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I Know What I Like: Trollheart's History of Progressive Rock (2 Viewers)

Trollheart

Senior Member
Revolver.jpg


DRAW! (Or rather, don't...)

As I've been somewhat busy over the past two weeks, posting over a hundred album reviews and also getting in the odd spot of breathing in between, I haven't yet got to review that Revolver album. Am I stalling? Of course: after you've got to know me better you'll all realise I don't have much time for the Fab Four, but I do intend to listen to and review this album, and any others of theirs that qualify, as part of this project.

For now though, it's holding things up so I'm going to use this as a placeholder for when I get the chance to devote the time to it that it presumably needs and demands, and I'm going to move on with the next part. I'll come back to this when I can and NO Musty, I won't bloody forget it (I'm sure you won't let me).
 

Trollheart

Senior Member
storm-lisa-kenny.jpg


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.

One small point: I use the words “first relevant album” to distinguish any of the output of these bands that was not in a prog rock vein, as many, such as The Moody Blues, Jethro Tull and even the mighty Genesis began their career with albums that could not in any way be called progressive rock, and in that case those albums are not important, and so not relevant to the history of prog rock.

You can't help noticing that, apart from one or two exceptions, all of these bands are British. Progressive Rock seems to have been almost an exclusively British movement, with American prog rock bands only coming much, much later. Like the NWOBHM, the US was well behind the curve when it came to prog rock, still mired I guess in "flower power" and the Vietnam War which gave a focus to more protest/folk-oriented sounds, not to mention the burgeoning soul-to-become-disco scene. Why prog rock developed in Britain almost alone I don't know but I will be looking into.

I guess it has a lot to do with the public school system, as many of these bands met each other in school, and the gentle pastoral English countryside probably played its part too. While students were protesting in US universities and clashing with police, fighting for civil rights and rioting in the streets, you can just hear the English tsk and sigh "Oh, I say!" as they sipped their tea and wrote another song about meadows and rainbows...


The Moody Blues (1964 -)
Nationality: British
Original lineup: Mike Pinder, Ray Thomas Clint Warwick, Denny Laine
First relevant album: Days of Future Passed, 1967
440px-TheMoodyBlues-album-daysoffuturepassed.jpg

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, Gong

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
PinkFloyd-album-piperatthegatesofdawn_300.jpg

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 substance abuse 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, Martin 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 (RIP) 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
The_Soft_Machine-album.jpg

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 Mayhew, Mike Rutherford, Anthony Phillips, Tony Banks
First relevant album: Trespass, 1970
Trespass70.jpg

Linked to: Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins solo careers, Mike and the Mechanics, Tony Banks solo career, Anthony Phillips solo career
Impact: 10

What can I write about Genesis that I have not yet already? 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's departure, but like Yes and ELP were leading lights of the development of progressive rock. Well, to be honest there's some doubt about their breakup, but their last actual album was in 1997 (hence the question mark above) after which they got back together for some tours but have not yet released anything new, and that's over eighteen years now, so you'd have to wonder if they ever will.

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
Gong_Magick_Brother.jpg

Linked to: Soft Machine, The Wilde Flowers
Impact: 8

One of the first French progressive rock acts, Gong began as more of 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
JethroTull-albums-benefit.jpg

Linked to: Fairport Convention
Impact: 8

Very much a folk-based band, with bandleader Ian Anderson proficient on the flute, and lyrics often about agriculture, folklore and rural life. 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
TheNiceDavJack350-1.jpg

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
Linked to: Kraftwerk
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
Procol_Harum.png

Impact: 7

Best known of course for their smash hit single “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, and 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
The_aerosol_grey_machine.jpg

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 palette. They would set the standard 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!
 

Deleted member 56686

Retired Supervisor
WF Veterans
View attachment 24580


DRAW! (Or rather, don't...)

As I've been somewhat busy over the past two weeks, posting over a hundred album reviews and also getting in the odd spot of breathing in between, I haven't yet got to review that Revolver album. Am I stalling? Of course: after you've got to know me better you'll all realise I don't have much time for the Fab Four, but I do intend to listen to and review this album, and any others of theirs that qualify, as part of this project.

For now though, it's holding things up so I'm going to use this as a placeholder for when I get the chance to devote the time to it that it presumably needs and demands, and I'm going to move on with the next part. I'll come back to this when I can and NO Musty, I won't bloody forget it (I'm sure you won't let me).



