Tag Archives: prog rock

(1974 Albums) Various Taped Recordings

I have reported in some detail all the records I bought during 1974.

The back pages of the diary also shows a selection of taped recordings I owned – many of which have already been discussed in my 1972 and 1973 entries.

However, there is a tiny handful of other albums I apparently recorded to C-90’s in 1974 that certainly seem worthy of a mention or two….

Clouds – Scrapbooking
Clouds were a Scottish Prog Rock band, unique in not having a lead guitarist amongst its line-up. They signed to Chrysalis Management around the same time as Jethro Tull but never enjoyed the support or public acclaim that Ian Anderson’s one-legged flute antics nurtured.

“The Clouds Scrapbook” was a concept album marketed as being some kind of a companion piece to The Beatles’ “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”. I think we all know how that marketing idea went?

I’m pretty certain I borrowed this album from Tim B who I worked with at Lancaster & Crook. Years later I believe I also bought the LP for 69p from Woolworth’s clearance racks. I never hung onto it and would/could not recognise one single track from it these days.

Leo Sayer – Silverbird
Leo Sayer’s first claim to pop fame was as co-writer of Roger Daltrey’s debut solo single, “Giving It All Away“.

His own career was launched by 60’s pop idol turned actor, Adam Faith. Sayer’s second single “The Show Must Go On” – which Leo performed (strangely) in a Pierrot clown costume – reached Number 2 on the UK chart, a feat which then kickstarted a run of no less than seven consecutive Top 10 singles, including the worldwide #1 smash “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing

“Silverbird” was his debut album and it reached Number 2 on the UK Album Chart. It remains a fixture in my collection and a track or two occasionally pops up on shuffle. The songs are a little bit dated but still well composed and performed. “Oh Wot a Life” is a favourite of mine.

Two bits of Leo Sayer trivia… The first is that Leo now lives in Australia and became a fully fledged Australian citizen in 2009. The second is that “Leo Sayer” is cockney rhyming slang for “all dayer”… an all day drinking session. No wonder he feels like dancing!

Alan Hull – Pipedream
Straight off the bat I will state that “Pipedream” remains one of my favourite albums of all time.

Alan Hull was a member of Newcastle-based folk rock band Lindisfarne who, in the early seventies, enjoyed a run of singalong hits including “Lady Eleanor“, “Meet Me on the Corner” and “Fog on the Tyne

Ructions amongst the band around 1973 resulted in the band breaking up. Three members went off to form Jack the Lad, whilst Alan Hull recorded and released “Pipedream” before eventually agreeing to be part of an “all-new” Lindisfarne. (It didn’t last long, he disbanded the group again in 1975)

“Pipedream” is an album chock-full of lovely gentle little songs all featuring Hull’s pretty unique and pleasing vocal style. Personally, I don’t think there is a bad tune on it and I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who likes singer/songwriters. I think my favourites are “I Hate to See you Cry“, “Justanothersadsong”, “Country Gentleman’s Wife” and the opener, “Breakfast”

Hull died suddenly at the age of just 50 – of a heart thrombosis – in 1995. A real loss to the musical firmament.

Funnily enough, as much I like this album I have never even been vaguely tempted to investigate his other solo work. Perhaps it’s about time I did?

Yes – The Yes Album
Although “Fragile” will always remain my favourite Yes album, I’ll admit that (and despite the whole ELP vs Yes rivalry that existed back then) I have also frequently dabbled in their others… “The Yes Album” being a case in point.

For a start it kicks off with “Yours Is No Disgrace“, perhaps one of the best prog-rock album openings of all time. I love the way the Hammond slips in round the back of the drum and guitar intro… it almost gives me goosebumps.

Then there’s the almost hillbilly-esque Steve Howe guitar solo “Clap“, and I suppose “Starship Trooper” can’t be considered too shabby can it?.. even if I personally feel it’s a little too rambling for its own good.

Side Two offers the earworm of “I’ve Seen All Good People” and… well, precious little else as far as I am concerned.  (I’m sure there will be die-hard Yes fans who will disagree with me.)

I’ve never actually owned “The Yes Album” on any format (other than the recording I made in 1974… that counts, right?) although when my wife and I merged our transatlantic CD collections I was happy to see it amongst hers and duly ripped the songs mentioned above across to my i-tunes

Bryan Ferry – These Foolish Things
If we ever wanted to know what kind of singing route Bryan Ferry – and thus Roxy Music – would eventually take, we only have to listen to this 1973 solo album of ‘classic standards’ crooned by the man himself.

