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Trollheart's Journey through Prog Rock history

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Topic: Trollheart's Journey through Prog Rock history
Posted By: Trollheart
Subject: Trollheart's Journey through Prog Rock history
Date Posted: November 17 2016 at 14:39



Replies:
Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 17 2016 at 14:54
Although most people who know me would label me a proghead, and they'd be right, the first part of the title above is very appropriate to me: I do know what I like, and I often tend not to venture too far past that. There are a lot of prog rock bands I have never heard, heard of, or refuse to try. I've never heard a Camel album, nothing from Caravan, I know virtually nothing about the Canterbury Scene, have an abiding hatred for ELP and am not crazy about early Yes, though I've heard little. I doubt I've ever heard any Krautrock and King Crimson remain a mystery to me.

These are not good things to admit when you're a proghead, and so I've decided to try to do something about it. The plan here is for me to go chronologically through the development of progressive rock, from its origins (though not too far back: I know some people talk about the Beatles having progressive albums, and Miles Davis, and others; these I won't be touching on, only those who have become or emerged as true progressive rock bands) through its heyday in the seventies to its death and then rebirth in the eighties, bringing in the evolution of progressive metal, and on to the present day, where it continues to enjoy a resurgence and constantly changes and evolves as its name implies.

Although I'm fifty-three this year (oh no!) I only got into what I would class as “my own music” when I was about 15, so that would be 1978, and once I found artistes I liked I tended to stick with them, buying all their albums and occasionally branching out a little, but I was not one who wanted to explore a genre. I found what I liked and I was happy with that. As a result, I could not in any way be said to have a comprehensive knowledge of progressive rock, certainly not a personal one, so for the most part I will have to rely on the recollections of others in order to trace the history of this oft-maligned and misunderstood subgenre of rock. To help me, I will be using mostly two books I have purchased recently, shown below. Why those? Well, to be perfectly honest, I bought my sister a Kindle for Christmas, and then thought of getting one myself I was so impressed with it. But on discovering I could download an app for my phone which would allow me to read Kindle books, a lot of expense was spared and I am now able to read e-books. So rather than wait for books to arrive in the post, I can now just download them and read them right away. Certainly saves time, and often money.



The two shown above, and one other, shown below, are the only real authoritative records I could find on progressive rock, and so I've decided to let them guide my feet on the steps of this journey I'm undertaking. I may look into some online sources too, but only for reference: I do not in any way want to plagiarise anyone's work or rob from their writings, and the books I mention are there for my own information and to allow me fill in the details I don't have or am not aware of. Wikipedia will of course play its part, as it always does in my research. Generally the way I'm going to do it is this:


Going chronologically (what other way would I go, after all?) I'll be looking at the beginnings of the subgenre, noting any important albums along the way and mini-reviewing them. Again, as this is a pretty big undertaking I won't be doing in-depth reviews, but may do a sort of bite-size format or something similar. Any albums I'm aware of, have heard or know will be noted and spoken about, and here I will bring to bear any personal knowledge or insights or memories that are appropriate. I will try to do it as a kind of book, labelling chapters in important eras, as well as year-by-year. If I can.

 I invite any progheads, or anyone interested or who has stories, information, corrections or advice to assist me: this is certainly one of the biggest undertakings I have ever attempted, so any help is certainly appreciated. Do remember though, if you intend to contribute, to keep strictly within the guidelines for chronology. In other words, don't start posting about an album released in 1972 when we're only in 1968, and so on. Which is not to say that we can't discuss same, but I'd like to try to keep the conversation pertinent to the year or era being covered at the time.

 If an album or artiste I feature here does not tally with your view of prog rock, bear in mind that I'm being guided by these authors, and while I won't slavishly follow their recommendations and advice, they obviously know more about the subject than me and I will have to mostly defer to their expertise. However, if you feel there's an artiste I'm not covering, or I'm covering someone I shouldn't be in this context, feel free to let me know.




Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 17 2016 at 16:22

After reading several, quite boring and arty-farty chapters of the first book I mentioned I've come to the conclusion that it is - how can I say this without giving offence? - total crap. Well, that's not fair, but I had hoped it would give me something of a timeline - who was first, what elements make up a prog album, and so on, a starting point if you will. But it's been jumping back and forth from Duke Ellington to The Who, The Nice to Floyd and I'm still as confused as I was before I began reading. Attempts to answer this question - which was the first prog album - have yielded almost flame wars in forums and websites, and everyone has their own idea but there is no clear answer it would seem. Therefore, for the moment (and given that the other book is on Prog Metal which did not really get going till much later) I will discount these authors' opinions and fall back on my good friend Wiki, as I almost always do.

While they do not list a definitive starting point for prog rock - and it is really hard, given that so much of psychedelia, blues and other forms had nascent elements of prog within their structure - there is a basic agreed “ground zero” point of 1967 as being the accepted year that progressive rock as a whole more or less came into being. There are albums from the previous year that seem to figure too, though, and so what my plan is here (right or wrong) is to look briefly at albums that are considered allied to the progressive rock movement but not actually part of it - albums that have, or started, certain principles that became the founding logic of prog rock - and more deeply into ones which were composed by bands who became important to the movement and influenced other bands later on.  I will therefore grade albums on their importance and relevance to the genre.

One which are considered intrinsic to Progressive Rock, founding fathers if you will, will be graded as Type A. Ones which had an effect on Prog Rock, but are not specifically that genre, will be Type B and ones which are decidedly not (in my opinion) Progressive Rock albums will be type C. These grades will appear in the reviews. The reviews themselves may be quite short, a simple look at the album, or they may be reasonably in-depth, but given how much I have to get through here, I don't envision a note-for-note/quote-every-lyric/track-by-track deep review. I will be trying to achieve three things with this blog:

  1. Get a deeper understanding of the history and legacy of this music

  2. Finally listen to albums and bands I have not, for whatever reason

  3. Introduce anyone who wishes to this subgenre as best I can and

  4. Afford those who deserve it their place in the history of Progressive Rock

I will be trying to achieve four things with this blog... Wink

With all that in mind, the current running order is now going to be this:

1966:


Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys - Type B


Freak out! - The Mothers of Invention - Type B


The Fifth DimensionThe Byrds - Type C


1967


The Velvet Underground and Nico The Velvet Underground - Type C


A Whiter Shade of PaleProcul Harum - Type B


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club BandThe Beatles - Type B


The Piper at the Gates of Dawn Pink Floyd - Type A


Safe as MilkCaptain Beefheart and his Magic Band - Type B


Days of Future Passed - The Moody Blues - Type A


The Thoughts of Emerlist DavjackThe Nice - Type A

There are a few others in 1967 that should be noted, but I can't review or look at every album released each year, so the above are the ones I've chosen to allow me to get, and give, an overall flavour of, if you like, the birth of progressive rock, or certainly its conception at any rate. Other albums that were considered but decided against include Good Vibrations (The Beach Boys), Absolutely Free (The Mothers of Invention) and Procul Harum (Procul Harum). These are all, as I say, merely taken from a list shown on Wiki, but as I could continue going back and forth, checking site after site and comparing like to like, or unlike, and this would never get started, I have decided to trust Wiki as it has never let me down. Also, I want to get moving on this.

So that's the list for the first two years of what seem to be universally accepted as the ones in which prog rock began its first faint mewling cries, and therefore that is where we start our exploration of the subgenre. If anyone has other suggestions I will consider them, but I really think this list is almost set in stone now. If you think I've left out an important album though, let me know. Also, if you believe I am mis-grading (is that a word? It is now!) any of the above say so, as I am only going on what I know of the albums and artistes involved, and indeed, after having listened to them and given the matter some more thought I may even change an album's grade. But for now, this is how they stand.

So my next entry will contain a brief introduction to the emergence of progressive rock and reviews of the first few albums. Comment, discussion and debate is always welcomed.




Posted By: EddieRUKiddingVarese
Date Posted: November 17 2016 at 17:42
Out of those my favs would be

 Freak out! - The Mothers of Invention (no surprised there)

& The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack - The Nice 


-------------
"Everyone is born with genius, but most people only keep it a few minutes"
and I need the knits, the double knits!


Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 17 2016 at 19:14
Originally posted by EddieRUKiddingVarese EddieRUKiddingVarese wrote:

Out of those my favs would be

 Freak out! - The Mothers of Invention (no surprised there)

& The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack - The Nice 

Hey, thanks for being the first to reply!
Unfortunately, you'll find I'm no fan of the Big Z, but I give him a fair hearing (sort of). Stay tuned for more, and welcome aboard! 


Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 17 2016 at 19:28
Chapter I: Into the mystic; the Courtship of Progressive Rock


Even for those of us who weren't there, or old enough to appreciate being there at the time if we were, the sixties is acknowledged as one of the pivotal decades of the twentieth century. Long held conventions were being challenged, youth was on the rise and the old order was slowly crumbling. In art, poetry, literature and a rising trend towards what would become known as “mind-expanding” drugs, in sexual relationships and in man (and woman)'s relationship with the Earth, in fashion and fad, in cinemas and theatres, in schools and universities, the entire world was on a collision course. Old stood firm against the tide of young, but knew in its heart it would not be able to hold: age is the downfall of the more mature, and youth's exuberance can push it to undreamed-of heights. So, in the student riots and sit-ins and protests of the sixties, the names of new heroes and heroines coming through - Mary Quant, Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan - the old guard saw its eventual and inevitable fall, but refused to go down just yet.

Attitudes towards youth by the elders became entrenched in opposition and such buzzwords of the time as “beatniks”, “acid heads” and of course “hippies”. Later, words like “draft-dodgers” would make their way into the vocabulary of both sides, a matter of shame and disgrace for the elders, who had after all done their bit in World War II, so that these idle layabouts could waste their formative years smoking pot and listening to the wrong influences and taking a stand against authority. On the other side of the fence, “draft-dodgers” and “peaceniks” became badges of honour for the young; they hadn't asked for a war in southeast Asia, they had nothing against the Viet Cong: why should they fight and die in another man's war? Their parents may have held fast to certain principles, but that didn't mean they had to. The old guys didn't get it: this was a new era, an age of love and brotherhood and understanding, and war was not on the agenda.