Sure, sure :rolleyes:
 

Trollheart

Senior Member
Velvet_Underground_and_Nico.jpg

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: Obviously this 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.
Tracklisting: 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 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 laid back and seems a little empty. I mentioned I knew “Venus in Furs”, (who doesn’t, if only from the ads?) so no surprises here, 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 laid back, relaxed sort of song with some nice guitar, that perhaps belies the bleak nature of the lyrical matter. 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. “The Black Angel's Death Song” is good though: sort of a bluegrass idea in it, screeching viola from John 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 bass line 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, The Black Angel's Death Song
Least favourite track(s): European Son, There She Goes, Femme Fatale
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. I'm certainly not denying this album its place in musical history, and I can see the progressive rock tinges in it, but they're tinges only, and if this is one of the ancestors of prog rock, then it's the drunk old uncle with tourettes whom everyone tries to avoid at the Christmas dinner, lest he corner you and start going on about how music was in his day.
Personal Rating: 3.0
Legacy Rating: 4.0
Final Rating: 3.5
 

Trollheart

Senior Member
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 genre. 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 genre straining to be born, and though some of them did experiment with sound 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.
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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.

Procol_Harum.png

Album title: Procol Harum
Artiste: Procol Harum
Nationality: British
Label: Regal Zonophone
Year: 1967
Grade: A
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.
Tracklisting: 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 genre. 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 said 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 proper emergence of progressive rock. Superb.
Personal Rating: 4.5
Legacy Rating: 5.0
Final Rating: 4.5

 

Trollheart

Senior Member
As with The Byrds, the first name that drops from my lips when I speak of progressive rock is not that of 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...
Sgt._Pepper%27s_Lonely_Hearts_Club_Band.jpg

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 helping to establish the identity of albums as opposed to singles and one of the first real concept albums, this set the standard for future recording techniques and was one of the few albums that was essentially recorded as a band other than the one the artists were known for.
Tracklisting: 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’ll all heard this album - or at least, some of it, so I’ll skip the tracks 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”, straigh tahead 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 two or three 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 genre 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!, A Day in the Life
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.

Personal Rating: 4.0
Legacy Rating: 5.0
Final Rating: 4.5

 

Trollheart

Senior Member
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 the second side of Meddle, Wish You Were Here, to say nothing of Animals, typifies that refusal of the genre to conform to the norms of rock music at the time: albums must yield hit singles, singles must be such-a-length, 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” eight years later, Syd Barrett was one of the founders 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 detrimental and later, tragic 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 even came up with the striking and memorable title, taken from a chapter of the children’s classic “The Wind in the Willows”.

PinkFloyd-album-piperatthegatesofdawn_300.jpg

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.
Tracklisting: 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 straight ahead rock, though you can get an idea of Waters’s prowess on the bass lines 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.They were on their own personal journey, and very soon millions would want to be part of it.

“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 laid back 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, fuck 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 journal! 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 road sign 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.
Personal Rating:4.0
Legacy Rating: 5.0
Final Rating: 4.5
 

Trollheart

Senior Member
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 genre 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 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. For those wondering, when we get to that album I’ll just be referring back to my previous review of it: I don’t think my fragile psyche could take another trip through that particular wonderland. 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.
Safe_as_Milk.jpg

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!) Oh, and “Ice Cream for Crow” - I actually enjoyed that!
Landmark value: As detailed above, Beefheart had a massive influence on progressive rock, but what effect this particular album had is debatable, so after listening through to this I would say not that much really.
Tracklisting: 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 straight ahead 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 again 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.
Personal Rating: 1.00
Legacy Rating: 2.00
Final Rating:1.50
 

Trollheart

Senior Member
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.

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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, Long Distance Voyager 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 become a true staple of the genre.
Tracklisting: 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 more 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 “Sunset” 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): Sunset, 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.
Personal Rating: 4.0
Legacy Rating: 5.0
Final Rating: 4.5

 

Trollheart

Senior Member
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 worst 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.

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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 genre.
Tracklisting: 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 “Toccata 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 Emerson 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 Stars and Stripes” Emerson and co. do here, ripping the piss unmercifully out of the nationalistic theme 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. Apparently Bernstein hated it. Good: I’m sure he was meant to.

