By Kostas Barbas, Paris Gravouniotis, Dimitris Kaltsas, Petros Papadogiannis, Goran Petrić, Tasos Poimenidis, Kostas Rokas, Thomas Sarakintsis, Panagiotis Stathopoulos
Translation: Alexandros Mantas, Dimitris Kaltsas
The One-album prog wonders (1969-1979) article series has proved to be one of the most read by the Progrocks.gr followers so far and we’re more than happy for that, because we’ve been doing our best to find all relevant historical facts and support the artistic legacy of these -mainly overlooked- prog gems.
As we did in the first and the second part, the “one-album wonders” are presented in no chronological order, but randomly and as in the first part, this article is a be a delightful journey back and forth in time and reading it will, hopefully, be as a fascinating experience as was writing every single piece.
Homer – Grown in U.S.A.
[Universal Recording Artists, 1972]
After releasing three 45’s purely psychedelic in nature, Homer (hailing from San Antonio) developed and enriched their sound with heavy and progressive elements and they released their sole album Grown in U.S.A. in 1970. Although it is far from a masterpiece, it is a representative document of the late 60s/early 70s scene and a well-hidden gem for the fans of this particular sound. Balancing beautifully between psychedelia and prog, Homer use the twin guitars and double vocals as a vehicle to offer us inspired compositions, like the heavy-as-needed Survivor and Love’s Coming, the psych Taking My Home and In the Beginning which smell America from a mile, but –above all- the melodic work of art Four Days And Nights ‘Without You’ (fans of Uriah Heep pay attention to this one) and the epic that opens the album Circles in the North which uses the mellotron as a carpet and could fit in any psych/prog collection. Sadly, after their split no member joined any other band or played with other artists. Prior to Homer, the guitarist Galen Niles was a member of a garage/psych band The Outcasts and the bassist Chet Himes became a sound engineer who was awarded also a Grammy for Christopher Cross’s self-titled album.
Cosmic Dealer – Crystallization
Cosmic Dealer were formed in the Netherlands in 1968 and after a protracted gap they finally released their debut album in 1972. This delay seems it had an impact on the music we hear on Crystallization which is a highly interesting amalgam of musical currents that made their appearance these four years. The bedrock of their music is clearly psychedelic rock, pretty much like the initial intention of the musicians judging by their monicker. Nevertheless, progressive rock has been incorporated into their sound in a very peculiar and unique fashion. A heavy element permeates several songs, too. The band is in the pocket and the sound is really good. The most remarkable thing is the variety of the compositions, but also the arrangement options they went for, with flute and string instruments thrown in. The way they absorbed and assimilated the music from Britain and the USA was very successful and peculiar. Of course, the trump card of Crystallization is the compositions themselves as well as its awesome flow which classify it as one of the most enjoyable obscure gems of the 70s and one of the best Dutch rock albums. Three more tracks were recorded in 1973 before the band split and they can be found on the compilation Child of Tomorrow.
Locomotive – We Are Everything You See
Locomotive was formed in 1965 by Norman Haines. Another founding member and the manager of the band was trumpeter Jim Simpson, who also represented their fellow citizens Black Sabbath. We Are Everything You See was recorded in late 1968 at the legendary Abbey Road Studios but was not released before February 1st, 1970 (just 12 days before Black Sabbath’s debut), when pop / rock music had already changed significantly.
The music is a mix of British psychedelia, early progressive rock with jazz and even soul elements with lots of wind instruments (three saxophonists are involved – including Dick Heckstall-Smith – and two trumpeters) with complete absence of guitar. The wonderful Mr. Armageddon is one of the absolute highlights of English psychedelic rock, but was too dark both musically and lyrically to become a success. The music and historical significance of the album was recognized several years later, when it was re-released.
Shortly after the release, Locomotive disbanded and some of the members formed Norman Haines Band and Dog That Bit People (both with a single album released in 1971). Mick Hincks became a member of Tea and Symphony, Robert Lamb formed The System in the 80s, while Chris Wood was in the original quartet of another band from Birmingham. Their name: Traffic.
Fantasia – Fantasia
Fantasia was formed in 1973 in the small town of Pietarsaari on the west coast of Finland out of the ashes of St.Marcus Blues Band, with Hannu Lindblom (guitar, vocals) and Karl-Erik Rönngård (drums) as leaders. Their name came from the Amazing Blondel’s Fantasia Lindum album (1971) and in 1974 they won the first prize in the national Finnish Rock Championship, which gave them a contract with Hi-Hat, a company that also signed Kalevala that era.