It stood to reason, then, that these “bright young things”, the rising force of youth and the hope for the future would not be content to listen to their parents' music, no more than they shared their outmoded values. They wanted something different, something happening, something now. And if it wasn't available, why then they would create it. How hard could it be? In a kind of reverse echo of the punk movement of the late seventies, everyone suddenly began joining or forming bands, or “groups” as they often preferred to be known. This can be seen in the formation of acts like The Animals, The Birds, Pink Floyd, The Nice, The Moody Blues, Soft Machine, Van der Graaf Generator ... the list goes on. And these bands would speak with their own voice, not that of the establishment. They would challenge the old order, they would bring it down. Not like with punk rock, using anger and aggression and a sense of disenchantment, but with love, understanding, new perceptions and new ideas. These bands would open their minds to the endless possibilities that existed, both in music and the world at large, possibilities their “square” parents (ask your parents. Or grandparents) had closed themselves off from, ignored, refused to see. They would, to quote Jim Morrison, open the doors to perception, and if they needed some help getting there via LSD, marijuana and such, then as the Beatles once wrote, let it be.

But some bands of the sixties were content to play what we would term “normal” rock or pop, with a structured verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-chorus pattern, and to only sing about things like love and girls and maybe cars, and fair play to them. Many of them became huge writing this sort of music and being appreciated for it. But other bands were not happy to be placed in a box, even one of their own devising, and looking at their music notation, or down at their musical instruments, they asked the question that has presaged all great discoveries in science, maths and all other disciplines: what if?

And so they began experimenting with unconventional song structures. Who says a song can only be three or four minutes long? Here: this one's seventeen! Take that, Government! I don't want to sing about girls and dates: this song's about a dragon's journey of self-awareness, achieved through the use of drugs. In your face, establishment! Guitar, bass, drums? Nah! Let's try a clarinet! A saxophone! A violin! In fact, what are those new machines you invented called again, Mr. Moog? A synth-esiser, eh? I'll have one of them: see what we can do with that! What do you think of me now, family values?

This experimentation of course was not always received with open arms by the audiences, many of whom just “didn't get it”, being too steeped in the traditions of rock and roll or pop music to be able to break through the barrier and reach beyond the boundaries. They probably thought such music only fit for college intelligentsia, dropouts and hippies. And to a degree they were right. Coming from the twin influences of jazz and folk music, via straightahead rock and roll, there was, or would be, a lot to what would become progressive rock music, and it would not be for everyone. Few prog rock bands had hit singles initially (though of course later they would, but still not anywhere as many as the more conventional rock or pop bands) and they didn't really care, concentrating more on developing their themes and ideas into often album-long tracks, sometimes so long they had to be broken up into sections, becoming suites of songs. To a great degree, in form and structure prog rock would mirror classical music, which was often long and convoluted, and went through many changes over the span of the length of a concerto or symphony. Because of this, as well as other factors, prog rock would come to be seen as an elitist form of music, a snobby form only practiced by what we would call today t**sers. Real bands didn't play prog rock, that was just w**king around, an accusation Rotten and his army of slavering punks would level at the subgenre ten years later and which, at that point, would be quite true.

But in 1966 and 1967, the dream was being born. Bands such as those already mentioned, to say nothing of a crazed genius called Zappa, a nascent Genesis and Procol Harum were all about to stop dancing to the standard music of the day and begin writing sheet music for a whole new kind of waltz, one which would take its dancers to strange new places, open their minds and allow their spirits to soar, give birth to the idea of the concept album - and album listening in general, where people had more or less just picked tracks from them before, or bought singles - nod back to the progenitors of music and point the way forward to the next progression (!) of the form. It would be a wild and crazy, often drug-fuelled ride, but if you had the imagination, the sense of adventure and the idea that the current music was stale and boring, and the desire to look beyond the obvious, break the rules and write new ones, you were going to find yourself in a wonderful new place.




Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 17 2016 at 19:40
Generally accepted as the first progressive rock album, or at least the first to point the way, I always find it odd that a surf rock band like The Beach Boys get such credit, but I guess up until then nobody had really thought of messing with reverb, voice tracks and trying out strange new instruments. The use of the theremin would become part of the signature sound of these California boys, and lead to others adopting it, as well as weirder, more unconventional instruments, into their sound. Impressed with The Beatles' Rubber Soul, composer Brian Wilson was amazed that t he album sounded like, well, an album, not just a collection of hit singles destined for the charts, surrounded by a bunch of other sub-standard songs, which was generally how albums were recorded up to that point. Utilising the latest recording techniques in vocal harmonies and instrumentation, Wilson set out to produce a rival to the English band's masterpiece, enthusing to his wife that he was about to write “the greatest rock album ever made”.


The general consensus is that he did just that.


Album title: Pet Sounds

Artiste: The Beach Boys

Nationality: American

Label: CBS Columbia

Year: 1966

Grade: B

Previous Experience of this Artiste: I have heard this album before, but only listened to it briefly. Like everyone else, I've heard (and pretty much loathed) their hit singles.

Landmark value*: Seen as one of, if not the first progressive rock albums, the first to really embrace the multi-layered sound and dive into and explore the then-cutting edge recording techniques, and the first US album to be written as other than a collection of singles and filler tracks. Influenced bands from Pink Floyd to Paul McCartney (the latter of which is ironic, given that Wilson was spurred to make this album after listening to a Beatles record) and from Sonic Youth to Fleet Foxes.

Track Listing: Wouldn't it be nice/You still believe in me/That's not me/Don't talk (Put your head on my shoulder)/I'm waiting for the day/Let's go away for a while/Sloop John B/God only knows/I know there's an answer/Here today/I just wasn't made for these times/Pet sounds/Caroline, no

Comments: You certainly have to give them points for the most instruments used on an album. Prior to Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells this has to be in the running: I count over thirty separate instruments! Despite that though, there's often not the “wall of sound” you might expect. I've never been able to justify this album's position in the pantheon of progressive rock luminaries, although in fairness I've only listened to it twice now, but people better qualified than me to make that judgement have made it, so who am I to disagree? Still, to me it's just a pop/rock album with a lot of interesting sounds and vocal harmonies, but nothing more than that. I don't see my stance on this ever changing.

Favourite track(s): Wouldn't it be nice, Don't talk (Put your head on my shoulder), I'm waiting for the day, Let's go away for awhile, Sloop John B, God only knows

Least favourite track(s): Not really any; anything that's not quoted above I just thought was ok.

Overall impression: Don't get me wrong: I don't hate this album. In fact I'm starting to quite enjoy it. I just don't see it as being a precursor to progressive rock. Sorry, can't see it. Decent album, ground breaking maybe but not the grand-daddy of prog, not for me. Probably doesn't help that I don't like the Beachies.

(A word on Rating: as I may not particularly like an album but it may be deserving of a higher rating due to its place in prog rock history, I will rate albums both on a Personal and a Legacy Rating, then use the average of those two to get a Final Rating).

Personal Rating: 

Legacy Rating:

 

Final Rating: 


  • (Landmark Value is exactly what it says it is: how critical, formative or important was this album -despite my liking it or hating it, or even being ambivalent towards it - to the development of progressive rock, and how much did it have an influence on, or drive the subgenre?)




Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 17 2016 at 19:48
If the Beach Boys were not really the sort of band you would generally expect to see associated with the term progressive rock, Frank Zappa certainly is. A unique, often inscrutable personality, Zappa began his career with The Mothers of Invention, and in one of those pieces of irony fate loves throwing at us, he was asked to take over the already-formed band due to a fight between two band members, one of whom left. Once he was established as band leader, Zappa took total control of the Mothers, insisting they play his own original work and not covers, and becoming more of a control freak than Roger Waters and Brian Wilson put together. But it worked. Previously unknown, the Mothers (then called The Soul Giants) were discovered and soon began to make their presence felt on the underground music scene in LA, and went on to release their debut album, only the second double album in rock history and the first real concept album.



Album title: Freak Out!

Artiste: The Mothers of Invention

Nationality: American

Label: Verve

Year: 1966

Grade: B

Previous Experience of this Artiste: I've heard one track which I did not like, and I believe is on this album. I am not anticipating liking this but it must be experienced due to its importance in the overall development of prog rock.

Landmark value: The first real concept album, so that has to count for something. Also one of the first from a new band to allow the artiste almost total creative freedom and provide him with a virtually unlimited budget with which to realise his vision. One of the first, I think, to take direct aim at the established American way of life and to lampoon it in music.

Track Listing: Hungry freaks, daddy/ I ain't got no heart/ Who are the brain police?/Go cry on somebody else's shoulder/ Motherly love/ How could I be such a fool/ Wowie zowie/ You didn't try to call me/ Any way the wind blows/ I'm not satisfied/ You're probably wondering why I'm here/ Trouble every day/ Help I'm a rock ((i) Okay to tap dance (ii) In memoriam, Edgard Varese (iii) It can't happen here)/ The return of the son of monster magnet ((i) Ritual dance of the child-killer (ii) Nullis pretii (No commercial potential))

Comments: Well initially I'm surprised at how straight rock-and-roll this is, though no doubt it'll get more out there later. But I really did expect something like ten men standing on hills a mile apart and banging dustbin lids while farting. That's probably his third album. Pleasant surprise, very sixties rock with a dash of psychedelia, some great lyrics which he would of course become known and even infamous for. Who are the brain police? is that one Zappa track I mentioned that I have heard, and I can appreciate it more in the context of the album but I still don't like it. In fact, a little way in I find myself getting bored. Help, I'm a rock is where it really starts to get freaky and psychedelic, and by the end it's more or less where I expected it would be. I suppose his music goes on in this weird, experimental (heavy on the mental!) vein. Bah.

Favourite track(s): Hungry freaks, daddy, I ain't got no heart, Go cry on somebody else's shoulder, Trouble every day

Least favourite track(s):Who are the brain police?, You're probably wondering why I'm here, I'm not satisfied, Help I'm a rock, The return of the son of the monster magnet

Overall impression: Started well but fell apart about halfway. Not that I did not expect this, but by the time we were onto the third side I had lost interest and was totally bored. Did not help that it was a double album.

Personal Rating: 


Legacy Rating: 


Final Rating: 





Posted By: EddieRUKiddingVarese
Date Posted: November 17 2016 at 20:09

For me this is where Prog starts
Personal Rating:



-------------
"Everyone is born with genius, but most people only keep it a few minutes"
and I need the knits, the double knits!


Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 18 2016 at 08:39
Although many bands who would go on to impact on the progressive rock scene were formed in or before 1966 - Soft Machine, Barclay James Harvest, Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues - none had any released material until at least 1967, with the exception of The Moody Blues, who released their first album in 1965. This, however, was primarily a rhythm'n'blues album and seems to have no connection whatever to progressive rock, and their second album is regarded as the first of theirs to embrace or influence that subgenre. So that leaves us with very little to work with in 1966, but to complete the year I am, as I said, going to take a quick spin through the only other album deemed to have had any effect on prog rock, even though it seems like an odd choice, to me at any rate. But as I've said so often before, and it's as true today as it was when I first uttered the words, what do I know?


Album title: Fifth dimension

Artiste: The Byrds

Nationality: American

Label: Columbia

Year: 1966

Grade: C

Previous Experience of this Artiste: “Mister Tambourine man”, “Turn, turn, turn”

Landmark value: It's said to have been the album that almost created the subgenre of psychedelic rock. How true that is I don't know, but if so then psychedelia had a real effect on the birth of progressive rock, so it's got to have a decent value.

Track Listing: 5D (Fifth dimension)/ Wild mountain thyme/ Mr. Spaceman/ I see you/ What's happening?/ I come and stand at every door/ Eight miles high/ Hey Joe/ Captain Soul/ John Riley/ 2-4-2 Foxtrot

Comments: Nice organ work on the opening track, but it sounds quite Country to me and it's followed by a folk traditional song, then I guess Mr. Spaceman can claim to be psychedelic in part, referring as it does to aliens and extraterrestrials, which (maybe) had not been a subject pursued much if at all by bands or singers. It's played in a sort of bluegrass tone though, which I feel robs it of a little of its desired impact. I come and stand at every door, while a cover, sounds like a minstrel's lay or something.

They do a version of Hey Joe and though it's not his song, I think we all identify it with Hendrix by now. This version just sounds wrong to me. Generally I'm becoming less impressed as the album goes on. The harmonica instrumental Captain Soul is pretty good though.

Favourite track(s): Wild mountain thyme, Mr. Spaceman, Captain Soul

Least favourite track(s): Hey Joe, 2-4-2 Foxtrot

Overall impression: Yeah. Don't see it. There's little about this album that says nascent prog rock to me, or even psychedelia, though I'm not that familiar with that sort of music yet. I see it as a folk/rock album and that's pretty much it. Can't argue with history though. Anyway I wasn't impressed personally.

Personal Rating: 


Legacy Rating: 


Final Rating: 





Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 18 2016 at 09:20
So that's 1966 done. Before I head on to the following year I think it's perhaps incumbent upon me to take a short trip back to note the bands formed in the two or three years prior, who would later rise to prominence within or contribute to the growth of progressive rock. Although none released any albums - at least, prog-worthy - until at least 1967, the mere event of their forming should really be marked, and a short piece perhaps written on who they were/are and what their general effect on and input to the progressive rock movement was.

Before the storm...

This is by no means meant to be a definitive biography of any of the bands formed before the proper onset of the progressive rock scene in the late sixties and early seventies. This is merely a few lines pointing to those bands and to how they would later influence the sub-genre. When we get to where they released albums, I will of course go into them in a little more depth.


The Moody Blues (1964 -)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Mike Pinder, Ray Thomas, Clint Warwick, Denny Laine

First relevant album: Days of Future Passed, 1967


Impact on the progressive rock scene (on a scale of 1 to 10): 7


Formed in 1964, their band name was not, as I had originally thought, anything to do with the Elvis song, but was both a reference to M&B Breweries, with whom they had hoped to win a sponsorship contract (they didn't) and the Duke Ellington song, “Mood indigo.” When they formed the Moody Blues were much different to the band we have come to know, and who contributed so much to the progressive rock arena. Justin Hayward was not on board at this time, nor was John Lodge. Their first album, The Magnificent Moodies, would bear no resemblance to what would end up being their first real progressive rock album, and one which would bring them to the notice of the general public, Days of Future Passed. The debut was more an r'n'b effort, and it flopped, though it would later spawn a hit in “Go now” which, ironically, was a cover version of an earlier song.

The Wilde Flowers (1964 – 1967)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Hugh Hopper, Brian Hopper, Robert Wyatt, Richard Sinclair, Kevin Ayers

First relevant album: n/a

Impact: 6

Linked to: Caravan, Soft Machine

Another band forming in 1964, oddly The Wilde Flowers never released any albums, but were one of the first bands active in what would become known as the Canterbury Scene. They are however notable for the bands their former members ended up in, two of the biggest bands in that scene, Soft Machine and Caravan.

Pink Floyd (1965 – 2014)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Roger Waters, Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Richard Wright

First relevant album: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, 1967


Impact: 9

Originally The Pink Floyd, one of the most influential bands in progressive rock music as well as psychedelia, Floyd would redefine how music was created, and performed, and perceived. Mainstay of the band David Gilmour was not part of the early lineup who recorded their first album, and would only be brought in to replace bandleader Syd Barrett, when increasing problems with drink drugs and personality issues made it impossible for Barrett to continue in the band. Under the lineup of Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright, Pink Floyd would go on to become a worldwide phenomenon and a true star of the prog rock scene.

The Syn (1965-1967, then 2004-)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Steve Nardelli, Chris Squire, Andrew Pryce Jackman, Matrin Adelman, John Painter

First relevant album: Original Syn, 2004

Linked with: Yes

Impact: 4

Seen as a precursor to prog rock giants Yes, they lasted from 1965 to 1967, then came back in 2004 as a proper progressive rock band. They are notable for including later Yes bassist Chris Squire in their lineup.

Barclay James Harvest (1966- )

Nationality: British

Original lineup: John Lees, Les Holroyd, Stuart Wolsthenholme, Mel Pritchard

First relevant album: Barclay James Harvest, 1970


Linked to: The Enid

Impact: 5

Formed in 1965, they originally included Robert John Godfrey in their lineup, he later leaving to form The Enid. They were successful throughout the seventies but dogged by comparisons to The Moody Blues, leading to their being perhaps unkindly described by critics as “The Poor Man's Moody Blues.”

Soft Machine (1966-1984)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Robert Wyatt, Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers, Mike Ratledge

First relevant album: The Soft Machine, 1968


Linked to: The Wilde Flowers, Caravan

Impact: 7

Another band who later dropped the “the” from their name, they were also a big Canterbury band, and included among others Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers in their lineup. Like many Canterbury (and many progressive bands) they are feted for their contribution to the genre but achieved little in the way of commercial success.

Stormy Six (1966-1983 (first incarnation), 1990-2010 (second incarnation)

Nationality: Italian

Original lineup: Giovanni Fabbri, Maurizio Masla, Franco Fabbri, Luca Piscicelli, Fausto Martinetti, Alberto Santagostino, Antonio Zanuso

First relevant album: Guarda Giù dalla Pianura, 1974

Impact: 4

Linked to: Henry Cow

One of the first Italian prog rock bands, Stormy Six also became involved with, indeed created the idea of Rock In Opposition, (RIO) however they did not really become a true progressive rock band until the middle of the 1970s.

Genesis (1967-1997 (?))

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Peter Gabriel, John Silver, Mike Rutherford, Anthony Phillips

First relevant album: Trespass, 1970


Linked to: Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins solo careers, Mike and the Mechanics

Impact: 10

What can I write about Genesis that has not been already written? One of the founding members and drivers of the progressive rock movement through the seventies, Genesis eventually fell prey to the bright lights of chart success and turned from their prog rock roots to become just another rock, and then rock/pop band. They disbanded after one album following Phil Collins' departure, but like Yes and ELP were leading lights of the development of progressive rock. Rumours about a possible revival persist to this day...

Gong (1967 – 1976) (first incarnation) 1991-2001 (second incarnation) 2003-2004 (third incarnation) 2006 – (fourth incarnation)

Nationality: French

Original lineup: Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth, Ziska Baum, Loren Standlee

First relevant album: Magick Brother, 1970


Linked to: Soft Machine, The Wilde Flowers

Impact: 8

One of the first French progressive rock acts, Gong began as more a psychedelic band and were kind of a forced situation originally, when Daevid Allen, playing with Soft Machine in France, was unable to get a visa to allow him entry into the UK. He thereafter formed Gong, but had to flee France in '68 during the student riots and went to Majorca, where he found his future saxophonist living in a cave. It says here. Trippy, man! Trippy!

Jethro Tull (1967 – 2011)

Nationality: British

Original members: Ian Anderson, Mick Abrahams, Glenn Cornick, Clive Bunker

First relevant album: Benefit, 1970


Linked to: Fairport Convention

Impact: 8

Very much a folk-based band, with bandleader Ian Anderson proficient on the flute, and lyrics mostly about agriculture and mythology. They went on to become a very famous and successful band, selling over sixty million albums, despite their strange eccentricities, and even scoring hit singles.

The Nice (1967 – 1970)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Keith Emerson, Lee Jackson, Davy O'List, Ian Hague

First relevant album: The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack, 1967


Linked to: Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ELP)

Impact: 7

With their caustic rendition of Leonard Bernstein's “America” and keyboardist Keith Emerson's antics with his keyboard, which would carry through into his association with ELP, The Nice have been credited often with recording the first ever progressive rock album, their debut, The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack. This has however been disputed. Whatever the case, what is not disputed is that The Nice was a training ground for one of the world's greatest, and most pompous and arrogant keyboard players, before he joined Carl Palmer and Greg Lake in the immortal prog rock power trio some years later.

Organisation (or, Organisation zur Verwirklichung gemeinsamer Musikkonzepte ) (1969 – 1970)

Nationality: German

Original lineup: Basil Hammoudi, Butch Hauf, Ralf Hütter, Alfred Monics, Florian Schenider-Esleben

First relevant album: Tone float, 1969


Impact: 3

With just the one album to their credit, the only real relevance Organisation (I'm not going to write it all out again, but it stands for “organisation for the realisation of common music projects”) have to the progressive rock scene is that they were a Krautrock band which split in 1970 to allow two of the members to form Kraftwerk.

Procol Harum (1967-1977) (first incarnation) 1991 – (second incarnation)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Gary Brooker, Keith Reid, Matthew Fisher, Ray Royer, David Knights

First relevant album: Procol Harum, 1967


Impact: 7

Best known of course for their smash hit single “A whiter shade of pale” , Procol Harum were therefore one of the few progressive rock bands who managed to have a big hit first time out. Unfortunately, though they remained active through the seventies, they were never again to repeat this success.

