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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Trollheart's Journey through Prog Rock history
    Posted: March 16 2017 at 06:40
Using albums solely as the arbiter of what happened is being on the wrong 'track'. As was mentioned already, many of the important bands did not record till later, though their influence and prior impact was considerable. Both Will Romano, Bruce Thomas (of the Attractions) and many others have pointed out that the proper place to begin is with 1-2-3/Clouds. To quote Bruce Thomas, "Without Clouds, there would be no Yes, ELP, or King Crimson". Sky TV's recent documentary "Trailblazers" researched the subject and came to the same conclusion.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 23 2016 at 09:39

Note: obviously, I'll be writing lengthy articles on the bigger bands in the genre, Genesis being among them, but to be fair I'll wait till about the mid-seventies or later, so that by then we'll have listened to and reviewed most of their at least better known albums.


Album title: From Genesis to Revelation

Artiste: Genesis

Nationality: British

Label: Decca

Year: 1969

Grade: A

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Total; Genesis are/were my favourite band. I have all their albums.

The Trollheart Factor: 10

Landmark value: One of the major driving forces in progressive rock, Genesis became a byword not only for lengthy and deep songs, weird stageshows with odd costumes, but light shows and effects, as Peter Gabriel had always been interested in stagecraft and showmanship. Although their sound evolved through the decades, up to the time of their disbanding - and since - they have remained one the darlings of the prog rock movement and one of the first names one thinks of when speaking of prog rock.

Track Listing: Where the sour turns to sweet/ In the Beginning/ Fireside song/ The Serpent/ Am I very wrong?/ In the wilderness/ The Conqueror/ In hiding/ One day/ Window/ Limbo/ Silent sun/ A place to call my own

Comments: I only got to hear this album long after I had devoured most of Genesis's discography up to about Abacab, and to say I was disappointed is an understatement. What I didn't understand of course at that time was that the band were still finding their feet, honing their sound, learning to play with one another and more to the point, the movement which would be known as progressive rock was only very embryonic at that stage, so there wasn't a lot for them to emulate or even influence. Even one of Peter Gabriel's later heroes, Peter Hammill of Van der Graaf Generator, had yet to come onto the scene. Add to that the fact that they were all still at school at the time of recording, most of them being only seventeen years old while Anthony Phillips was a mere sixteen, and that both the names Genesis and Revelation were taken by other bands, that they were under the strict, almost dictatorial control of Jonathan King, and you can see how they wouldn't exactly have been on fire with enthusiasm for their debut album.


A note on the back of the CD cover sighs, in a typically what-can-you-do apologetic English way, “We were Genesis, then we learned there was a band with that name, so we changed our name to Revelation, only to find that name was also taken. Now we are the band with no name, but we still wish you to enjoy our music”. That's not an exact quote - I looked for the CD but can't find it - but it's close enough. It does, however, allow you to see that this is hardly going to be the kind of band, should it last, that will sing about rockin' all night and dirty women! Far more esoteric and genteel subjects would colour Genesis's lyrics, making them a target for ridicule and leading to accusations of snobbery, some of which may have been justified.


But if there's one word that characterises all of the music here it's gentle. There are none of what would later become Peter Gabriel's trademark snarl (copied mostly from Hammill) or the sarcasm that would drip from titles on their next album, their first progressive one. If this album belongs anywhere, it's with the like of The Byrds and Simon and Garfunkel and Gordon Lightfoot: soft, inoffensive, restrained music with a very poppy tilt. And yet, there are certainly pointers towards the kind of music Genesis would compose in later years, in tracks like “Fireside song”, “In the wilderness” and “One day”.


Pastoral is another word that fits the album, and it's a style that would continue through at least their early albums, although the opener is perhaps a little more in-your-face and uptempo than most of the rest of the album, with a sort of psychedelic/blues feel to it and Gabriel's distinctive vocal shines right away and grabs your attention, even at the tender age of seventeen. Given how Genesis would become known for long, convoluted and epic songs, this album has none over five minutes, with most coming in around the three or four-minute mark. That spacey, psychedelic feel continues through to the next track, “in the beginning”. You know, Wiki tells me that Jonathan King had the band record an album based loosely around the Bible, but I don't see it here. Sure, the odd track, one called “The Serpent”, “In Limbo”, could be seen to refer to the Bible, but it's nowhere near a concept album based around the Holy Book. The themes are varied, mostly concentrating on nature, man's need for conflict, and women.


The first real standout comes in the gentle “Fireside song”, where for the first time you can hear the band come together and really write what could be called a proper song that could have been heard on the radio, though of course it was not released as a single. Soft, comfortable, safe, it's the perfect title for the song, and slides in on a lovely piano line from Tony Banks, taken up by Rutherford on the acoustic guitar as the song gets going. The first time I really sat up and took notice of this album when I initially listened to it. The strings accompaniment really helps too. “The Serpent” has a much bluesier, hard rock vibe to it, not one of my favourites, some good organ work certainly, then “Am I very wrong?” is quite gentle but has a hard piano line to it, sort of reminds me of some of Nick Cave's later work. The next great standout is “In the wilderness”, with a great hook in the chorus and a strong vocal from Gabriel, presaging the kind of presence he would create on later albums.


“The Conqueror” is okay I guess, but it's nothing special. “In hiding” is nice, has a kind of jangly rhythm to it but very rooted in the sixties for sure. Another great song is “One day”, which, while naive to the max is still very endearing with its tale of the man living in the forest and hoping to bring his lover to live there with him. It's driven on a rippling piano line from Tony Banks, and powerful percussion from John Silver. “Window” is a gentle little ballad with a very low-key vocal from Gabriel, while there are horns and a sort of Beach Boys vocal harmony to “In Limbo”, but the song chosen as their only single (which flopped of course) is just very pedestrian and you can see how King was trying to make them into a pop group, something they were at the time very much not suited for. The short closer is very nice, and bookends the album well.



Favourite track(s): Fireside song, One day, In the wilderness, Window, A place to call my own/

Least favourite track(s): The Serpent, Silent sun

Overall impression: Were this the first time I was hearing Genesis I would have thought they probably had no real future. There's little on this album that really stands out or marks this band as being destined to lead the progressive rock revolution, but then in fairness a lot of that is down to the almost iron grip Jonathan King exerted over the band, and once they parted company with him they were free to explore their own, more intricate and daring compositions, and a legend was born. But apart from diehard Genesis fans like me, and completists and collectors, you can get by without having to listen to this album at all.

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Final Rating:



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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 23 2016 at 08:27
So those are the main bands - there were others of course, but I have chosen not to feature every one of them - that got together this year although most if not all of them would not have an album released for at least another year. As for the albums we're going to look at for 1969...

From Genesis to Revelation - Genesis


If I followed my own rules then this should not be featured at all, as although it was Genesis's first album, it was far from being a progressive rock one. It's certainly more in the gentle folk area, and what's more, it doesn't even feature Steve Hackett or Phil Collins. But then again, it was the first anyone had heard from Genesis, so, like they say, suck it.Wink


Uncle Meat --- The Mothers of Invention


Frank Zappa, isn't it enough that you haunt my dreams, skulking through my sleeping hours like some sort of spectral bogeyman waiting to assault my ears with nonsense and atonal sounds? Must I listen to an album of yours every year? It seems I must. This was another strand of the “No Commercial Potential” project Zappa created, of which we've heard already We're Only in it For the Money.


On the Threshold of a Dream - The Moody Blues


Another concept album from a band who were fast becoming one of the flag-bearers for the emerging progressive rock movement, this was the album that lifted the Moody Blues into the heady heights of number one position for their album, and into the top twenty cross the pond, though its only single failed to create even a ripple (geddit?)...


Trout Mask Replica - Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band


If there's one artiste I look forward to listening to less than Merzbow, it's this. I've already suffred through it once, but not here, so I'll have to take another crack at it. Brr! Anyway, supposedly a very influential album on the genre, and surely a lot of business to analysts and therapists years later.


Yes - Yes


Not to be confused with The Yes Album, this was the debut from a band who would go on not only to define progressive rock, but the more bloated excesses of it.


Abbey Road - The Beatles


I have my doubts about this one. I know it's seen as a seminal Beatles album with an iconic cover, but did it impact upon the prog rock scene? I'll leave it here for now, and await the judgement of those of you who can answer this question better than I.


The Nice - The Nice


Third album from The Nice. I'm not too certain about this one either; was it important? Have we heard all we need to of Keith Emerson's first band?


Volume Two (The Soft Machine Album) - Soft Machine


Second album from Soft Machine.


The Aerosol Grey Machine - Van der Graaf Generator


Debut album from Van der Graaf Generator


In the court of the Crimson King - King Crimson


An album that would go on to have a profound effect on prog rock, introduce the world properly to the genius of Robert Fripp, and become a classic of the genre, how could we not feature King Crimson's seminal debut?


Hot rats - Frank Zappa


Just can't get away from this guy, can I?