It’s as eclectic a choice as it is good. There are certain songs that I heard for the very first time when Ferry sang them (“It’s my Party“, “Don’t Ever Change”, “Loving You is Sweeter than Ever” & “River of Salt”) whilst there are others (“Sympathy for the Devil“, “Don’t Worry Baby” & “Piece of my Heart“) which I actually prefer over the originals!

His cover of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” was and remains peculiar, whilst the magnificently crooned title track, “These Foolish Things“, cemented Ferry’s by-then reputation as a “lounge lizard”

What’s amazing about this album is that the concept – covering old standards – is as succesful today as it was in 1974. Hell, Rod Stewart’s entire post 1999 career has been founded on doing just that with, and I hope Rod won’t mind saying this, pretty lacklustre results.

Do I still like this album? Yes I do. My caveat is that I think Ferry honed the idea to perfection with the second set of solo covers, “Another Time, Another Place” a year later… an album which I am sure will turn up amongst these diary pages in due course.

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December 27th 1973

“Bort Brain Salad Surgery – not very good but alright”

Wha??

Doubtless buoyed by “christmas money” I went out and bought Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s new opus – released a mere month earlier – only to get it home and immediately deem it “not very good, but alright

Do I sense dissatisfaction setting in with progressive rock gods Keith, Greg & Carl? (I use their first names here to deliberately suggest certain levels of abundant familiarity). “Not very good, but alright“? Wow, talk about fence-sitting.

Let’s take a look at the evidence shall we?….

There’s no doubting “Brain Salad Surgery” was ELP’s most ambitious and flamboyant project to date.

H.R.Giger in 2008 - is it just me, or is he starting to morph into one of his own paintings?

It started with the unsettling album cover, an admittedly fantastic piece of airbrushed work by surreal artist H.R.Giger. It is said that Giger was so flattered Keith Emerson had asked him to design a cover for the band, he painted the piece in just two days – in actual 12″ x 12″ size – including all the incredible detail as well as coming up with the now-distinctive ELP logo.

There was much talk in 1973 of phallic imagery at play with the cover, which, to be honest I never saw then, nor do I see now. Instead all I see is some kind of artistic pre-cursor to a massive selection of sci-fi movies where a human being is taken over by robots, or at least some kind of mechanical device. (Indeed, Giger’s notion was that of a “mechanical woman”)

With excess being the mandatory name of the game for most Prog acts in the 70’s, the sleeve was not a straightforward one. It expensively and expansively folded out, over and over, to present the buyer with a selection of images, the most frightening of which were actually those of the band themselves. Greg Lake apparently trying to pass himself off as some kind of pre-pubescent Donny Osmond.

“Brain Salad Surgery” remains one of my favourite album covers of all time. Not because of all the die-cut nonsense – which, as I found out to my horror, was easy to rip or tear – but for H.R. Giger’s stunning artwork. Indeed, it took me on a multi-decade journey of appreciation for Giger’s output, including (but far from limited to) the set and creature design he did for the “Alien” movie franchise.

As for the music itself, I’ve since come to realise how my initial reticence came about. This album contains both some of ELP’s finest moments… and some of their very worst.

It opens with some of their very worst. Never a good idea.

Track 1 is an adaptation of William Blake ‘s timeless hymn “Jerusalem“. (So bad there’s not even a recording of it to link to on You Tube!) In their infinite lack of wisdom, Manticore Records decided to release this track as the single, only to find it banned by the BBC, who rightly argued it was in ‘poor taste’. I could wax lyrically about just how bad this adaptation is, but probably not without copious levels of family-unfriendly swearing.

Side 1 Track 2 “Toccata” makes up for the weak opener. It is an almost-psychedelic take on Argentinian composer Ginastera ‘s 1st Piano Concerto, with Emerson’s sound effects and Palmer’s electronic drums to the fore throughout. It would prove to be a live favourite, essentially because it automatically lends itself so well to visual excesses on stage.