Van der Graaf Generator (1967 – 1972) (first incarnation) 1975-1978 (second incarnation) 2005 – (third incarnation)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Peter Hammill, Chris Judge Smith

First relevant album: The Aerosol Grey Machine, 1969


Linked to: Peter Hammill solo career

Impact: 8

One of the most influential early progressive rock bands, Van der Graaf Generator would have a huge influence on Genesis vocalist Peter Gabriel, as well as much later, Marillion's Fish, as both tried to emulate Peter Hammill's style and vocal delivery. VDGG would be another prog rock band though who never troubled the charts, and never strayed from their prog roots, using jazz and blues as part of their musical pallette. They would set the mould for much of what was to follow.

So those are, basically, what I guess you could call the parents or grandparents of progressive rock. They would have many children, some of whom would spread their message far and wide across the world, but at this point even these venerable elders of Prog Rock had yet to even record their first albums, and make their impression on the world of rock music. Some would not even make that impression with their debut, but might take another two or three before they hit the magic formula that put them forever on a course to glory and immortality. But even with all that to come, in a very real sense, the birth of progressive rock began here!




Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 18 2016 at 14:33
And so we boldly forge ahead into 1967. I can't remember if I intended to do those albums I selected from this year in the order in which I laid them out initially or not, but as it's the easiest way to approach this, I will. That means we kick off with this.


But before we do, it is of course incumbent upon me to talk a little about this trendsetting band and the impact they would have on progressive rock. Like Pink Floyd, who were starting at around the same time, The Velvet Underground were very much into experimental music, with both Lou Reed and John Cale wishing to push the boundaries, one via the lyrical matter, the other via the musical instruments and recording techniques. Having come together at the end of 1965 the band, managed by sixties superstar, icon and svengali Andy Warhol, brought German singer Christa Päffgen, known by her stage name of Nico, to record the first Velvet Underground album.

The album cover is now one of the most iconic of all time, and one of those few which contains just one object, but like Pink Floy's Dark Side of the Moon or Led Zeppelin's IV, is instantly recognisable. Those of us who knew nothing about this album thought that the name of it was “Andy Warhol”, which might seem stupid, but his signature is prominently displayed on the album sleeve, so, you know, cut us some slack. The album itself sold poorly but has gone on to be described as one of the most important in rock history and is cited as a major influence by more rock bands than you could shake a stick at, should you wish to do such a thing.

As far as experimental music goes, you would have to concede that the Velvet Underground contributed to what would eventually emerge as progressive rock, and certainly in terms of influence on the future stars of prog rock, I guess there are probably few if any who have not heard the album, and on whom it has not taken an effect and helped shape the music they wrote. But it's certainly not what I would term a pure progressive rock record, which is why I categorise it as I do below. Not wishing to downplay its significance by any means, but if someone asked to hear a prog rock record this is not the first album I'd be reaching for.

Album title: The Velvet Underground and Nico

Artiste: The Velvet Underground and Nico

Nationality: American

Label: Verve

Year: 1967

Grade: B

Previous Experience of this Artiste: “Venus in furs”, that's about it. And some Lou Reed solo material.

Landmark value: Well as I say above it has a very high landmark value, given the contribution it made to the subgenre, but again I feel it's more on the psychedelic side of things than the progressive. Can't be denied it broke down many boundaries though.

Track Listing: Sunday morning/ I'm waiting for the man/ Femme fatale/ Venus in furs/ Run run run/ All tomorrow's parties/ Heroin/ There she goes again/ I'll be your mirror/ The black angel's death song/ European son

Comments: First track's a bit tame, given what I had expected: bit dreamy, sixties pop really. Things pick up a little with "I'm waiting for the man" as Lou Reed takes over vocals solo and the sound crystallises a bit more, harder guitar, edgier lyrics. Beginning to see it now. Distorted, manic piano at the end really adds to the song. Hmm, but then we're back to that dreamy sound again for "Femme fatale". Very laidback and seems a little empty. I mentioned I knew "Venus in furs", so no surprises here, though it would definitely have ruffled some establishment feathers with its graphic lyric dealing with bondage and sado-masochism, surely making this one of the albums the "Moral Majority" would have wanted to ban, then we're on to "Run run run", the first uptempo song on the album. Kind of like a fast blues with a bit of southern boogie, pretty infectious rhythm really. "All tomorrow's parties" slows down the tempo again, and it's Nico at the mike again, with a dark psychedelic sort of feel. Sounds like sitar there. Is it? No, it isn't.

As if they haven't made it plain enough that they're singing about drugs on the album, the next one is called "Heroin", so there can be no doubt. Another kind of laidback, relaxed sort of song with some nice guitar. It speeds up but then drops back again. Great vocal from Reed, really more like speaking poetry than singing. Lots of feedback guitar; at one point it totally drowns out Reed's voice, which I assume is intended to make a statement. Almost the longest track on the album, just beaten out of that place by the closer. This is balanced out by the three tracks in-between being no more than three minutes long each.

Don't see anything terribly great about "There she goes" - standard sixties rock song, could hear The Kinks or The Animals singing this. Nothing special. Back to dreamy pop then for "I'll be your mirror" with Nico back on vocals. "Black angel's death song" is good though: sort of a bluegrass idea in it, screeching viola from Cale as well as hissing into the microphone all creates a rather unsettling atmosphere. The final track then is "European son" with a really nice bassline and again it's reasonably uptempo compared to most of the rest of the album. It's also, as mentioned, the longest track, just shy of eight minutes. There are more sound effects here, like things rolling on the floor, barrels maybe, and crashing breaking glass. Actually no: I read now that it's Cale hitting a stack of plates with a metal chair that made the sounds. Of course it is.

Well, it's a weird end to a much less weird album than I had thought it would be. Good enough, but somehow not the powerhouse gamechanger I had expected to hear. I guess, as they say, you had to be there.

Favourite track(s): I'm waiting for the man, Venus in furs, Run run run, Black angel's death song

Least favourite track(s): There she goes

Overall impression: Not what I was expecting at all. I thought it would be wilder, sort of punkish, more experimental. Pretty pleasant really, all things considered.

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Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 18 2016 at 14:44

Up to now, though I’ve tried not to be too dismissive of nor ignore bands who are cited as being influential on the birth of prog rock, I’ve yet to hear anything approaching what I would consider to be the sound of the subgenre. My understanding of what makes progressive rock may be simplistic and basic, but for me, prog rock music has at its heart long and/or complicated keyboard passages, introspective guitar, other instruments like sax, violin, cello or flute, has long songs that are often broken into suites and deals with fantasy or mythological, or at least other than mundane lyrical content. Obviously, that’s not true of every prog band nor indeed every prog song, but I’ve not yet recognised anything that puts me in mind of, say, “A plague of lighthouse keepers”, “2112” or even “Tarkus”. The bands and albums I’ve listened to so far do not, to me, speak of a new subgenre straining to be born, and though some of them did experiment with sounds and ideas, most seem rooted in blues or jazz tropes, and show no sign or stepping much beyond that. Perhaps that will change as I investigate our next band, jumping off at the next stop along my extremely long journey.


Formed initially as The Paramounts, and having one hit single but getting no further, Gary Brooker and Robin Trower formed Procol Harum and began recording their first, self-titled album in 1967, from which they had their biggest hit single, “A whiter shade of pale”. Oddly enough, this was not on the UK version of the album, though it does appear on the US one. I guess you can only assume the label were trying to push sales of the single further by not allowing those who bought the album to have access to it that way, but it’s a strange thing to do: most people who bought singles would probably then go and get the album if they liked what they heard.


The success of the hit single assured Procol Harum of a place in musical history, and could very well point to them as being one of the first true progressive rock bands, but it did encumber them with the “first hit single syndrome”, and they never really repeated the worldwide success of that song, which is still the one they are associated with, even by those who have never heard a single album of theirs. Like me.



Album title: Procol Harum

Artiste: Procol Harum

Nationality: British

Label: Regal Zonophone

Year: 1967

Grade: C

Previous Experience of this Artiste: “A whiter shade of pale”

Landmark value: With a worldwide smash hit single on it (at least, the US version) this album could be said to have brought the fledgling progressive rock to the mainstream.

Track Listing: Conquistador/ She wandered through the garden fence/ Something following me/ Mabel/ Cerdes (Outside the gates of)/ A Christmas camel/ Kaleidoscope/ Salad days (are here again)/ Good Captain Clack/ Repent Walpurgis


Comments: Well, I finally hear the organs, Hammonds and keyboard runs that would become part and parcel of prog rock here in songs like the opener and the second track particularly, so perhaps Matthew Fisher can be said to be the first prog rock keyboardist? Meh, probably not, but he’s the first I’ve heard to date that embraces and embodies that style that would be identified with this subgenre. The music definitely seems more keyboard-driven than guitar-centric, which I believe is important. Some nice bluesy piano on "Something following me", which has a really nice country feel to it too. Next one’s annoying though: too “Yellow submarine” Beatles for me. "Cerdes (Outside the gates of)" brings back the progressive rock though, with some fine guitar from Robin Trower.


This version then has that smash single, and there’s little I can say about it that hasn’t been already, so on we go and I have to say I pretty much love most of what I’m hearing here. Like I say, the main thing for me, the thing that differentiates this from the other albums I’ve listened to up to now is the dominance of keyboard; Fisher really holds court over the album and brings it all together, which is not to ignore the other members of PH, but his keyboard soundscapes form the background for the music here, and the album would not be the same without it. The closer is just perfect. Love it.


Favourite track(s): She wandered through the garden fence, Something following me, Cerdes (Outside the gates of), A whiter shade of pale, Salad days (are here again), Repent Walpurgis

Least favourite track(s): Mabel, Good Captain Clack

Overall impression: Think I really love this album, and I can finally say that, as far as I’m concerned anyway, and going only on what I’ve listened to up to this point, this, for me, is the first true example of an album that would lead to the subgenre of progressive rock. Superb,

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Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 18 2016 at 14:59

As with The Byrds, the first name that drops from my lips when I speak of progressive rock is not the fab four. Although I’m no fan and have heard little of their music beyond the singles, and I know they did a lot of experimental work later in their career, their contribution to the evolution of progressive rock has always been a bone of contention to me. I can’t deny that, like Pet Sounds - and on which much of this was based - their concept album did open doors that others had not really tried, but really I see it more as a case of the Beatles opening the door but allowing others to rush through, taking the bones of what they had started and putting a lot more flesh on it, to create what was generally accepted by at least 1970 as the format of progressive rock.


