Continuing the countdown of Vinyl Connection’s seventy favourite albums from 1970. The first part is here.
60 ERIC BURDON & WAR — Eric Burdon Declares War
Born in the industrial north of the UK, Eric Burdon disbanded The Animals (by this time pre-fixed by his name) and in late 1969 teamed up with US funk-rock band War. This, their first album, is and ambitious but unfocused amalgam of funky grooves, jazzy interlude and lots of quasi-psychedelic noodling. In addition to the slightly unsettling cover, it also includes the single “Spill the wine”, a slightly bizarre but insanely catchy song that is worth the price of admission on its own. Well, almost.
59 COLOSSEUM — Daughter of Time
There is powerful music on UK progressive outfit Colosseum’s third album. Big sound and big arrangements. There are also the mighty lungs of singer Chris Farlowe (who also sang with Atomic Rooster). Play when you’re having it large.
58 TIM BUCKLEY — Starsailor
If you have ever swooned to the heartbreakingly beautiful “Song to the Siren”, performed either by This Mortal Coil or by the song’s writer Tim Buckley, then you might be tempted to seek out the album on which it appeared: 1970’s Starsailor. Be warned: this is not an album for the faint-hearted. Having started as a fairly straight-forward American folkie, Buckley incorporated jazz influences (try the excellent Blue Afternoon) then kinda got weird. Experimental. Uncompromising. Avant-garde, even. His phenomenal vocal range is fully explored here, with results that are sometimes jaw-droppingly awesome, sometimes put-a-pillow-over-your-head. Not the easiest place to start with Buckley Snr.
Footnote: Your correspondent imported this CD from the US (for a silly sum of money) to get one indecipherable line from one song. Yes, I know. It was pre internet.
57 JOHN RENBOURN — The Lady and the Unicorn
Something of a pair with his previous album, this gorgeous LP showcases John Renbourn’s wonderful guitar playing and eclectic influences. It is an instrumental album of elegant beauty, showing that although Bert Jansch was the more lauded guitarist in Pentangle, Renbourn was a master too. If I have a slight preference for its predecessor, the extravagantly titled Sir John Alot of Merrie Englandes Musyk Thyng & Ye Grene Knyghte, the extra points are mostly for first creating such a pleasing mix of traditional folk, medieval melodies, blues, and jazz. Thirty-five minutes of guitar bliss, with bonus glockenspiel, harmonium and recorder.
56 VASHTI BUNYAN — Just Another Diamond Day
Ethereal folk music stylings and whimsical lyrics give this unusual album a sparse beauty and a beguiling simplicity. It is like a bucolic sprite materialising from mystic Avalon. Featherlight and delicate as an origami swallow.
55 CARAVAN — If I Could Do It All Over Again I’d Do It All Over You
Caravan’s twee 1971 single “Golf Girl” pops up on compilations now and then. It was also covered, with due gravitas, by Neil of The Young Ones. But the Canterbury band were much more than that silly song. This was their second album, and showcases the clever musical constructions, fabulous playing and cascades of ideas that characterise Caravan. Not many progressive bands managed to combine such appealing melodies with complex composition. “Hello Hello” is an example of the former, what became known as the “For Richard” suite exemplifies the latter. Cheerful, entertaining and accessible prog.
54 FUNKADELIC — Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow
Man, this is stretchy stuff. Funky, edgy, stoned and ecstatic, all at the same time. Without doubt one of the best album titles ever, the LP—despite being very short—lives up to the promise of the cover. At times sounding like a collision between an experimental rock outfit and a feverish funk band, recorded and spliced together by an engineer out of their gourd on acid, Free Your Mind is sometimes unsettling but eccentrically exciting. Part Mothers of Invention, part Faust, this and Maggot Brain really are worth investigating.
53 JOHNNY JENKINS — Ton-Ton Macoute!
As electric-swamp-funk-blues albums go, this one is an overlooked classic. Johnny Jenkins once hired Otis Redding as his singer, and around 1968 was going to work with Duane Allman on a solo album, but Allman instead formed a band with his brother Gregg, leading to Johnny Jenkins recording new vocals and putting out his own LP. It’s a corker. Opening with a cover of Dr John’s “I walk on gilded splinters”, there is plenty of feverish swampy grooving and sweaty blues rock. Duane stars, but the whole ensemble is tight and sexy. Highly recommended.
52 DAVID BOWIE — The Man Who Sold The World
As a transitional album between the innocent folk-rock and whimsy of David Bowie (aka Space Oddity) and the developing songwriting of Hunky Dory, TMWSTW might be expected to be uncertain. Not so. Confidence and bravado abound, particularly in much of Mick Ronson’s guitar work, which bristles with attitude. “She shook me cold” is heavy as fuck while “All the madmen” points towards Bowie’s developing personas and, indeed, towards Ziggy. And don’t forget the marvellous title track, famously revived by Kurt Cobain for MTV Unplugged.
51 JETHRO TULL — Benefit
Jethro Tull’s third album is often overshadowed by the one that followed it. Aqualung was a hit at the time and is still making converts to Tull’s folk-influenced progressive rock. But Benefit is a terrific album, chock full of strong songs, robust arrangements and invention that never sounds indulgent. The US first release substituted “Teacher” for “Inside” while some CD re-issues also include the marvellous “Witch’s promise” and “Singing all day”. If you never really went beyond Aqualung and Thick As A Brick, try this one.