70 FROM ’70 — PART 5

Continuing a personal trawl through Vinyl Connection’s favourite albums of 1970

Previous instalments…

70 FROM ’70 — PART 6

70 FROM ’70 — PART 7

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50 GRATEFUL DEAD — Workingman’s Dead

Tuneful country-folk songs with pleasing, slightly ragged harmonies. Some of these took their places in the Dead setlist for years. “Dire wolf”, “New speedway boogie”, “Uncle John’s band”… The strength of the songs is part of what makes this album a favourite of Grateful Dead fans. Workingman’s Dead has left behind any hippie or psychedelic ramblings in favour of a concise, rootsy focus that is grounded and satisfying.

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49 EGG — Egg

Pioneers of what has come to be known as the Canterbury Scene (see also Soft Machine, Hatfield and The North), Egg was an organ-lead trio who drew from psychedelic, jazz and classical sources to create carefully composed progressive music. The original liner notes begin thus: “The music on this LP is not dancing music, but basically music for listening to.” Given the tricky time signatures and droll lyrics, it’s a reasonable disclosure. Many might find the compositions a bit daunting, but for those interested in the early days of British progressive rock, Egg’s self-titled debut repays attentive listening. It also has possibly my favourite song title ever.

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48 BLACK SABBATH — Black Sabbath

What a strong debut! From the wonderfully spooky cover to the tolling bell introducing their doom-soaked music, the Sabbs announced loud and (kind of) clear they were a heavy force to be reckoned with. The first side is startling and potent, fifty years on. For those who enjoy such things, this is also the first example I know of the title trifecta… “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath from Black Sabbath. And for those feeling just a little paranoid, relax. We are not yet done with Birmingham’s finest.

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47 PAUL McCARTNEY — Paul McCartney

Is the bar set higher for an ex-Beatle than for other artists? I suspect it may be, albeit unconsciously. Paul’s first solo outing has a couple of classics—“Every night”, “Maybe I’m amazed” and the sweet (if slight) “Junk”—but it is also littered with half-baked instrumentals (“Momma Miss America”), song snippets (“That would be something”) and lightweight ditties (“Teddy boy”, “Man we was lonely”). In the right mood, it is simple and beguiling, in the wrong state of mind infuriatingly self-indulgent. More brief excursion than long and winding road. But there is “Maybe I’m amazed”.

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46 VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR — The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other

After a tentative (yet enjoyable) debut in 1969, Peter Hammill and Van Der Graaf Generator really smashed it out with their second LP. The darkness that attracts believers and terrifies the godly is well in evidence, not least because the opening cut is entitled “Darkness 11/11”. Hammill’s enigmatic, mystical lyrics and impassioned delivery are striking, but so is the ensemble: Hugh Banton on organ, David Jackson’s reeds, and the intimidating rhythm section of Nic Potter (bass) and Guy Evans (drums). Key tracks: “White Hammer” and “Refugees”.

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45 JOHN & BEVERLEY MARTYN — Stormbringer!

The first of two LPs released in 1970, Stormbringer! is John Martyn’s first collaboration with new spouse Beverley. Martyn’s style is emerging, forming, exploring. There is quality late-60s folk/singer-songwriter here, (the superb “John the Baptist”) with Fairport-style folk-rock (the title track) and some light jazz influences. There is also a nod to Donovan (“Sweet Honesty” owes a considerable debt to “Season of the Witch”) and the first appearance of Martyn’s trademark Echoplex on the wonderful closing song, “Would You Believe Me?” which demonstrates that Martyn had been listening to Richard Thompson. Précis: transitional, but absolutely worthwhile.

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44 JOHN LEE HOOKER — Endless Boogie

The apogee of Mr Hooker’s electric boogie era. The driving rhythms are persistently grooving, relentless almost. But never less than hypnotic. If I was riding through the desert on a horse with no name, this would be on my headphones. Delivers exactly what it says on the label.