As an aside, I must point out that the Wiki entry on this album goes into almost tortuous detail about every song, dissecting it until the various commentators have almost wrung every drop of soul or enjoyment out of it. It’s something like watching a dispassionate autopsy being conducted. I have never quite in my life read so much psychobabble written about music. Like Freud himself once observed, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar guys!


Nevertheless, this album has its place in history, and we would be remiss to exclude it, as it is hailed as one of the first proper concept albums, though to be honest I fail to see any common thread or plot running through it. To me, it’s more a collection of songs, though the idea of it being performed by a fictional band made up by the Beatles is interesting and certainly was, at the time, pretty ground-breaking. But was it progressive rock? Um...


Album title: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Artiste: The Beatles

Nationality: British

Label: Parlophone

Year: 1967

Grade: B

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Who hasn’t heard something by the Beatles??.

Landmark value: Seen as not only very important in the evolution of progressive rock (though I would not call it a prog rock album by any stretch), but also in the identity of albums opposed to singles and one of the first real concept albums, this set the standard for future recording techniques and was one of the new albums that was essentially recorded as a band other than the one the artistes were known for.

Track Listing: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band/ With a little help from my friends/ Lucy in the sky with diamonds/ Getting better/ Fixing a hole/ She’s leaving home/ Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite!, Within you without you, When I’m sixty-four, Lovely Rita, Good morning good morning, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise), A day in the life


Comments: We've all heard this album - or at least, some of it, so I’ll skip the first few tracks which I, and everyone else, knows, and jump to "Getting better", which seems to keep some of the basic idea from "With a little help from my friends", straightahead rock tune really. "Fixing a hole" has more of a twenties feel about it, sort of music-hall idea there, and "She’s leaving home" slows it all down to a moody dirge with some beautiful violin and cello. I’ve heard this of course before, and I like the way it’s seen from both sides, the runaway and the parents, each giving their reaction.


"Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite!" has the sort of melody that would be very much at home on a Tom Waits album, and I guess you can see the influence of this album in his later work, lot of carnival sounds and effects, seems to be an instrumental, then Harrison’s sitar introduces "Within you without you" with some suitably Indian percussion (congas?) and a sort of droning, chanted vocal; I’ve heard part of this melody in a much later Marillion song. It’s the only one with Harrison on lead vocals, and almost the longest on the album: whereas most of the other tracks, bar the closer, are around the 2 or 3 minute mark, this runs for just over five. I think we all know "When I’m sixty-four", which bumps along nicely on tuba and horns, with "Lovely Rita" coming back to the main theme of the title track, bopping along. Interesting that they use the description meter maid, when they were an English band and on this side of the Atlantic we call them all traffic wardens, male or female. Still, I guess “meter maid” rhymes better with “Rita”. Sort of.


I’m not too impressed with "Good morning good morning", bit ordinary, though it has some nice guitar in it. There’s a reprise then of the title track, then if anything is progressive rock on this album - and little is really - I’d have to mark the closer, "A day in the life" as an indicator of the direction the subgenre was going to go over the next few years. I like the way it changes time signatures, tempos and particularly the crescendos that provide the real power behind the song.


Favourite track(s): With a little help from my friends, Lucy in the sky with diamonds, She’s leaving home, Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite!

Least favourite track(s): Good morning good morning

Overall impression: Given that I know so much of this album already, not the biggest surprise, but I’d still have to say the jury is out, as far as I’m concerned, as to how much of a role this album has to play in the genesis (sorry) of Progressive Rock. It’s certainly an important album, but though I can see some of the processes and thoughts here being used in future prog rock albums, I’m not sure I don’t see it as more of  a psychedelic album than a progressive rock one.


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Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 18 2016 at 17:55

Although I came to their work relatively late, by way of The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon, there can be little argument against Pink Floyd having been one of the prime movers behind the rise of progressive rock. Their music on the albums mentioned, and continuing on into Wish You Were Here, and on the second side of Meddle, to say nothing of Animals, typifies that refusal of the subgenre to conform to the norms of rock music at the time: singles must be such-a-length, albums must yield hit singles, the setup is guitar-vocals-bass-drums, and so on. Through the pioneering efforts of their seventies output, Floyd blazed a trail for others to follow, and could not more exemplify the term “experimental music” if they were all wearing white coats and working in a lab.


But their first few albums were not quite so progressive as psychedelic rock, though I’m beginning to realise that the two are, or were at that time, quite closely linked, if not inextricably tied together. In ways, what psychedelic rock began progressive rock either expanded on, absorbed into its own music or improved upon. In fact, for the next five or six years the two terms could almost be described as interchangeable, as bands like Tangerine Dream, Gong, Captain Beefheart and The Mothers of Invention tried out new sounds, tested the ground ahead and, even if it gave way and they fell through, always climbed out, nodding and taking notes. It’s not an overstatement, I believe, to say that had we not had psychedelic rock we would in all likelihood never have had progressive rock.


And many bands, as mentioned, began in a sort of psychedelic direction but later changed to a more structured approach as they became more in the way of progressive rock bands. Pink Floyd were one case in point, and a vitally important one. At the time they started playing the local clubs there was literally nothing else like them on Earth; they were the only show in town and the one you had to see if you wanted to “get your mind blown.” Even in my long-vanished youth, when our school shelled out for a rare trip to London and we were taken to the Planetarium, it was the music of Pink Floyd that accompanied the stars streaking across the sky, the visits to alien worlds and the whole voyage through the cosmos. Their music was almost tailor-made for such excursions, both of the eye and, I am reliably informed, of the mind.


But Floyd started off with a drag factor which was to lead to perhaps one of the earliest changes in a band’s history that I know of. Bright as a burning star himself, and commemorated in the almost-album-long “Shine on you crazy diamond” six years later, Syd Barrett was the founder of the band, then called The Pink Floyd Sound, though they quickly dropped the last word and fairly soon afterwards the first too, becoming ever after known as Pink Floyd. Barrett was a great musician and songsmith, but his battle with addictions would have tragic and detrimental consequences on his career, and lead to his being fired from the band he had created, to allow the others to shine as brightly. It was a tough decision for Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright, but not taken lightly and done because there really was nothing else they could do.


Before he left them though, Barrett was the creative genius and visionary who wrote their entire debut album, music and lyrics, and sung on almost every song. He also came up with the striking and memorable title, taken from a chapter of the children’s classic The Wind in the Willows.



Album title: The piper at the gates of dawn

Artiste: Pink Floyd

Nationality: British

Label: EMI

Year: 1967

Grade: A

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Pretty much everything after Dark Side of the Moon, including Roger Waters’s solo material.

Landmark value: Heralding the arrival of Pink Floyd on to the scene, the value of this album really can’t be overestimated. Floyd brought things like lightshows, taped effects, feedback, video and special effects to their stageshows, and were probably the first British band to create what is today termed a “full multimedia experience”. I never got to see them live, ever, which I regret, but I’m told it was an experience you never forgot. Although there was a hit single for Floyd at this time, it was not from this album and they helped usher in an era where albums were more important than singles, and you didn’t have to have a hit single for an album to sell well. This, and its followup, would of course lead in time to the genre-defining classic that is Dark Side of the Moon, which would have such an influence and effect on musicians as well as fans that it is still the standard today.

Track Listing: Astronomy domine/ Lucifer Sam/ Matilda mother/ Flaming/ Pow R Toc. h/ Take up thy stethoscope and walk/ Interstellar overdrive/ The gnome/ Chapter 24/ The scarecrow/ Bike

Comments: “Astronomy domine” is a great start, with really atmospheric, spacey effects, not to mention one of the coolest song titles ever, and shows the sort of direction Floyd would begin to move in, while “Lucifer Sam” is kind of more straightahead rock, though you can get an idea of Waters’s prowess on the basslines here. “Matilda mother” is very psychedelic, sort of reminds me of those winged chaps I reviewed a while back. Nice kind of eastern tinges to the melody from Wright on the keys, and a sort of hissing, pumping sound that would later make its way into “Welcome to the machine”.


The psych elements continue into “Flaming”, and it’s clear by now that though Barrett was a competent singer, there’s something missing from his delivery here. Maybe it’s the bitterness or anger Waters put into his singing, or the more mellifluous tones of David Gilmour, when he joined later and occasionally got behind the mike. I can see why there was concern over Syd being too quiet to be heard; at times here the music just overpowers his voice. The first of two instrumentals on the album, “Pow R. Toc. H” presages some of the music from later album Animals, and gives both Wright and Mason their chance to really shine. It’s quite uptempo and all a bit mad, but good fun, with some crazy effects that would become trademarks of this unique band.


Roger Waters’s only vocal then comes in “Take up thy stethoscope and walk”, and even here you can see the difference in styles; Waters is more forceful, more in-your-face, louder than the mostly gentle Barrett. Wright also goes wild on the organ here as the song rushes along at a much more frenetic pace that any of the previous tracks. It is, to be fair, not as great as some of the rest of the album. Where Floyd really hit their stride though is with the nine-minute-plus “Interstellar overdrive”, which marries space rock, psych and the emerging progressive rock tropes really well. The echoes, the feedback, the effects. Hard to believe that a band starting out could put a nine-minute instrumental on their debut album, but Floyd from the beginning weren’t interested in kow-towing to the charts. And they were right. As they set their own course and people bought into what they were selling, this would become a future classic.


“The gnome” then is just silly, there’s no way around that. I like the Beatlesesque sound of “Chapter 24”, it’s quite slow and dreamy with some nice keys effects, “The scarecrow” is nice too, very laidback and pastoral, but I don’t like “Bike”, which closes the album. Seems totally out of place to me. Crazy lyric, I guess reflects Barrett’s personality at the time. Actually, f**k it, I’ve changed my mind. This is a fun song and I suddenly like it. Yeah, I can change my mind like that: it’s my goddamn blog! Hey, totally weird-out ending!


Favourite track(s): Astronomy domine, Lucifer Sam, Pow R toc H, Interstellar overdrive, Chapter 24, The scarecrow, Bike

Least favourite track(s):Flaming, Take up thy stethoscope and walk, The gnome

Overall impression: Not so much the World Tree of Progressive Rock as one of the major seeds that germinated and then spread across the music world, pollinating everything they touched, this album is a nod towards where Floyd were headed, a roadsign if you will on the journey they were about to undertake. While for pure progressive rock it’s still not as much an early example as the Procol Harum album, the impact Floyd would have on prog rock far outweighs that of the other band, and for that reason alone this album needs to be heralded as one of the progenitors of the movement.