Ase, Pekka Pöyry of Tasavallan Presidentti plays saxophone, while the production was carried out by Mikael Wiik (Maru & Mikael) and Ronnie Österberg (then member of Wigwam) was the drummer. Although the music has clear influences from Wigwam’s jazzy sound, Fantasia’s main musical direction was basically melodic, atmospheric symphonic progressive rock. The tracks are mostly instrumental, an area in which the band was quite impressive in contrast to Lindblom’s vocals.
The album sold only 2,000 copies and Hi-Hat did not give the band a chance to record a second album. Between 1976 and 1978 there were many personnel changes and finally they disbanded in 1979 and almost all of them quit playing music, except for Rönngård.
Plat Du Jour – Plat Du Jour
Little is known about this obscure French band. They were based just outside Rouen and their existence was short (1974-1977) with their only album being released by the also short-lived Speedball. The only member who had ever recorded anything was Alain Potier (he had participated in François Ovide’s So & Co), who participated in the Plat Du Jour album as a guest musician.
Although this was a hardcore underground band, the music mix of Plat Du Jour was not by any means immature. However, it was obscure and was intended for tutored ears and quite specific music tastes. This is a peculiar and very interesting version of incompatible experimental jazz-rock / avant-prog / progressive rock with psychedelic spots with fuzz organ and spacey passages. The excellent technical background of the members, the obvious live jamming character in such demanding themes and the sufficiently extreme performance deserve the respect of every fan of underground 70s music, especially those who prefer its darker side, a typical characteristic of the French prog scene of the time.
Plat Du Jour’s only album remained in obscurity until its re-release in 2016 by Mellotron Records on vinyl and by Paisley Press on cd.
Life – Life
Life was a power trio, formed in 1970 in Stockholm. Two members came from the wonderful King George Discovery who played psych / soul / blues rock. During the same year, their self-titled album was released. If we try to put our finger on some influences, we’ll find traces of Tear Gas or Leaf Hound. The result is an explosive mix of hard sound with strong psych / prog elements. Bearing in mind that this is the debut album of the trio, it sounds mature and quite original. Smart killer guitars, dynamic drums that fill and very filling bass lines form the line of fire. Hard blues rock coexists harmoniously with progressive sound, while upon the second or third hearing we can spot some soft symphonic elements in complete balance with the presence of the piano and the organ.
Although the album was released in Swedish for commercial reasons, it was released the following year with lyrics sang in English. Songs such as Sailing in the Sunshine, Many Years Ago, Living is Loving and One of Us characterize the atmosphere and musical search in the early ‘70s. Life disbanded in the August of 1972 and after that the members played in Stockholm bands such as Nature, Resan and Butter Lyss.
Junior’s Eyes – Battersea Power Station
[Regal Zonophone, 1969]
After changing many bands, guitarist and singer Mick Wayne formed Junior’s Eyes in 1968. Their debut, which was also meant to be their swan song, was released in June 1969 under the title Battersea Power Station, which refers to the power energy station which was photographed for the cover of Pink Floyd’s Animals. That same month, Mick Wayne and Rick Wakeman – who plays keyboards on the album – participated in David Bowie’s Space Oddity recordings, along with bassist Honk, who later took part in the recordings for Twink’s legendary Think Pink (1970). These activities somewhat distracted Junior’s Eyes, who opened a Bowie gig on February 3rd, 1970, after which he was introduced to Mick Ronson.
The music at Battersea Power Station is a peculiar mix of psychedelic and early progressive rock with a partially singer-songwriter approach and emphasis on composition rather than on playing, which however is enjoyable in tracks like Imagination and White Light. After Junior’s Eyes disbanded in 1970, Honk and Renwick formed Quiver and the latter later played with Mike + The Mechanics, Roger Waters and Floyd (after Waters had left the band).