Still You Turn Me On” is one of Greg Lake’s trademark sugary-sweet love ballads. However, I’ll admit to having a soft spot for this one, despite the distraction of lyrics such as
Every day a little sadder
A little madder
Someone get me a ladder

Benny the Bouncer”  is another throwaway piece of nonsense that the band habitually littered their albums with. (Think “Jeremy Bender” on Tarkus or “Hoedown” on Trilogy). Once again, no link to an original recording of the song, but there IS this marching band version from 1983! (My wife will like this clip having been in the flag corps for such events)

The rest of the album is filled up with one grand ELP ‘epic’. Or, rather, isn’t. “Karn Evil 9” is a ‘suite’ of three ‘impressions’, the first impression split into two parts, resulting in…. yep, four tracks.. um, all of which appear to have very little to do with one another.

Despite this – and despite the band drafting in maddeningly-dodgy lyricist Pete Sinfield (he of the PFM & King Crimson connection) – this thirty-minute musical montage contains (in my humble opinion) 26 minutes of some of the band’s finest work.

Karn Evil 9 – 1st Impression, Part I” closes side 1 of the album., but it’s “Karn Evil 9 – 1st Impression, Part II” at the start of Side 2 which most people will recognise. Why?…

The opening lyric, “Welcome Back my Friends to the Show that never Ends….” has become an iconic statement ever since, even reaching the hallowed portals of the White House! (OK, OK…. so Martin Sheen’s President Bartlett character actually muttered it in an episode of  TV’s The West Wing).  Plus, the ensuing music – perhaps, if you will, the ‘riff’ – has been used over and over again in TV shows, documentaries, commercials and more.

Karn Evil 9 – 2nd Impression is a meandering go-nowhere instrumental featuring drums, bass and piano with Emerson briefly interpolating an old number by influential jazz musician Sonny Rollins. For me it is the thorn in Karn Evil 9‘s side

Karn Evil 9 – 3rd Impression” finds the band returning to a war theme, something they had done so well on Tarkus a few years previous. With a somewhat hokey “man vs machine” concept (to tie in with the cover art) this cut is over-the-top ELP at their most extravagantly bombastic. The battle runs for over 9 minutes with Emerson’s electronics, Lake’s loud vocals and Palmer’s computerised drums all fighting one another for centre stage, the latter even finding time to include a 70’s/Prog-rock staple; the extended drum solo.

As with most other ‘concept’ albums/pieces I mostly managed to ignore the storyline running rampant through “Karn Evil 9”, preferring to just concentrate on grooving along with the rhythms and soundscapes on offer.

There’s no doubting that this album was the last ELP studio album I had/have any real fondness for. Even in retrospect I can see why my review was mixed. 50% of this album is great, the rest is utter pants.

I suspect too that my musical tastes were already subtly diversifying and – let’s face it boys and girls – there’s only so much ELP one person can take isn’t there? There were, however, still a couple more ELP releases to come that I wouldn’t shun. One was an earwormy single, the other an utterly ludicrous triple live album… both of which, I am sure, will be highlighted in future EFA70sTRO posts.

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July 16th 1973

“WILD TURKEY! Damn good concert although we had to wait an hour for some kind of supp. act”

What can I possibly add by way of new comment to the timeless legacy of Prog Rock über-giants Wild Turkey? 

They were as legendary then as they are now….

What can you possibly mean when you say you’ve never bloody well heard of them?

Why, they were…. (refers to “googlememory”)… formed in 1971. Bassist Glenn Cornick had just left Jethro Tull and he co-opted four band members to record the rock classic “Battle Hymn”.

They went on tour, supporting … erm… Black Sabbath, to promote the album.

The following year they recorded a second album, “Turkey”, then toured again – as headliners this time! – during the summer of 1973.

Where this young man went and saw them, deeming them – for whatever reason – “damn good

I can honestly state that I knew not one single note of Wild Turkey’s output when I discovered this diary entry. They had fallen so far off my musical radar it actually felt quite scary.

The All Music website does not even have a bio of the band!

The usually reliable You Tube has come to my/your rescue however, featuring this gem….

I must have been more impressionable than I give myself credit for because that, my dear readers, is ponderous bollocks of the highest order isn’t it?

Further online research seems to reveal that the support act we waited so long for was Darryl Way’s Wolf.

Like the mighty Wild Turkey, Darryl Way’s Wolf ALSO carries no AMG bio. (Indeed, the only thing I personally can recall about Way was that he was the violinist in the superb Curved Air, of whom I have spoken before)

Must have been a HELL of a night eh?