Not as simple rock as I had been led to believe, there are two seriously prog instrumentals on it and some lyrics that would be at home on any Yes or Camel album. Possibly. But the important point is that Floyd were pushing, changing, evolving from this album on, transforming the face of rock into something that had really never been seen before, and which would birth some giants of the era. Progression: it’s what drove Floyd for many years, and by association, many other bands who were to come.

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Posted By: Icarium
Date Posted: November 19 2016 at 06:05
Where would you put Cream if you were to describe their impact on progressive music, and how would you describe Disraely Gears gompared to other releses in 1967?

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Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 19 2016 at 08:18
Originally posted by Icarium Icarium wrote:

Where would you put Cream if you were to describe their impact on progressive music, and how would you describe Disraely Gears gompared to other releses in 1967?
I don't know anything much about Cream, but in my research they've never been linked in any way with prog rock. They seem to have been a blues rock band and while there are many fringe outfits who could be said to have been on the periphery and to have contributed, however minimally, to the development of progressive rock, if I were to start counting them all I'd be here forever.

So basically, I don't see Cream as being part of the movement.


Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 19 2016 at 09:33
In 1965 a young contemporary of Frank Zappa called Don Van Vliet decided his own name wasn’t interesting or psychedelic enough, and changed it to Captain Beefheart, a name that would ring down through the annals of progressive, experimental and psychedelic music for decades, and reverberate in even the work of many musicians later to come, including the venerated Tom Waits. Beefheart’s music could probably only be rivalled by the gleeful madness of Zappa, and I certainly found at least one of his albums totally inaccessible to me, leaving me with some trepidation in covering him here. But he is or was a massive influence on so many artistes and on the subgenre in general that I could not afford to leave him out.

Like some progressive rock progenitors, Beefheart’s music seldom if ever troubled the charts, though his albums have gone on to appear in “best of” lists all over the spectrum, and he is revered and referred to by many a musician. A volatile, enigmatic personality, it seems Beefheart had something of a dictatorial approach to his work and his band, best reflected in this quote from drummer John French, taken from Wiki:


”If Van Vliet built a house like he wrote music, the methodology would go something like this... The house is sketched on the back of a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennys" rel="nofollow - - Denny's placemat in such an odd fashion that when he presents it to the contractor without plans or research, the contractor says "This structure is going to be hard to build, it's going to be tough to make it safe and stable because it is so unique in design." Van Vliet then yells at the contractor and intimidates him into doing the job anyway. The contractor builds the home, figuring out all the intricacies involved in structural integrity himself because whenever he approaches Van Vliet, he finds that he seems completely unable to comprehend technical problems and just yells, "Quit asking me about this stuff and build the damned house."... When the house is finished no one gets paid, and Van Vliet has a housewarming party, invites none of the builders and tells the guests he built the whole thing himself.”


Not the nicest of people then, and certainly when I listened to - well, suffered bravely through - Trout Mask Replica I just got the feeling of someone having a laugh, imagining people listening to this and calling it music. I certainly didn’t enjoy it.  I’m told though by people who know far more about him than I that his debut album was a lot more conventional than Trout Mask Replica, and if so, it’s something I’ll be thankful for, because I do not fancy going though that again. But this was his first release under his band’s name, one of thirteen in total he would release up until his retirement from music in 1982.


Album title: Safe as milk

Artiste: Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band

Nationality: American

Label: Buddah

Year: 1967

Grade: C

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Trout Mask Replica (Shudder!)

Landmark value: As detailed above, Beefheart had a massive influence on progressive rock, but what effect this particular album had is debatable, so I would say not that much really.

Track Listing: Sure ‘nuff ‘n yes I do/ Zig-zag wanderer/ Call on me/ Dropout boogie/ I’m glad/  Electricity/ Yellow brick road/ Abba zaba/ Plastic factory/ Where there’s woman/ Grown so ugly/ Autumn’s child

Comments: It’s pretty straightahead Delta blues here, which is a relief for me but nothing terribly progressive yet. It’s pretty basic up until “I’m glad” which has a nice Motown soul feel to it, then the weirdness that would become Beefheart’s trademark (it says here) starts to leak in as “Electricity” hits and he assumes a sort of moaning, warbling voice which I can see Waits adopted from about 1983 onwards. Country jamboree then on “Yellow brick road”, a few years before Elton snagged it, and I find “Abba zaba” very annoying.


If this is seen as the easy way into Beefheart, then while it doesn’t give me nightmares in the same way TMR did, I really don’t see myself being a fan of him ever. This I just find pretty generic with a side of weirdness tacked on and it’s not for me. I also don’t see anything particularly progressive about it, not here anyway. It’s a good blues album, but there are so many of them I couldn’t say this is any better than any of them, or indeed any worse. The only real interest in this for me is hearing where Waits learned to develop his voice, and I can hear echoes of him in “Where there’s woman”. Other than that I’m just bored.


Favourite track(s): Sure ‘nuff ‘n yes I do, I’m glad, Yellow brick road, Where there’s woman

Least favourite track(s): Electricity, Dropout boogie, Abba zaba

Overall impression: Decent album, no shock to the system like TMR but nothing that special.

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Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 19 2016 at 09:41
Another band who would go on to shape, lead and influence the progressive rock movement began in the south of England when five young lads decided to ditch their overly blues/r&b influences from their first album and looked more towards a fusion of classical, blues and more symphonic music that would result in their second album, which would go on to be one of the most important records of the era. With new boys John Lodge and Justin Hayward in tow, the Moody Blues were ready to take on the world.


Album title: Days of future passed

Artiste: The Moody Blues

Nationality: British

Label: Deram Records

Year: 1967

Grade: A

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Sur la Mer, In Search of the Lost Chord, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, and the singles

Landmark value: One of the true progenitors of the progressive rock movement, The Moody Blues tend to get a little forgotten about and left behind, with only their hit single “Nights in white satin” to mark their passing, but they really were one of the original bands to push their music towards what would become known as progressive rock. This being their second album, first real prog rock one and a concept album, all adds up to make this a very important recording. It also marks the first real use of the mellotron, one of the keyboard instruments which would go on to become a true staple of the subgenre.

Track Listing: The day begins / Dawn:  Dawn is a feeling / The Morning: Another morning/ Lunch break: Peak Hour/ The Afternoon: Tuesday afternoon/ Evening (The sunset/ Twilight time)/ The Night: Nights in white satin

Comments: Right away you’re into a whole different kind of music here. It’s full, it’s dramatic, it’s, well, classical. It’s the sort of thing the likes of Jeff Lynne would pick up on in a few years’ time and make his trademark, but here it’s something totally new, initially like listening to a symphony. The album charts, to quote the Beatles, a day in the life, and goes from dawn to night, with little interludes and intros for each piece. There’s a full orchestra here, and it’s not really that surprising, as although this kind of sound could possibly be reproduced today with a few banks of synthesisers, back then they were much in their infancy and you would need the full orchestra to do this music justice. Mike Pinder’s mellotron however does hold court here, and you can hear its influence all through the album.


I like the way “The day begins” opens with the theme for what will become the main melody of their most famous and successful single, “Nights in white satin”, and it’s a lovely sweeping majestic tune which then gives way to spoken poetry against much lighter, airier music, almost ethereal. “Dawn is a feeling” is the first real vocal track, slow and grandiose, and again I can hear melodies and progressions here that would form the backbone of many an ELO tune in the next decade. A lot of flute here too, something that had not really been used on rock albums up to that point much, if at all. “Another morning” is much more uptempo, sort of Beatles in form, some really nice acoustic guitar from new boy Justin Hayward and some peppy flute from Ray Thomas.


A big orchestral intro then for “Lunch break” and then it hits into that rush-rush pumping sort of tune that always seems to depict the big city, people hurrying to and fro, going to appointments and meetings, catching buses and taxis; you know the kind of thing. “Peak hour” then breaks in with a real rock tune driven on electric guitar and bass, the percussion hard and heavy and the vocal a little wild. I know “Tuesday afternoon”, with its gentle boppy feel, again the acoustic guitar and this time the voice of Hayward, and a really sumptuous orchestral passage leading into a kind of folky campfire ending.


“Evening” doesn’t do too much for me I’m afraid. The semi-tribal opening of “Sun set” is a little jarring, even given the classical sweep that follows it, and even though there’s some nice bass work from John Lodge and some more lovely flute from Ray Thomas, it just doesn’t sit right somehow. The mix of orchestral and rock and roll on “Twilight time” is much better; the vocal harmonies work really well and the whole thing just hangs together better. Of course I know “Nights in white satin”, an extended version of which closes the album in fine style, a song which would not only become one of their biggest hits but a staple on love compilation albums for decades to come. Pinder really comes into his own here on the mellotron, and there’s a powerful spoken piece by him before the orchestra brings everything to a triumphant close.


Favourite track(s): Dawn is a feeling, Tuesday afternoon, Twilight time, Nights in white satin

Least favourite track(s): Sun set, Peak hour

Overall impression: A very impressive and ambitious album, and one which would certainly point the way for progressive rock bands that were to come. The first time a rock band had really married symphonic orchestral music and rock together and come up with something that was greater than the sum of its parts.

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Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 19 2016 at 09:53
I’ve never had that much time for Keith Emerson, but it can’t be denied that in the same way as Mike Pinder brought the mellotron into progressive rock music, Emerson ensured that keyboards took centre stage. Almost literally. He’s more known, in some ways, for the abuse he practiced on his keyboards - dragging them around the stage, attacking them with knives etc - than he is for his prowess on the instrument, but there’s no getting away from the fact that he knew how to play. He may have pushed showmanship to the fore in preference to musical ability, but he had both in spades.

The band he started out in, more or less, is the feature of our next article. With a name that typically sounded acceptable and normal, but actually referred to drug-taking, The Nice were big on the scene from 1967 to about 1970, and in that time they popularised the idea of marrying jazz, classical and other influences into their music. They would also be feted as the first real supergroup, although for me the term has a different meaning: you have to have been in a big, successful band and then joined others who have done the same, in the way Asia, Box of Frogs and The Travelling Wilburys did. But that’s just my opinion.


With arrogance that would become one of his worse traits, Emerson made sure his name was first when the band released their debut album, and it was his somewhat dictatorial approach to his bandmates and his desire for more and more of the spotlight that would eventually lead to their breaking up in 1971. Before that though, they released four major albums, one of which is said to have been one of the cornerstones of the progressive rock movement.