Captain Marryat – Captain Marryat
[Thor Records, 1974]
The quarter from Scotland was an active group with regular shows at local clubs. The band members never had any aspirations to record an album despite the fact that there was already enough material available due to their reserved stance. The exhortations of an employee who was working at a studio in Glasgow changed their mind and the final result justified his persistence in spades. The few hundred copies of their self-titled debut album that came out in 1974 were purchased by their following at their gigs. Their style is an eclectic mixture of proto-prog, early 70s prog and hard rock with fuzzy guitars and the sophisticated usage of Hammond. The sound nods clearly to the very early 70s, no matter if the album came out halfway the 70s. No composition falls short, each and every one is magnificent and at times they bring Uriah Heep and their fellow-citizens Beggars Opera effortlessly to mind. Spirited jam mood (Dance of Thor), sparkling, emerald elegies (Blindness, A Friend) compositions that transmit on psychedelic frequencies (It Happened to Me), poetic and heavy disposition (Songwriter’s Lament) and direct 60s references (Changes). Unfortunately, history fails to show, now that everything is said and done, if Captain Marryat were a wasted chance or not.
Arzachel – Arzachel
As 1967 was coming to a close, three friends – classmates at City of School London (Steve Hillage, Dave Stewart and Mont Campell) decided to realize their dream. With the drummer Clive Brooks on board and wrapped up in the spirit of Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Nice, Sgt. Peppers of Beatles, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn of Floyd, as well as the blues teachings of Muddy Waters and the Bluesmakers, they formed Uriel. In the middle of 1968 Hillage stepped down to attend his studies and the three remaining members changed the band’s name to Egg. The potential guitar hero Hillage decided to return to the fold and due to an unexpected proposal from a poxy label to put together a short-lived psychedelic project, the band resumed its former configuration under the name of Arzachel. The outcome of this was an overwhelming acid/blues/psychedelic/prog album that came out in 1969. Arzachel is as pioneering as an album could be at the time, eccentric, odd and dark, which takes the listener either to the inner sanctum of dissonant improvisations or to prototypical Canterbury endings. Had they kept going, it is more than likely that they would follow the vision of a myriad of bands whose members had starring or co-starring role, from Egg to Hatfield & the North and National Health and from Khan to Gong.
J.E.T. – Fede Speranza Carità
J.E.T. was formed in 1971 in Genoa. Their sole album is a perfect example of the evolution of the progressive sound with strong symphonic elements. What makes it stand out is the unique impression it leaves after every hearing, due to the heavy guitars, the rich organ sound and the drums that create many variations in the rhythmic base. The album starts off with two prog epics, Fede Speranza Carità and Il Prete E Il Peccatore that characterize the sound of the band throughout the abum. The most distinctive element of the album is the sound variety. Here, heavy prog may bring Museo Rosenbach and Il Baletto di Bronzo to mind, but the distortion is very high, while there are distictive jazz and folk elements and maintaining a wonderful underground aura.
Combining the cover art with the originality of the musical content, Fede Speranza Carità is rightfully considered by many to be the “holy grail” of Rock Progressivo Italiano with which J.E.T. left their mark in the first years of the 70s and still sound original to this day.
Three of the four members formed the pop band Matia Bazar in 1975, while drummer Renzo Cochis participated in the recordings of Picchio Dal Pozzo’s first album.
Univeria Zekt – The Unnamables
Following the release of Magma’s second album (1001° Centigrades – 1971), the legendary pioneering band sought access to a wider audience. So, with only one lineup change, they decided to release an album with the lyrics in English. For this reason, the album was not released under the name Magma but as Univeria Zekt with the obviously self-sarcastic title The Unnamables, in January 1972.
Another very interesting thing about The Unnamables is that the two sides of the album have almost nothing to do with each other. On the first side, the compositions of Teddy Lasry, Francois Cahen and Lucien “Zabu” Zabuski are quite groovy and accessible jazz-rock / prog for the standards of the band with English lyrics. In contrast, the three tracks on the side B are compositions of the leader Christian Vander and are essentially pure Magma music, in the characteristic experimental zeuhl spirit, while in Undia, the track that closes the album, the lyrics are in Kobaïan.
The fact that Univeria Zekt was a short-lived project gave this album mythical dimensions in the minds of friends of Magma music. However, Magma experienced success and universal recognition in the most unexpected way: the highly unconventional Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh which was released a year later.