Ummagumma - Pink Floyd


Double album by a band who would go on to become one of the most important in the genre. Half of it is live, while the rest is made up of solo work from each band member. In case anyone's wondering, I've left out More as it's a film soundtrack and I don't think needs to be visited. If I'm wrong, please let me know.


To our children's children's children - The Moody Blues


Yes, they had two albums released this year. We'll be taking a look at both.


Renaissance - Renaissance


One of the only bands formed this year to put out an album that same year, this is the debut album from Renaissance.


Phallus Dei - Amon Duul II


Often cited as the first real Krautrock album, this was the debut album from Amon Duul II.


When I began this journal I admitted I mentioned it was, and is, a work in progress, and will be for a long time. The format is more or less generally set, but I can and will add to and change it as I see fit, or as ideas occur to me. An idea just occurred to me. As you can see, the amount of albums released by 1969 far outstrips those released in the previous year, and as we move into the seventies and beyond this will only increase. While not every one of them is important, essential or even relvant to the progressive rock movement, I'm trying to cover all those that are. But there are others that, while they bear no real importance, are still worth listening to and talking about. These I'll be looking at in two separate sections, titles yet to be decided but possibly “ProgWorthy”, “On the Fringes” or “We are not Worthy!”, which will feature albums that deserve not to be ignored, but are outside the main thrust of the journal, and something I may call “A bit of fun” or something similar, which will be albums that are, basically, just fun to listen to. Within those banners, these are the ones from 1969 that I intend to feature.


Liege and Lief - Fairport Convention


Said to be the first British folk rock album. We'll see.


Brainbox - Brainbox


An album that came with a serious warning about causing serious psychological damage if listened to? How could we not grasp that nettle?


Catherine Ribeiro + 2 Bis - Catherine Ribeiro


Must listen to this, if only because its title gives the impression it was recorded with two lesbians!


Dracula's Music Cabinet - The Vampires of Dartmoore


I've heard so much about this I have to take the opportunity to review it! Wink


It's a beautiful day - It's a beautiful day


Because why not?


So that's our list for 1969. Obviously, there's a whole lot to get through so this is going to take a lot longer than 1968 did. I'll begin reviewing albums soon, as we move into the realm of what I would term more actual prog albums than just ones that influenced the genre. And Zappa.


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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 21 2016 at 15:34
The Egg album is my fave from that list, but I also really that Supertramp album (my fave Supertramp album).



That Renaissance album does sound very different to later ones as it was yet to have Annie Haslam as singer and instead had Keith and Jane Relf on vocals.



Edited by Logan - November 21 2016 at 15:35
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 21 2016 at 15:19
Chapter II: Children of the Revolution

It may seem odd to speak in terms of revolution when talking about a genre of music that has become identified with being one of the most indulgent, self-absorbed, overblown and pretentious in rock music (other than jazz) Wink, but back when prog rock was just forming as an idea, its ideals and intentions were certainly seen as outside the norm. Rock music had, until then, and for some time after too, been based on pretty standard formats: four/four time, verse-chorus-verse, and with lyrics mostly concerning love, sex, parties or other "earthy" subjects. To paraphrase and mix Shakespeare and Paddy McAloon, progressive rock musicians began to see that there were more things in Heaven and Earth than just cars and girls.

So they experimented with new time signatures, odd changes of rhythms and tones, different instruments and began to look beyond the tried and trusted lyrical content of rock and roll, bringing in elements from fantasy, literature, mythology and the emergent science-fiction, as well as the also nascent fascination with mind-expanding drugs, much of which enhanced and in some cases informed their music. To the staid and button-down rock scene of the late sixties, this was indeed nothing short of a revolution.

While we've certainly reviewed and listened to some very interesting, even pivotal albums in the subgenre from 1967 and 1968, in a very real sense 1969 was where it all really began for prog rock. With the summer of love fading away to a distant memory as the sixties drew to a shuddering close, and Vietnam looming large in the headlines as it would for another five years, psychedelic rock began to recede as hard rock took a more central role, both in the US and in Europe, with Woodstock sounding both the climax and the last hurrah for the hippy generation. Peace and love was at an end, and protest against an unjust war and a corrupt administration was on the agenda. Flower power was out, and people power was in.

None of which in the least sowed the seeds for the birth and eventual dominance over the seventies of progressive rock, which at its heart had little or no protest, few interest in politics or current events, and really in many ways was the music industry retreating into itself, hiding in the trappings of a softer, happier time and largely ignoring the events taking place around it. Certainly, as time went on, prog bands got more politically aware, but really for most of the seventies they were more concerned with singing about towers in far-off lands, dragons and wizards and higher states of consciousness. Rarely if ever did a prog band take on the issues of the day, and in this way perhaps they made themselves a target for the slavering beast of punk rock, which was waiting its chance to leap upon them and savage them as it snarled and growled and spat at the establishment, and roared in a primordial and often extremely raucous and off-key voice its disenchantment with the status quo.


But that particular showdown was yet almost a decade away, and as American students protested and chanted “Heck no! We won't go!”, thousands of miles across the ocean to the west four friends at Charterhouse Public School were getting together and putting ideas down for a music group, a barman met a bassist and they began gigging at the Marquee, trying out various names of their new band before deciding on Yes, Robert Fripp prepared to unleash King Crimson on an unsuspecting world while Peter Hammill made his entrance with much less fuss, and The Beatles were putting the finishing touches to what would be their penultimate album, a true classic that was destined to be remembered for all time and enshrine the name of the studio where it was recorded in music history.


1969: the year holds almost mystic significance as the world prepared to move into a new decade, and a new way of doing things. The old ways, the old music, held on to so long by the guardians of the values of World War II and the fifties, were slowly being eroded away, and the new decade would belong irrevocably to the young. As synthesisers became more widely available and used, and bands branched out, embracing non-standard instruments such as violin, cello, harmonica, harp, mandolin, saxophone and others, a whole new sound, grounded in and conceived by the bands who had ushered in the beginnings of the prog rock movement over the last two years was about to come to fruition, and a new type of music was about to be born. Having given vent to its birth cries in bands like The Moody Blues, Camel and Procol Harum, progressive rock was beginning to feel its teeth grow, and its little fingers busily reached for the necks of guitars and the keyboards of pianos, while strange, half-formed ideas flitted through its impressionable mind as lyrics began to spool out like broken scenes from a film it was too young to see, never mind understand.


As hard rock and heavy metal would go one way - and eventually the twain would meet, much later - progressive rock would take the other direction and explore the road less travelled, and in the process would have a profound influence on the history of music for the coming decade.


A lot of really pivotal bands were formed in this year, and as we did for the previous year let's take a rather quick look at who they are, and what sort of an impact, if any, they would have on the scene. Obviously, once we get into their albums I'll talk more about them, and some will certainly deserve their own article, but for now here's the list.


Atomic Rooster (1969 – 1975 (i), 1980 – 1983 (ii))


Nationality: British

Original lineup: Vincent Crane, Carl Palmer, Nick Graham

First relevant album: Atomic Rooster, 1970


Impact: 7

The Trollheart Factor: 1

Linked to: The Crazy Word of Arthur Brown, ELP


Not many bands can say they opened for Deep Purple. Fewer can say that Deep Purple opened for them! But after the breakup of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and following his recovery from mental illness, founder Vincent Crane got together with later ELP skinsman Carl Palmer and one of the most important prog rock bands of the seventies was formed.


Beggars Opera (1969 – 1976 )


Nationality: British

Original lineup: Ricky Gardiner, Alan Park, Raymond Wilson, Marshall Erskine and Martin Griffiths

First relevant album: Act One, 1970


Impact: 2

The Trollheart Factor: 0

Linked to:


One of the few, perhaps the only progressive rock band to come out of Scotland before the neo-prog revival of the eighties, Beggars Opera lasted for three albums and a total of seven years before they broke up. Founder Ricky Gardiner later worked with David Bowie and Iggy Pop.


Egg (1969 – 1972 (with a brief revival of sorts in 1974))


Nationality: British

Original lineup: Dave Stewart, Mont Campbell and Clive Brooks

First relevant album: Egg, 1970


Impact: 4

The Trollheart Factor: 0

Linked to: Hatfield and the North, National Health


Another prog band who didn't have too great a time of it. With their debut album released and relatively well received, they seem not to have wanted to put out the followup, and their third album only came about after the split of the band in 1972. Egg also peripherally featured folk supremo Steve Hillage, though in a previous incarnation of the band and before they became Egg.


Eloy (1969 – )


Nationality: German

Original lineup: Frank Bornemann, Erich Schriever, Manfred Wieczorke, Wolfgang Stocker and Helmuth Draht

First relevant album: Eloy, 1971


Impact: 4

The Trollheart Factor: 4

Linked to:


One of the few German progressive rock bands not to be linked to the Krautrock movement, Eloy were in fact pioneers in German rock history, being among the first bands in that country not to just play covers but to compose their own material. Their name is taken from the enlightened humans in the HG Wells novel The Time Machine. They are still active today (although they were in hiatus from 1998 to 2009) although their last album, to date at any rate, was that one in 2009.)


