FEBRUARY 1971 — PART ONE

We’re running late, by about two months, so let’s get into it.

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FEBRUARY 1971 ALBUM RELEASES

Simply the most infectious collection of straight-ahead electric boogie that you’ll ever hear. John Lee was a savvy veteran by the early 1970s, he’d witnessed the surge in interest following the British blues boom of the early 1960s and had already made a modern, yet rootsy, album with Canned Heat.

For this session he gathered a bunch of highly respected musicians lead by the brilliant guitar playing of Steve Miller. Those who know Mr Miller from his radio hits might not realise that as well as being a terrific singer (not really in evidence here), he is an outstanding blues guitarist. Hid liquid licks compliment Hooker’s infectious chug wonderfully. Fresh from their Derek and the Dominos gig, bass player Carl Radle and drummer Jim Gordon lay down a rock solid base on many of the tracks. Elsewhere Mark Naftalin contributes piano and Cliff Coulter adds electric piano on a few tracks, bringing the sound into the seventies.

This is a marathon double album with lots of extended jams; only two tracks clock in at under five minutes while three are over 8′. But it never gets boring and you’ll never stop moving to the boogie beat. 🔆🔆🔆🔆 [4 stars]

Staying with the blues, They Call Me Muddy Waters is a compilation released on the Chess label in February 1971, scoring a Grammy for the elder statesman of Chicago blues. The sides were recorded between 1951 and 1967, so naturally have a variety of players. Some of the legendary names accompanying Muddy include Otis Span and Pinetop Perkins (both piano), Little Walter and James Cotton (harmonica) and Jimmy Rogers on guitar. An fine primer of the great bluesman. 🔆🔆🔆🔅 [3 ½ stars]

I would argue that this is the first great Yes album. It is the first to feature Steve Howe on guitar and the last album where Tony Kaye appears for twelve years (Rick Wakeman was to take over the keyboards a few months after this LP was released). Performing well in the UK (#4) and encouragingly in the US (#40), The Yes Album set up the progressive rock superstars for their mid-seventies career.

Perennial favourite “Your Move / All Good People” first appears here, while live favourites “Starship Trooper” and “Yours is no Disgrace” are heard in pristine studio condition. Even better if you have the Steven Wilson re-mix from 2014 (also in the Yes/Wilson boxed set).

As this was many people’s first Yes love (mine was Fragile), it might seem tough not to award it the full constellation, but I think they continued to develop and improve. 🔆🔆🔆🔆 [4 stars]

Staying progressive, and indeed, remaining in the UK, Canterbury outfit Egg made three complex and brilliantly played albums between 1970 and 1974. The Polite Force is the second LP and an engrossing voyage into thoughtful, composed music. Sometimes compared to Emerson Lake and Palmer (total bollocks; they are not even remotely similar in style or aims), Egg incorporate many ‘sub-genres’, including jazz-rock, art rock, and that identifiable yet undefinable ‘Canterbury sound’. If you are looking further into cerebral prog with tricksy time signatures and a good dollop of weirdness, this could well be your bag. 🔆🔆🔆🔅 [3 ½ stars]

In a way, Soft Machine’s 4 is a suitable companion piece to the Egg LP. The band were exploring jazz themes in a focussed way, abandoning vocals entirely and moving away from progressive rock sounds. The psychedelic eccentricity of the first two albums is long gone. This is the last Softs LP with drummer/singer/National Treasure Robert Wyatt. One for jazz-heads. 🔆🔆🔆🔅 [3 ½ stars]

Bridge Over Troubled Water was the moment when songwriter Paul Simon and his angel-voiced partner Art Garfunkel went stellar. Unfortunately it does not belong in this post, as it was released in January 1970. How could I have got it so wrong? Still, having searched the net for a photo of the cassette I once owned (and omitted from the 70 FROM ’70 series due to the incorrect year being inked into the VC spreadsheet) I’m not leaving without a tip of the hat to this marvellous collection of songs, all of which I can warble along to (as I imagine many readers can too). 🔆🔆🔆🔆🔆 [5 stars]

Fortunately we do have one bona fide classic that was released in February 1971. Stay tuned.

