70 FROM ’70 — PART 4

With this, the fourth instalment in the endless 1970 countdown (that began here), we cover entries #40—#31.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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).

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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’…

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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”.

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The count-up continues with an ‘Interim Report’, then comes Part 3

28 comments

  1. “Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus” is in places an amazing, interesting and completely underestimated Album. My top songs are “When I Touch You” and “Soldier”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It an album that you can enjoy playing repeatedly, isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, this is an album, one where the whole is very much more than the sum of the parts –

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Man, half of these would be contenders for my top ten.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When this is all over, Graham, I’m going to invite personal 1970 Top 10s from all. So get that thinking cap on, my NZ friend!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bryter Layter and Cosmo’s Factory will definitely be in, and probably The Madcap Laughs.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Several of these are on the 1001 – and I imagine the rest would be contenders for the 101!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A very interesting observation, Saint Stephen (that’s a Grateful Dead reference, don’t be alarmed). How many of these might make that 101? Hmmm…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great selection! That McDonald & Giles record is one of my faves.

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    1. Ah, lovely to hear from you T-S. The McD & G is one I wondered about featuring at some stage. It is indeed rather special.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yeah, same here with “Twelve Dreams” absolute classic, just listened to it yesterday. A lot of faves for me here. “Cosmos Factory” was the 2nd or 3rd album I ever owned, the second King Crimson album was a later discovery. I want to check out more of McDonald & Giles. Good stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you get to McDonald Giles, Rick, I’d be very interested to hear your responses. Given we overlap on a lot of progressive music, I’m ‘fairly’ confident you’ll find things to enjoy!

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  6. For some reason, Cosmos Factory was always that album which perennially sat in cutout bins in the record stores of my college days. I always passed it by, thinking for sure there must be a reason for it. Finally, I decided to buy it probably on a day when I couldn’t find anything else. I remember it was one of those great “headphone” nights when I was uniquely surprised at the quality of the songs. A great choice here, Bruce. – Marty

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Super story Marty. Isn’t that odd, how we make a kind of sense out of the data we perceive, and sometimes there’s another story. Probably here, that they pressed squillions of copies of Cosmo and had a bunch left over!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I grew up hearing Cosmo’s Factory on car trips, and have never tired of it, even “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” which I actually like, I read Fogerty wrote it for his three-year-old son, so that’s about right. I’ll go listen to McDonald & Giles, sounds interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a story I hadn’t heard, Robert. I always thought it was about having a richly rolled jazz cigarette on the back porch!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. !2 Dreams the clear winner here in my opinion, still gets regular spins. Hooker’n’Heat is also tremendous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers Paul. More 1970 gems to come!

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  9. New listening ideas here – thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Terrific! That’s what we’re on about with our music blogging, yes?

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Ha! I know it all and almost all are winners here for me 🙂 Most of them I have in my vinyl collection and I esteem. Those not beeing my favourite are so few (namely two) that You acctualy inspired me to check them again 🙂 That would be “Affenstunde” which I’m in the proces of learning to like anyway, prefering “In den Gärten Pharaos” (and every other PV release tbh), mostly due to unstructured and chaotic bongos feast. But I’m starting to think it’s actually quite interresting concept to contrapose cold, mechanical, out of this world music device – Moog and wild, primitive hand drummimg. The other would be “Cosmo’s factory” which I’ve bought while on the CCR kick but I like three first lps much more and haven’t listened to it for a while or two. Your review and some comments here inspired me to question my judgement again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marvellous to read of the significant overlap, iwarti.
      And fair call re Popol Vuh. For me, the invention displayed in its odd melding of hand drums and synths is quite startling for 1970. But it is not ‘expected’ Vuh if you started somewhere else!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. The CCR, ELP, Hooker/Heat, KC, Mac&Giles and Syd are all high in my pile. Hows that for a response?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A response that amply demonstrates you are a man of taste and distinction, CB.

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  12. some great picks here. that MacDonald & Giles album is surprisingly fun – I’ve heard that “Tomorrow’s People” has been sampled in several hip-hop tracks (at least, I know the Beastie Boys did it). and I agree about the cover to In the Wake of Poseidon – the CD doesn’t do it justice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, a couple of people mentioned the Beastie Boys connection with McDonald and Giles. Fascinating to hear of an excellent but obscure progressive album having another life.

      Like

  13. […] Part 4 of 70 FROM ’70 can be found here. […]

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