Focus (1969 – 1978 (i) 2002 - (ii))


Nationality: Dutch

Original lineup: Thijs van Leer, Jan Akkerman, Hans Cleuver, Martijn Dresden

First relevant album: Focus plays Focus/In and out of Focus, 1970


Impact: 6

The Trollheart Factor: 1

Linked to:


There's never quite been a thriving Dutch prog rock scene, but Focus were the ones to blaze a trail for the Netherlands and are probably best known for the hit single “Hocus Pocus”, as well as having guitarist Jan Akkerman in their ranks at one time.


Hawkwind (1969 – )


Nationality: British

Original lineup: Dave Brock, Nik Turner, Huw Lloyd-Langton, Michael Davies

First relevant album: Hawkwind, 1970


Impact: 10

The Trollheart Factor: 8

Linked to: Space Ritual, Motorhead, Pink Fairies, Inner City Unit


Perhaps one of the true progenitors of space rock, and certainly the first to cross over into prog rock, Hawkwind are often known for being the springboard for later Motorhead vocalist and founder Lemmy Kilminster, but he did not join until 1971. Hawkwind use science-fiction and fantasy as well as classical literature in their lyrics, make a lot of use of feedback and spoken passages, effects and soundscapes. They are one of the oldest progressive rock bands, having never split up or taken a break, and have been going strong now for a total of forty-six years!


Organisation (1969 – 1970 )


(Already mentioned in the “Before the Storm” feature)


Renaissance (1969 – 1987 (i) 1998 – 2002 (ii) 2002 - (iii) )


Nationality: British

Original lineup: Annie Haslam, Jim McCarty, Keith Relf, John Tout, Michael Dunford, Jon Camp and Terry Sullivan

First relevant album: Renaissance, 1969


Impact: ?

The Trollheart Factor: 1

Linked to:


I must admit, I only know of Renaissance through the hit single “Northern Lights”, and for some reason thought they were Canadian! It seems they've been around from the start though, and are still going, having released a total of thirteen albums, so I had better get reading up on them! They are the first of the bands featured here to actually have released their debut in 1969, so we'll obviously be looking at it.


Supertramp (1969 – )


Nationality: British

Original lineup: Rick Davies, Roger Hodgson, Richard Palmer, Robert Millar

First relevant album: Supertramp, 1970


Impact: 5

The Trollheart Factor: 9

Linked to:


Although many will scoff at the inclusion of Supertramp as a prog rock band, that is how they started out, later metamorphosing into a sort of Genesis pop clone with hit singles like “Breakfast in America”, “Dreamer” and “The logical song”. Despite their later becoming the creative nucleus of the band and penning some of their greatest hits and best known songs, both Davies and Hodgson were initially reluctant to write lyrics for their debut album and left this to Richard Palmer, with the result that their first album is really nothing like what they would become known for. Although technically there were two incarnations of Supertramp, the one with Hodgson and the one that continued on after he left in 1982, the band never officially broke up so in reality they have been going since 1969, and are still going today, after a fashion.


Uriah Heep (1969 – )


Nationality: British

Original lineup: Mick Box, David Byron, Alex Napier, Paul Newton, Ken Hensley

First relevant album: Very 'eavy, Very 'umble, 1970


Impact: 8

The Trollheart Factor: 5

Linked to:


Another band who have been going since '69 without a break, Uriah Heep have recorded twenty-four albums, their latest being released last year. Founder Mick Box is the only remaining original member.




Edited by Trollheart - November 23 2016 at 05:14
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 20 2016 at 14:35
And so we come to the end of 1968. While there were some very influential and important albums released this year (the second efforts from Floyd and Procol Harum, Soft Machine's debut, Zappa's lunatic masterpiece) I feel the progressive rock iceberg was still about ninety-eight percent still submerged under the waters, with only the barest glimpses being given of what was to come. It wouldn't really be until 1970 that really classic prog rock albums would come to the surface, but 1969 does have at least a far longer list to choose from, and with bands like Uriah Heep, Hawkwind, Yes and Van der Graaf - to say nothing of Genesis - entering the fray, you can probably begin to see the first real shapes beginning to emerge in the portrait prog rock would draw through the seventies.

I have to admit, I haven't been overly impressed with the crop so far. Even back to 1967, with a few exceptions these come across as bands trying to tentatively cross over the borders from blues or psychedelic rock to the new subgenre, or in the case of some, like The Nice, performing a balancing act by keeping one foot firmly on the ground of classical and jazz music while trying to stretch over and see how far they can make it into rock territory before losing their equilibrium and falling back on one side or other of the fence. Nobody strikes me as really going for it: even Floyd have still at this point the ghost of Syd Barrett to deal with, and until they shook that free in 1973 they would never really quite be regarded as a pure progressive rock band. It would take five more albums until they would finally hit the winning formula and define the sound of a generation. The Moody Blues would continue testing the boundaries, while Zappa would delight in kicking them down and trampling on them while scrawling rude messages on the brickwork, but would never really fall into the same category as the likes of Rush, Genesis, Camel and Yes. Jethro Tull would fart about for years before finally deciding to go all-in with Aqualung in 1971, while Soft Machine would tread their own weird path into the seventies and The Nice would disband to allow Emerson's ego a much larger stage to strut on from 1970.


1969 was, though, when things began to get interesting, and that's where we're headed next.


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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 20 2016 at 14:10
As I stated when I listed the albums I'd be reviewing for 1968, I have my doubts about this final one, but I see that David Bowie covered two of their songs, so that must be some sort of claim to fame. Nevertheless, I've never heard of them at all, so wonder if this is an album I should be covering? Furthermore, it's their fourth, and as most if not all of the main progressive rock bands are only starting around now, this seems like it may be the output of a psych/blues band who might have turned towards progressive rock at this time. If so, then I guess that's okay but I hope it's not a Safe as Milk or Fifth Dimension, having very little to do with the subgenre. Mind you, it is a concept album, and arguably an influence on The Who's later classic, Tommy, so perhaps it deserves its place.


Album title: S.F. Sorrow

Artiste: The Pretty Things

Nationality: British

Label: Columbia

Year: 1968

Grade: C

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Zero

The Trollheart Factor: 0

Landmark value: Another one of the early concept albums, but other than that I have to say I don't really see the LV for this one. I've never heard of them at all, though of course that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

Tracklisting: S.F. Sorrow is born/Bracelets of fingers/She says good morning/Private Sorrow/Balloon burning/Death/Baron Saturday/The Journey/I see yuo/Well of destiny/Trust/Old man going/Loneliest person

Comments: The concept revolves around a life, the eponymous character, and to be fair, the moment it starts, though I'm not that familiar with The Who's epic, from what I have heard I can hear the similarities. It's very hard-folk oriented, with a strong guitar line driving the opener, which leaves you in no doubt as to the theme: “S.F Sorrow is born”. Sebastian F. Sorrow is the protagonist, but as this is a very short look at the album I won't be going into the concept, which I don't know anyway. I hear trumpets and other brass here which somehow gives the song a kind of Mariachi feel in part. “Bracelets of fingers” is a slower track, very Beatles/Beach Boys, then kicks into a kind of Barrett/Floyd vibe, picking up tempo. The stop/start nature of the song is a little offputting; hope that doesn't continue all through the album.


The next one is more hard rock really, good guitar while the one following that is back to folk, with flute and maybe sitar, bit repetitive. I can hear the sound Bowie would adopt in the vocals of Phil May, particularly in “Balloon burning”. Much slower and almost a precursor to some of the stuff Nick Cave would do in the eighties is “Death”, with much moaning and crashing of slow cymbals. Nice bit of guitar coming in to shake it up for a moment but it's basically a dour piece, as you would expect from a song so titled.


“Baron Saturday” has a vague kind of “Yellow submarine” hippy groove to it, some interesting effects in “Well of destiny”, but overall I'm just kind of bored, a little uncaring, and while “Trust” has a nice laidback guitar ballad in it, I'm in that frame of mind now where I'm just waiting for the album to end. Ends okay as it happens, but I'm just not that interested now.



Favourite track(s): Didn't like or dislike anything enough to choose.

Least favourite track(s):

Overall impression: Meh. Probably should have gone with my instincts and not bothered. Thanks, Obama. I mean, Wiki.

Personal Rating:


Legacy Rating:


Final Rating:



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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 20 2016 at 14:04
Another band to impress me - one of the first, of those of which I knew little initially - was Procol Harum, and like many prog bands coming up at this time they didn't hang around for years waiting to release their followup to the self-titled debut which gave them their massive and classic single. Like The Nice, this album also features an almost side-long suite which runs for just over seventeen minutes, one of the first of what would become de rigeur among the bigger prog bands, with Genesis, Rush, Yes and ELP all following suit(e) - sorry - and making this almost expected as the seventies burgeoned with what could in fairness be said to be progressive rock's excess. But for now, this was new, this was exciting, and this was a challenge to the ears of those listening to it for the first time.


