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