JANUARY 1971—50 YEARS AND TWO MONTHS AGO

Even while the 70 FROM ’70 finalists were still being mentally debated by your correspondent, lists were being compiled and assessments made for the following year. This year, in fact. The one in which we are currently deep into March and sniffing the yellow-brown air of autumnal decline. Where is the spring in Vinyl Connection’s step? The rising sap of excitement at attempting to survey much (though not all) of a magnificent year in rock? Fuck knows. But better late than never, as the cliche runs.

Change of tactics this year. We’re only featuring albums already residing in the VC collection. And rather than the countdown approach, we’ll use the time-honoured calendar method, despite this rather emphasising the late start.

JANUARY 1971 ALBUM RELEASES

All albums three stars—🔆🔆🔆—or better. The ones above 3 are rated individually.

Recorded, as the cover suggests, in the UK’s swinging capital, this grooving, dancing affair is a joy from start to finish. Horns appear in several tracks, though the overall sound is not huge. Kuti’s electric piano is much in evidence and that is a very good thing. 🔆🔆🔆🔅 [3 ½ stars]

The debut album from Tony Duhig and Jon Field bears little resemblance to July, the psychedelic outfit they’d recently departed. Yet the rich instrumentation, great guitar work, and wide tonal palette make this more than a curiosity. It marks the beginning of a fascinating and varied musical journey for the British innovators.

Moving from an African musician in London, via a UK duo, to the United States. The collaboration between Canned Heat and blues legend John Lee Hooker is a fabulous document, one that was covered at Vinyl Connection here. 🔆🔆🔆🔆 [4 stars]

On Second Movement, the second meeting between Les McCann (el. piano) and Eddie Harris (Tenor sax) we have a solid soul-funk offering (with a pedestrian ballad or two thrown in); if you played it after Fela’s London Scene, it would make a very enjoyable set. [Ed: we’ve just noted that Second Movement was recorded in January 1971 but released in May. The researcher has been sacked.]

First classic of the year. Janis Joplin’s final album is her most consistent. The arrangements are cleaner, leaving more space for her amazing voice. Throw in a couple of perennial hits and a glimpse of tragedy and you have the singer’s pièce de résistance. [Some sources list the release date as February]. 🔆🔆🔆🔆🔆 [5 stars]

Next, a truly under-rated album: the second release from folk-rock outfit Trees. Whether you are new to British folk-rock or already on board via heavyweights like Fairport or Steeleye Span, On The Shore would make a fine addition to your collection. Inventive, individual, yet steeped in its folk heritage, this is an LP that truly ranks as an unsung classic. 🔆🔆🔆🔆 [4 stars]

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of Leslie West and Felix Pappalardi’s heavy outfit. It doesn’t quite live up to its cover art. Anyone up for correcting my misperceptions?

While we’re in the ‘OK’ category, this LP by Australian legend Billy Thorpe and his heavy blues band (featuring guitar legend Lobby Loyde) is highly collectible but not very exciting. Each side is a long blues-based jam with a shorter song tacked on. There is some magnificent early 70s music from the land Downunder, but this isn’t a major contender.

Over to Germany.

How about the Eulenspygel cover? Tasty, huh? It was their first album (under that name), and features big vocals and a kind of European heavy jazz-prog. Not a favourite from krautrock-land, though the instrumental sections are meaty and beaty.

Popol Vuh, on the other hand, are delicate, thoughtful and inventive. This is not the original cover, but a CD re-issue from 1983 including previously unreleased material from a different time. There is much wonderful music in the Popol Vuh catalogue; instrumental pieces extending and looping in Reich-influenced ways that can be either relaxing or stimulating (depending on the volume and your mood). 🔆🔆🔆🔅 [3 ½ stars]

This early Cluster LP is an example of sparse, metallic electronic music. Imagine the romantic lyricism of Jean-Michel Jarre than run in the opposite direction a long way. One for the minimalists.

