes Of Blue

November, 1969
US
Mercury
5
In the beginning, there were two prominent bands in Port Talbot, Wales: The Mustangs featured guitarist Ray “Taff” Williams, bassist Ritchie Francis and vocalist Wyndham Rees, while The Smokestacks offered keyboardist Phil Ryan and guitarist Gary Pickford-Hopkins. After the two bands merged, they added drummer John “Pugwash” Weathers and changed their name to Eyes Of Blue. The band released a couple of singles on the Deram label before being dropped, but after meeting Lou Reizner, the band signed to Mercury Records. Their debut, Crossroads Of Time, released in early 1969, was ripe with West Coast influences. Rees then left, and concurrent with soundtrack work with Quincy Jones, they recorded their second album, In Fields Of Ardath. Again unsuccessful, the band attempted a third album with Reizner in 1971, but this time under the name Big Sleep and on the Pegasus label. Bluebell Wood is telltale of the times: there’s a marked progression between the 60s music of Eyes Of Blue and what was within. Most importantly, all the music they would make in the 70s seemed possible from there. But by this time, the band had fractured: Francis was planning a solo album with Reizner, while Pickford-Hopkins was off to Wild Turkey. Ryan, Youatt and Weathers would eventually form The Neutrons, after a brief stint with Pete Brown & Piblokto! and Man.

Joy Of A Toy > Ayers, Kevin

November, 1969
United States
Harvest
3
After Kevin Ayers's split from Soft Machine, manager Peter Jenner and a contract from Harvest coaxed him away from Majorca. Back in England, he quickly assembled his old Softs cohorts at EMI Studios to record his debut solo album, Joy Of A Toy. New to the fold was David Bedford, a classical composer by trade, offering his arrangement skills and doubling on keyboards. The album jumps off with the classic (if dated) psychedelia of "Joy of a Toy Continued." Bedford's arrangement augments "Town Feeling," but it's really all Ayers. His distinctive baritone and no-nonsense approach belie his expressive talent. "Girl on a Swing" and "Eleanor's Cake (Which Ate Her)" are at once beautiful and wistful, even though "The Lady Rachel" is the favorite. Either way, Ayers's melodies are infectious. "Song for Insane Times" is Soft Machine-esque, with Mike Ratledge's truncated solo at the end being the dead giveaway. Both "The Clarietta Rag" and "Stop This Train (Again Doing It)" continue with merry psychedelia, though "Oleh Oleh Bandu Bandong" (something in Malaysian) is trippier. Ayers is a first-rate songwriter, and on this debut, a first-rate performer; but both wouldn't always hold true. Ayers released a couple of singles, but even "Singing a Song in The Morning" b/w "Eleanor's Cake Which Ate Her" recorded with Caravan and Syd Barrett, failed to raise interest. The album did see a release in the US; however, it failed to chart on either side of the Atlantic.

Manfred Mann Chapter Three > Manfred Mann's Chapter Three

November, 1969
United States
Polydor
5
It would be hard to have passed through the 60s without hearing one of Manfred Mann’s numerous singles that littered the Top 10 in England—including his most famous “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy” b/w “What You Gonna Do,” which topped both sides of the Atlantic. Two singers marked the band’s early days: Paul Jones (“chapter one”), and in 1966, Mike D’Abo (“chapter two”). But as the South African (born Manfred Lubowitz) keyboardist entered the 70s, he and longtime musical partner Mike Hugg left the pop world behind, releasing two albums under the moniker Chapter Three. (The band was initially called Emanon, “no name” spelt backwards.) Drummer Hugg, dating back to 1962 with the Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers, was also a pianist and composer, best known for The Yardbirds’ hit “You’re a Better Man Than I.” The group also featured future East Of Eden bassist Steve York and drummer Craig Collinge, plus Bernie Living on wind instruments, and a host of guest musicians, including Steve Corbett and Dave Coxhill. Their debut is an excellent record; serious brass arrangements outfit its heavy-ish tunes à la Colosseum, though it still sounds rooted in the 60s. No matter, check out the organ solo in “Snakeskin Garter” or the weightlessness of “Konekuf.” From deep grooves to swinging jazz, the album is one dark, sexy beast! “Sometimes” is a lighter, even timeless number, while “One Way Glass” makes the best of the York and Collinge rhythm section. Hugg’s voice is probably an acquired taste; here, it perfectly suits the music-just listen to how well it renders the slow, dark reinterpretation of his “Mister You’re a Better Man Than I.” Mann’s “A Study In Inaccuracy” lets the horns honk loose, before Hugg’s plaintive “Where Am I Going” closes with a touch of beauty. Released on the Vertigo label, it was followed by Volume Two in October 1970. But by then the band had split as the Mann-Hugg partnership drew to a close. A final third album was recorded but remains (mostly) unreleased.