Too Much – Too Much
Too Much hailed from Kobe and was one of the many Japanese bands that released only one album during the ‘70s. After signing a deal with Atlantic Records, the four band members entered the studio and recorded their self-titled debut. Musically, the album is a strong mix of heavy psych, blues rock and early progressive rock. The songwriting is very good and the band did a solid job with their instruments. The whole material has excellent production and it is very well balanced and consistent without any fillers. It is even hard to choose a highlight, but for me it’s the closing track, Song for my Lady. It’s a hauntingly beautiful epic progressive piece mainly influenced by King Crimson. It is not far-fetched to say that it could even have been included in In the Court of the Crimson King without ruining the overall quality of the legendary album. Another interesting fact about the record is that the famous Japanese composer Tomita did string arrangements on it. Undoubtedly, Too Much demonstrated a great potential on this release, but it seems that it wasn’t enough for a bigger support from the record company and breakthrough to the wider audiences, so the band split soon after the album was released.
Touch – Touch
[Deram / Coliseum, 1969]
The British psychedelic scene of the 60s was, undoubtedly, the matrix of progressive rock which flourished in the 70s. On the other side of the pond, this transition never occurred and only a handful of musicians, mostly underground, picked up on that. In the light of this, the sole album of Touch should come as a paradox for the American psychedelic rock. Touch had the potential, mutatis mutandis, to become the American Moody Blues, had they went on. The disposition to experimentation, the long songs, the style of the melodies but, above all, the structure of the compositions put the album in the early, pre In the Court of the Crimson King progressive rock attempts. All the compositions are based on the above principles, but special mention should be made of the two longer compositions, Seventy Five and the monumental The Spiritual Death Of Howard Greer, one of the most important early prog epics. That bands like Yes, Uriah Heep and Kansas cite the album of Touch as an influence is not a coincidence and it is a testimony of the album’s value. The refusal of the keyboard player and leader Don Gallucci to tour in order to promote the album, holding the view that it was impossible to reproduce the album on stage, marked the end of Touch. Himself, studio-freak indeed, he got into production.
The Norman Haines Band – Den of Iniquity
[Parlophone, ΕΜΙ, 1971]
After the release of We Are Everything You See and the split of Locomotive, the keyboardist Norman Haines decided to form his own band and without further ado he put out a mere year later the album Den of Iniquity. Compared to the particular prog/psych style of Locomotive which featured tons of wind instruments and keyboards, Norman Haines Band took a clearly heavy/prog direction which was basically organ- and guitar-driven. The first side of the vinyl unravels a variety of influences and moods, for instance the self-titled opener and When I Come Down which are representative cuts of the new direction we spoke of, Finding My Way and the re-make of Mr. Armageddon of Locomotive (equally good, to say the least) maintain shreds of their psychedelic past and finally the killer folk track Bourgeois. The second side of the vinyl greets us with the 13-minute Rabbits which begins and ends with a heavy/blues theme while in between the listener is confronted with a hellish prog jam. The out-there keyboard instrumental Life Is So Kind that closes the album could be arguably held as one of the heavy/prog highlights of the early 1970s British scene.
Kestrel – Kestrel
[Cube Records, 1975]
Kestrel was a group of the second wave of progressive rock in the mid-1970s formed in Newcastle in 1975 that sadly disbanded just a year later. That’s because the sales of their only album didn’t go well at all, and producer John Worth’s efforts to promote them ultimately did not pay off.
Musically, it is a very special mix of very melodic symphonic progressive rock with poppy vocal melodies, very beautiful keys but also very intense and good guitar playing. Without impressing much, the compositional level is at a satisfactory level from beginning to end, but the elements that impress mostly are the level of technique, the stunning production and the very personal style, which is also reflected in the album cover. Aside from the cult status of such a special release, Kestrel is considered by many as an unpretentious example of high aesthetics progressive rock.
After the disbandment of Kestrel, guitarist Dave Black, who wrote most of the tracks on the album, joined Spiders From Mars and replaced Mick Ronson. The original vinyl version of Kestrel’s album by Cube Records today is worth up to €2,500.
Horse – Horse
[RCA Victor, 1971]
The British Horse released their one and only album in 1970 which was meant to become a kind of “Holy Grail” for the collectors of heavy prog / psychedelic sound. A few years ago, Rise Above put out an amazing re-issue of the album with bonus tracks and it was sold out fairly quickly.