The self-titled album by Kind Crimson alumni McDonald and Giles has grown on me so imperceptibly that what I once discarded—selling the vinyl for a song—is now an early 70s prog favourite. The problem was probably my desire for the robust Crimson approach. This is an all-together more lyrical, pastoral affair. Although it often sounds ‘of its time’ and a tad self-indulgent, the record inherited a wardrobe of sixties baroque and is dusted with the patina of creative innocence. Charming, still. 🔆🔆🔆🔆 [4 stars]

I’ve often wondered whether the sheer magnitude of Chicago’s early output diminished the regard in which individual albums were held. Chicago III, a torn and frayed US flag decorating its type-free gatefold cover, was the third double LP in two years, yet if you sit down and listen there is no flagging of creativity nor energy. While not ‘essential’ like the 1969 debut, III is a very sold example of progressive brass-driven pop-rock. 🔆🔆🔆🔅 [3 ½ stars]

Alice Coltrane’s 1971 album (her fifth in three years) is superb. Joined by Pharoah Sanders and Charlie Haden (amongst others), John Coltrane’s widow has invited and absorbed her partner’s exploratory spirit and let it flow into her own transfigurative vision. The fusion of harp, oud, Eastern percussion and Sanders’ soprano sax is truly uplifting, filling Journey In Satchidananda with light and space. An LP that rewards repeated listens. 🔆🔆🔆🔆🔆 [5 stars]

Featuring the voice and outstanding guitar playing of Tim Gaze (Tamam Shud, Ariel), Kahvas Jute formed in Sydney in mid-1970 and released one LP in January the following year: the inventive and thoroughly entertaining Wide Open. An album that deserves its own post, I’ll whet your appetite by mentioning how bass player Bob Daisley went on to work with Gary Moore, Uriah Heep, Rainbow and Ossy Osbourne (amongst others). This is one of those hidden gems from the Great Southern Land. 🔆🔆🔆🔆 [4 stars]

Fans of latter period Little Feat—their polished, jazz-inflected rock sometimes seeming like a KFC-eating Steely Dan—will be amazed by the raw energy and edgy excitement on their debut. With a major contribution from Ry Cooder, Lowell George’s band (because that’s what it was, then) deliver a brief but highly enjoyable record full of great songs, singing, playing. 🔆🔆🔆🔆 [4 stars]

As this post is already something of an epic, I’ll not say much about the Comus album for now. Except this. First Utterance virtually invented Wyrd Folk and is one of the scariest records in the VC collection. ☠️☠️☠️☠️

Next Flight: February 1971
ETA: Well, now…

46 comments

  1. You were wonderful tonight Bruce. I’d pick Alice Coltrane out of all of those ones, I listened to it a few nights ago actually it is a whole world of its own.

    I’ve never really been able to get into Little Feet, despite trying quite a few times. My dad said they were one of the very best bands he ever saw live, yet he never owned a single album of theirs – odd man.

    Comus were brilliant too, one to only play in the daylight with appropriate protective incantations in place.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What was that spell no one ever chose? Bars and Wards? You are on the money; that’s what Comus needs.

      How serendipitous that you communed with Alice just recently. I have six or seven but I think this is my favourite. Perhaps it would provide the necessary protection for a sortie into the dark world of Comus.

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  2. PS – I have always been very disappointed by that Cluster LP. It was my first wrong turn in discovering Krautrock. I try it again every so often too and I do like a smidgen of minimalism too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jah. Ich auch. I think we would agree that Harmonia’s self-titled debut is a much more engaging entry point. And you know what? This one is like Abba compared with the Kluster albums!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I only heard Comus for the first time recently – it’s pretty out there for 1971.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s pretty out there for any year!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I may now have to go in search of the Comus album I think I am ready to give it another go, although as the numerical one says in the daylight with appropriate incantations, the Trees album as well, so many records so little time, I am also almost ready to head into the Cluster again, it’s been a year I think. Thanks for the spending suggestions sir.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are welcome. (Pity there’s no commission). I actually prefer later Cluster, meself. But this album puts it out there, for sure.
      Neil, I reckon either Trees album will hit the right notes (as they say). I find it difficult to believe they’ve never received much critical acclaim in folk-rock circles.
      Thanks for visiting. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Now I went and ordered it, thanks and I am eyeing those Trees albums, I have always liked them but never owned them

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ah. I do feel rather confident that an arboreal investment will repay many times over Neil.