Liege & Lief > Fairport Convention

December, 1969
United States
A&M Records
0
On May12th, 1969, Fairport Convention was involved in a motorway accident that claimed the lives of drummer Martin Lamble and clothing designer Jeannie Franklyn (then-girlfriend of Richard Thompson, to whom Jack Bruce would dedicate his debut solo album). Sandy Denny wasn’t travelling with the band, choosing instead to ride with her boyfriend Trevor Lucas and his band, Eclection. After recruiting traditional fiddler Dave Swarbrick and drummer Dave Mattacks, and recuperating at Farley Chamberlayne, the band responded with their strongest album yet, Liege & Lief. The rousing “Come All Ye” sets the opening tone high, followed however by the haunting and dirge-like “trad arr” ballad, “Reynardine.” Another traditional number, “Matty Groves,” rocks the band back into action. Both that and the excellent “Tam Lin” showcase the immense talent and interplay between Thompson, Swarbrick and guitarist Simon Nicol. Thompson contributes two songs, “Farewell, Farewell” and “Crazy Man Michael,” but the bulk of the album is taken from British folk songs, many from the collection of Cecil Sharp. Reaching No. 17 in the UK charts, the record has become the gold standard for British folk rock. Ashley Hutchings then left to form Steeleye Span (and later the Albion Country Band), while Denny would start her own band, Fotheringay. Once again Fairport double-downed on the change, recruited Dave Pegg on bass and the resulting Full House album spent weeks on the UK Chart, cresting at No. 13. Over the next few years, the folk rock scene would experience a musical renaissance in England, one that was certainly progressive in its own right. Along with Pentangle and Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention would endure numerous personnel changes yet enjoy a long career and international success.

Renaissance > Renaissance (Yardbirds)

December, 1969
United States
Elektra
4.5
Following the demise of The Yardbirds, guitarist Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty opted for a completely different direction than the American blues of their former band: music that combined classical, jazz and folk influences - how progressive! With Relf's sister Jane on vocals, bassist Louis Cennamo and pianist John Hawken were the keys to this new direction of "classical interpretation." The lengthy "Kings & Queens" opens the album; Relf's guitar takes a back seat to Hawken's piano, which paces through hook and quotation with surprising imagination. The band's execution throughout is impeccable: Cennamo and McCarty are a tight rhythm section, giving the arrangements a lift. Revealing a strong folk influence, Jane Relf takes her first crack at lead vocals on "Island." "Bullet," clocking in at over 11 minutes, gets gritty and ends with Cennamo's solo bass fading into an eerie chorus. All in all, it is an auspicious debut that managed to reach No. 60 in the UK. Renaissance recorded a second album, Illusion, the following year; however, it would not see release until 1971. Folksier, it contains the most vital track the band would record, the excellent "Past Orbits of Dust," featuring Don Shinn on electric piano. But the band had already begun to splinter: Hawken guided a transitional lineup in 1970 with some members of the Nashville Teens, but by the time the next Renaissance album was released in 1972, none of the original members would be present. However, adopting the name Illusion, Hawken, McCarty, Cennamo and Jane Relf would regroup in 1977 for two nondescript albums on Island Records.