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43 THE BEATLES — Let It Be

The Fabs swan-song release—Abbey Road was the last proper collaboration and even that involved lots of solo work. Anyway, Let it Be is what it is; an epitaph of sorts. Out of interest, I played Let It Be – Naked to see if I’d rank it higher than the original. The answer was a definite ‘yes’, though I’m not sure by how much. Interested how others rate this album (either version).

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42 THE WHO — Live At Leeds

Didn’t like this much when I first heard it sometime in the mid-70s. The Who have always been a singles band for me. So when I came across a Track (label) original at a record fair sometime in the early 90s I nearly passed on it. When I looked at the condition, I nearly put it back. But I didn’t, mainly because it had an almost complete set of the fabulous reproduction documents (how I completed the set is an entirely different story). I’m glad because it’s a ripper of a live album full of musical variety and performance sparks, even though that doesn’t come through strongly on the original LP due to the inclusion of three cover versions. But it absolutely does on the CD re-issue that adds a cool forty minutes (8 tracks) to the original. Not only is the context of the concert revealed, but we also get Pete Townshend’s droll introductions. “Our first #1 in England… for about ‘alf an hour”.

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41 BLIND FAITH — Blind Faith

It has to be admitted, this ‘supergroup’ album by Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Ginger Baker and Rick Grech is an uneven affair. But the highlights—“Can’t find my way home”, “Presence of the Lord”, “Had to cry today”—are superb. The forces within each musician fractured the bonds between them, resulting in Blind Faith being a very short-lived affiliation. A patchy LP, perhaps, but worthy of being remembered for more than cover art now deemed unacceptable. 

As a self indulgent post-script, the first thing I ever wrote for Vinyl Connection was a memoir piece about this album, posted way back in 2013.

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Part 4 of 70 FROM ’70 can be found here.

35 comments

  1. I think Let It Be … Naked is superior to the original though it really should have been a double album. There is always the chance that will still happen with the release of the new Peter Jackson Beatles doc.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What would constitute the extra material, tref? I didn’t think there would be much in the can after all these years.

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      1. There are any number of songs rehearsed for Let It Be that didn’t make the soundtrack. Some ended up on Abbey Road. Others, on their solo albums. And maybe a few that were never heard from again. I would love to hear a Beatles version of Let It Down or All Things Must Pass, if they exist as a whole.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    Here’s to “darkness 11/11,” as it were.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lots of great stuff here! Of course, as a longtime Beatles fan, I’m hopelessly biased, so first must call out the ‘Let It Be’ album. I guess came to love the original before I learned some folks were bitching about Phil Spector’s work. I also dig the ‘Naked’ version, especially ‘Long and Winding Road.’ Looking forward to the ‘Let It Be’ film reissue.

    As for McCartney’s solo debut, I have to agree the clear standout is ‘Maybe I’m Amazed.’ Though I must say I’m even more amazed about the song’s live version on ‘Wings Over America.’

    As a Steve Winwood fan, of course, I also like the inclusion of Blind Faith. ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’, ‘Well All Right’ and ‘Presence of the Lord’ make it a great album.

    I also dig The Who, so no issue with ‘Live at Leeds’! 🙂

    The Grateful Dead can be a bit of an acquired taste, especially when it comes to their endless jams. ‘Workingman’s Dead’ is a very accessible album that frankly sounds like CSNY, except you really can’t beat the harmony vocals of the latter.

    While I like ‘Paranoid’ and some of their other tunes, I never really got much into Black Sabbath. From the debut I guess I kind of dig ‘The Wizard.’ Though I have to say when it comes to hard rock, I’m much more into Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin.