Album title: Shine on brightly

Artiste: Procol Harum

Nationality: British

Label: Regal Zonophone

Year: 1968

Grade: A

Previous Experience of this Artiste: See review of debut album

The Trollheart Factor: 3

Landmark value: Following on from their impressive debut, Procol Harum had by now made a name for themselves with the timeless “A whiter shade of pale” ensuring their place in rock history. This album though contains one of the first side-long (or almost) suites that would become a staple of future prog rock albums.

Tracklisting: Quite rightly so/Shine on brightly/Skip softly (my moonbeams)/Wish me well/Ramble on/Magdalene (My regal zonopohone)/In held 'twas I: [(i) Glimpses of Nirvana (ii) 'twas teatime at the circus (iii) In the autumn of my madness (iv) Look to your soul (v) Grand finale

Comments: Unbelievably, Spotify don't have this album (though they have plenty of PH) and Grooveshark, though it does have it, omits the f**king suite! What's the point in that? So, a YouTubing I must go. And the big Y does not let me down. Starts off well with a good rocker, plenty of keyboard and organ, then the title track has a slow classical piano intro and a spoken word start before effects slam in and keyboard and piano take the tune into a more uptempo vein. “Skip softly (my moonbeams)” has a more staccato, marching beat to it, more guitar driven with a really good instrumental workout at the end. Pretty crazy, frenetic ending though!


Good old honest blues drives “Wish me well”, great organ and powerful piano with a really strong vocal; like this one a lot. And “Rambling on”, with its slow blues balladry and growling guitar. Just great. Nothing bad so far. Things stay slow then for “Magdalene (My regal zonophone)” with a slow militaristic drumbeat and some bright organ before we move into the suite. Somewhat like The Moody Blues on Days of Future Passed, it opens with a spoken passage while some spacey synth holds court in the background. Sitar coming through then a nice slow piano passage with choral vocals, which give way to another spoken passage.


A madcap carnival beat then for the second part, “'twas teatime at the circus”, very psychedelic, while “In the autumn of my madness” is total prog, with big booming synth and a great vocal, guitars slicing across the melody too, then it gets really dark and menacing with a stomping, marching beat driven on bass and piano with the guitar painting its strokes across the music, before this breaks down into a melancholic piano passage. “Look to your soul” is the fourth movement of the piece and brings it all down to earth, heavy percussion kicking in before the big finale brings it all to a close in fine style, making this the second PH album that has seriously impressed me.



Favourite track(s): Everything.

Least favourite track(s): Nothing.

Overall impression: Really loved this album, and given what happened with the Nice on ALVB I thought maybe it might be pushing it for this to be as good as their debut, but it outshines (sorry, again) even that. Just brilliant. I look forward to hearing more of their material, and can certainly say this is a great example of a proto-prog rock record, a formula many other bands would follow in the years to come.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 20 2016 at 13:16
It's a return to Canterbury next, (sounds like something out of Chaucer, eh? No? Have it your way, then...) though this is the first time we've featured, or even heard, this band, who were very instrumental in the Canterbury scene. Formed out of members of already-mentioned The Wilde Flowers, who didn't release any albums and who also spawned previously featured Caravan, Soft Machine (who at this point, rather like Barrett, Waters, Wright and Mason had the definite article before their name and were therefore known as The Soft Machine till the next year) pioneered much of what would become known as jazz fusion, and would go on to perhaps explore the excesses that would dog progressive rock later through bands such as ELP and Yes, with side-long suites on their albums. A side effect of one of the band members being refused re-entry into the UK later would be that another classic psychedelic/prog band would be born, under the name of Gong.

Soft Machine's self-titled first album was, however, restrained in comparison to later efforts, and the longest song on it runs for just over seven minutes, though I'm reliably informed that live versions of another track, “We did it again” could often run to three-quarters of an hour. You sit through that, you're either dedicated or stoned out of your brain. You choose.


Album title: The Soft Machine

Artiste: (The) Soft Machine

Nationality: British

Label: ABC Probe

Year: 1968

Grade: A

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Zero

The Trollheart Factor: 0

Landmark value: One of the progenitors of the Canterbury Scene, and giving birth also to Gong, the impact of Soft Machine upon progressive rock, and psychedelic rock too, can't really be overstated.

Tracklisting: Hope for happiness/Joy of a toy/Hope for happiness reprise/Why am I so short/So boot if at all/ A certain kind/ Save yourself/ Priscilla/Lullabye letter/We did it again/Plus belle qu'une poubelle/Why are we sleeping/Box 25/4 lid

Comments: Can't say I'm sold on Robert Wyatt's vocals; sort of like a low drawl or something. The music's good, pretty penetrating bass and as expected plenty of wild keyboard going on, but I'm not really buying into it just at this point. “Joy of a toy” is much better, love the phased guitar (look, I'm not a guitarist ok? It sounds phased or some sort of effect to me) and Kevin Ayers' slick bass really drives the tune too. Almost a settling down after the somewhat directionless opener. Like this a lot, very laidback. The reprise of the opener drags it all back down though, but at least it's only short.


You can really hear the jazz influences on “Why am I so short”, but despite that (!) I like it. “So boot if at all” (huh?) suffers from that other bugbear of mine, extended drum solos and I feel it too meanders all over the place and is way too long at over seven minutes. Some nice ideas but it's not too cohesive. The organ on “A certain kind” is just gorgeous, however the vocals are so low in the mix I almost can't hear them (I'm never quite sure if this is a fault in my amp, but I've been able to hear the vox on the rest of the tracks okay so I'll say no) then “Save yourself” is much harsher, again organ-driven but very sharp, though at least I can hear the vocals this time. Good enough song to be fair. “Priscilla” is a neat little keyboard workout that works well, instrumental again and it slides right into “Lullabye letter”, which I also like a lot. Interestingly, this track is nothing like the ballad I would have expected; it's quite frenetic really and has some powerful keys in it.


I've been prepared for this from reading about it, but it's still odd to find that “We did it again” is not even basically, but literally, just those four words repeated against pretty much the same melody all through its three minutes and forty-six second run. Different certainly, but I wonder how many people would listen to that for forty-five minutes without being high? Even stranger: this is the first track on which Ayers takes vocal duties, but what can you do with four words? Hard to gauge his performance, and he's only on one other track here. The next one up is just over a minute, with a French title which I can't translate, (either beauty or something, maybe) but it seems to be more or less just an extension of the musical idea within “We did it again”, then “Why are we sleeping?” gives Ayers a chance to sing properly.


Except he speaks. Ah. Great organ line underpinning the melody I must say. A few piano notes then ends the album. Overall I think I liked this more than I hated it, but so far not a fan.


Favourite track(s): Joy of a toy, A certain kind, Priscilla, Lullabye letter, Why are we sleeping

Least favourite track(s): Hope for happiness, So boot if at all

Overall impression: You have to give credit to Soft Machine for their legacy, and this is a decent album, but it hasn't made me want to listen to the rest of their stuff just yet. Still, there are some interesting ideas on it that I'm sure they expanded on, so I'll file this under “may grow to like” and see how we do as the years go on and we move further into the history of progressive rock. For now...

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 20 2016 at 13:09
And so we go back to The Nice. When I reviewed their debut I was unexpectedly impressed. Is this likely to continue with the release of their second album, which featured one of those side-long suites, the title track in fact? This second outing also features Keith Emerson stepping out a little from behind the keyboard and taking on some vocal duties, which is in itself a little odd as once he joined ELP he just played and never sang. Maybe this album will underline why?


Album title: Ars Longa Vita Brevis

Artiste: The Nice

Nationality: British

Label: Immediate

Year: 1968

Grade: B

Previous Experience of this Artiste: see the review of their debut

The Trollheart Factor: 2

Landmark value: I guess again, pretty much seen as a precursor to ELP, so significant in that regard and again, one of the albums that pushed both keyboard and classical influences more to the forefront than they had previously been.

Tracklisting: Daddy where did I come from/ Little Arabella/ Happy freuds/ Intermezzo from the Karelia suite/ Don Edito el Gruva/Ars Long vita brevis: (i) Prelude – 1st movement: Awakening (ii) 2nd movement: Realisation (iii) 3rd movement: Acceptance “Brandenburger” (iv) 4th movement: Denial (v) Coda: Extension to the big note/

Comments: Apparently this album in some versions features “America” but as I've covered that on the debut (even if it's shown as “2nd movement" and may be a little different; the joke has worn thin now) and it's not on my copy we kick off on “Daddy where did I come from?” which has a sort of uptempo rocky Doors feel to it, certainly Emerson at centre stage again, no surprise there. Sounds like some sort of taped effects there being used: I could be wrong but I think only The Beatles had done that up to now. It's okay but a bit meh. “Little Arabella” is quite annoying, just a basic rock track with not too much in the way of keyboard though there's some nice piano. I do hear the orchestra they're using this time out though. Super bass line but I'm not terribly impressed overall so far.