The Grass Is Greener > Colosseum

January, 1970
United States
Dunhill
4.5
After James Litherland's departure to Mogul Thrash, Colosseum recorded a few new tracks and re-recorded some old ones with incoming guitarist and vocalist Clem Clempson, previously in the blues power trio Bakerloo. So instead of issuing Valentyne Suite in the US, the tracks were compiled as a new album, entitled The Grass Is Greener—but with the same cover. It saw release in January 1970, again on ABC Dunhill. The opening bells of "Jumpin off the Sun" signal another Colosseum stormer, but now with the much earthier voice of Clempson. Dave Greenslade's tuned percussion also features on the ensuing "Lost Angeles," where we first hear Clempson rip on guitar. The bluesy "Elegy," with a Litherland vocal, remains the only track held intact from the UK release. "Butty's Blues," another Litherland-penned tune, features Greenslade's fine organ work and a menacing bass line from Tony Reeves. Jack Bruce's "Rope Ladder to the Moon," with its distinct chorus, opens the second side and also offers Dick Heckstall-Smith a chance to shine. Maurice Ravel's Boléro is the source of the following track, while the short "The Machine Demands a Sacrifice" benefits from Clempson's vocal. Personnel changes again rattled the band: bassist Mark Clarke replaced Reeves and bluesman Chris Farlowe joined on vocals, allowing Clempson to concentrate solely on guitar. Colosseum would record two final albums in 1971: the studio-produced Daughter Of Time and a phenomenal two-record set, Colosseum Live. Both, again, only charted in the UK. Upon Colosseum's breakup in late 1971, Hiseman and Clarke formed Tempest, Farlowe joined Atomic Rooster, Clempson went to Humble Pie and Greenslade formed his own band with Reeves.

Concerto For Group And Orchestra > Deep Purple

January, 1970
United States
Warner Bros. Records
4.166665
In 1968, Deep Purple scored great success in America with a cover of Joe South's "Hush," but their three albums for the Tetragrammaton label were patchy at best. Although the musicianship was high, with Jon Lord's classically-inspired organ breaks and Ritchie Blackmore's arpeggio runs and big riffs, they had a 60s-sounding vocalist in Rod Evans. Rocking-out Colosseum style, the instrumental "Hard Road (Wring That Neck)" from Book Of Taliesyn was arguably the best nugget from that period. When the label folded, the band regrouped and brought on Roger Glover and Ian Gillan from Episode Six. The first release from the Mark II lineup was Lord's five-part Concerto For Group And Orchestra. Recorded and broadcast from the Royal Albert Hall, the band warmed up with three songs ("Wring That Neck," "Child in Time" and "Hush") before launching into the "classical" piece. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra play, the band rocks out, the Philharmonic play some more, the band rocks out… and so it goes. Lord's classical writing is of soundtrack-quality at best, while the band's parts are typical heavy rock with a lot—and I mean a lot—of soloing. Not a great integration; but it was, as Lord said, "a beginning." Sounds more like an excuse. Still, it was Deep Purple's first charting album in the UK, hitting No. 26. Six months later, the band released the single "Black Night" b/w "Speed King" from the album In Rock. Lord's classical ambitions were shelved (though the band's version of his Gemini Suite would follow), and Blackmore now guided their heavy riffing formula off the timeline and on to mammoth international success as one of the premier heavy rock bands of the 1970s. Just look to Italy for more successful attempts at fusing rock music with an orchestra.

A Song For Me > Family

January, 1970
United States
Reprise Records
4
Family entered 1970 with perhaps their strongest lineup—vocalist Roger Chapman, guitarist Charlie Whitney and drummer Rob Townsend were now accompanied by bassist and violinist John Weider and Poli Palmer on keyboards and vibes. Their next album, A Song For Me, produced by the band, would be their most successful. "Drowned in Wine" blasts the record open, proving that the band's on-stage power could easily translate to vinyl. The album is littered with Chapman/Whitney classics, including the beautiful "Some Poor Soul" and the raucous "Love Is a Sleeper;" but the pair also collaborated with Weider, on the instrumental "93's O.K. J" and the long, rambunctious title track; and on the strong "Wheels" with the departed Ric Grech. The album presents a more eclectic and indeed electric selection of songs, with the arrangements also benefiting from Palmer's diverse instrumentation. Released in January, the album reached No. 4 in the UK. Further touring in the US failed to change their fortunes stateside, but there was no shortage of work in the UK; Family recorded for another three BBC programs. A single in August, "Strange Band" b/w "The Weaver's Answer"/"Hung Up Down," nearly broke the UK top 10. Released in November, the half-studio, half-live Anyway reached the UK No. 7. The album was comprised of new material, including the powerful studio track "Part of the Load." Originally intended as a double-album, the live side was recorded at Fairfield Halls in July; the concert was also filmed, but the video footage remains unreleased.