The quartet, whose members had working experience under their belt by playing in obscure bands like Andromeda, delivers on its debut album all-out heavy rock with prog and psychedelic dashes, as well as particularly intense heavy/blues elements. The strong guitars and perpetual solos, but also the superb drumming are surely the top elements that put together this album and some short psychedelic blues masterpieces (And I Have Loved You) are also included which could perfectly fit in Fleetwood Mac’s Then Play On.
What takes the album to the next level is the palpable passion of the musicians which oozes throughout the entire album. Some members found their way by participating in other household artists like Wings (Paul McCartney) Elton John, Joe Cocker and Atomic Rooster, but the question of how far could Horse go still remains; perhaps further and higher than they thought they could.
Armando Tirelli – El Profeta
[SEM Label, 1978]
The main reason there were so few rock music releases from Uruguay in the 1970s is not the small population of the country (less than 3 million at the time), but the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1973-85.
Keyboardist Armando Tirelli was a member of Sexteto Electrónico Moderno lounge band and psych pop Mexican band Exodo and in 1973 began working on an ambitious solo project, which was released five years later. El Profeta was a concept album based on the book The Poetry (1923), a collection of 26 prose poems written by the Lebanese-American author Kahlil Gibran.
The album is basically a melodic symphonic progressive rock release that sounds -not accedentally- pretty much like the Italian 70s prog rock scene. As one might assume, Tirelli’s exceptional piano and keys playing is dominant, and even though the sound is bad, it gives a strong underground feel to El Profeta. G. Bregstein’s flute is also impressive, as is the narration by Uruguayan actor Roberto Fontana.
This is the most cult album of all that are presented in this article. Time may have been cruel to El Profeta, but this intensifies the nostalgia for an era that musically ended in the twilight of the 70s.
Refugee – Refugee
Refugee is one of the most important and historically overlooked supergroups of the 70s, even though when the band was formed (1973) it included three very well-known musicians. Brian Davison (drums, percussion) and Lee Jackson (bass, cello, guitar, vocals) were members of the highly innovative The Nice, who along with the late great Keith Emerson released prophetic records such as The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack (1967) and Ars Longa Vita Brevis (1968). After they disbanded, Jackson formed Jackson Heights (the 1970 King Progress is an excellent example of early British prog rock). In 1973, looking for a new keyboardist for his band, he approached the Swiss virtuoso Patrick Moraz (ex-Mainhorse) who suggested that they should do something from scratch. Davison was the obvious choice and the three of them spent eight hours a day in the studio, working on their new material. The tracks were recorded at Island studios with Jackson writing the lyrics and Moraz composing the music. The latter is evident throughout the album, which is characterized as highly technical symphonic progressive rock with two very long prog epics (Grand Canyon, Credo). Shortly after the release, Refugee toured to promote the album, but fatally disbanded in August 1974 when Yes asked Moraz to replace Rick Wakeman.
Waterloo – First Battle
[Disques Vogue, 1970]
The explosion of rock music in the early 1960s and late 1970s left behind a huge legacy. Even bands that did not belong to the vanguard wrote and performed music of high artistic value. In this context, the sole album of the Belgians Waterloo is of great musical interest aside its historical importance to the Belgian scene. It is an album that bears obvious influences from Great Britain and it is an illuminating example of how the British scene affected the entire Europe. On the nine short compositions plus the finale of Diary of an Old Man, the flutist’s love for Ian Anderson’s playing becomes evident, as well as the aggressive sound of the keyboards in the vein of Keith Emerson. It is remarkable how these influences were absorbed in so little time. The album came out at the dawn of the 1970 and has already absorbed music and sounds which were in a constant, at the speed of light one would say, progress. Sadly, the first battle of Waterloo was also meant to be their last, therefore they did not have the time to develop their own style. They left behind a very good and an historical album for sure, quite heavy and progressive that makes it into the long list of the early proto-prog gems (and the first edition is sold nowadays at preposterous prices).
Dr. Z – Three Parts to My Soul
Dr. Z were, in essence, the solo project of the Welsh Keith Meyes with the contribution of two other musicians on the bass and the drums. Their only album was released in 1971 through the legendary Vertigo and rumour had it that at the time a mere 80 copies were sold, some of them set nowadays at preposterous prices.