Okay well I see why he wasn't invited to sing in ELP. Emerson is not a good singer. I know he's putting it on a bit here in “Little Freuds” but it doesn't work, not for me. Great keyboard work of course as ever, but again overall I'm pretty disappointed with this album at this point. I don't know the classical piece “Intermezzo from Karelia Suite” by Sibelius, but I must admit The Nice's version of it here is the best I've heard on this album so far ... oh wait, I do know it. Just didn't know that was the title. Nice stuff. The percussion really adds something. So after a tiny little totally pointless “track” we get to the suite.


Starts off well, big intro, though the titles seem a little skewed. If it's meant to be a cycle of life/death, doesn't denial come before acceptance? Anyway, hopefully this is where the album begins a decent upswing. Well after the intro the first movement is mostly percussion and has a nice kind of mechanical feel, titled as it is “Awakening” I can see how that works. It might be a shade too long though. As I think I already mentioned, but it's fun to do so again, the “Bad News” comedy strip put it best: “He did a twenty-minute drum solo. Would have been longer, but I can't stand drum solos.” I don't think most people can. I know for me personally they get boring after a few minutes and this really drags on and on and on, nearly six minutes of pretty much the same thing. I'm sure if you're a drummer you can appreciate it, for me it's just tedious.


I can hear where Rush would pick up their early influences in the second movement, with a good driving guitar and keyboard combo, but oddly enough it has vocals; for some reason I thought this whole thing would be instrumental. Shows what I know, huh? I guess the third movement then uses Bach's Brandenburg concerto as a basis, given the subtitle. Pretty cool all right. Fourth movement rocks pretty well but is again just really a showcase for Emerson's flamboyance. I think this would have worked better overall without the vocal part. Not bad though



Favourite track(s): Intermezzo from the Karelia Suite, Ars Longa vita brevis (most of it)

Least favourite track(s): /i]Everything else really

Overall impression: Meh. Nowhere near as impressed with this as I was with the debut. Kind of confused as to where it wants to go: first side is basic rock while side two is a classical suite. Confusing.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2016 at 17:48

So far we've dealt mainly with bands I either know and like, or have no experience of, but now we come to one I know, and do not like. I have never been able to get into Jethro Tull's particular mix of prog rock and semi-medieval music; it just never sat well with me, and unless there is a real miracle during this journal I doubt it ever will. Nevertheless, they're a big player in the subgenre and so must be covered.


Another of the British bands formed out of grammar school friends, Jethro Tull initially began as a blues band, but when frontman Ian Anderson feared he was in danger of being squeezed out of the limelight by the lead guitarist, as he could not play as well, he switched to a more interesting instrument, and so became th focus of the band as he cavorted madly onstage playing a flute. Few other bands at this time featured this instrument, so it was a good gimmick and certainly earned them rave reviews.


Their first album, like the debuts of many of the bands featured here, was a far cry from the music they would become known for. Based more on blues standards and covers, it would be another year before they would make it big with their second album hitting the number one spot, although this did make a very respectable showing at number ten.

Album title: This was

Artiste: Jethro Tull

Nationality: British

Label: Island

Year: 1968

Grade: C

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Very little. I've heard a few singles and the album Heavy horses which was ok.

The Trollheart Factor: 2

Landmark value: As a band pushing the envelope by including folk music and medieval themes in their music, Jethro Tull stood out as something very different, but also polarising: you either loved them or hated them. Guess where I stood? Also, for years I thought Ian Anderson's name was Jethro Tull...!

Tracklisting: My Sunday feeling/ Some day the sun won't shine for you/ Beggar's farm/ Move on alone/ Serenade to a cuckoo/ Dharma for one/ it's breaking me up/ Cat's squirrel/ Song for Jeffrey/ Round

Comments: I'm not quite sure what it is I dislike about this band. Yes I am. It's the flute. I've never been a big fan of flutes in general, and the overuse of it on Jethro Tull's music sets my teeth on edge. I'm also not a fan of Anderson's style of singing, which really makes me feel that he is putting on a country bumpkin act: maybe he isn't but that's how it always seemed to me. Not crazy about their agricultural themes either. In fact, if there was any way I could not call this prog rock and avoid including it I would, but they're part of the fabric of what grew to be progressive rock, and so I have to look into them. Doesn't mean I have to like it. I don't.


Actually this probably is not the best album to start with, but there are apparently prog rock influences on it, unlike with The Moody Blues' debut, so for better or worse here we go. Well the bloody flute is right in your face from the first chord, but it almost sounds incongruous against the pretty basic blues music in the opener. Nice bit of Waits-style bass near the end, is about as much as I can take from that. Pretty bleh really; at least the next one up has a cool harmonica and a nice slow blues vibe, but adding a flute onto that does not, for me, make it prog rock or anything close. “Beggar's farm” has a kind of early Fleetwood Mac/Supertramp feel to it, and at least the flute has been dialled back.



“Move on alone” is the only song Jethro Tull played, apparently, on which someone other than Anderson sings, and to be honest it's okay but again, it's not prog, not to me. Sounds pretty dated really, though the guitar on it is good. Very short too, which is not something you can say of their cover of “Serenade for a cuckoo”, which is - oh no! - a jazz standard. Now, I may be going on out a limb here, but I expect to hate this. It doesn't help that it's flute-driven. Ugh. Like some of the worst wallpaper/elevator music I've ever had to sit through. And it's six f**king minutes long! Well it did nothing for me as expected, and flute leading in the next track doesn't help either. Sigh.



For me, Jethro Tull succeed best - on this album anyway - when they stick to the slow blues boogies, as in “It's breaking me up”, with again the return of that harmonica and little or no flute, but then I guess I have to take that back as “Cat's squirrel” is fast and uptempo and great fun. But then again, it's a cover. And there's no flute. Most importantly, there is no flute. Did I mention there's no flute? God I hate that flute. And it's back for “A song for Jeffrey”, leaving its annoying fingermarks on the last instrumental track. Bah!

Favourite track(s): Some day the sun won't shine for you, Beggar's farm

Least favourite track(s): Serenade for a cuckoo, Dharma for one

Overall impression: Okay, as I said this is not a typical JT album, sure, but it has not done anything to change my opinion on them. That however will really have to wait till I review a “proper” Tull offering I guess. For now though, this does not come across to me as prog in any way, shape or form and with hindsight I probably should have omitted it and gone straight to their second album. Still, as it made them very popular I guess it has to have a decent Legacy Rating at least.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2016 at 15:18
I remember seeing an interview somewhere where Fripp said that, by the time GG&F got their first royalty checks for the album, it has only sold about 600 copies. Also, if you have the chance, look at The Brondesbury Tapes, which has outtakes for a lost second album.

For We're Only In It For The Money, I suspect Pink Floyd listened to this record at one point and took some of its elements when they made Dark Side Of The Moon. Listen to "Telephone Conversation" or any of the spoken bits and try not to think of the spoken bits in Dark Side or the sound effects like the car horns in "Chrome..." and not think of the barrage of clocks in "Time" or the cash registers in "Money". And that's not getting into how both records have all their songs flow into one another. 
He looks at this world and wants it all... so he strikes, like Thunderball!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2016 at 15:14
Although there is some debate as to what exactly defined the musical movement known as “The Canterbury Scene”, it seems to have originated with The Wilde Flowers, who later segmented into both Soft Machine and Caravan, two bands who were very prominent in, and founder members of the scene. Rather than being a particular type of music, the Canterbury Scene appears to have been a sort of fluid group of musicians who would migrate from bands to band (progressive rock gypsies?) and who began in, or played basically around the area of Canterbury in Kent, in the south of England. I may end up doing a full article on this later, but right now I mention them mostly because I'm about to listen to the debut album from one of those main driving influences in what became known as The Canterbury Scene.


Album title: Caravan

Artiste: Caravan

Nationality: English

Label: Decca

Year: 1968

Grade: A

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Zero

The Trollheart Factor: 0

Landmark value: Seen as one of the founding members of The Canterbury Scene, fusing psychedelia, jazz and classical with the emerging prog rock.

Tracklisting: Place of my own/ Ride/ Policeman/ Love song with flute/ Cecil Rons/ Magic man/ Grandma's lawn/ Where but for Caravan would I?

Comments: You can hear the whimsicality spoken of in the piece on TCS as soon as the album opens, and I'm glad to say there are plenty of keys - never really consider a band totally prog without a few keyboards - musicianship is excellent as demonstrated by the instrumental break that takes most of the latter part of “Place of my own”, vocals from Pye Hastings are very easy on the ear and you can hear where Supertramp were going to tread later. “Ride” begins in much the same vein, soft and gentle before the guitar crashes through and another extended instrumental kicks off. I like the mix of a very easy, relaxed vocal with harder guitars and crashing drums, though I hear little keyboard here. It's all over “Policeman” though, honking and trumpeting in a somewhat Beatles-style tune, some great organ pounding its way sonorously through the tune, which appears to be the first full instrumental.


