With this, the fourth instalment in the endless 1970 countdown (that began here), we cover entries #40—#31.
40 SYD BARRETT — The Madcap Laughs
He has been named ‘the greatest cult hero in rock history’ and is one of the 60s most studied casualties. After Pink Floyd’s fabulous debut, Barrett became more and more erratic. Much has been written about the alleged contribution of drugs (particularly acid) and incipient mental illness, yet the truth is that, irrespective of the forces at work, Syd became lost and never really found himself again. This, his first solo album, has a ramshackle charm (in parts) and some reasonable playing (from David Gilmour, his Floyd replacement and members of fellow London underground alumni Soft Machine), though the very best that could be said about it is that it is ‘uneven’. If you love Piper at The Gates of Dawn (and you should) but have never listened to any solo Barrett, this is the one to spin. I don’t play it often at all. It makes me too sad.
39 SPIRIT — Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus
If Twelve Dreams had been released in 1968 it would be in the Top 20 for that year. Full of psychedelic invention, bright waves of sound colour, great ensemble playing and strong songs, it is an album that deserves to be loved and lauded. Except… it was just a little late. Psychedelica, even creative and clever psychedelica like this, was pretty much a spent force by 1970. Nevertheless, rockers like “Mr Skin” and environmentally aware songs like “Nature’s way” hold up more than adequately, and the instrumental “Space Child” will make your paisley heart swell. So if you are not obsessed by timelines and the relativity of rock history, check this one out. Randy California’s guitar playing was never better.
38 NICK DRAKE — Bryter Later
Another ‘cult’ casualty, Nick Drake produced three albums of fragile, haunted songs. Joe Boyd produced this, Drake’s second album, adding subtle orchestrations that inject a more upbeat energy into some tracks. Contributions from Fairport Convention members and John Cale also hit the mark. Yet a patina of loneliness overlays everything, not least because we know Drake was not long for a world in which he never quite found a place. When I wrote about this one for Discrepancy Records recently, I described Bryter Later as radiating ‘a melancholy beauty and melodic richness’. Favourite song: “Northern Sky”.
37 CANNED HEAT & JOHN LEE HOOKER — Hooker ’n’ Heat
This vibrant collaboration/platform for white blues fans Canned Heat and blues legend John Lee Hooker was recently featured in these pages as the lead offering in the ‘Rockin’ Around The World’ series (which we must return to at some point!). Read the piece here if you are interested, but for the time-poor, here’s the summary: it’s the real thing and real good.
36 McDONALD & GILES — McDonald & Giles
There is a melodic warmth to this progressive outing by ex-members of the first version of King Crimson that, though dated, still beguiles. It’s a charming album with a classic gatefold sleeve nicely reflecting the tone of the music (and the times).
35 POPOL VUH — Affenstunde
Part ambient exploration, part world-music hybrid, part experimental electronica, the first release by Popol Vuh is a wondrous and groundbreaking album that deserves much greater fame. One of those incredibly rare albums I have heard 100 times and never tire of. Fans of Eno, Steve Roach, et al should check this out. Now, if I could just discover why it is called ‘Monkey Hour’…
34 KING CRIMSON — In The Wake Of Poseidon
King Crimson’s startling debut (feature here) was always going to be a hard act to follow. But this is a worthwhile album and in some ways more focussed than ITCOTCK. More KC to come, and with that entry one of the finest gatefold covers ever in the history of everness.
33 CAN — Soundtracks
Often written down as a hodgepodge of tracks from two different versions of Can, Soundtracks is actually an excellent introduction to the German band’s early work. You can hear both the rambling rants of American Malcolm Mooney as well as the art experiments of Damo Suzuki plus that trademark rhythmic attack that almost single handedly (I did say ‘almost’) defines ‘krautrock’.
32 EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER — Emerson Lake & Palmer
Although this is a debut, the players were well and truly seasoned. Leader Keith Emerson was from The Nice, Greg Lake was vocalist on King Crimson’s 1969 debut and Carl Palmer had belted the skins for Arthur Brown. One of my first LP purchases and a record I still enjoy now and then. Just noticed that three of the last four entries are King Crimson related. Seminal indeed.
31 CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL — Cosmo’s Factory
Hits, grooves, swamp rock and sing-along choruses… CCR’s fifth LP was a huge hit, and deservedly so. Although I’d be happy never hearing “Lookin’ out my back door” again, most of the music here holds up exceptionally well, especially the driving “Run through the jungle”, the frenetic “Travellin’ band” and the long loping groove of “I heard it through the grapevine”.
Are any of these favourites?
Is there something that piques your interest?