70 FROM ’70—PART 2

20  VAROUS—Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack & More

It is sprawling, patchy, frustrating, and incomplete yet the soundtrack to the film of the event of the decade (the 60s, that is) is essential. Held in August 1969 on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm just outside of the small town of Woodstock, the actual name of the three day festival was ‘An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music’. Some 32 acts performed for an estimated 400,000 people, there were births, deaths, marriages, and a generally high level of chaos yet the event captures the spirt of the age. Most will be happy enough with the 3 LP (2CD) set with the optional extra of Woodstock Two, but if you have very (and I do mean very) deep pockets, Rhino produced a lavish 38 CD set for the fiftieth anniversary.

*

19  GROUNDHOGS—Thank Christ For The Bomb

Tony McPhee’s trio really branched out from their blues roots with their first LP of the new decade (the 70s, that is). Thank Christ For The Bomb is a powerful, rocking, sometimes intimidating work that is an early example of how popular music was progressing in a taut, focussed way. The short songs serve a story/concept that is still just a little spine tingling in its anti-war message, mainly because (after a somewhat dramatic beginning) the songs work well individually. If you are unfamiliar with this one, check it out. The CD re-issue has three live bonus tracks.

*

18  KING CRIMSON—Lizard

As transitional albums go, Lizard—the third KC album, marking the end of their first phase—is a ripper. If you wanted to demonstrate to a prog-sceptic how classical, jazz and rock elements can be effectively integrated, this LP does it. Boasting one of the most beautiful album covers ever (by Gini Barris, a recent graduate from London’s Central School of Art and Design), Lizard often gets overlooked, even by fans of Robert Fripp’s band. But it shouldn’t. It’s really excellent.

*

17  AMON DUUL II—Yeti     

It being only a short time (in VC terms) since we lavished praise on this sprawling double LP opus by Germany’s space-acid-prog-experimental-wigout unit, adding the link will suffice. (If you checked it out after the post, do share your response in Comments).

*

16  VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR—H To He Who Am The Only One

With a title as enigmatic and, to be honest, as wanky as this one, you’d better back it up with something special, eh? Well Peter Hammill and the lads do, with a dense, dark record that wraps its lyrical challenges in a powerful instrumental overcoat. Here’s a verse* from opener ‘Killer’:

On a black day in a black month

At the black bottom of the sea

Your mother gave birth to you and died immediately

‘Cos you can’t have two killers living in the same pad.

And when your mother knew that her time had come

She was really rather glad.

*

15  PETE BROWN AND PIBLOKTO!—Thousands On A Raft

Poet Pete Brown is best known in rock circles as the co-writer, with Jack Bruce, of several of Cream’s most memorable songs (‘I feel free’, ‘SWLABR’, ‘White Room’) as well as lyricist on many of Bruce’s solo albums. His own discography is eccentric, exciting, touching, punchy and sometimes indulgent. All of those could be applied to his 1970 LP. Personally, I love it. Here’s the lyric for the first song, ‘Aeroplane Head Woman’. The many could really write.

She stands on the clifftop with tears in her eyes

She longs for the moon to wash flames from the skies

She doesn’t look for the thrill of a kill

There was only one, he came from the Sun

Pilot of her dreams rides her searchlight beams

 

She sits in the city with wings on her mind

She waits for the birdman who left her behind

He had to fly almost straight into hate

There is only one though the race is run

Pilot of her love feels him far above

 

She waits at the airport with hope in her heart

She listens for Spitfires’ engines to start

She hopes that he’s near though it’s been 30 years

She’s got a photograph taken for a laugh

All the boys in blue hope their aim was true

*

14  LED ZEPPELIN—III

The first interesting Led Zeppelin album. Moving beyond a blues-rock foundation (enlivened by excellent playing and singing), Zepp’s third album took folk influences, Plant’s storytelling prowess and Page’s versatile and electrifying guitar playing and spun out something new and exciting that was powerfully supported by the rhythm section of JP Jones and J Bonham. Brilliant cover too.

*

13  DEREK & THE DOMINOS—Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs

Talking of electrifying guitarists, here we have Eric Clapton running away from Blind Faith (and England) to join forces with Duane Allman and a band pinched from Delaney and Bonnie. The result is a sprawling (the word most often attached to studio double albums) work of great richness that continues to reward after five decades. If, like me, you would be undismayed by never hearing ‘Layla’ again, fret not. There is plenty across the four sides of vinyl to enjoy… charging soul-blues in ‘Tell the truth’, an insightful cover of Hendrix’ ‘Little Wing’, the daftly titled but moving ‘Bell Bottom Blues’ and of course ‘Have you ever loved a woman’.

*

12  JOHN LENNON / PLASTIC ONO BAND

Following three experimental albums with Yoko Ono and the uneven Live Peace in Toronto 1969, John went into the studio to record what is essentially his first solo album. It is a powerful LP, scarifying in its relentless exposure; John was undertaking Primal Therapy at the time. The famous Annie Leibovitz photo of a naked John curled around Yoko (taken for the cover of Rolling Stone, published January 1981) captures the feel of the 1970 album perfectly. Lyrical themes are both excruciatingly personal and universal, perhaps explaining why, to this day, many consider this John’s finest album.