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  5. Alice and Janis:
    Journey In Satchidananda – say no more, my one and only *****.
    Haven’t listened to Pearl in decades.
    But that is likely to change, thanks to you, kind Sir.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. On ya, DD.
      (Isn’t Alice wonderful?)

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      1. Spot on – the arrangements for Pearl leave space for Janis to shine.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Brilliant descriptor: Little Feat being akin to a KFC-eating Steely Dan! Based on your review, as well as the enthusiastic comments, I’ll need to check out Alice Coltrane; I confess she’s a completely unknown entity to me. Of your list, I’m most familiar with Mr. Kuti (though not that particular album), Chicago, Little Feat and Ms. Joplin. Pearl is, well, a pearl. Joplin is one of those artists about whom one wonders: what more would she have given us had she not died so young (Hendrix being another). Since I always have to comment on album art, I’ll note that I love the Jade Warrior cover. (NOTE: immediately above the Kuti, change 1970 to 1971….)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Journey’ is a find place to say hello to Alice Coltrane, JDB. Pharoah Sanders can be a very daunting player (being part of the free jazz thing, an’ all) but here he is restrained yet lyrical. I particularly like the unaccustomed sound of oud and harp together. Lovely.

      I have been unable to find any info on the artist responsible for the Jade Warrior cover. Even the 2016 CD re-issue omits any credit. Shame. Interesting to note that the ‘eastern’ theme runs throughout their catalogue. There is a wonderful series of four, of which I have but three on vinyl. One day, one day. Then… a post!

      (Thanks for the proof pickup 😊 )

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  7. Loads of stuff for me to explore here, Bruce. As I’m sure you’ll have guessed, you’ve got me really intrigued by Comus.

    I really need to check out the Alice Coltrane album… I haven’t heard any of her stuff at all on account of the initial explorations being rather daunting. So much stuff there. However, you’ve provided what seems like a perfect starting point.

    I haven’t listened to Pearl in a long time, so I might cue that up today… I’m also inclined to listen to Little Feat, too cause I really dig them – the first three albums especially.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some fine listening, J.! (Of course, I would say that.) And as I’ve mentioned, this is an excellent Alice Coltrane to meet and greet. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Nothing here I’m all that familiar with. I checked out the Giles/McDonald once but it didn’t click. The Trees are on my to-do list. There was an interesting looking box set out recently but, like most of those type of things these days, you had to buy it quickly or not at all! Hope for a repress…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I blinked and missed that Trees one too. Fingers crossed, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Ah yes, “the time-honoured calendar method.” You chose wisely in grasping the wheel, Bruce. 🙂 So glad you gave “Pearl” the attention is deserves. I’m noticing a revival of sorts for Janis Joplin in recent months, and I’m glad to see that (on a tangential note, Mrs. Marty, to my shock, had never heard any Melissa Etheridge before; and so I compared her to Janis which seemed to go over well recently). Chicago III is a forgotten treasure! – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers Marty. Isn’t it odd how musicians—especially singers—go in and out of fashion?

      Wish me luck with the ‘71 calendar; my ambition often outstrips capacity. 😅

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel a CSNY (and assorted) wave coming. Or is that my own ambitions coming through? 😌

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Could be, Marty. Could also be prescience. Crosby’s “if I could only remember my name” is a February ‘71 album.