Album title: The thoughts of Emerlist Davjack

Artiste: The Nice

Nationality: British

Label: Immediate

Year: 1967

Grade: A

Previous Experience of this Artiste: Zero; I saw them playing “America” live on some prog history show, but that’s about it.

Landmark value: Bringing together both the idea of interpreting classical music for a new generation and pushing the keyboard towards the front of the band, whereas before it has been more of a backup instrument, The Nice certainly laid many of the foundations for what would become prog rock, and of course Emerson went on to found ELP, one of the biggest and most successful prog rock bands in history, and ironically, one against whom the backlash of punk rock was aimed and which spelled, for a while, the end of the subgenre.

Track Listing: Flower king of flies/ The thoughts of Emerlist Davjack/ Bonny K/ Rondo/ War and Peace/ Tantalising Maggie/ Dawn/ The cry of Eugene

Comments: A brief rant at Spotify, though I probably shouldn’t; they provide me with so much music I would otherwise have to pay for. But still: they have The Nice on their books but not this, supposedly their most important album! Why? I had to go Groovesharkin’ to find it. But to the album: there’s a lot of psychedelic rock here, decent enough song to open, and you can certainly hear Emerson’s organ (ooer!) taking the lead in just about every song. He does prove he’s a master of it though. The title track has a nice sort of early prog feel about it with some classical mixed in, and I sort of hear early Moody Blues here too. Good marching rhythm, very upbeat, I really like this.


“Bonny K” is more a rock-and-roll track, with the guitar getting in some fine licks and Emerson almost pushed to the background for a little, but he’s back with a bang for “Rondo”, based on Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk”, which is pretty damn excellent. The “Tocatta and fugue” extract, almost in the background is tremendous, like the past calling “Don’t forget me!” Must say, I really love this. “War and peace” is another instrumental, this time with a real blues/boogie flair, and again I must admit it’s totally bitchin’. The keyboard arpeggios and runs are amazing.


Not so impressed with “Tantalising Maggie” though; bit kind of folky with elements of rock, doesn’t really work for me. Stupid ending too, with some sort of taped laughter? Yeah, definitely my least favourite so far, almost the only one I don’t like. “Dawn” has a great creeping menace about it, reminds me of later Waits at times, the dark whisper works really well. Like this one too. Gets a little indulgent towards the end, bit freeform; you can see where he was going to go later with ELP. It recovers well though and it’s still a great track. Which leaves us with only one song proper to go. I say proper because although it wasn’t included on the original release, how could I not mention their rendition of Bernstein’s “America” from West Side Story?


But before that we have “The cry of Eugene”, with a Beatles-like psychedelia and some really nice violin it sounds like, though I see none credited. Can’t be synthesised as at this point even analogue synthesisers had to make their presence felt. Maybe a guitar effect? Good anyway. It’s not, to be fair, the greatest closer (“Dawn” would have been much better) but it’s a decent song and I have little bad to say about it, or indeed this album.


But then, technically that’s not it is it? Although excluded from the original release as I said, their most famous/infamous song is their pastiche of Leonard Bernstein’s “America”. What Jimi did for “The Star-Spangled Banner” Emerson and co. do here, ripping the piss unmercifully out of the nationalistic anthem for West Side Story, and it’s probably one of the first real protest songs without words. Maybe the only one. Great stuff, and again proof that, despite my dislike for him, Emerson was a true keyboard wizard.


Favourite track(s): The thoughts of Emerlist Davjack, Rondo, War and peace, Dawn

Least favourite track(s): Tantalising Maggie

Overall impression: Brilliant album. Keyboard-heavy of course, and a real pointer to the way prog rock would develop, thrive and grow. I may not like ELP but I certainly love this.

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Posted By: KingCrInuYasha
Date Posted: November 19 2016 at 11:30
Really love The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack. As for the guys not named Keith, Brian was an excellent drummer and probably the most suited to an ELP like group. David, while not the best guitarist, had some interesting moments, particularly "Flower King Of Flies" , "Bonnie K", "War And Peace", "Tantalising Maggie", "Dawn", "Cry Of Eugene" and "America". He was also good in their live versions of Bob Dylan's "She Belongs To Me", which would have been a fine fit on this album, not to mention the occasional moments where he brings out the trumpet. As for Lee, later moments showed just how unwieldy his voice could be, but, for here, he's fine.


-------------
He looks at this world and wants it all... so he strikes, like Thunderball!


Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 19 2016 at 11:42
Originally posted by KingCrInuYasha KingCrInuYasha wrote:

Really love The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack. As for the guys not named Keith, Brian was an excellent drummer and probably the most suited to an ELP like group. David, while not the best guitarist, had some interesting moments, particularly "Flower King Of Flies" , "Bonnie K", "War And Peace", "Tantalising Maggie", "Dawn", "Cry Of Eugene" and "America". He was also good in their live versions of Bob Dylan's "She Belongs To Me", which would have been a fine fit on this album, not to mention the occasional moments where he brings out the trumpet. As for Lee, later moments showed just how unwieldy his voice could be, but, for here, he's fine.

Yeah, I was surprised at how much I liked the album, given that it is basically a vehicle for Keith and how I have a standing bias against him. But I got through that and I have to admit it's a hell of an album, and well deserves its place in prog rock history.


Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 19 2016 at 11:52
Before I move on to 1968, a brief word about this year and the albums I have listened to. With apologies to 1966, it does seem that ‘67 was the year prog rock began struggling towards some sort of birth. To paraphrase Yeats: “What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Canterbury to be born?” Whereas we had the likes of the Beach Boys and the Byrds laying claim to some sort of responsibility for, or hand in the genesis of prog rock, as I said I don’t really see it that way. Those albums certainly impinged upon and helped spur the ideas and fire the imaginations of those who would later lead the way, but as for being fathers, or grandfathers of the subgenre? Nah. They pointed the way a little perhaps, but more in the manner of a farmer leaning on a gate who, when asked the way to the big festival, indicates the direction to the band in the van and then turns back to his cows and sheep. In the same way as that hypothetical farmer sent the band in the right direction but had nothing to do with them or their music, had no interest in fact in either and just happened to be there to point the way, the Beach Boys, the Byrds and to an extent Zappa helped prog along on its journey but could not really be said to have seriously contributed in any real way. (Direct your hate mail and death threats to....)

Make of that what you want, fume and rage and tell me I’m wrong, but I heard little in any of these three albums to make me realise a new era of music was approaching, a new direction being taken. Zappa particularly was experimental and that added to the prog melting pot, if you will, but to call him a prog rock artiste, or at least to say that Freak out! was a prog rock record is I think stretching it a little. You may disagree with that of course, especially if you’re a fan of the man and know his music better than I do, and there’s no doubting the possibility that down the road he may have contributed more widely or specifically to the subgenre, but for that album on its own, I think not.


So 1966, the year of the Beach Boys and the Byrds and the emergence of Frank Zappa, does not for me cut it for the year prog began. 1967 on the other hand has some gems. The ability of the Moody Blues to change from straight blues/rock to a more classical idea, leaning into what would become progressive rock, the coming to life of Pink Floyd, the birth of Procol Harum and the efforts of Keith Emerson to take keyboard players out of the shadows of the background and into the limelight, all speak to me of a new shift in music at the time, a real feeling that something was happening, that something was about to change, that something was being born.


There are exceptions. Not every album I reviewed here gives me that sort of feeling. Let’s quickly look at them one by one. Velvet Underground’s debut was the first one I took in ‘67 and as I said, I didn’t feel it with them. That, to me, was not progressive rock nor anything close to what prog rock would become. In parts, yes, it was maybe art rock, and that would be a kind of subset of prog rock, but too much of it is psychedelia or just plain rock to afford it a place in what I would see as the hatchery of this new music. Procol Harum, on the other hand: a great blend of the sort of influences that would indeed create prog rock: the mellotron, the strange lyrics, the time signature changes, the longer songs. Sgt Pepper’s deserves its place because of the recording techniques used, as well as for almost singlehandedly redefining the idea of an album as opposed to a collection of singles plus fillers, and of course for being one of the first concept albums. But even so, it’s not what I would call prog. Or to rob from the pages of Prog magazine, it’s prog, Jim, but not as we know it.


Nobody could deny the Moody Blues did more than nearly anyone to advance and even create the subgenre of progressive rock with their second release, Days of future passed, particularly with Pinder’s efforts to make the mellotron the prog instrument of choice, and the marrying of classical music with rock, the suites and the ecological nature of the music on the album; while leaving aside my contempt for his ego, Emerson and The Nice really advanced the cause by putting keyboards centre stage, developing the idea of a gig as more a show than just a concert (something Floyd had also done, but more with light shows and multimedia than by sheer force of personality), and of course again the idea of using classical music to set their own themes to, paying homage to the past while creating the future.


With a few very important albums then, the seeds for the germination of progressive rock were sown, and over the next decade would blossom and spread, though oddly again this new subgenre would be primarily a British phenomenon. It's perhaps interesting to mark the fact that all the albums reviewed by me for 1966, the year prog is argued to have kicked its tiny feet inside the belly of Mother Music, were American, and yet once prog got really going, from '67 onwards, the bands are almost exclusively British, even English: I know of few Welsh or Scottish prog bands around that time, and surely no Irish ones. So it was as if the Americans kind of had the germ of the idea, but the Brits, and more specifically the English, ran with it and made it into something. Though other countries would get in on the act, most notably Italy, prog rock, even though it would grow to gigantic, almost bloated proportions by the end of the next decade, would still only be driven by and practiced in that sceptred isle. Later of course, America would get in on the scene, but not for a long time. For now, and for a considerable amount of years, as she had once ruled the waves, Britannia would rule the progsphere.




Posted By: Trollheart
Date Posted: November 19 2016 at 13:07
If 1967 was a pretty pivotal year for prog rock, the following year would prove to be even more so. Bands who would rise to become true giants in the field would be formed in 1968, though many of them would not release their first album for another year, even two in some cases, and then, their debuts would not always be the groundbreaking classics later ones would grow to be. I guess if you consider 1967 - and to some smaller extent, 1966 - as the nursery years of prog rock, 1968 was when the chicks began hatching; breathing the air but as yet nowhere near strong enough to fly.

Put another way,  the seeds that had been sown were beginning to grow,  but would still need a whole lot of sunshine before they could bear any fruit. Once they did, though, everyone would want a taste! Here then are some of the important bands that got together this year.