*

11  CAT STEVENS—Tea For The Tillerman

Three classic albums in 15 months is an extraordinary hit rate in anyone’s language. For the fella born Steven Georgiou (aka Cat Stevens, aka Yusef Islam) it signalled the peak of his pop stardom. All three from 1970-71 are excellent. With a delicate intensity, Stevens explores love, life, and relationships (not just the lovey kind, mind) amidst timeless melodies and enough oomph to keep you from drifting off into acoustic hippieland. For me, Tillerman‘s ‘Wild World’ and ‘Where do the children play?’ edge out ‘Peace Train’ and ‘Moonshadow’ (Teaser and the Firecat), making this middle child my favourite. But I wouldn’t argue with you if you went for Mona Bone Jakon or Teaser.

*

* Yes, I know no-one wants to read song lyrics in a post, but this and the next one are worth the effort.

Next stop: The Top Ten

Any comments/favourites/outrage regarding this penultimate collection?

24 comments

  1. Another great selection of music I know and music I don’t know (yet), this time a bit more in the first department (Woodstock album, Zep III, Clapton, Lennon and Stevens/Islam).

    I’m particularly curious about King Crimson. I recognize their brilliance as musicians, but so far, I just cannot seem to get warm with their music, based on what I’ve heard to date. I don’t believe I’ve listened to this particular album, so not all may be lost! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Christian. As we ascend the rankings, it makes sense that more of the entries are well known. I’d expect that to continue into the Top Ten!
      As for King Crimson, Lizard is worth a try, certainly. As is the often overlooked Islands (if you like jazz influences in your prog!). And you know, I’ve come back–sometimes years later– to artists that didn’t grab me and fallen in love (so to speak). Univers Zero are an example. So hang in there!
      – Bruce

      Liked by 2 people

      1. if you like jazz influences in your prog!Ding! Ding! Ding! Warning, warning! Cover your heads for prog lovers to come out of the woodwork for an argument with that one! 😉 – Marty

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Go on then, Marty! Bring it on!

          Seriously though, I do sometimes wonder whether we fans of progressive rock are the most opinionated group in the whole pantheon of music genres.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Laughing hard here, Bruce. I’m a constant dweller of the @BritishProg account on Twitter, and the number of arguments that flare up there regularly are mind-boggling. Opinionated on steroids! 🙂 Cheers.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Present company excepted, of course, Marty. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris Blackman · · Reply

    Thank you for taking us on this emotional journey through simpler, happier times, Bruce.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hadn’t thought about it that way, Chris, but thank you. That’s a nice perspective… the solace of music.

      Like

  3. It’s difficult to be outraged with that 14-11 run!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’re at the better known end of the run here Geoff. Lots of overlap with “the book” I imagine.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Tillerman is very good – nice seeing it among all the arty records.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Arty records. I like that. I like arty records too, it seems. 😌

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Evan Jenkins · · Reply

    Inspiring a trawl through the record box.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 👏🏻 My work here is done. 😇

      Like

  6. Ah, Woodstock, Zep, Derek and the Dominos and Stevens all resonate at various frequencies, the latter two in particular. Tea for the Tillerman, Teaser and the Firecat and Mona Bone Jakon were all in frequent rotation during college. (Is the movie Harold and Maude as big a cult hit in Australia as it is in the US? Stevens’ songs are used throughout to great effect). Looking forward to your top ten!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some studious memories, then, JDB!
      If Harold and Maude is a cult favourite in Aus, I’ve managed to miss it. Apparently it has been ranked* at #45 in a list of the 100 funniest films of all time. I don’t know what the 44 higher entries were.

      * By the American Film Institute.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s not for everyone, but is worth checking out.
        I’d also meant to comment on the shot of your turntable: sleek!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Just read a synopsis. Sounds intriguing!
          I’m blushing as I type this J, but that’s the old turntable.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Some right crackers in there Bruce. The Woodstock soundtrack is in my blood, even if it is missing most of my favourite musical moments – worth it for the stage announcements and atmosphere alone.

    The Groundhogs LP is probably my favourite here (that i know) they’re a band who can do no wrong for me at all. I lucked into an original copy back when LPs were affordable but the recent vinyl reissue is very good indeed, my friend has a copy of it.

    Great work Bruce.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tell you what, mate, if I win the lottery (sole winner, mind), I’ll buy us both copies of the complete recordings.
      One of the fun parts of a lengthy project like this is how some albums zoom up the personal charts via the contextual exposure they get vis a vis their peers. Such was the case with Groundhogs. It really bit this time. Will certainly watch out for that re-issue.

      Cheers Joe.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Whatever 1537 is on about “crackers” i’m with him. CB who fashions himself as Mr Cream, Jack Bruce and the other two. lets the side down with not one Pete Brown selection in my pile. Back to school for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s always more to discover/acquire, eh CB? Love it.

      A ‘cracker’ in the UK is an outstanding example of something. Interestingly, in Aus it is an exploding bang-type firework. And in some jurisdictions, a plain non-sweet biscuit, I believe.
      Ah, the english language.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No “non-sweet biscuits” in this bunch.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. […] And next, PART 2 […]

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