1972 COUNTDOWN — #40-36

40  PINK FLOYD — OBSCURED BY CLOUDS

Falling between Meddle (1971) and Dark Side Of The Moon (1973), Pink Floyd’s soundtrack music for the Barbet Schroeder film La Vallée tends to be only ever mentioned in passing. Showing their more straight ahead rock side and capacity for focus, Obscured By Clouds is an excellent, understated record that deserves a (return) listen. Fans of David Gilmour’s guitar will be delighted; he’s all over the album. Obscured received more detailed VC attention here. Highlights: “Mudmen”; “Burning Bridges”. [Released 2 June 1972]

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39  A.R. & MACHINES — AR3

Here’s an interesting factoid. Achim Reichel’s beat group The Rattles opened for The Beatles on their final tour of Europe in 1966.
The songwriter (also bandleader and producer) formed  progressive band A.R. & Machines in 1971, the machines referring to Reichel’s skill at manipulating his guitar sound, particularly his use of echo and delay. In 1972 the pioneering krautrock outfit released two albums, each featuring psychedelic ‘space jams’ as well as more conventional rock songs. The sprawling double album Echo is generally considered the better of the two, although there is great music on both. Anyone who has enjoyed the trippy adventures of Ash Ra Tempel (Manuel Göttsching on guitar) should definitely check out A.R. & Machines.  

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38  NEIL YOUNG — HARVEST

Harvest is, so far, Neil Young’s only #1 album in the US. On the back of the chart-topping success of singles “Heart of gold” and, to a lesser extent, “Old man”, the LP also hit the pinnacle of the album charts in Australia, the UK, France and, naturally enough, Canada. It is the stuff of legend how Young backed away so quickly from this mainstream success he burned his feet, but what of the album? I know some will be appalled by this, but it is not a Vinyl Connection favourite; not even top five in Mr Young’s extensive catalogue. The orchestrally enhanced songs are overblown and pompous, many of the ideas represent pale imitations of things he did better on After The Gold Rush, and the whole sound is kind of polite and stiff. Of course there are highlights; the live recording of “The needle and the damage done” and the timeless “Heart of gold” stand out, while “Alabama” continues the righteous rage of “Southern Man”, but overall this is an example of ex post facto reappraisal coating an average album with glistening nostalgia.  [Released February 1972]

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37  AGITATION FREE — MALESCH

The German band Agitation Free are a perfect example of why so many have been drawn to explore ‘Krautrock’, while they also exemplify the inadequacy of the label. The Agitation Free musicians were restless and inventive. The took themselves off to the Middle East before it was the fashionable hippy rock star thing to do, bringing back ideas and field recordings that inspired a truly innovative and hugely entertaining record. Their second LP was one of my earliest Krautrock discoveries back in the mid-70s, yet this album, with its psychedelic guitar and world music grooves, is my favourite. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys instrumental music with an under-stated progressive bent, this is space rock where the space is the desert. For fans of factoids, Michael Hoenig was briefly in Tangerine Dream and has scored many films, while Lutz Ulbrich was the partner of Nico for many years. [Month of release unknown]

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36  GRAHAM NASH & DAVID CROSBY — GRAHAM NASH & DAVID CROSBY

At this moment in music history, meaning 1972 of course, any individual member or permutation of David Crosby, Steve Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young could do whatever they liked. The success of CSN and then CSN&Y was phenomenal; these four strode across the landscape of American singer-songwriters like giants so it is no surprise that all appear somewhere in this list. 

Graham Nash, David Crosby, the first duo recording from Blackpool born Nash and LA’s Crosby, is a charming record that allows their extraordinarily tight harmonies to shine. Yes, there are a couple of filler tracks and each songwriter has their weaknesses (lack of focus for one, tweeness for the other) but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. 

Highlights: The opening and closing songs by Nash, “Southbound Train” and “Immigration Man”, and Crosby’s “The Wall Song”. [Released 25 February 1972]

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12 comments

  1. I agree with your Harvest assessment – some great highlights but Young has done better.

    I think Obscured is very good – top 5 Floyd album for me and nothing spoiled by overplay on the radio.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. True! That special category, the ‘hidden gem’.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Harvest is so frustrating, but Man Needs a Maid is great.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    Thanks for being real about the Harvest record, “polite and stiff” sounds about right to me. And I like your parenthetical about Crosby and Nash. Ha ha ha, nicely done Bruce. I have a gem of a memory around this time of year that maps to this era of Pink Floyd, leaving the Redwood forest in Northern California one morning by car, the angle of late summer light and that slow guitar…will never forget.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lovely image. That pairing of music and ‘picture’ is wonderful when it happens.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was a bit disappointed when I heard “Obscured By Clouds” the first time. Particular the first side sounds more like Deep Purple. Very nice the last piece with this pagan worship song. Of course, one don’t have to forget this is film music that has to go with the movie.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. True. Not that La Vallee is a Deep Purple kind of movie, of course! Did the album grow on you with time, hotfox?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The second side (back then there were still records) sounds a bit more demanding for me. The sound is more individual and you can hear some nice solos by David Gilmour.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Am I correct in assuming that Crosby is unfocused and Nash is twee? 🙂 Your take (and that of two commenters) on Harvest is interesting. My familiarity with Young’s solo catalogue isn’t great…if I knew more of it, perhaps I’d understand why you feel Harvest pales in comparison. And maybe the song versions that I latched on to at a young age (Heart of Gold, Old Man) can’t be nudged from the personal canon.

    I remain impressed at your collection of, and knowledge about, krautrock.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your attribution of the adjectives is correct, JDB.

      TBH, I was expecting more heat for the Harvest review and found it interesting that others shared similar disappointments. I was at pains to highlight the two songs you mention, and think your experience is probably a widely shared one: the highlights ‘become’ the album, and the whole thing lodges in memory as a personal ‘classic’. I know I have many albums like that; favourites others would not rate at all. In fact I’m sure some will appear in this series!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I absolutely agree with you about Harvest, Bruce. I always thought it was a bit overrated. The two hits off it are great (can’t really argue with James Taylor/Linda Ronstadt — and JT’s banjo to boot), but the rest of it, with the exception of “Needle” never really did much for me. “After the Goldrush” is a triumph, imho.

    I think Graham Nash/David Crosby has surprisingly aged well over the years. It’s definitely a time piece, but one that I think somehow holds up. “Where Will I Be?” is a good headphone song. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers Marty. I really expected some serious push back on Harvest, but it certainly seems as if I flushed out the quiet majority!

      Liked by 1 person

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