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  10. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    I’ll sample the Alice Coltrane thank you very much. Fifth in three years?! Gosh I only really know one of the last ones she made; Anthony gave it to me on vinyl because the copy he bought had a blemish or something, maybe a repeat of sides three and four, so he got a new version and gave me his. Love this exploration, though it feels a bit exhausting to go through this exercise I imagine. I hope you’re on the mend soon and kick that cold.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alice’s Journey is highly recommended, Bill. A wonderland indeed. A double, eh? I wonder if it is this one

      I think a level of daunt was responsible for the late start to the 1971 survey. We’ll just have to see how we go, I think!
      Thanks for your good wishes; on the mend (I think/hope!).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        Yes that’s the one! And I am blissing out to Journey now (the album obviously not the band!) thanks Mr. DJ, glad you’re feeling a bit better too…take it easy.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Excellent. I love it when a plan comes together.
          Enjoy blissing, friend.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow that’s a whole lot of stuff I never heard of, mixed with a couple I have. Of course those are the obvious ones. I have an Alice Coltrane here, I tinnk, but pretty sure it isn’t that one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like her former hubby, Ms C’s albums vary in their level of, um aural comfort. What I like about this one is that it works as a vital foreground listen as well as a pleasant mid-ground album. Can’t say that about a lot of ‘spiritual jazz’, can you?

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      1. I’ve not heard a whole lot of ‘spritual’ jazz but I get what you’re saying. I like music that is engaging, demands attention. I mean, that’s why I dropped the needle, right? Background music is not my thing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I found my Alice LP, it’s with Carlos Santana, called Illuminations.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yep. Certainly a ‘foreground’ listen! 🙂

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          1. It’s been a while since I took that journey, but oh hell yes.

            Liked by 1 person

  12. I read a review of the Comus album on RYM that said “looks and occasionally sounds like the Geico caveman taking it up the wazoo” and honestly I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not an image you’d want populating your consciousness too vividly, is it? And not entirely accurate either, I’m kind of relieved to report. Musically, however, it is at the dark, weird end of British folk-rock. As 1537 said, one for the daylight hours.

      Like

  13. Wow! That Khavas Jute album really is a hidden gem. I’m thinking, “very Jack Bruce”, and then the remaster on Spotify goes into track 10, Politician, and gives us a performance every bit as good as the one on Cream’s Wheels of Fire. A 5 star find, for sure. 👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great Phil. I’m inspired to try to knock out a post on ‘Wide Open’ for tomorrow. 🙂

      Like

  14. As I sit here listening to a recent Crimson live recording you take me back to the beginnings with the M&G album (Recently had a person comment on a take I did on it way back). I really like that record Bruce. So much so that I bought a jacket just like one of the gals was wearing on the cover (not the black leather one).
    So many good albums here. A few that I dig also and a few that you are sending me on a discovery mission. Do those ‘Impulse’ albums ever lose their appeal? Not with me. I enjoy your words but your music tastes really hit the spot. Lots of reminders and lots of new roads. We are listening

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good stuff, CB. So much overlapping in what makes us smile, musically speaking.

      I bought a five (?) CD set of latter live KC but its place in the Crimso listening hierarchy was displace by the acquisition of the Sailors’ Tales box. (sigh.)

      Love that your sartorial decisions were influenced by Messrs McDonald and Giles. They do indeed sound like a swinging firm of gentlemen’s outfitters. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Im doing the Crimson thing. In the groove at the moment. I envy your riches in your acquisitions.
        Would “sartorial decisions” be the same as choosing my cleanest dirty shirt for todays attire..

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Good question… As long as you do the choosing elegantly, then yes. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I have no time for haberdashery (actually going for a Rolling Stones Tongue t shirt). I have some music to listen to courtesy of my friend Bruce.

            Liked by 1 person

      2. PS. 2old2loudmusic is doing a take on ‘Court Crimson King’. He has never heard it and is giving a review on his experience. He’s done it with a few albums. Interesting idea. Im curious on this one.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. You really nailed the vibe of Macdonald and Giles – kind of a subtle follow-up to KC’s In The Wake Of Poseidon. Jade Warrior’s albums were faves and still hold up – unique music.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, 00, thanks for dropping by, man.

      Yep, Jade Warrior have kind of fallen from the progressive pantheon, haven’t they? You can hear why, they have a unique and interesting sound that requires some closer listening. But the rewards are long-lasting.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. […] JANUARY 1971—50 YEARS AND TWO MONTHS AGO […]

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