“Love song with a flute” is a slow ballad, as you might expect, with warbling keys and, well, flute, a nice sort of echoey vocal on it. Ramps up a little, rather unexpectedly, halfway through, the organ coming in much more forcefully (yes, yes, tee-hee) then “Cecil Rons” is the first one that sounds not only psych but also sort of threatening, ominous with a staccato drumbeat and kind of warped keyboard line. Little unsettling, almost seems out of place beside the rest of the album so far. “Magic man” is a really nice laidback folky style song with acoustic guitar and some nice organ work, very relaxing. Man. “Grandma's lawn” is pretty trippy, with the vocal again buried deep in the mix so that it sounds like it's being sung at the bottom of a well or something; great keyboard line, and then the closer is a nine-minute monster.


A soft gentle guitar line opens “Where but for Caravan would I” with an equally gentle vocal in a slow ballad with rising organ then kicks up with a good instrumental break carried mostly by said organ. It finishes well but is I feel overlong.



Favourite track(s): Place of my own, Ride, Policeman, Love song with a flute, Magic man

Least favourite track(s): Grandma's garden, Cecil Rons

Overall impression: A very good album but I would venture to think they have better. Not a bad introduction though into this Canterbury Scene stuff.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2016 at 14:47
I already admitted I'm one of those rare prog heads who has never heard King Crimson, and therefore I have of course no experience whatever of Giles, Giles and Fripp, but this is the band in which founder and driving force behind KC Robert Fripp cut his musical teeth, so it's certainly expedient that we feature one of their albums. Their only album, in fact. GG&F later more or less metamorphosed into King Crimson with the departure of Peter Giles and his replacement in Greg Lake. Anectodatal evidence says this album sold a mere five hundred copies.

Album title: The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp

Artiste: Giles, Giles and Fripp

Nationality: British

Label: Deram

Year: 1968

Grade: C

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Zero

The Trollheart Factor: 0

Landmark value: Other than being the springboard to the formation of King Crimson, I don't really think it's seen as having any particular landmark value, though if it sold as few copies as they say then it's probably highly sought-after now and a collector's item.

Tracklisting: North meadow/ newly-weds/ One in a million/ Call tomorrow/ Digging my lawn/ Little children/ The crukster/ Thursday morning/ How do they know/ Elephant song/ The sun is shining/ Suite number 1/ Erudite eyes

Comments: Well I guess being such a rarity, it's hard to find. Spotify has not got it, nor has Grooveshark, and even YouTube, when it does have it, tells me I can't watch it. c**ts. Anyway, I've cobbled it together from loose tracks so let's see how we go. “North meadow” sounds like a cross between a seventies soul song and the theme to some cop series, but then the vocals come in and it's very sixties, very psychedelic. Interestingly, it mentions “Willow Grove Farm”, which would make you wonder was Genesis's “Willow Farm” on “Supper's ready” influenced by that? Nice horns and organs, and right away you can hear the guitar technique and expertise for which Fripp would become famous. “Newly-weds” initially rides on a nice bassline but is very reminiscent of “She's leaving home” by The Beatles, while “One in a million” is a quaint little English folk song in which you can hear echoes of The Kinks. Nice cello, and I can hear where Neil Hannon would get some of his inspiration nearly twenty years later.


“Call tomorrow” is a dour, bleak piece on slow piano with a kind of acapella section, then “Digging my lawn” gets back to the mid-tempo folky material, again a really nice bassline, and “Little children”, the first of only three tracks on the album written by Fripp, keeps this basic idea going though it's a little faster of a tempo. I can't find “The Crukster”, so next up is “Thursday morning”, with again very much a Beatles feel to it, slow cello and violin, very nice. More uptempo and cheery really is “How do they know”, really reminds me of Dionne Warwick's “Walk on by” in places. Yes, I know you hate it when I do that. Not going to stop though. “Elephant song” has more brass to it and kind of a mix of folk with a bit of jazz and psych thrown in. There's a certain Celtic feel to it too, and I think it may be an instrumental, the first yet on the album. Like the sudden false stops during the piece. Some smooth harmonica too. Cute, if a little repetitive.


Can't find “The sun is shining”, so it's on to the classical-infused second instrumental and second of three Fripp-penned tunes, both of the last of which close the album, “Suite No. 1”. Some excellent piano here, then it breaks down into a lovely slow strings passage with hummed choral vocals; really quite lovely and certainly my favourite on the album. The third movement as such then comes on what sounds like harpsichord and guitar, sort of reminds me of early Sky (yes, yes! I know...) before it bursts into a fast bass run that takes it the rest of the way with ticking percussion, bringing in bright piano as the piece heads towards its conclusion, with an odd little spoken word snippet at the end, sort of ruins it for me. The final track then is Fripp's other solo written piece and it's called “Erudite eyes”. It's okay, and I hear where the likes of Eric Woolfson and Colin Blunstone may have been influenced by this album, but I much prefer the previous track and think that would have been a better closer.



Favourite track(s): There's nothing I really hate here but little I love either, other than Suite No. 1, which really stands out for me.

Least favourite track(s): As above

Overall impression: A pleasant little album; nothing bad about it but nothing revolutionary or groundbreaking either. Kind of neutral on it. As a precursor to King Crimson it has to be afforded respect, but I wasn't crazy about it. Still, as Monty Burns once said, I know what I hate, and I don't hate this.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2016 at 14:16
As the Moody Blues left behind the r&b style their first album had featured and began developing their own version of what would become progressive rock, their third album would retain the idea of the concept, this one following a basic theme of travelling, and would also continue their use of orchestral music, though in this case as mentioned above they would play the instruments themselves rather than hire an orchestra. Bringing in instruments like the sitar and the tabla gave this album a more eastern feel, fitting in with the idea of travelling to strange countries and making it more cosmopolitan than most albums out at the time. In a departure from the previous album though, this one has no multi-part suites, and the longest two tracks clock in at less than seven minutes each.


Album title: In Search of the Lost Chord

Artiste: The Moody Blues

Nationality: British

Label: Deram Records

Year: 1968

Grade: B

Previous Experience of this Artiste: see entry on Days of Future Passed

The Trollheart Factor: 4

Landmark value: I don't see a huge landmark value here to be honest. The use of the ethnic instruments is interesting, and it's another concept album, but why it would be rated above Days of Future Passed I would be hard pressed to say.

Tracklisting: Departure/Ride my see-saw/ Dr. Livingston, I presume/ House of four doors/ Legend of a mind/ House of four doors (part 2)/ Voices in the sky/ The best way to travel/ Visions of Paradise/ The Actor/ The Word/ Om

Comments: “Departure” is a short, forty-five second spoken word piece with rising guitar line pulling it right into “Ride my see-saw”, which I do know. It's a psychedelic rock song, uptempo with a great melody, very catchy. Great vocal harmonies, which would of course become one of the hallmarks of the Moodys. “Dr. Livingston, I presume” is a little Beatles-y I feel, bit vapid, but “House of four doors” is much better, with an ethic, dramatic feel, a slower track that still pops along nicely. Some nice flute from Mike Pinder. Pretty nice harpsichord too. “Legend of a mind” really reminds me of ELO, and yes, again, I know they weren't going at that point. Really slick little hypnotic bass line in this. Lot of stuff about Timothy Leary, in whom I have no interest. Good song though.


“House of four doors (Part 2)” is a slow kind of reprise which reminds me of the Everly Brothers, not mad about it but it's short. The other track I know then is “Voices in the sky”, which features some really nice acoustic guitar and the vocals of Justin Hayward. “The best way to travel” is also acoustic. I have to say, generally I'm not as impressed with this album as I was with the previous one. Not too much of the prog rock in it I feel. Okay, there's some nice kind of spacey keyboard here so it's not bad, but it's still not what I'd call a prog powerhouse or anything close to it. “Visions of Paradise” is a lovely little flute-driven ballad with acoustic guitar, very pastoral and relaxing; you can really hear the sitar here too.


Oh, I forgot: I know “The Actor” too. Nice boppy mid-tempo piece, kind of skips along nicely with again Justin on vocals, then there's another spoken word piece, almost completely unaccompanied, titled, appropriately enough, “The word”, which then leads into the closer, “Om”. It's very Indian, with plenty of sitar and tabla, good vocal harmonies and a very decent closer to what is, I must admit, not the greatest album. Expected a lot more. Bitchin' album sleeve though!



Favourite track(s): Ride my see-saw, House of four doors, Voices in the sky, Visions of Paradise, The Actor, Om

Least favourite track(s): Dr. Livingston, I presume

Overall impression: After “Days of Future Passed I was hoping for a continuation, something at least as good. I find this album something of a minor disappointment if I'm honest.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2016 at 14:09
There's no question that certain bands who came out of the progressive rock movement went on to do really well, some phenomenally so, but for every winner there is a loser, and for every band that made it big there are hundreds or more littered across the motorways of music history like trash jettisoned from passing cars; bands who, while successful for a time, never quite made it and faded away, often leaving just one or two albums - sometimes less - for them to be remembered by. The recently-reviewed The United States of America are one such case, and it could probably be said that Family are another.