Favourite track(s): The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack, Rondo, War and Peace, Dawn. America
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.
Personal Rating: 4.5
Legacy Rating: 5.0
Final Rating: 4.5

* Grooveshark, for those who don’t know, was something of a minor competitor to Spotify, but they didn’t last. As Agnes said to Marge Simpson when Marge intimated that Macys and Gimbels could get along, “Gimbels is gone, Marge! You’re Gimbels!” Indeed.
 

Trollheart

Senior Member
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, strides 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 on 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 genre? 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.

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 genre, 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 single-handedly 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 put it in the words of the late Leonard Nimoy’s famous alter-ego (and robbed from the pages of “Prog” magazine) it’s prog, Jim, but not as we know it.

The inclusion of Captain Beefheart's debut here baffles me, as it is so far away from prog rock as to be almost indistinguishable from it. It's a half-decent blues album but that's about it. Like Frank Zappa, though, it's true he had a pretty big effect on the genre with albums like the dreaded Trout Mask Replica, so I would not have the temerity to suggest he was not important to prog rock, just not with this record. Pink Floyd, although their debut was not quite what you would call a prog rock album, does have the beginnings of how their sound was to develop and evolve over the years, and there are some very proggy moments on Piper, so I would certainly count that as a very important album in the conception of progressive rock.

Nobody could deny the Moody Blues did more than nearly anyone to advance and even create the genre 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, while with the marrying of classical music with rock, the suites and the ecological nature of the music on the album, 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. 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 wake up to 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.
 

Deleted member 56686

Retired Supervisor
WF Veterans
Well, you sure grade hard :lol:


Nope, Sergeant Pepper isn't really a progressive album in the classic sense and it was only a concept album because they said it was, as Lennon would put it thirteen years later. Velvet Underground is certainly not a progressive rock album, but guess what? Neither was Procol Harum's debut or Pet Sounds or admittedly, Revolver. What all these albums were though were albums by which all future albums would be measured. Needless to say I differ in opinion on the reviews of VU and Pepper in particular (A 4.0 legacy rating for VU and Nico?) and even Gates of Dawn to an extent (I'm a real Syd Barrett fan). I think you're right on with Days of Future Passed but I probably don't like Procol Harum quite as much as you do. The Nice, I've only really heard Flower King of Flies which I happen to like a lot. I'm pretty sure that was meant as the single for the album. Maybe I'll give that one a listen for my own album reviews. As for Safe as Milk, I have to wonder if there is a personal bias at play there though I'd probably only rate that a 3 on your scale myself.

So what's up for 1968? Jethro Tull released their first album that year and you also have the Move and I believe the Idle Race. The Grateful Dead released Anthem of the Sun that year and I think that might rate as their one and only progressive album. And, of course you have Forever Changes by Love. And of course the established groups already mentioned like Moody Blues and Pink Floyd. Really looking forward to what you think of King Crimson though when you get to 1969. Of the bands that are labeled progressive, they're probably my favorite.
 

Trollheart

Senior Member
Well, you sure grade hard :lol:
Live hard, grade hard. :lol: Seriously, I tried to be as fair as I could, so there's my own personal grade (my opinion of the album in general with regard to its place in the prog movement, NOT my personal opinion of it as an album on its own) its Legacy Rating (how important the history of music sees the album as, despite what I may think of it) and then the average becomes the final rating. I think that's the only way to do it.
Nope, Sergeant Pepper isn't really a progressive album in the classic sense and it was only a concept album because they said it was, as Lennon would put it thirteen years later. Velvet Underground is certainly not a progressive rock album, but guess what? Neither was Procol Harum's debut or Pet Sounds or admittedly, Revolver. What all these albums were though were albums by which all future albums would be measured. Needless to say I differ in opinion on the reviews of VU and Pepper in particular (A 4.0 legacy rating for VU and Nico?) and even Gates of Dawn to an extent
I think, having admittedly only listened to it the once, I'd argue that PH's album was very much either a prog album or one that pointed the way. Moodies certainly was. I agree with your overall assessment above though, which is I think something I said anyway.
(I'm a real Syd Barrett fan).
Not me: never liked the first two albums, though I can see how they contributed to the overall sound Floyd would develop. Barrett for me was more in the folky, bluesy side of things, though he could write some very progressive epics, as evidenced by the longer songs on Piper.
I think you're right on with Days of Future Passed but I probably don't like Procol Harum quite as much as you do. The Nice, I've only really heard Flower King of Flies which I happen to like a lot. I'm pretty sure that was meant as the single for the album. Maybe I'll give that one a listen for my own album reviews.
The Nice album is really good. You should listen to it. As someone who doesn't like ELP I didn't think I'd enjoy it but I did.
As for Safe as Milk, I have to wonder if there is a personal bias at play there though I'd probably only rate that a 3 on your scale myself.
Personal bias is as personal bias does. Yeah, of course there is: that's why the Personal Rating is there. It's also why it isn't the only way I rate the albums, cos, you know, that would be stupid. But while SaM isn't the worst album, I'm not rating them on my Personal Scale as to how I enjoyed them, but how I feel they deserve to be called part of the prog movement, and I don't think that one does. Wait till you see the review for TMR!
:lol: :ChainGunSmiley::ChainGunSmiley:
So what's up for 1968? Jethro Tull released their first album that year and you also have the Move and I believe the Idle Race. The Grateful Dead released Anthem of the Sun that year and I think that might rate as their one and only progressive album. And, of course you have Forever Changes by Love. And of course the established groups already mentioned like Moody Blues and Pink Floyd. Really looking forward to what you think of King Crimson though when you get to 1969. Of the bands that are labeled progressive, they're probably my favorite.
Tull's first two albums are generally not considered to be prog, which is why I don't start reviewing him till I think 1971? The Dead were never part of the prog movement; just cos they had one proggy album doesn't mean they were important to the genre, so I don't think they're included. Other bands who had only one album, or one prog one, unless it was VERY influential, won't be featured. See what you think of 1969, coming up real soon!