Their music falls into the British prog category with intense theatrical elements. The constant usage of the piano and the harpsichord is the most distinctive feature of the songs and provide a classical touch. Guitars are out of the picture, therefore ELP come to mind, only that Dr. Z’s music is not particularly technical. The album’s subtitle (Spiritus, Manes Et Umbra) refers to an occult lyrical concept about soul and afterlife. In this context, the aggressive (almost monolithic) pounding of the drums ties harmonically with the entire endeavor to set a mystical atmosphere.
Three Parts to My Soul is an album worth seeking out, not just because it is a testimony of the diversity of the sounds of the time, but it is also truly interesting. If we factor in the tectonic shift their style underwent in just a year, the question what was next to come becomes all the more intriguing.
Irish Coffee – Irish Coffee
The Flemish Region and Ireland never converged cultural-wise. Nevertheless, to the pioneer of the Belgian scene, William Souffreau, it did happen to some extent. The guitarist/singer we speak of was the spearhead of Irish Coffee, a group that was formed at the dawn of 1970s and completed its brief career in 1975. It came back to the fore in 2002 when they gave some shows and since then they vanished without a trace.
Their self-titled album which came out in 1971 blends primitive hard rockin’ blues, prog rock and British rhythm & blues attractively. The technical abilities of the protagonists are undoubtedly superb, unleashing riffs and solos that convey massive electricity to the listener’s body generating multiple sentimental shocks. Lose yourselves in the exhilarating Hear Me or the stunning and heart-breaking triad of The Beginning of the End, When Winter Comes and A Day Like Today. An album that kicks off with Can’t Take It engages the interest from the outset. The album as a whole makes plain the labour and the sweat that has been poured to give birth to those compositions. The vinyl aficionados enjoy a marvelous re-issue from Guerssen Records since getting hold of the original version is a pipe dream.
Tonton Macoute – Tonton Macoute
Tonton Macoute rose from the ashes of a poxy pop/rock British group, Windmill, on the heels of the passing of the guitarist Dick Scott. The remaining members decided to soldier on under the same monicker which was probably inspired by John Jenkins’ self-titled album (1970) and they released one album only through Neon. Their style falls into the British jazz-rock category with the intense presence of the saxophone and their prog rock is mainly influenced by jazz. Dave Knowles’ wind instruments (mostly saxophone, but also flute and clarinet) steal the show and define this album. Colours and moods alternate often on the record which is fantastic – no two ways about that. There are also plentiful rhythm changes and shifts in sentiments, the rhythm section provided by Chris Gavin (bass) and Nigel Reveler (drums) is seminal and playful and Paul French does an amazing job on the keyboards. The harmonized voices of French and Knowles add a wondrous tone to the compositions which maintain an intense improvisational character and a melodic aura is ever-present. After they disbanded, French reappeared on Voyager and State of Play and since then he is vanished from the musical fore.
Walter Wegmüller – Tarot
[Die Kosmischen Kuriere / Ohr, 1973]
The Swiss painter Walter Wegmüller assembled prominent representatives of assorted Krautrock-currents so that they would develop 22 compositions which would depict in sounds the 22 occult Tarot cards himself designed and enclosed in a box along with two vinyls.
The astral and introspective side was taken over by the electric guitars courtesy of Manuel Göttsching and Harmut Enke from Ash Ra Tempel, whereas the psychotropic, image-inducing folk-side is provided by Walter Westrupp (of the duo Witthüser & Westrupp). The cosmic, electronic respect is purveyed by the versatile Klaus Schulze through keyboards and ritualistic drums. The latter’s bandmates from Wallenstein (Jürgen Dollase and Jerry Berkers) are commissioned to deliver the keyboard and bass parts in that order, unleashing sharp and formidable attacks to all of our senses. Wegmüller sets an imposing psychedelic spoken-word narration while the enterprising producer and musician Dieter Dierks together with Rosi Müller (Ash Ra Tempel) are on the backing vocals.
In this collective treaty, we cannot afford not to mention a later development: all the participants, with the exception of Wegmüller, were involved in long-hour sessions under the influence of LSD which were recorded and distributed by Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser and Kosmischen Kuriereon without their consent on the fascinating string of albums under the monicker of The Cosmic Jokers.