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Number Ones of 1972 (Part 1)

In this “debut diary year” of 1972 I have spoken a lot about the albums I either bought, borrowed and/or taped.

It would be fair for readers to think these albums would represent what I would have listened to the most in 1972.

Fair, but wrong.

Every Sunday, almost without fail, I would avidly listen to the “Pick of the Pops” show on BBC’s Radio 1, recording it in real time and then replaying it over and over during the following week.

This show played the UK’s Top 30 singles (as compiled by the British Market Research Bureau) in their entirety, announced by stalwart BBC DJ Alan “Fluff” Freeman (Later the show was presented by Tom Browne, even later by Simon Bates).

My fascination for, and capability to listen to, all kinds of music – not just the Prog Rock I was otherwise listening to – was what probably set me on to a later career in the business and, most definitely, an appreciation of “pop” in all its various guises.

In 1972, the “Top 30” was – as the British charts have always been – a mish mash of established artists, one-hit wonders and novelty acts with sappy love songs, early disco material, glam rock classics and pop masterpieces all thrown into the mix.

If I’m being honest there wasn’t a lot I really didn’t like, and most – but NOT all – of these Number Ones of 1972 have as much room in my musical heart as any of the bombastic pieces by ELP…..

The New Seekers started off the year with a perfect piece of “cross promotional” pop in the shape of “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)“, a song which started life as a TV commercial for Coca Cola. It’s got appallingly crass lyrics – I’d like to build the world a home and furnish it with love, grow apple trees and honey bees and snow white turtle doves – but that’s what makes it so good IMHO.

The New Seekers were followed by Marc Bolan’s T.Rex with their third No.1 hit single in the shape of “Telegram Sam“.

This song, featuring Bolan’s self-referential lyrics “Me I funk, but I don’t care, I ain’t no square with my corkscrew hair” and “I’m a howlin’ wolf” was the first release on Bolan’s own “T.Rex Wax Co.” imprint at EMI Records, and was an ode to his then manager Tony Secunda (his “main man“).

The song was much later covered by goth band Bauhaus who in the process of roughing it up took away its campness. (My wife has just blown me a raspberry)

From T.Rex we went to the very first Number 1 to feature a moog synthesiser and a song which is such a “earworm” my brain whistles it at its mere mention!

Chicory Tip‘s “Son of my Father” could be described as “synthpop” in its earliest form. It’s mind-bogglingly repetitive, but not quite irritating enough to turn off whenever it appears – and yes its a regular visitor – on my iPod some 30+ years later.

Trivia fans may care to store away this fascinating little nugget of info about “Son of my Father”… the synthesizer – which was actually a tiny stylophone– is played by Chris Thomas, who later went on to produce records by (amongst many others) Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, INXS, Pulp, Paul McCartney… oh, and the debut album by a little band called The Sex Pistols

[continued in Part 2]…

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October 30th 1972 (II)

“went up Trev’s – borrowed Ummug. + In+Out of Focus”

… and it was the second part of today’s entry that proved my ‘issue’ was not with Focus but with that particularly bad pressed vinyl.

In & Out of Focus” was Focus’ debut album, originally released at the very start of the seventies. Several decades on there’s not a whole lot I can personally recommend from this album – it was never in my pantheon of “great Focus albums” – but the cut “House of the King” (which I seem to recall was used as theme music for a TV show – maybe a holiday programme?) certainly gave a taster of what the band were about, or more readily, what they would become. Prog-rock innovators.

Focus were formed by Thijs Van Leer, a classically-trained keyboardist & flautist from Holland. Alongside him – at least in the “recognised-as-classic” Focus line-up – were drummer Pierre Van Der Linden, bassist Cyril Havermans and the stylings of a certain Jan Akkerman, who, from that day to this, has always been considered one of the world’s best & technically-gifted guitarists.

I suspect I will have more to discuss about Focus in future diary posts. I’ll bet you can’t wait?!

Ummug refers to Pink Floyd’s 1969 album “Ummagumma”. This was a double album, one LP of which was a live set, the second featuring studio compositions by each of the (then) four members of the band.