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Trollheart

Senior Member
If 1967 was a pretty nascent 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.

Even further note: for those bands or artists with which I am very unfamiliar or even know nothing about, and where I can't determine quickly their impact on the subgenre, I will just put a question mark, and it can be amended later, when I've read more about them or listened to them.


Amon Düül II (1968 – )

Nationality: German
Original lineup: Chris Karrer, Dieter Serfas, Falk Rogner, John Weinzierl and Renate Knaup
First relevant album: Phallus Dei, 1969
Phallus_dei.jpg

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.”

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 (RIO) movement.

Brainbox (1969-1972 (i), 2004 - (ii))

Nationality: Dutch
Original lineup: Jan Akkerman, Pierre van der Linden, Kazimir Lux
First relevant album: Brainbox, 1969
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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
CanMonsterMovieAlbumCover.jpg

Impact: 9
The Trollheart Factor: 0
Linked with:

Another band instrumental in the Krautrock era, Can are one of the most well-remembered and artists 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 1979 they reunited seven 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
Caravan1968.jpg

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 - 1976)

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)
DP-Shades_of_Deep_Purple_-_US.jpg

Impact: 3
The Trollheart Factor: 5
Linked with: Rainbow, Whitesnake, Ian Gillan Band, Roundabout

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 Deep Purple, whom everyone will know as primarily a hard rock or even heavy metal band. 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. I’m also 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
HenryCow_AlbumCover_Legend.jpg

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. Sounds like I’ll have fun reviewing them when the time comes!

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
In_the_Court_of_the_Crimson_King_-_40th_Anniversary_Box_Set_-_Front_cover.jpeg

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 lynch me with the strings of 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 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, John Rutsey, Alex Lifeson
First relevant album: Fly by night, 1975
Rush_Fly_by_Night.jpg

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, Craig Woodson, Ed Bogas
First relevant album: The United States of America, 1968
Usa_album_papersleeve.jpg

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
Yes_-_Yes.jpg

Impact: 10
The Trollheart Factor: 6
Linked with: The Buggles, The Syn, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe, Squackett, Jon Anderson solo, Vangelis, King Crimson

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 shite, but we’re not going to say that here.
 

Trollheart

Senior Member
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 artists I featured in the previous year, although some of them went on to be very famous and influential. Still, I would of choice have preferred albums from new artists, 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.
Zappamoney1.jpg

We're Only in It for the Money --- The Mothers of Invention

Ah, Frank Zappa how I hate you. Apologies to the fans of you both for my boorish, stubborn attitude to your music, but you and Beefheart seem to epitomise everything I dislike about experimental music; nevertheless, 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.
Usa_album_papersleeve.jpg

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.

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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 left 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.

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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.

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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”...

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The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp --- Giles, Giles and Fripp
Precursor to the mighty King Crimson, how could we not check this one out?

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Caravan --- Caravan

As already noted above, Caravan would go on to become an integral part 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 got, this was the debut album from Jethro Tull.

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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-album.jpg

The Soft Machine --- Soft Machine

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

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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!
 