Note: as this gets a little closer to the sort of prog rock I’m familiar with, I’m introducing a new category, which with typical self-effacement and humility I’m calling “The Trollheart Factor”. This is an indication of how well, if at all, I know and am familiar with the artiste in question, and how qualified I am therefore to speak about them. I’ll also add this to album reviews, as even though I may know some artistes well, there may be albums of theirs I’m not that well versed in.


Further note: since I’ve a pain in my arse writing the word “incarnation” all the time, I’m in future going to indicate each time the band reformed with a Roman numeral (bein’ a bit of a pretentious git), so the original lineup will be (i), a reformed one (ii), the next (iii) and so on, put after the relevant years.


Third (final?) note: Although many of these albums/bands will be dealt with, there's no guarantee I will get to feature each and every one, so bear with me as you join me on my travels.


Amon Düül II (1968 – )

Nationality: German

Original lineup: Chris Karrer, Dieter Serfas, Falk Rogner, John Weinzierl and Renate Knaup


First relevant album: Phallus Dei

Impact: 6

The Trollheart Factor: 0

Linked to:


Progenitors of what would become known as Krautrock, Amon Düül II grew up out of a hippy commune in Germany, where the music really originally came second to paying the bills to keep the camp open. Apparently in the beginning they worked really hard - ”The band played almost every day” according to Wiemzierl. “We played universities, academies, underground clubs, and every hall with a power socket and an audience.” No X-Factor sudden fame then!


Art Zoyd (1968 - )

Nationality: French

Original lineup: Gerard Hourbette


First relevant album: Symphonie pour le jour où brûleront les cités, 1976

Impact: ?

The  Trollheart Factor: 0

Linked with:


French avant-garde, free jazz and experimental band that seems to have been under the direction of one man, the abovenamed Gerard Hourbette. Part of the Rock In Opposition movement.


Brainbox (1969-1972, 2004 - )

Nationality: Dutch

Original lineup: Jan Akkerman, Pierre van der Linden, Kazimir Lux


First relevant album: Brainbox, 1969

Impact: 4

The  Trollheart Factor: 0

Linked with: Focus


Most famous as the launching board for Focus, Brainbox released three albums(including, weirdly, a “Best of” after just one album!) before they split in 1972. They reunited in 2004 and have since released another two albums plus a live one, the last being put out in 2011.


Can (1968 - 1979, (i)1986 - 1989 (ii))

Nationality: German

Original lineup: Michael Karoli (RIP), Jaki Lebezeit, Irmin Schmidt, Holger Czukay, David C. Johnson, Malcolm Mooney


First relevant album: Monster Movie, 1969

Impact: 9

The  Trollheart Factor: 0

Linked with:


Another band instrumental in the Krautrock era, Can are one of the most well-remembered and artistes from Joy Division and The Fall to Bowie and Talking Heads cite them as an influence on their music, with Brian Eno composing a short movie in tribute to them. Although they disbanded in 1972 they reunited fourteen years later to record one more album. There were sporadic other appearances by them over the years, but since these usually concerned recording a track or a live performance I’m not counting them. They remain however a huge influence right across the music world, from jazz to avant-garde to electronica and of course prog rock.



Caravan (1968 - 1978 (i) 1980 - 1985 (ii) 1990 -1992 (iii) 1995 - (iv))

Nationality: British

Original lineup: David Sinclair, Richard Sinclair, Pye  Hastings, Richard Coughlan (RIP)


First relevant album: Caravan, 1968

Impact: 8

The  Trollheart Factor: 0

Linked with: Soft Machine, The Wilde Flowers


One of the premier bands in what would become known as the Canterbury Scene, Caravan were not a commercially successful band, but then, a large percentage of prog rock bands can say the same thing, and the real success lies in the legacy they leave behind and the bands they influenced.


Deep Purple (1968 - 1975)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Rod Evans, Nick Simper, Jon Lord, Ian Paice, Ritchie Blackmore


First relevant album: Shades of Deep Purple, 1968 (but really Deep Purple in Rock, 1970)

Impact: 3

The  Trollheart Factor: 5

Linked with: Rainbow, Whitesnake, Ian Gillan Band, Roundabout


What? You no doubt say as you read the brackets in disbelief: Purple lasted only till 1976? Idiot! They were around for a whole lot longer than that! They're still around now! Well, yes, but as they're primarily known as a heavy rock/heavy metal band, I'm basing the activity span on the years they were playing prog rock, which ended in 1974 with Stormbringer, though there is something of a case for Come Taste the Band, released in 1975. Feel free to debate it with me, but let me reiterate before you do that I don’t really want to get bogged down too much exploring or talking about bands who were more or less just on the fringes of the progressive rock scene and who made their name in other spheres, and this certainly applies to them. But they began as prog rock and it might (might, depending on how many albums were released in this year) be interesting to see the direction they had originally been heading in. So I think I'm justified in only recording their active years above as the times when they played what could be termed progressive rather than hard rock.



Henry Cow (1968 - 1978)

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Tim Hodgkinson, Fred Frith, Lindsay Cooper, Chris Cutler


First relevant album: Legend, 1973

Impact: ?

The  Trollheart Factor: 0

Linked with:


One of the few British RIO bands, Henry Cow seemed determined to stay out of the mainstream, even of progressive rock, and they seemed to compose their music by committee, having actual meetings where they thrashed out the ideas and decided which ones to use and which to discard. Their music has been described as inaccessible, overcomplicated and brilliantly innovative.


King Crimson (1968 - 1974 (i) 1981-1984 (ii) 1994 - 2004 (iii) 2007 - 2008 (iv) 203 - (v))

Nationality: British

Original lineup: Robert Fripp, Peter Sinfield, Greg Lake, Ian MacDonald


First relevant album: In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969

Impact: 10

The  Trollheart Factor: 0

Linked with: A host of acts, including but not limited to 21st Century Schizoid Band, ProjeKCts, UK, Giles, Giles and Fripp, Crimson Jazz Trio and Porcupine Tree


One of the true giants of the progressive rock scene, King Crimson bestrode the movement like a colossus. Or so I’m told. Personally, I’ve never heard anything by them, and while this may be reason in some people’s minds to nail me living to a Hammond, I readily admitted when I began this journey that there were prog rock bands, many of them considered essential to the genre, whom I had not heard, and Crimson are one of them. Needless to say, I’ll be redressing that here. Driven by the genius and some would say tyranny of founder Robert Fripp, King Crimson shied from the pop song, or melodies too easy to play, and they certainly did not seem to court (sorry) chart success. Yet they have remained both one of the most influential bands not only in progressive rock but in music as a whole, and continue to confound their critics, still rocking after over forty-five years.


Rush (1968 - )

Nationality: Canadian

Original lineup: Geddy Lee, Neil Peart, Alex Lifeson


First relevant album: Fly by Night, 1975

Impact: 9

The  Trollheart Factor: 7

Linked with:


Beginning life as a blues rock band with their debut album, Rush soon began incorporating fantasy lyrics and themes into their music with the release of their second album, and quickly identified with the progressive rock crowd. One of the first, if not the first, progressive rock bands to come out of Canada, they have remained with pretty much the same lineup since 1974, always a power trio, and singer Geddy Lee has become famous for his high-pitched, often falsetto vocals. Rush released some of the most seminal prog rock albums of the seventies, including 2112, Caress of Steel, A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres.


The United States of America (1967 - 1968)

Nationality: American

Original lineup:  Joseph Byrd, Dorothy Moskowitz, Gordon Marron, Rand Forbes, Crai Woodson, Ed Bogas


First relevant album: The United States of America, 1968

Impact: ?

The  Trollheart Factor: 0

Linked with:


These poor guys split after recording only one album. Despite being the only band at the time I know of (as if that means anything!) to use instruments like calliope, harpsichord, fretless bass and electric violin, and not have any guitars at all, tensions within the band led to their disbanding a year after they got together. Their single album has however gone down in the annals of the history of prog rock, psychedelic music and avant-garde rock, it says here.


Yes (1968 - 1981 (i) 1984 - 2004 (ii) 2008 - (iii)


Nationality: British

Original lineup: Jon Anderson, Chris Squires, Peter Banks, Tony Kaye, Bill Bruford


First relevant album: Yes, 1969

Impact: 10

The  Trollheart Factor: 6

Linked with: The Buggles, The Syn, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, Asia


Another giant of the genre, Yes built their appeal and their fame on intricate keyboard passages, long, multi-part songs, and the soaring soprano voice of Jon Anderson. Some of their songs took up one full side of an album (Close to the Edge, Tales from Topographic Oceans) and as a result, though hugely popular in the seventies they became identified as one of the bands against whom the punk rock backlash hit out, calling music such as they played pompous, overblown, and irrelevant. Well, they probably called it pretentious sh*te, but we’re not going to say that here.




Posted By: Trollheart
Date 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!




Posted By: Trollheart
Date 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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Final Rating:





Posted By: Trollheart
Date 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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Posted By: Trollheart
Date 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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Posted By: Trollheart
Date 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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Posted By: Trollheart
Date 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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Posted By: Trollheart
Date 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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Posted By: Trollheart
Date 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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Posted By: KingCrInuYasha
Date 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. 


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He looks at this world and wants it all... so he strikes, like Thunderball!


Posted By: Trollheart
Date 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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Posted By: Trollheart
Date 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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Trollheart: as Irish as losing a 3-0 lead in a must-win fixture!


Posted By: Trollheart
Date 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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Trollheart: as Irish as losing a 3-0 lead in a must-win fixture!


Posted By: Trollheart
Date 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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Trollheart: as Irish as losing a 3-0 lead in a must-win fixture!


Posted By: Trollheart
Date 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.

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Trollheart: as Irish as losing a 3-0 lead in a must-win fixture!


Posted By: Trollheart
Date 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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Trollheart: as Irish as losing a 3-0 lead in a must-win fixture!


Posted By: Trollheart
Date 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.




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Trollheart: as Irish as losing a 3-0 lead in a must-win fixture!


Posted By: Logan
Date 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.



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The first step on the road to wisdom is the recognition of one's own ignorance.


Posted By: Trollheart
Date 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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Trollheart: as Irish as losing a 3-0 lead in a must-win fixture!


Posted By: Trollheart
Date 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.

Personal Rating:


Legacy Rating:


Final Rating:





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Trollheart: as Irish as losing a 3-0 lead in a must-win fixture!


Posted By: resurrection
Date 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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