After some time becalmed in lockdown waters, word has come from the poop deck of the good ship Vinyl Connection that it is well and truly time venture once more into the ocean that is “1971”. Although voyages on this varied and exciting sea have been a tad irregular, a few nautical miles have accumulated.
To take us through the remaining months of 2021 and cover at least some of the 50th anniversary albums, we’re resorting to that time-honoured device, the Countdown.
Here we go, then, with 71 from 1971, Part N
71 RAMASES — Space Hymns
Although this debut by Sheffield born central heating salesman Barrington Frost and his wife Dorothy is mostly remembered for featuring all four musicians who would soon become 10cc, it is truly its own record with a unique and unusual vision befitting a man who claimed (seriously) to be the Egyptian god re-incarnated. Add in the amazing six panel fold-out Roger Dean cover and you have a record that is highly collectible.
For me, that cover art was a hurdle to appreciating Space Hymns that took many years to overcome. Because although it simply screams Prog!—the church-rocket ship, the inner image, the album being on Vertigo—it is more a carefully constructed electro-acoustic concept album full of variety and eccentricity. Sample: “Molecular delusion”. [Released 1971, month unknown]
70 THE BAND — Cahoots
The first two Band albums were so memorable, the bar was extraordinarily high as they entered the 1970s. Stagefright (1970) is excellent, while this, their fourth studio outing is simply good. A sense of inevitable decline permeates the rootsy arrangements and is caught in the compressed, distorted portrait of the band on the cover. The muted, autumnal tones and the sad eyes seem to convey a resignation. Having said that, there is plenty to enjoy on Cahoots, especially on side one. Highlights: “Life is a carnival” (a fine companion to the song “Stagefright”); “Where do we go from here?” (a lament for changing times). [Released September 1971]
69 STEELEYE SPAN — Please To See The King
The fourth LP from the British folk-rockers was something of a new beginning, with changes in personnel and a new focus on the recorded sound. Martin Carthy’s guitar and Peter Knight’s fiddle support the vocals of Maddy Prior and assorted blokes on a range of traditional and modernised songs and instrumentals. After Please To See The King, Steeleye Span went from strength to strength. Highlights: “The Blacksmith” (With his hammer in his hand, he looked so clever); “Lovely on the water” (With a gorgeous guitar part). [Released March 1971]
68 JEFF BECK — Rough And Ready
After two powerful albums with Rod Stewart on vocals, Jeff Beck was forced to reassess after a car accident took him out for a year during which Stewart and Ron Wood decamped to form The Faces. Rough And Ready is big, strong early 70s album rock, yet points towards the direction Beck would take. In particular, Max Middleton on keyboards signals a move towards a funkier, jazzier sound; you can hear Blow By Blow on the horizon. But the blues-rock stuff is still here, courtesy of singer/guitarist Bob Tench and drummer Cozy Powell. Highlight: “Situation” (which gives everyone a moment in the spotlight). [Released October 1971]
67 THE MOVE — Message From The Country
Hands up who knows ELO (aka The Electric Light Orchestra)? OK. Keep your hand up if you are familiar with The Move. Thought so. Birmingham bred pop-psychsters The Move were driven by songwriters Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood and their demise co-incided with the birth of ELO. In fact, this last Move album was recorded alongside ELO’s debut. Message is an odd beast, covering every style from plodding blues rock via country to Elvis pastiche, with some lovely Beatlesque moments in between. Highlights: Lynne’s McCartneyesque “No Time”; “The Minister” (a delicious slice of psychedelia, albeit a bit late); “The Words of Aaron”. (The 2005 CD re-issue adds some singles and a great early version of “Do Ya”). [Released October 1971]
66 SANTANA — III
How the heck does any band follow an album like Abraxas? A year after that magnificent LP Santana released III which tends, unfairly, to rarely escape the shadow of its classic predecessor. Yet it is a fine record, possibly a great one. Michael Schrieve is still filling the drum seat, while second guitarist Neal Schon brings an edgy, harder sound and the whole work is just that bit dirtier, more insistent. Instead of taking the Abraxas paycheck and moving uptown to a penthouse, Santana took his band into a poorer district; part latin, part funk, all passion. Highlights: “Batuka / No-one to depend on”; “Toussaint L’Overture”. (But really, the first five Santana albums are essential.) [Released September 1971]