Deleted member 56686

Retired Supervisor
WF Veterans
Okay, some quick thoughts before you do your reviews.

1) Don't worry, Zappa probably hates you too :icon_cheesygrin:

2) United States of America- I was called out on MB by your nemesis for thinking this was Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies. Joe Byrd is indeed the leader of this bunch though. It's one of the early great electronic albums and I do recommend it.

3) A Saucerful of Secrets- Good album, not as good as Piper. I don't recall you liking Piper that much so you probably won't like this one either.

4) Family- In a Doll's House- You got this one right on, it is more or less a psychedelic album. A very good one in my opinion. I have a feeling you won't like it through.

5) In Search of the Lost Chord- This is actually my favorite Moody Blues album. Not that I think Days of Future Passed is overrated- I don't, but Legend of a Mind alone rates this album above the norm. Not sure if this rates as truly progressive though.

6) Giles Giles and Fripp- I've only heard snippets of this one. I think there may be some folk elements in this. There was a version of I Talk To the Wind on The Young Person's Guide to King Crimson that I think was from these guys.

7) Caravan- Haven't heard, so I'll be interested in your take on this

8- This Was Jethro Tull- You won't like this. It isn't progressive at all. I like it though. Incidentally, Jethro Tull opened up the Rolling Stone's R&R Circus with A Song For Jeffrey. And where's the cover? Ian Anderson isn't that ugly (okay, so he is :icon_cheesygrin: )

9) Ars Longa...- Not as good as their debut, but then again, I'm not as deep into progressive as you are. You may like this.

10) SF Sorrow- Again not really progressive in my opinion. I also think this is overrated. I really prefer the original R&B Pretty Things. I also think Parachute is better. I suspect you won't like this one for the most part. Another missing cover by the way

11) Soft Machine- Yeah, great one without a doubt.

12) Shine On Brightly- I have to listen to this one again but I think I liked this one. Probably better than their debut which isn't bad.



Okay, those are my early takes. Do a good job on this one :mrgreen:
 

Trollheart

Senior Member
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 when much younger 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 artists 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 journal 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 artists in there that I don't care for, but who will have to be reviewed and spoken of anyway. Guess FZ is one of those. Let's get this over with then.

Released as, as mentioned above, a kind of anti-Sgt Peppers, The Mothers' third 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.
Zappamoney1.jpg

Album title: We're Only in It for the Money
Artiste: The Mothers of Invention
Nationality: American
Label: Verve
Year: 1968
Grade: B
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 Bastard 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 slagging 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 shit 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 slagging 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 be 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 Bastard 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!
Personal Rating: 4.0
Legacy Rating: 4.0
Final Rating: 4.0

* Okay, okay! It was by The Mothers of Invention, but come on: it was basically Zappa in all but name, as is this one.
 

Trollheart

Senior Member
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, Columbus! I'm talking about the band, not the country! Stop turning in your grave!) 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.
Usa_album_papersleeve.jpg

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 the Dead Che”; lovely organ melody in it, almost Carpenters-like. “Stranded 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 the Dead Che, Stranded in Time
Least favourite track(s): Nothing.
Overall impression: Considering how it started I'm surprised to say I really enjoyed this once it got going.
Personal Rating: 4.50
Legacy Rating: 4.0
Final Rating: 4.50
 

Trollheart

Senior Member
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 artist, 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.

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.
Saucerful_of_secrets2.jpg

Album title: A Saucerful of Secrets
Artiste: Pink Floyd
Nationality: British
Label: EMI
Year: 1968
Grade: A
Previous Experience of this Artiste: See the 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)/ See-Saw/ Jugband Blues
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 being 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 even I 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 gives a sense of dark, gripping tension, danger and a feel of awestruck wonder 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 Nlues”, which I expected not to like and don't: it's more of the psych/hippy shit 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, See-Saw
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.
Personal Rating: 4.0
Legacy Rating: 4.0
Final Rating: 4.0
 

Trollheart

Senior Member
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.
Musicinadollshouse.jpg

Album title: Music in a Doll's House
Artiste: Family
Nationality: British
Label: Reprise
Year: 1968
Grade: C
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 Mr. Policeman!”/ Winter/ Old Songs New Songs/ Variations on a Theme of “The Breeze”/ Hey Mr. 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-fuck 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 shite 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.
Personal Rating: 2.0
Legacy Rating: 3.0
Final Rating: 2.50
 
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