Although the British band flourished for longer than their American counterpart - they lasted from 1967 to 1973 and put out a total of seven albums in that time - they have become equally forgotten, for the most part. While bands like Yes, Genesis, ELP, Rush, Camel, Floyd and The Moody Blues have hammered in their own personal stars on the progressive rock version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, bands like Family, while remembered fondly by some, could probably be compared, in the above analogy, to the bit-part actors who look at the stars' names enviously and wish they were alongside them. Not that, to my knowledge, there is any animosity or jealousy directed at the bigger prog bands by anyone who played with Family, but it must hurt, to some degree.


Album title: Music in a Doll's House

Artiste: Family

Nationality: British

Label:

Year: 1968

Grade: Uh, D?

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Zero

The Trollheart Factor: 0

Landmark value: Seen as one of the defining psychedelic albums of the time.

Tracklisting: The chase/ Mellowing grey/ Never like this/ Me my friend/ Variations on a theme of “Hey policeman!”/ Winter/ Old songs new songs/ Variations on a theme of “The Breeze”/ Hey policeman/ See through windows/ Variations on a theme of “Me my friend”/ Peace of mind/ Voyage/ The Breeze/ 3 x time

Comments: First it's like hearing Deep Purple with a big Gillan-like scream, then vocalist Roger Chapman sounds just like Peter Gabriel! Weird! Nice flutey sounds there with warbling mellotron, then the next track seems to be an acoustic one. Chapman's vocals are very tremelo or vibrato, whatever: sounds like someone's hitting him on the back as he sings. This song reminds me of the early stuff I've heard from The Moody Blues. As does the next one. The saxophones and touches of jazz nod towards VDGG too.


Nice bit of harmonica in “Old songs new songs” and it rocks along nicely, but I must say I'm being possessed by an overwhelming case of don't-give-a-f**k here: I just can't seem to care about any of the music here. It just ain't gripping me. Actually I take that back: that last track was good. What was it called? Oh yeah: “Old songs new songs”. Good stuff. The next track, “Hey Mr. Policeman”, is good too: has some heart about it. Again love the harmonica. Still, of all the albums I've listened to for 1968 so far, this is the one I've been the least interested in, the one that's just boring me. I said at the beginning that I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to include this, and I'm still not sure. I can see the influence on prog rock to an extent, but mostly it's just standard rock with jazz and some hippy sh*te again. Not very impressed really. Oh well, at least it's nearly over.

Favourite track(s): Old songs new songs, Hey Mr. Policeman

Least favourite track(s): Wasn't really bothered enough to be listening to most of the rest.

Overall impression: A big fat meh.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2016 at 13:53
Being a child of the seventies, it was through albums like The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon that I got into Pink Floyd, and to be honest I never had too much time for, or interest in, their previous, more psychedelic albums. For me, Floyd began with Waters and Gilmour, not Waters and Barrett, and from what I knew of the latter, and backed up by what I've read since, he only held the band back and put them in an impossible situation where they had to first cover for him and then make the difficult decision to part company with him. I don't have much time for “troubled genius”, especially when the problems of same are so usually rooted in the inevitable addictions. To me, this just seems weak and an excuse to abrogate your responsibilities as an artiste, and while many have managed to - at least for a while - make the two work together and have often created their best work through the association with drugs or alcohol - or both - eventually it seems to me that it's a self-destructive path which, once you're on you have little hope of ever returning from. That is of course only my personal opinion, and I readily accept that I have no experience myself, or have dealt with anyone trapped by an addiction; also, the above relates specifically to music artistes, before you all start calling me a cruel heartless b*****d.

All that said, there's no question that it was albums like Piper at the Gates of Dawn and this one that got Floyd originally noticed, and so they should not, cannot and will not be pushed into the dark recesses of the history of prog rock; I will not pretend they don't exist and I won't look down my nose at them, but neither to me really represent the Floyd I grew up on and came to love. At the time of their second album though, the association with Barrett was grinding to a juddering and uneasy halt, and Dave Gilmour was brought in initially to help out, for those times when Barrett didn't feel like or couldn't contribute, whether in the studio or onstage. He worked out so well that before the album was even completed Gilmour was already seen as the fourth member of what was technically a quintet at the time, and Barrett and Pink Floyd soon parted ways. Though they wrote tributes to him on later albums, and he arrived at the studio once to watch them play (so completely unrecognisable that the band members took some time to realise it was him) Barrett was never again involved in Floyd and though he attempted a solo career it floundered, after which he basically retired from music. Floyd, of course, would go from strength to strength, achieving world domination status, but always touched by the inner sadness that their friend could not share it with them, and be part of it.


Album title: A Saucerful of Secrets

Artiste: Pink Floyd

Nationality: British

Label: EMI

Year: 1968

Grade: A

Previous Experience of this Artiste: See entry on Piper at the Gates of Dawn

The Trollheart Factor: 7

Landmark value: Although not the sort of Floyd I was used to, this album did feature Gilmour for the first time, led to the departure of Barrett and set the stage for the proper coming of Pink Floyd.

Tracklisting: Let there be more light/ Remember a day/ Set the controls for the heart of the sun/ Corporal Clegg/ A saucerful of secrets (i)Something else (ii) Syncopated pandemonium (iii) Storm signal (iv) Celestial voices (iv)

Comments: It's kind of like something out of Vangelis's playbook as we start off, with a racing, pulsing synth and bass running things, a sound like a sitar occasionally coming through though I doubt they used one at this point, then it breaks down into what would later become a fairly recognised Floyd melody before the vocals from Roger Waters start. My first thought is that this is a lot more what I would call progressive rock than the previous, debut album, and this may be reflected in the fact that Waters writes or co-writes every track here bar two, one being the closer. There's little of the folk/hippies aspect of Piper to this, so far, that album having been largely led I assume by Barrett and the way he wanted the band to go.


Good interplay between the guitar and keys here, though in fairness as both Gilmour and Barrett played on the album I can't say who it is on the frets. “Remember a day” has a timeless, spacey feel to it with some fine piano work from Wright. The vocal is very sparse, only a few words all through the whole thing, almost making of it an instrumental, then I and everyone else know the superb “Set the controls for the heart of the sun”, a song which would go on to be included in their stage set for years, even decades to come, and which really put them in the frame as a space-rock band. With almost Ray Manzarekesque keys sort of low in the background, the vocals also hushed, the whole thing giving a sense of dark, gripping tension, danger and a feel of adventure about it.


“Corporal Clegg” then is the first really out-and-out rock track, sort of sounds like Beatles/Kinks. Not crazy about it, but it does highlight what would go on to become recognisable as the famous Floyd vocal harmonies that would surface on albums from Dark Side onwards. I guess it's fun, I just don't dig it as much as the other tracks I've heard so far. Then we're into the three-part suite that makes up the title track. Again, it's spacey, a bit unnerving in ways and very psychedelic. Could sort of see it having been the theme to a horror movie maybe. Probably gets a little improvisational for me: I can see this being repeated on the side-long “Echoes” on Meddle. I wasn't crazy about a lot of that. Much of this is discordant piano notes and weird synth noises; not really for me. It's a bit long too, at nearly twelve minutes. Actually, the end section is really good --- “Celestial voices”?


“See saw”, the only track written by Rick Wright, is really nice, has a sense of seventies ELO about it. Yes, I know that should be the other way around. Really like this. Nice gentle ballad which, actually now I think about it, really reminds of the Alan Parsons Project. Shut up. The only Barrett song then is the closer, “Jugband blues”, which I expected not to like and don't: it's more of the psych/hippy sh*t I didn't enjoy on much of Piper.



Favourite track(s): Let there be more light, Remember a day, Set the controls for the heart of the sun, Seesaw

Least favourite track(s): A saucerful of secrets, Jugband blues

Overall impression: A far better album than Piper, one that points the way towards the direction Floyd were going in and certainly an album more deserving of the term “progressive rock” than its predecessor.

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Edited by Trollheart - November 19 2016 at 14:01
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2016 at 13:41
One of the original protest bands or just a bunch of hippies who hated America, or at least the establishment of the time? Don't ask me: I never even heard of the United States of America until now (simmer down, Trump! I'm talking about the band, not the country! Don't you have a wall to build?) but I have heard them spoken of, so at least one person will get enjoyment out of this article. A band who had only the one, self-titled album and then split up over tensions mostly created by having to work with the founder and driving force of the band, Joseph Byrd. Drugs, you'll be unsurprised to learn, also featured in the difficulties. Their one album is however remembered fondly. Why? Let's see.


Album title: The United States of America

Artiste: The United States of America

Nationality: American (duh!)

Label: Columbia

Year: 1968

Grade: B

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Zero

The Trollheart Factor: 0

Landmark value: As an early exponent of experimental and electronic music, the album is afforded a place in the history of progressive rock, and indeed, later electronic music.

Tracklisting: The American metaphysical circus/ Hard coming love/ Cloud song/ The garden of earthly delights/ I won't leave my wooden wife for you, sugar/ Where is yesterday/ Coming down/ Love song for the dead Che/ Stranded in time/ The American way of love (i) Metaphor for an older man (ii) California good time music (iii) Love is all

Comments: The opening is very annoying and disorienting, as various instruments and tracks vie for the same ear: I hear an organ, a carnival sound, marching bands, all meshing together and crossing over one another. Too much, man! But once it settles down it's a nice slow psych ballad with a great organ driving it. I hear too much of The Doors in “Hard coming love” though it's a decent enough song; like the change to female vocals. “Cloud song” is nice and pastoral, not sure if they're being ironic here or not but it's a lovely little tune.


