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