TEN FROM 77 – 2 / ELECTRONIC – 1

It seemed a fine idea to whip up a list of favourite 1977 releases; a straightforward, accessible and hopefully entertaining article.

Things started well enough, with the first post of rock-pop albums eliciting plenty of commentary as people compared their own choices to the Vinyl Connection offering.

But there was such variety in the VC list of 200+ albums bearing the year 1977 that before even putting fingers to keyboard for Ten from 77, I’d already compiled two further rough lists, one kind of progressive and electronic and the other a mish-mash of things that didn’t fit either of the other two groups. But as I listened, the lists kept shifting and as I read your comments I re-listened to other things, eventually reaching such a point of list-confusion that the old cranium was rotating far faster than its accustomed 33 ⅓ RPM.

Yet as the song says, when the going gets tough, the tough have a good lie on the couch listening to Tangerine Dream.

Here, then, is the next 1977 instalment, Part 1 of my ten favourite electronic albums of that year. Rest assured, there is no bottom-of-the-barrel scraping here. The period from 1974—1979 was a golden one for synthesiser music and seven+seven is a great example of the richness on offer…

10 Tim Blake — Crystal Machine

The first post-Gong solo album from keyboard player Tim Blake, this is a fascinating—if uneven—LP. From spacey electronic music (‘Midnight’) via keyboard-driven grooves (‘Metro logic’) to the spare jauntiness of ‘Last ride of the boogie child’ (complete with unconvincing vocals), this combination of studio and live recordings has a charm that will beguile fans of analogue synth music but might be an acquired taste for newcomers. Centrepiece ‘Synthese intemporel’ is pure Klaus Schulze (in a very good way). Soon after this release, Blake joined Hawkwind, with whom he played on and off for years.

9  Ashra — New Age of Earth

Whenever I see this first Ashra album (or final Ash Ra Temple album, if you prefer) listed in New Age discographies, I get a bit irritated. Perhaps because I’ve been following Manual Göttsching’s musical career since the mid-70s, I saw him as progressive/electronic or even Krautrock psychedelia. The New Age label—so eighties, I sniffed—seemed somehow demeaning in its implication of featureless massage muzak. Then, years later, I realised there was a defensible reason for this appropriation of Ashra’s delicate electronica: the title of the record. And also, the music. It’s drifty and more gently rhythmic than most of Göttsching’s work; kind of new age-ey in fact. Ah well.

8  Michael Rother — Flammende Herzen

Herr Rother’s Flaming Hearts

Lots of elegant guitar on this first solo release from the co-founder of Neu! In his former band, Rother was responsible for much of the melody while ur-punk Klaus Dinger added the gravel and punch. That division is reflected in this record, which is steeped in a European romanticism speaking more of rivers than autobahns. But though often pretty, it’s not all languid. Jaki Liebezeit of Can provides the quintessential krautrock motorik beat while Rother does the rest. ‘Karussell’ could have been on Neu!75—superb. At a touch over 34 minutes, it feels too brief, yet remains a very satisfying instrumental record. (The CD re-issue adds a couple of inessential remixes).

7  Tangerine Dream — Encore

Although there are but four side-long tracks, each comprises several discrete parts. Live, the classic Froese/Franke/Baumann line-up of Tangerine Dream passed the initiative deftly between their multitude of keyboards as they spontaneously created unfolding musical landscapes and then explored them. Having said that, there are some sections referencing album pieces while others joyously bring together their combined creativity into a shifting, swirling whole. Some piano softens ‘Monolight’ while Froese’s psychedelic guitar provides adds a welcome charge to ‘Coldwater canyon’. Perhaps falling slightly short of greatness, this excellent recording—made during the US tour of 1977—nevertheless offers a fine introduction to the Virgin era of a seminal electronic outfit.

6  Eberhard Schoener — Trance-Formation

Fourteen years before Enigma, ever curious musician/composer Eberhard Schoener was exploring the possibilities of melding electronic beats with liturgically (and ethnically) derived vocal themes. But Schoener, never willing to sit with one idea when he can throw in a handful, also covers ambient electronica and analogue space drift in this cohesive 1977 album. The composer plays moog, organ, piano and mellotron while the tasty guitar cutting through the keys is courtesy of Andy Summers (Police). Transporting and most satisfying.