Some pretty cool effects in “The garden of earthly delights”, especially when you consider they couldn't afford a decent synth (20K for a Moog?) and it has a nice hippie vibe to it,while “I won't leave my wooden wife for you, sugar” (?) is like a blues tune mixed with a traditional folk song. Weird but in a good way. “Coming down” sounds like some sort of Gregorian chant. Sorry, that must be “Where is yesterday” as “Coming down” rocks along like a good thing. I really like “Love song for dead Che”; lovely organ melody in it, almost Carpenters-like. “Stretched in time” is pure Beatles, really like it too. Quite surprised with how I ended up liking this. Pretty cool to the max really.


Favourite track(s): Cloud song, The garden of earthly delights, Coming down, I won't leave my wooden wife for you, sugar, Love song for dead Che, Stretched in time

Least favourite track(s):

Overall impression: Considering how it started I'm surprised to say I really enjoyed this once it got going.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2016 at 13:36
Okay, well starting at the top I guess we're stuck with Zappa again. It's funny: from the few albums sleeves of his I had seen I somehow had a feeling I would not like his music, and while this is certainly not a good basis upon which to form an opinion of a band, my original impressions do seem to have been borne out here, because anything I've listened to from him has either been meh or too off the charts for me. I don't quite get (though I'm sure others will explain, probably in some detail and with eyes rolling) his contribution to progressive rock. I have of course yet to listen to this album, but from what I've read about it it seems it will be the same sort of mishmash of sounds, effects, words, tapings and other assorted oddities that make up the likes of Beefheart's fearful Trout Mask Replica and which indeed informed the second half of Zappa's Freak out! If that's the case, I don't really see how that applies to progressive rock.

Nevertheless, many artistes prominent in the subgenre have stated him as an influence, and I guess it must be accepted that he was part of the push towards a more experimental, loose and improvisational attitude towards music, turning away from the basic rock and roll of the late fifties/early sixties and incorporating elements of jazz, blues, soul and the emerging psychedelia into compositions. The title of this blog is I know what I like, and I know what I don't, but in fairness I can't just listen to what I like here. This is the history of progressive rock, and there will undoubtedly be bands and artistes in there that I don't care for, but who will have to be reviewed and spoken of anyway. Guess "the Big Z" is one of those. Let's get this over with then.


Released as, as mentioned above, a kind of anti-Sgt Peppers, The Mothers' second album featured a lot of instrumental music which appeared on Zappa's solo effort, Lumpy Gravy, which I had originally intended to cover but then backed out of (chicken gravy?), and both are seen as part of a trilogy, completed by Cruising with Ruben and the Jets, released at the end of the year, all to be tied together under the banner title of No Commercial Potential. Indeed.


Album title: We're only in it for the money

Artiste: The Mothers of Invention

Nationality: American

Label: Verve

Year: 1968

Grade: C

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Freak Out!

The Trollheart Factor: 1

Landmark value: Seen to be striking a blow against what was becoming to be seen as the overcommercialisation of music, and specifically against The Beatles, it's seen as a landmark album. I'll reserve judgement until I've heard it.

Tracklisting: Are you hung up?/ Who needs the Peace Corps?/ Concentration Moon/ Mom and dad/ Telephone conversation/ Bow tie daddy/ Harry, you're a beast/ What's the ugliest part of your body?/ Absolutely free/ Flower punk/ Hot poop/ Nasal retentive calliope music/ Let's make the water turn black/ The idiot b*****d son/ Lonely little girl/ Take your clothes off when you dance/ What's the ugliest part of your body? (Reprise)/ Mother people/ The chrome plated megaphone of destiny

Comments: Okay, so the usual spoken-word nonsense I've come to associate Zappa and to a lesser extent Beefheart with gets us under way, not exactly helping my attempts to be unbiased towards this album. At least there's music for the second track, and you can certainly see where they're sl*g.ing off the Fab Four here. Hey you know it's not bad. Like the humour: ”I will love everybody/ I will love the police/ As they're kicking the sh*t out of me.” “Concentration moon” is decent too, as is “Mom and dad”. This is a lot more, um, musical than I had expected, I must say! “Telephone conversation” is exactly what it says on the tin, which does not surprise me. Seems to be a 911 call though, which is interesting. “Bow tie daddy” is like a twenties song, but I actually like it. Mind you, it's only seconds long.


There's a lovely classical piano intro to “Harry, you're a beast”, and it's a good enough track to be fair. I know they're kind of sl*g.ing off the Beatles and psychedelic pop here, so maybe that's why it sounds so, ah, palatable to me? But either way, it's turning out to me a far more enjoyable experience than I expected. “Flower punk” is funny, ripping off “Hey Joe”, then it's like Vangelis's Beauborg (huh? Educate yourself man!) for “Nasal retentive calliope music” - just weird to the max. Most of the album though is (dare I say it) listenable and decent music. Colour me surprised.



Favourite track(s): (Did not expect to be filling this in at all but as it happens...) Who needs the Peace Corps, Concentration moon, Mom and dad, Harry, you're a beast, Let's make the water turn black, Flower punk, Lonely girl, The idiot b*****d son, Take your clothes off when you dance

Least favourite track(s): (And this is a lot less populated than I expected it to be...) Hot poop, Nasal retentive calliope music, Mother people, The chrome plated megaphone of destiny

Overall impression: A lot of strange sounds but apart from that and the odd backward-masking effect, not at all bad really. I know: I'm surprised too!

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2016 at 13:27
The albums then for 1968 are, to me, something of a disappointment. Not because of the albums themselves, per se, but because with very few exceptions they're just albums by each of the artistes I featured in the previous year, but some of them went on to be very famous and influential. Still, I would of choice have preferred albums from new artistes, but as mentioned in the last entry, some of the bigger acts (Yes, Rush, King Crimson) were only getting together at this point and it would be a year or two later before we would see any material from any of them. As we get further into the seventies I assume new artistes will tend to crop up more often, but as of now, here's what we have to work with.


We're only in it for the money - The Mothers of Invention


Ah, Frank Zappa how I hate you. You and Beefheart seem to epitomise everything I dislike about experimental music, but this album is apparently important, in that it was something of a backlash against another album that had come out the previous year and was heralding the birth of progressive rock itself, The Beatles' Sgt Peppers. I have fears for my sanity when I read about the composition of Zappa's album, but we'll give it a go.


The United States of America - The United States of America


Already mentioned in the piece on the bands formed in 1968, this was the one and only release from this band, so if nothing else I owe it to their memory to listen to it and allow it its place in progressive rock history. Will I regret it? Probably.


A Saucerful of Secrets - Pink Floyd


Floyd's second album heralded the arrival of Dave Gilmour, originally to “prop up” the undependable and increasingly erratic Syd Barrett, though he would fairly quickly replace him as the founder was fired from the band. After this, Waters and Gilmour would solidify their creative control over the band's music and Pink Floyd would begin to head in one direction, with fame and fortune and legendary status beckoning.



Music in a Doll's House - Family


To be honest, I'm not so sure about this one. I know nothing at all about Family and have a feeling they may be more in the psychedelic/hippy mould rather than prog, but I'll include it and see what people think, if anyone cares to advise me. It is in the list of 30 Cosmic Rock Albums, so there's that I guess.


In Search of the Lost Chord - The Moody Blues


Third overall, second progressive rock album by the Moody Blues, another concept record but this time they played all the music themselves rather than use an orchestra. It includes Indian ethic instruments like the tabla and the sitar, and ends on a track that would be immortalised by Lister in the series Red Dwarf: it's called “Om”...


The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp - Giles, Giles and Fripp


Precusor to the mighty King Crimson, how could we not check this one out?


Caravan - Caravan


As already noted above, Caravan would go on to become an integral and driving force of what would come to be known as “The Canterbury Scene”. This was their debut album.




This Was - Jethro Tull

Another band I never personally got, this was (hah!) the debut album from Jethro Tull.


Ars Longa, Vita Brevis --- The Nice


Second album from Keith Emerson's The Nice, who impressed me so surprisingly with their debut effort.



S.F. Sorrow - The Pretty Things


Just getting in under the wire - released in the UK in December 1968 and not until August of the following year 'cross the pond - this is another one I'm not sure about, but it is a concept album so should probably be looked into.



The Soft Machine - Soft Machine


Another band pivotal in the Canterbury Scene, this is the debut album from Soft Machine.



Shine On Brightly - Procol Harum


Continuing their pioneering work in progressive rock, Procol Harum released their second album neat the end of 1968.


So that's our list for 1968. I'll start reviewing them in the next entry. If anyone has comments, thinks I'm missing an album out or wants to offer any advice, you know what to do!


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