    Finally John Lee Hooker. I generally dig the blues, so really can’t go wrong here! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like much of this one is known and enjoyed by you, Christian. Guess that is more and more likely as we climb the ladder; no bad thing. Anyway, thanks a lot for sharing your responses.
      The count-up continues…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Did you time Egg to coincide with Easter?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One should always time an Egg. 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

  5. This has become a favorite series, some old friends some new discoveries and the Beatles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers, Neil. I’m most grateful for the encouragement, as we still have a way to go!!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. “Uncle John’s Band”, “Dire Wolf” or “Casey Jones” are strong. These songs also became standards in the Grateful Dead stage repertoire. Characteristic for “Workingman’s Dead” is the pedal steel guitar by Jerry Garcia, which gives the songs a very special flair. I would have presented the album along with Crosby, Stills and Nash. I like your personal trawl. It’s definitely good work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Danke, hotfox. Yes, this is a strong Dead album. Took me a while to appreciate it, coming from the LIVE/DEAD jamming psychedelia, but the songs are really strong.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I have that Grateful Dead one in a collection I picked up last year. I just got around to cleaning it and listening to it and it skipped like crazy. I was a little disappointed. Maybe I will find it again, for now, it will become a canvas for my daughter to paint on. She loves to paint old vinyl (of course these aren’t playable vinyl so it is okay).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I know, but there was no saving it. I kept the album cover.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Well said about the perplexing nature of McCartney, Bruce – and I am quite partial to title trifectas!
    I still have to hear Let It Be – Naked, I’ve never fully warmed up to the original, perhaps I’ll have better luck with that version as well

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If the syrupy strings were what repelled you from LiB, then trying it naked is a fine idea.
      😎

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Ding! Ding! Ding! 100 extra points for including Van Der Graaf Generator. Well done! – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers Marty! And believe it or not, we’re not done with VDGG.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. An interesting look into my head in 1970 aside from VDGG, didn’t get them until H to He

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah! Pop back for future instalments!

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  11. I like and love some of those albums and will have to check out ‘Egg’, Martyns and ‘Van der Graff. Know them but not well. I took some physical punishment sneak listening to my brothers ‘Blind Faith, ‘Who’ and Mac’ albums.’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He didn’t share his vinyl, CB?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No he didn’t have the “share bone”. Plus he didnt want his pain in the ass little brother getting his greasy fingers all over his vinyl. He was more than justified. Plus I was doing that scratching shit before it became popular. He didnt think I was capable of actually liking that kind of music. That was why I risked my life. I loved his music. My older sisters music was a different story. Never laid a hand on it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Now you’ve piqued my interest. What did your sister favour?

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        2. Herman’s Hermits, Petula Clark, Bee Gees, Jerry and The Pacemakers, The Beatles which I liked . They had some rockers that appealed to a young CB. That’s what I remember. You have me straining my brain. I can visualize the covers. Plus her 45’s. Yeah throw Dave Clark Five in there. Probably like a lot of teenage girls anything that was popular at the time.
          oh yeah Elvis. Big time.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. So other than Elvis, pretty much blanket British Invasion stuff!

          Liked by 2 people

        4. Yeah. I think she was plugged into the Ed Sullivan Show. You probably heard of it. She was all over that stuff. Beatle Boots, Beatle Hat, Lulu kinda gal. Plus Chubby Checker and that stuff. If you looked like Muddy Waters or Howlin Wolf she’d get scared. Bee Gees are from your area, correct?

          Liked by 1 person

        5. Indeed. Born in the UK but started their entertainment careers in Aus. I have to confess, I really like the first few Bee Gees albums. The first one, particularly, is a gem of the psychedelic era.

          Liked by 1 person

        6. I’ve heard that from a few folk.

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  12. Lots of fantastic albums in the series so far (latest read v4) some obscure like Egg and Popul Vuh (don’t know that album but other albums) esp. Hosianna is a favourite. My thoughts go to Black Sabbath and Blind Faith, as the duo that would be higher on my list. The Beatles do somehow belong to the previous decade so fair enough not to have them to high here.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. […] Part 5 is HERE. […]

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