Affinity – Affinity
One of the most peculiar musical genres ever, was the British prog/jazz/psych in the early 1970s, especially when it struck a golden medium between the three of them. An illuminating example was Affinity who released their first album at the dawn of the 1970s guided by their rich melodies and the enchanting voice of Linda Hoyle. On I Am and So Are You and Three Sisters we are exposed to Affinity’s stronger side with the wind instruments, the keyboards and the guitar setting the tone, whereas I Wonder If I Care as Much, Mr. Joy and Cocoanut Grove maintain an intensely delicate British aura. One of the summits of the album is Bight Flight with features an acoustic intro, rhythm changes and an unexpected ending that define this spectacular song. For the end they reserved an unbelievable 12-minute remake of the legendary All Along the Watchtower; while keeping the original central melody intact, they pulled off to take it into jazz territories and make it all theirs. Unfortunately, after they disbanded no member engaged into something truly remarkable, excluding the decent solo album of Linda Hoyle entitled Pieces of Me.
Andromeda – Andromeda
[RCA Victor, 1969]
Before he joined Atomic Rooster, John Du Cann led his own band, named Andromeda. The band was founded in 1966 with bassist Mick Hawksworth and drummer Ian McLane. During their activity, the trio released only one studio album in 1969. The album’s content is typical for those times and the music in this album can be described as heavy psychedelic / progressive rock with very guitar-driven sound. Du Cann was in his early twenties but he was already showing off a musical maturity way beyond his age. The highlight of the album is the Sabbathic Return to Sanity which starts with the familiar and powerful sound of Gustav Holst’s Mars from The Planets suite. Other songs worth mentioning are the proggy Turn to Dust as well as the Cream influenced The Reason. Despite the admiration of press and critics, Andromeda did not succeed in the music market. Perhaps the choice of RCA was misguided or maybe they simply lacked a bit of luck to be in the right place at the right time. At least some justice has been done many years after and the album gained an iconic status and is definitely precious jewel for anyone who is into late 60s prog / psych sound.
Ibliss – Supernova
[Spiegelei / Aamok, 1972]
Loosely divided in discernible sonic directions, the krautrock / kosmische musik current has earmarked some links to define each one of these directions. The quintet of Ibliss falls into the jazz/rock category of the genre we speak of, although their lifespan was short and their discography was limited to one album only. The presence of the percussionist/flutist Basil Hammoudi who brought to the table the experience he had earned from his tenure in Organisation, the precursor of Kraftwerk and their one-and-only LP Tone Float (1970), was all-important in this band.
Hailing from Rhenania, they moved to Hamburg to find the appropriate treatment their sound called for in the person of the engineer Conny Plank, a pivotal figure of the underground music. Together, they captured a seismic energy which is largely due to the climaxes induced by the percussion which build pagan-like rituals merging African and Latin aura with an added pinch of Dionysian ecstasy. Besides, they didn’t content themselves with Hammoudi’s drum performance, but they roped in additional musicians to expand on the rhythm game, namely Αndreas Hohmann (percussion), Wolfgang Buellmeyer (percussion and guitar), Norbert Buellmeyer (percussion and bass). The flute and the saxophone which added a psychedelic dash were performed by Rainer Büchel who truly shined. The cyclic patterns of the bass and guitar complement the attractive and groovy flow of the four long compositions of the album.
Bakerloo – Bakerloo
The only and self-titled album of the trio that goes under the name of Bakerloo features blues/rock of high quality with progressive rhythms and mentality, throwing in some heavy elements from time to time. On the instrumental pieces Big Bear Folly and Gang Bang the British perform to their limits and their playing is so energy-consuming and passionate that it is impossible to put it in words. Naturally, the “obligatory” homage to Willie Dixon and Johann Sebastian Bach are in the picture through the renditions of Bring It on Home (the version of Led Zeppelin is familiar to everyone) and Drivin’ Bachwards respectively. The diverse and varied side of Bakerloo is imprinted ideally on Last Blues with its psychedelic passages, as well as on This Worried Feeling which has the stuff of a vintage blues composition but, above all, on the 15-minute epic Son of Moonshine which captures almost everything aforementioned.
Bakerloo ‘s career went as far as that, yet it is interesting to know what became of the band members. The guitarist David ‘Clem’ Clemson performed on Colosseum’s Daughter of Time and after that he succeeded Peter Frampton in Humble Pie, the drummer Keith Baker recorded on the monumental Salisbury from Uriah Heep and the bassist Terry Pool teamed up with Graham Bond.