This album has never been particularly considered a “good one”, even the band members themselves admitting it comes across as a bit of a “desperate release”. The live portion is very badly recorded (I can’t imagine I kept that half very long at all – it was/is very muddy and, at times, terribly incoherent) whilst the studio contributions are certainly nothing to write home about….

Except for one which I am going to highlight here, but ONLY because 36 years later I still recall it’s title with alarming precision….

Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict

… a peculiar composition consisting of little more than animal sound effects combined with Roger Waters’ synthesized voice looping and and out of itself in a vaguely gaelic manner. If you’ve never heard it before judge it for yourself!

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July 25th 1972

“nothing much in the morn. in afternoon went swimming and went to mick’s house + bor. records. Taped America + Slade 1” / “new set batts > 59 days” / Vicarage 7.30 for rounders match. we won” (6m)

The diary entries are at least getting longer and a bit more informative this school holiday aren’t they?

There’s that swimming thing again, and the mick I don’t remember.

The tape player batteries – after what has seemed like a long absence – also make a welcome return to my diary pages. 59 days does seem like a phenomenal length of time for them to have lasted… unless of course I was doing other things instead of listening to music. Which by itself begs the question; “why didn’t I write about those other things?”

6 miles on the bike including, no doubt, the journey to the Vicarage in Eastleigh for a game of what I then knew as “rounders” and what I now know as “baseball”, the “we won” comment being the only thing I don’t associate with my current team, the Cincinnati Reds. Ha-ha.

When I say taped America I don’t mean the Horse with No Name people. Instead I mean the single track “America” from The Nice’s “Elegy” album… mentioned a few days ago.

Keith Emerson & Co’s rendition of “America” is an exercise in keyboard excess, pure and simple. If he could do something with the Hammond organ on this 10+ minute live cut he did it, turning Leonard Bernstein’s musical ode about Hispanic immigration into an unlikely Prog Rock classic.

This is one of those tracks that, over time, led to me investigating – and appreciating – a lot more music.  At 14, I was not even aware of “West Side Story”, the movie the song was written for, but when I eventually saw it (on betamax) I was blown away (it remains one of my favourite films, watched over and over again) and I know the soundtrack inside out. Its striking brass and strings style led me to appreciating other high concept orchestral work like George Gershwin and Stravinsky.

Even back then though, my musical tastes varied wildly, as I am sure future diary entries will testify.

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June 3rd 1972

“Went up Trev’s + took back records. Got some more Makers”

If it was 36 years later, the second part of that entry would mean that I had stopped off on the way home for a bottle – or two – of one of Kentucky’s finest bourbons, Maker’s Mark!

In 1972 however I was most definitely referring to Melody Maker, regarded as the UK’s (kinda) “third” stalwart weekly music paper, after New Musical Express (NME) and Sounds. (Can you even begin to believe now there was a time when there were, with these 3 plus Record Mirror and Disc, five weekly newspapers dedicated to music in the UK?)

 Whilst the NME and Sounds (which I also read, believe me) covered the music scene with an attitude of some ‘irreverance’ (maybe even where I get my own healthy cynicism from?), and Record Mirror and Disc were for the poppier end of the market, the Melody Maker was a far more serious and sombre-in-tone affair.

It had some great writers and editors over the years (Chris Welsh and Richard Williams to name but two) and seemed to concentrate more on the ‘muso’ aspects of the ‘grown-up’ stuff kicking around at the time. How the music was influenced, how it was recorded, on what machinery, and where and by whom. Pretty intricate details. (In fact, thinking about it, modern day music magazines like “Q“, “Mojo” and “Word” probably emulate the old school Melody Maker – with their in-depth profiles and the suchlike)

The jazzier-influenced progressive rock (PROG!!) was Melody Maker’s mainstay – and it’s eventual downfall, the paper’s refusal to abandon its love for the genre in the punkier late 70’s the start of its slow and sad demise.

Stephen, Trev’s older brother – and consistent buyer of Melody Maker – was a big Prog rock fan and doubtless influenced what Trev listened to. And by association, what I was exposed to whenever I went to Trev’s and spent the day.

I do often wonder how different my musical ‘growth’ would have been without the likes of Stephen and Trev getting me to hear stuff and loaning me albums to pirate record. As well as allowing me to borrow their Melody Makers. I know I feel as if I owe them a lot in retrospect.

Apart from that whole King Crimson thing.

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