The IC CD release of Trance-Formation. Guess they didn’t like Eberhard’s pixilated face.

*

Numbers 5 to 1 coming soon. Not to mention the other, other list. Wanders off to the turntable, muttering…

Update: The sequel post is here!

28 comments

  1. It’s interesting to me, as I know most of the parent bands, but haven’t followed them through to the late 1970s yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a challenge to surpass the achievements of Neu! and Gong, yet their alumni acquit themselves well!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. With George Shearing playing the background music for the reading of this post, I feel unqualified to comment!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You need to grab “George Shearing Plays Tangerine Dream’s Greatest Hits”.

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      1. What a good idea.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Bill Evans did dabble with a little electricity at one point, as did Oscar Peterson. Sensibly, they unplugged pretty promptly.

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  3. My own personal favorite of this era was Fully Interlocking, by Solution.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now there’s a band you don’t often see cited. Solution*. Don’t have the album you mention, just a CD of the first two LPs from ’71-2. An upcoming ‘Other’ list from ’77 might have a few you also like, Mr Ark.

      *From the Netherlands; fusion, a bit progressive, melodic.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post. Several of these records are new to me, so thanks for the recommendations. I definitely need to check out Schoener’s Trance-Formation!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do. And let me know how you find it.

      Glad you enjoyed the post. Part Two is ‘in press’!

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  5. Would it surprise you if I said I’m not familiar with any of these?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not entirely shocked, J. Perhaps the second half of this selection might excite some interest… or not!

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  6. I have been looking for that Tim Blake album for a long long time, I am very jealous. I am hoping your next list includes Quark Strangeness and Charm.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a goody, that’s for sure. Luckily I bought it in the era before I’d have to sell my firstborn to afford such an album!
      As for Quark, I could strut about disputing that Hawkwind belong in this category but that would be equivocating. The sad (and embarrassing) truth is that I do not own, nor have ever owned, Quark Strangeness and Charm. Over you you, Hawkman.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Shame on you for never owning Quark. I was thinking if you went the progressive route with 77 then Quark should be in there, it has some great electronic music moments but not really in the league of the albums you mentioned.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The third and final 77 list is a catch-all that includes fusion and prog. But not Quark. (shame face)

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Really enjoying your blogs. I look forward to seeing more.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Bruce I was thinking of your recent art (describing the positioning of your bed relative to the neighbour’s sound system) the other day when listening to music with the windows open. Fortunately I didn’t hear the neighbour coughing loudly 🙂
    I similarly enjoyed the closing italicized visual here!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, Mr Geoff, if you were blasting out the Beastie Boys, you’d have a hard job hearing a cough I imagine. If you see the neighbours walking purposefully towards your electricity box with some wire cutters, perhaps consider closing the window?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Very cool, sir, all news to me! The only name I even knew there was Tangerine Dream and that’s because you’ve mentioned them before…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tan Dream are rather favourites around here, aren’t they?
      If ever the urge strikes to dive into some 70s electronica, perhaps the sequel post to this one might offer a couple of accessible options. Or not. It’s not everyone’s cup of electronic tea. 🙂

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  10. […] albums released in 1977 broadly falling into the ‘electronic’ category. Having covered 10 – 6, here are the Top […]

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  11. Because it’s you Bruce CB is going to go electronic and give these a listen. Do you suggest a one sitting 7 album session or a different format?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hm. Doing the whole lot in one shift would seem quite an undertaking, CB. I know you are a chap of great stamina and endurance (you have, after all, read the entire Vinyl Connection archive, a feat attempted by few and completed by less) yet perhaps doses might be a suitable model.

      From this list I’d suggest the Micheal Rother album for it’s Neu! associations and sounds, and the ‘Trance-Formation’ as it sounds like the soundtrack for a Gregorian Science Fiction film…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I will get to them all but thanks for the starter.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Really interesting Bruce. I ordered the Tim Blake LP last week, based on his track on the recent ‘Space, Energy & Light’ compilation.

    Loads more for me to explore here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d read that Tim’s brief catalogue had been reissued. Look forward to reading your thoughts in the fullness of time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve gone for a gnarly old original, potentially it has been skinned-up on more times than I’ve had hot dinners.

        Liked by 1 person

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