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27 comments

  1. That Polite Force album cover is a trip! I love it. Never heard of them but I dig the sleeve.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a beauty, isn’t it Steve? Very ‘of its time’, though the music isn’t really psychedelic.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Shame. I want that album to sound like it’s testing the stereo capabilities of my speakers

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Which often tests ears as well. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. The 1001 list agrees with your Yes assessment, Bruce – albums #3,4,5 made the cut, making The Yes Album their first great one & its follow-ups right up there as well.
    The delayed percussion hits after the lie-la-lie’s in The Boxer, a thing of beauty!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Reverb to the max, Geoff!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Fortunately we do have one bona fide classic that was released in February 1971. Stay tuned.”

    Hmm…I wonder what that might be? Okay, I’ve made my guess but I’ll wait until the reveal, Bruce. 😉

    Like

  4. Yep, “Endless Boogie” is a different Hooker album, which is certainly due to its accompanying musicians, who not least bring in nice, but not intrusive guitar riffs.

    Like

  5. Whoa… I did not see that five star coming at the end there! You know how to ‘keep the customer satisfied,’ so to speak. “Fragile” is my favorite Yes album too, but “The Yes Album” makes for a better t-shirt in my aging years. Funny that. 🙂 Wait, what? Steve Miller played on a John Lee Hooker album???! I need to get that… – Marty

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  6. That John Lee Hooker album is high on my list of wants. Don’t know why I’ve never picked it up. Call it an oversight, I guess. I have the Yes album… my first Yes album, actually. Definitely a 4 star wonder right there. As for Simon and his big pal, I never fully enjoyed that one.

    Anyhoo, I’m staying tuned!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Endless Boogie is a groove monster!
      Hey, J, thought of you last week when I picked up a copy of Riptide. You have turned me into a Robert Palmer fan!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Everyone loves a groove monster, huh?

        And you picked up a copy of Riptide! Splendid! I’m very pleased about that. Palmer’s discography is varied and there’s a lot of great stuff there.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Love your posts! They are informative, crammed with interesting details, and take me back to some of my absolute favorite pieces of music. Keep the good stuff coming!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s really lovely, Jadi. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to reach out. Much appreciated.

      Like

    2. Yes, I second that motion.

      Thanks
      DD

      PS: it is nice to see Bridge … making a belated appearance.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Took a while for the waters to become placid enough, DD.

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        1. When I’m feeling a little down, or weary, (or hung over) I sometimes put on Bridge…and gently jump on the mini tramp in the lounge room until I feel like singing. (But it’s more likely to be Graceland, for obvious reasons). I know it’s shamelessly corny, but the ritual works with the inevitably of head-nodding to a John Lee Hooker boogie like that which is playing now, courtesy of YouTube. Thanks.
          DD

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Putting some bounce back. Sometimes literal really is the thing. 🤍

            Like

  8. John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters? I’m in.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thumbs up for the Yes and Soft Machine entries. Those two provided nearly 50% of my listening in my college room at university. Never tired of them then. Still don’t.

    Like

  10. From Boogie to Egg. Why I love ya. I have a take coming up with a slightly older Biil B involved. I love him also. Something about the Yes album does it for me too.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I join leopard13 in awaiting your bona fide classic reveal! Can I say how strange it is to see a Yes album without Roger Dean’s artwork gracing the cover? And I’m sure I’ve shared this before, but Fragile is my favorite Yes opus as well. It’s the *very first* rock LP I bought.

    Like

  12. Soft Machine 4, wow. I remember trying to listen to my dad’s copy when I was about 15 and literally fleeing the room!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not easy listening jazz, is it?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I really did have to run from the room and come back later. I thought they would sound like Pink Floyd.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. […] Continuing our trawl through Vinyl Connections holding from February 1971, and beginning with an absolute classic. [Part One here] […]

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  14. […] FEBRUARY 1971 — PART ONE […]

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